Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pharma Social Media Crips vs. Legal/Regulatory Bloods: Call for a "Peace" Conference

After a short vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park (see my photos on Flickr here), I was feeling disconnected from my homies in the pharma marketing social media hood. So, yesterday, I got in my whip and went cruising for ExL Pharma's 3rd Annual Digital Pharma "un" conference in Bridgewater, NJ.

All the members of my posse were there including Fabio Gratton (@skypen), Brad Pendergraph (@bradatpharma, who I predict may not long be "at pharma"), Kevin Nalty (aka "Nalts"; @nalts, no longer at pharma), Shwen Gwee (@shwen, currently at pharma), Steve Woodruff (@swoodruff, who took the photo on left; that's me in the yellow Hawaiian shirt that Steve did not like), Ellen Hoenig Carlson (@ellenhoenig), Christiane Truelove (@Christinaetrue), Phil Baumann (@philbaumann), Jonathan Richman (@jonmrich), and other members of the pharma social media posse. Search for the #digpharm Twitter hashtag (see here) to find them all.

What you won't find, however, are any pharma legal/regulatory folk. At yesterday's "un" conference afternoon session there was a lot of complaints about legal/regulatory restrictions on the use of social media by pharma marketers. You know, "legal/regulatory won't allow us to do this" and "legal/regulatory won't allow us to do that" and "our legal/regulatory people don't understand social media," etc., etc.

When I asked "Are they any legal/regulatory people here?", no one raised their hands. Maybe they were there but afraid to expose themselves to such a hostile group or -- much more likely -- they just were not there.

The disconnect between legal/regulatory within pharma and social media advocates inside and outside pharma has gotten so bad, I liken the situation to street gangs (eg, Crips vs. Bloods)

Unless these two pharma gangs can discuss and resolve their differences (ie, by sending representatives to a social media "peace" conference), we're not making any progress. And I don't think any guidance from the FDA will make a bit of difference (more about that in my next post).


  1. I agree with your observation based on my experience in reverse. I went to the recent FDLI conference on advertising and promotion and there weren't any other marketing/social media people there except me. Well, maybe there was more. The room was full of legal/regulatory people trying to figure out social media. It was pretty scary.

  2. "When I asked "Are they any legal/regulatory people here?", no one raised their hands. Maybe they were there but afraid to expose themselves to such a hostile group or -- much more likely -- they just were not there."

    Were any of them invited? Often, regulatory people are only consulted when necessary about social media - not actively involved throughout the process. Which is why they don't understand it, and why they desperately need to be brought in out of the ghetto.

    If they are given the opportunity to become actively involved in planning social media strategies, the Crips and Bloods might start playing nicely with each other.

  3. To be fair, it's difficult to get the Crips and Bloods together in a single conference that tries to be everything to everyone. But if you designed a conference SPECIFICALLY to foster a dialogue between these gangs, then maybe you might have something. It may not make money though.

  4. Hey Man!

    I was there the day before with my panel full of Bloods (Arnie, Amit, and Mark), but where was John Mack? Probably antiquing in Front Royal.

    My apologies for not being there throughout the conference, but I had some conflicts unfortunately in one way and fortunately in another. Nonetheless, I agree Digital Pharma would be better if we had more regulatory and legal participation, so accept my apologies on behalf of me. Nonetheless, I have lots and lots of legal and regulatory friends and colleagues throughout industry, and trust me, their extremely interested and engaged in these issues, while being simultaneously engaged in lots of other issues (drug safety, typical promotional issues, compliance program issue, and lots of other things).

    But, you hit the nail on the head. Collaboration and communication helps quite a bit (its sort of inevitable if you want progress). Set up the peace conference and I'll help get more "bloods" to it next time. No peace pipes though. That'll get people fired. We need to foster regulationships, huh?

    John Murray

  5. Let's get your regulatory friends to attend a tweetup in DC on November 12. I'm sure many will be there. A few drinks may pave the way to peace better than smoking weed or whatever is in that pipe!


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