Thursday, March 06, 2008

Overcoming Pharma's Employee Blogging Fears

After expressing how bored I am with pharmaceutical company corporate blogs (see "Centocor Blog - No Frying Pan and No Fire!" and "What's Next? I'm Bored!"), and not getting any ideas how to overcome my boredom from readers after 24 hours, I thought I should goose things along with a few out-of-the-box ideas for pharmaceutical company blogs.
NOTE: Over half (51.4%, to be exact) of the readers of this blog who have taken the PHARMA MARKETING READER SURVEY want to see more posts about "New Ideas" (see "Who Reads Pharma Marketing Blog?"). That's another reason for this post.
If you listen to my podcast conversation with Melissa Katz about Centocor's new CNTO411 blog or read the blog's mission statement, you might pick up something I neglected to mention in previous posts.

CNTO411 promises to talk about immunology news and issues. If so, this would be the blog equivalent to a disease-awareness, unbranded Web site. However, what's needed to make it different is a "personal voice(s)."

How do you do that?

Right now, drug companies like J&J and Centocor think that Corporate Communications VPs and Senior Directors can provide that voice. But by their own admission, these people cannot provide their personal voice/views:
" isn’t like I’m out there giving my personal opinion; I’m trying to represent my whole company here," says Melissa (see "Out of the Frying Pan").
A suggestion I have been making for a long time is to devote part of the corporate blog to the voices of "smart and passionate" employees. You may have missed Melissa's response to that suggestion, which she posted in a comment to my blog:
"I will consider your notion of giving our employees a voice on the blog. I want to do it in such a way that makes them comfortable as well. I can now speak from experience that this is a little intimidating."
If Melissa is implying that employees will be intimidated, maybe that's true. But this can be overcome with the proper internal campaign and tools to help overcome the intimidation of pushing that "publish button" and being exposed to the entire blogosphere.

I am talking about rules/guidelines and an internal recruiting campaign and tools that "tease" stories out of employees without requiring them to push the button knowing that they are representing the whole company. I never suggested that the stories should be UNFILTERED or UNEDITED! What I did say is that if an employee's remarks are edited, the employee should have the right to review the changes and refuse publication if they disagree with the changes. It can all be above-board and transparent. At the end of the post could be this employee sign-off: "I approved this post about my story. Jane Doe."

NOTE: One problem is protecting an employee's privacy and identity. That might be a risk that the employee would have to decide to take or not. Maybe the employee can remain anonymous to the outside world, but not to the people who are running the blog. These have to be real people, telling their real stories. If an employee is identifiable in a post, RULE #1 should be: Do not talk of personal matters outside of work. I sometimes break that rule and mention my family. [I do it only to give my sons something to cringe about!] You might mention your family, but you wouldn't provide details like names or what college your daughter is attending; that sort of thing. This is just another reason why employee posts must be reviewed before being published.

The campaign could be a contest to award an "Employee Blogger of the Month" plaque for the best story! The tool could be an easy questionnaire that asks employees to respond to specific questions like:
  • "What inspired you to work in the drug industry/[COMPANY NAME]?"
  • "What has been your most challenging/exciting opportunity in your job?"
  • "Describe the biggest thrill of your career/[JOB AT COMPANY]."
  • "What advice would you give a young person considering working in this industry/[THIS COMPANY]?
This is just a half-baked idea. Who knows? It may inspire yet another pharmaceutical company blog or Melissa may take the idea and run with it.

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