New Media and Pharmaceutical Public Affairs

J0410084This week, I produced a draft of a paper that overviews the use of new and social media in public affairs.  I was fascinated to find that not only are several members of Congress now twittering, the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives is twittering on floor actions and votes, and recently the Senate started doing so as well as are some Senators – namely Biden, DeMint, and Obama.  (By the way, Biden and DeMint have a combined total of under 500 followers, Obama has 44,000.)

As you know, I offer twitter updates that are posted on the Eye on FDA blog as well.  I aggregate news coming from pharma companies over RSS feeds and provide the announcement with a link to the press release.  The BBC twitters, the New York Times twitters, NASA twitters.  It occurred to me that pharmaceutical companies ought to be doing this themselves – opening Twitter accounts and updating it whenever a press release is sent out and providing a link.  It would be a great way for beat reporters to follow what is going on.  It would also be a great way for investors to follow companies in which they’ve bought stock or in which they are interested.   But the truth is, a lot of pharmaceutical companies aren’t even using RSS Feeds to distribute news releases.  That is perhaps the equivalent of communicating by fax rather than email. 

RSS feeds are still in transition in terms of use, but for those that use them, they are at least hooked into getting their news out in a way that a growing number of people are getting news – by feed.  The FDA does issue news by RSS feed.  So does Congressman Henry Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Ironically though, Health and Human Services still has e-mail sign up for news releases and some major pharmaceutical companies also still use the old fashioned email sign up.  That is true even of some biotech companies – companies that are on the cutting edge of medical research are using 1990’s-type communications vehicles.   

As I mentioned in previous posts, several members of Congress have been opening up YouTube accounts and posting video – the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has an account upon which she has posted a lot of video.  Congresswoman Diana DeGette has an account and a few weeks ago, Congressman Bart Stupak, whose only subscriber is me. 

It is past time for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to strategize their embrace of new media.  Especially as massive reform is poised to take place aimed at the FDA and at pharmaceutical marketing practices, companies ought to be exploring how to get messages out – including twittering and how to best employ YouTube as direct-to-consumer advertising faces new regulatory scrutiny and reform.  It is time for the cutting edge of medicine to be participants in the cutting edge of communications.  It goes with the image. 


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