GlaxoSmithKline launches blog, Twitter feed to encourage dialogue

PHILADELPHIA: GlaxoSmithKline launched a corporate blog this week, fueling the pharmaceutical company's position as a social media leader for the healthcare industry.

PHILADELPHIA: GlaxoSmithKline launched a corporate blog and Twitter account this week, fueling the pharmaceutical company's position as a social media leader for the healthcare industry.

The GSK blog, called More than Medicine, says that it is “expressly uninterested in promoting GSK brands” and will focus on creating a dialogue about the pressing issues facing the healthcare industry in the US, said Michael Fleming, senior director of social media at GSK.

“Our goal is to provide that opportunity to interact with us in a different way and also, at the same time, create that dialogue around healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry's role in it,” he noted. “We would like people to hear from our company and interact with our company in, perhaps, a less formal, less rigid way than they are used to hearing from us.”

Unlike Johnson & Johnson, which was the first healthcare company to launch a corporate blog with the creation of JNJ BTW in 2007, "More than Medicine" will focus exclusively on US healthcare issues.

The dialogue, Fleming added, is one “not being offered by any other company.”

Plans for the blog include guest postings from senior executives, research and development, manufacturing, sales, and outside bloggers who do not work for GSK. The site, which was created in January 2009, functioned as a pilot and was only available internally until May 18.

As part of the initiative, the new Twitter feed, will be used, in part, as an alternative way to put out news instead of using traditional news releases and the company Web site, said Fleming.

Few pharmaceutical companies have turned to blogging as an outlet to reach stakeholders directly, partly based on concerns that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not developed guidance specific to the online space.

“It's an issue that the entire sector has been grappling with,” said Sydney Rubin, senior counsel on digital media for the Chandler Chicco Companies, which does not work with GSK in the US. “It's a very bold step.”

Instead, many pharmaceutical companies have focused their attention on smaller efforts that use social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote branded products. GSK launched alliconnect, a blog for its weight loss drug alli in 2007.

Ruben noted that the blog could provide a venue to tell stories that the media might not. She pointed to a May 1 blog post about how GSK is sharing resources with world health organizations in the face of the H1N1 virus outbreak.

“Details of that role would be illuminating,” she said. “People want to know: what does a pharmaceutical company do to address a global health crisis?”

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