The other day my son was suffering from a case of what I call the “Yeah Buts” and “What Ifs”. I was trying to explain the list of things we were going to do that day and, at every turn, he fired back with a “yeah but…” or “what if…”. I eventually won out, but it helped that I expected resistance and was prepared to respond.
In reflection, this scene was not entirely different from the discussions pharma communicators and agency staff are having with legal and regulatory colleagues as we discuss social media engagement.
Many of us have been in meetings to discuss a program or concept review and, no matter how well-intentioned, thought-out, or supported by case studies and competitive examples, the response we hear is often akin to a “yeah, but”.
There’s hope on the horizon. Maybe.
There’s been a lot of buzz regarding the pending FDA Meeting on internet and social media use by regulated medical products. The enthusiasm, speculation and predictions about the outcomes are all over the pharmasphere. Suffice it to say, I think all involved would agree that the time has come for the FDA to address the internet – and social media specifically – and that FDA guidance needs to evolve to reflect the variables of new technologies and mediums. However, as my colleague Brian Reid alluded to here (see Myth #3), this is not going to happen overnight.
So what do we do in the meantime?
Well, for starters, expect more yeah buts and what ifs to come. Here are a few things you can continue to do to prepare for those conversations:
- Drill home the importance of developing appropriate social media strategies for your company or brand(s). Not every brand needs to be on Facebook or Twitter. But, at the very least, every company and brand should know where the relevant conversations are happening and who is involved.
- Educate – Often times, I find that the same colleagues offering “yeah buts” are, themselves, not at all involved in social media. Part of our challenge will be to educate them on the medium – providing easy-to-understand explanations of communities, file-sharing sites, microblogs, etc.
- Share examples – Don’t just send a “look what competitor X is able to do” email. Pull together relevant examples – both good and bad. (Hat tip to Jonathan Richman for this list of pharma companies and brands engaged in social media.)
- Enlist support – Internally, your commercial leadership needs to be aligned with your plans and informed about the barriers ahead of you. Enlist their help in making the case.
Finally, like my discussion with my son, be prepared and be persistent!