Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Opening up communications . . . .

Do patients think pharma companies should be involved with social media?  Do pharma companies think pharma companies should be involved with social media?  Can both “sides” learn a little something from each other?

These were some of the issues we discussed yesterday, when I was a panelist at the WEGO Heath #socialpalooza event.  The fabulous crew at WEGO brought together patients and pharma reps to delve into the sometimes touchy subject of social media and pharma.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share my views, along with Alicia the Awesome Cancer Survivor, Rosalind the Chronic Illness Career Coach, and Kerri the D-OC rock star.  And by “thrilled”, I mean so freaking nervous that I had a highly detailed dream the night before in which Kerri sat me down for a long talk about why it would be very wrong and quite offensive to knit socks during the panel discussion.  (Don’t worry, I never once considered knitting while speaking on the panel!!)  However, WEGO had assembled such a great group of people that once the panel started my nerves quickly melted away.

Although we panelists hadn’t discussed the topic before hand, it didn’t surprise me that we shared many similar views.  Be transparent - make it perfectly clear you are pharma and not a patient.  Don’t use social media simply to sell - use it to support and interact.  And apparently, bring cookies . . .

While I was thrilled to share my point of views with the pharma crew, I was just as glad to hear more about social media from their side.  It was interesting to hear about all of the regulations and legal issues that can hold them back from social media.  As Alicia pointed out, that’s a side of things patients may not be aware of.  And while most patients are only representing themselves and sharing their personal opinions in social media, these pharma reps are often representing their whole company.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of pressure to me!

Should pharma and health companies get involved in social media?  I say yes.  In my closing statement yesterday, I voiced my opinion as follows:
By engaging through social media, you gain insights to the issues and needs of real patients.  At the same time, using social media can show the community you care about more than profiting from their disease.”  (Yes, I am directly quoting myself, which seems a bit weird to me but oh well . . . )

You can read Kerri’s take on Socialpalooza here, and a wonderful view from the pharma side here.  Kerri also grabbed some great, serious and (yay!!) goofy pictures of our panel with the moderators.  Being the photo slacker that I am, I only snapped one picture.  Although in my defense, it does show just how great the WEGO crew is at putting together an event.

That’s right, they left something to treat a pesky low at each participant's seat!  Although the Red Velvet Whoopee Pies served after lunch kept my blood sugar stable during our presentation.

Cookies, Skittles and desserts aside, the sweetest part of the day was opening the lines of communication between pharma and patients.  I hope this is a trend that will continue and grow.  Because when it comes right down to it, learning more about each other can only help us all.


  1. Karen, loved hearing about the Socialpalooza through your eyes. If you had begun to knit, I would have loved it! It was a great dialogue, and I hope we get to meet up soon to share more ideas face-to-face. Until then we have happy to be following you now...stay well...Jane

  2. Great overview Karen! It was great to see you again, and be on the panel together. I learned a great deal yesterday and it was so nice to be a part of the event.

    If you were nervous, you didn't show it! Great job!!

    -- Alicia

  3. Ditto. I think it will benefit us all. It is useful for them to know who the patients are, how they are managing, and how products are being utilized.

    BTW, I think you knitting during the panel discussion would have been pretty dang cool.

  4. Thanks for sharing the experience with us! Sounds like a great venue for everyone to hear a bit about the other side of the coin.

    I also love that they gave you Skittles. Awesome.


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