Is There an Upward Career Path for Pharma Social Media Pioneers? Out of Work SM PioneerBy John Mack (Pharmaguy™)

I just tweeted this bit of news: “.@Alex__Butler – 1st recipient of Pharmaguy SM Pioneer Award – leaves J&J to start online comms agency: @The_Social_Moon #hcsmeu #hcsmuk” Alex received the FIRST Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award last year when he was Digital Strategy and Social Media Manager at Janssen UK (see “First Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award Given to Janssen’s Alex Butler“).

His pioneering work was the Psoriasis 360 Facebook page (see “Markets as Conversations: Can You Have a Discussion with ‘Psoriasis 360’ on Facebook?“).

Since then, several people on my list of pharma social media pioneers are no longer employees of pharmaceutical companies. Aside from Alex Butler, the “dropouts” include Marc Monseau, Shwen Gwee, Len Starnes, Gary Monk, and Michael Parks.

This year (2013), I put together a list of twenty contenders for the 4th PharmaGuy SM Pioneer Award (see”4th Annual Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award.”; vote for your favorite). Included on the current list are:

  1. Davide Bottalico (@Bottavide), Roche
  2. Stacy Burch (@stacyburch), Sanofi US
  3. Henry Cheng, Celgene
  4. Peter Dannenfelser (@PeteDTweets), Johnson & Johnson
  5. Craig DeLarge (@cadelarge), Novo Nordisk
  6. Devon Eyer (@DevonEyer), Johnson & Johnson
  7. Lisa Flaiz (@pharmaFlaiz), Johnson & Johnson
  8. Alexandra Fulford (@pharmaguapa), formerly with Novartis
  9. Kai Gait (@kaigait), GSK
  10. Johanna Glaser (@Johanna_sez), Roche
  11. Rob Halper (formerly with Johnson & Johnson)
  12. Salil Kallianpur (@salilkallianpur), GSK
  13. Jeodan Legon (@jlegon), Roche
  14. Bob Libbey (@bob_libbey), Pfizer
  15. Jerry Matczak (gmatczak), Lilly
  16. Ambre Morley (@ambremorley), Novo Nordisk
  17. Rob Muller, Roche Diabetes Care
  18. Amy O’Conner (@Modernmeds), Lilly
  19. Len Starnes, Bayer Pharma
  20. Jesus del Valle (@yeysus), Bayer Pharma

I sincerely hope that I am not jinxing people by including them on my list of award nominees!

Featured Survey:
4th Annual Pharmaguy™ Social Media Pioneer Award 4th Annual Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award
Who do YOU think is a pharma social media pioneer?
Rather than recognizing specific pharma social media sites or campaigns, the Pharmaguy™ Social Media Pioneer Award gives kudos to a pharmaceutical executive or team who has “pioneered” in the use of social media for marketing, research, or corporate communications purposes. Pharmaguy has several candidates in mind and would like your input on who should win this award. Please use this online form to add to the list or confirm your choices from among those already on the list of contenders.

Seriously, however, are we witnessing an exodus of SM pioneers from pharma similar to the exodus of interactive pioneers back at the turn of the century? That last exodus presaged the infamous “dotcom” bust. Perhaps the current exodus presages a similar setback for the interactive industry. In any case, there now appears to be a glut of independent social media communications “agencies” out there as these people set up their own shops. Not all of them will be successful, unfortunately.

Just coincidentally I came across this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Rating Pharma on the Steve Jobs Checklist,” which attempts to assess if the pharma sector follows Steve Jobs’ principles. The relevant section is this (I highlighted in bold text the most relevant section):

Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life

Jobs’ reflections on his own mortality led him to an insight reached by Jean Paul Sartre and other philosophers. Man’s knowledge of his inevitable demise, something no other animal possesses, provides the spark for understanding one’s purpose. Since our time on earth remains limited, none of it should be wasted on inauthentic pursuits.

Among the modern industries, a high percentage of pharma’s professional workforce began their careers as a result of an individual passion and a sense that their organizations encouraged personal contributions from them. During the recent years of downsizing, however, the sense of alienation among the industry’s workers has grown considerably. Critical thinking, for example, has dissipated in an atmosphere where companies encourage narrow vision, smaller steps, and timid acquiescence to innovation-killing lawyers and soul-chilling finance managers.

Could it be that SM Pioneers inside pharma are feeling “alienated” within their companies, which no longer need their “critical thinking”?

I have often heard from my colleagues who work inside pharma sentiments that support the feeling of alienation in the wake of mergers. These people have often praised my “critical thinking” on issues — ideas that they themselves would love to espouse if only they could and also keep their jobs.

Let me end with a personal note I received from Alex Butler a year after he won the first Award:

“The time has come for me to hand the shirt [symbol of Pharmaguy SM Pioneer Award] on to a new recipient, I doesn’t seem like a year ago I was awarded the Pharmaguy award with the famous Hawaiian shirt by John. So much has happened, the landscape has changed tremendously in that short 12 months. I always believed that social media and digital technology has the capacity to revolutionise healthcare, I think we can start to see what the possibilities could be. Whether it is the ability for people to bring their data together to change a civic culture and place translational medicine on fast forward, or simply giving people a greater voice and a chance of informed partnership in the management of their health.

The new economy in pharma companies will be the passionate dedicated people who are prepared to change not just tactical implementation of ‘social platforms’, this does not make a social business. I have been very proud to work in pharma for over a decade and very proud to work for J&J. I am sure the new Pharmaguy pioneer will have the same passion and hopefully will inspire more people within pharmaceutical companies to open up the research and development, clinical trial recruitment and management right through to communications and the broader relationship pharma has with the outside world. We can also develop a new more successful marketing model. I congratulate the winner and look forward to another 12 months of social business development in pharma.”

Originally posted to Pharma Marketing Blog (here) on 13 October 2011.

Issue: Vol. 10, No. 16
Publication date: 27 October 2011

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