Biotech Meet the Blogosphere

I'm sitting here in the Biotech and the Blogosphere breakout session at BIO 2008 in San Diego. It is the most sparsely attended session I've been to so far with only about 50 people in the room. 50 people who have admittedly made a point of being here to learn something, but given the overwhelming influence of blogs today I did hope there would be more. But honestly I didn't expect many more. My experience with science and open forums, blogs etc. on the web is that the chemistry still isn't working. There APPEARS to be (no science to this opinion folks ) 2 reasons:

  1. They still subscribe to a school of thought that the message can be controlled
  2. They want to 'fly under the radar' and don't want controversy.

Well consider this as a wake-up call:

  1. You never really could control the message completely and
  2. You fly under the radar when you either have done or are about to do something wrong.

Meanwhile by not participating in the discussion it carries on without you. For instance if you feel that by talking about GMO you'll be inviting criticism, you may in fact be right at times. When the critics come at you however, at least you should already have established a line of communication to talk with them. If you don't engage guess what - the critics will simply chatter among themselves about you. They will choose to do it as long and as loud and as hard as they darn well please and they are under no obligation to be fair or even accurate. The first speaker in the session was Bo Piela from Genzyme. He looks on their social media efforts and their blog as the company "bringing people around the metaphorical table to talk". It was a good way to put it because in good times and in bad, a lot can happen when people sit down to talk. Even though he didn't use the same term, Michael Partridge from Vertexreally was saying the same thing when he described their CEO blog for employees. Employees everywhere want to know more about their company, want to know what direction their industry may be going, and maybe ask a few pointed questions. A CEO blog like the one Michael Parridge described therefore becomes a great internal communications tool. It is written entirely by the CEO and isn't vetted by HR or the lawyers. A scarey thought perhaps, but HR research usually points to open communications as a factor in a winning company and an internal CEO blog is really just a tool to that end. It is that chance to sit around the table. There are always things to be wary of and Marc Monseau of Johnson and Johnson had a couple of thoughts that my experience would say should be at the top of the list if your company is considering a blog.

  • Be prepared for a lack of control.
  • Be prepared for criticism.

Once you've thought it through, laid the ground rules, and braced yourself for a big corporate change I agree with the final thoughts from all the panelists. Just do it.