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Talking Pharma Talking

I enjoyed the opportunity this week to attend a half-day Real Time Communications conference in NYC, put on by Business Development Institute. I’m glad to say that this is one of those events that exceeded my expectations.

One reason I attended was because a keynote was to be given by Pfizer‘s VP of Worldwide Communications, Ray Kerins. He did not disappoint. Not only was he engaging and very “human” on stage, he explained the pro-active and strategic approach that he and his team at Pfizer have developed for communicating more effectively with the press and the public.

Big Pharma companies, as part of a highly-regulated industry, have tended to be quite cautious about communications – Pfizer was no exception – but Ray understands that this is a real-time world and his philosophy is to Engage and Educate. As of a year or so ago, his comm. professionals spent perhaps 15% of their time actually engaging with members of the media. Now, the target is 50%.

One very interesting perspective was that his team now views (influential) blogs as top-tier in importance, on the same level as the NY Times and Wall Street Journal.

Marc Monseau, J&J’s corporate blogger, also spoke on a panel (ditto the engaging and “human” comment), and like Ray, he did a great job explaining to the mixed audience the tightrope that pharma companies must continually walk in the effort to avoid potential regulatory setbacks while striving to be accessible and immediate in communications. It’s a tough challenge for pharma in the marketing, communications, and social media realms. Lots of grey, with little guidance (but plenty of consequences for perceived transgressions!). It was good to finally meet Marc face-to-face after a couple years of on-line interactions!

Roundtable discussions were also helpful. Kudos to my Twitter audience, which participated via iPhone in real-time on one of the roundtables, and to David Sacks of Yammer, who responded right away to “virtual” audience questions.

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Impactiviti is a pharma consultancy focused on helping pharma/biotech/medical devices companies identify optimal vendors for training/marketing needs.

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