Sanofi US Diabetes Team Wins 3rd Annual Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award Award Goes to Dennis Urbaniak, Joan Mikardos, and Laura Kolodjeski
Dennis Urbaniak, Joan Mikardos, and Laura KolodjeskiBy John Mack

PharmaGuy (aka John Mack) presented the coveted bright yellow Hawaiian shirt/Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award to Dennis Urbaniak, VP, Joan Mikardos, Senior Director, and Laura Kolodjeski, Senior Manager, Patient Solutions, at Sanofi US Diabetes. The award was made at the 6th Annual Digital Pharma East conference in Philadelphia on October 17, 2012. Accepting the award on behalf of the winners — who could not make it in person — was Wendy Blackburn, Executive Vice President, Intouch Solutions.

The Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award is meant to recognize pioneers who work (or have recently worked) within regulated drug and device companies. The award recognizes courage in the face of regulatory and corporate culture road blocks!

This is the first time the award was given to a team of people rather than a single person. The first award went to Alex Butler (see here) and the second award went to Tony Jewell (see here).

I felt that this team deserved recognition because they didn’t give up on social media even after a “disgruntled” patient caused Sanofi to shut down a Facebook page that did not have comments turned off (read about that here). Urbaniak et al learned a lot from this experience and shared what they learned (listen to this podcast: “What Sanofi-Aventis Learned from Its FaceBook Experience“).

The following people were listed as official “nominees” to receive the award in an online poll:

  • Dan Baxter, Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Faith Busch, Boehringer Ingelheim
  • Peter Dannenfelser, Johnson & Johnson
  • Craig DeLarge, Novo Nordisk
  • Devon Eyer, Johnson & Johnson
  • Lisa Flaiz, Janssen
  • Alexandra Fulford, Novartis
  • Kai Gaitv, GSK
  • Johanna Glaser, Roche
  • Shwen Gwee, formerly with Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Rob Halper, Johnson & Johnson
  • Jennifer Kokell, Pfizer
  • Laura Kolodjeski, Sanofi US
  • Sabine Kostevc, formerly with Roche Pharmaceuticals
  • Jim LeFevere, Roche Diagnostics
  • Gary Monk, formerly with Janssen Cilag
  • Marc Monseau, formerly with Johnson & Johnson
  • Ambre Morley, Novo Nordisk
  • Kevin Nalty, formerly with Johnson & Johnson
  • Brad Pendergraph, formerly with Novartis Pharmaceuticals
  • John Pugh, Boehringer Ingelheim
  • Len Starnes, formerly with Bayer Schering Pharma
  • Dennis Urbaniak, Sanofi-Aventis

Respondents could select more than one person and/or nominate someone else not on the list. A summary of results is shown in the Figure below. Only results from respondents who were willing to provide identification (i.e., email addresses) — to eliminate voting “fraud” — are included in these results (N=60).

Vote for PG Award Nominees
Urbaniak and Kolodjeski received the greatest number of votes. While the Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award is NOT a popularity contest, the responses to this survey do have some influence regarding who wins. More important are the comments made. For example, comments described Urbaniak as “the most innovative guy in pharma” and one respondent said he “opened new ways of engaging with patients in the diabetes field, with courage and consistency.” Kolodjeski was praised because “she keeps the patient at the center of all her efforts. She is a great example of how we should go about our business in Pharma.”

My bad that I did not include Mikardos as a contender in the poll. When I informed Laura, Dennis, and Wendy — who has worked closely with the Sanofi US diabetes business unit — about the award, they informed me that Joan was also deserving for her contribution to the team’s social media efforts.

Award Ceremony
Photo coutesy of Zomega/Pixels & Pills
You’ve Come a Long Way, Sanofi!
By Wendy Blackburn

Wendy BlackburnSeveral deadlines have passed by which FDA had promised to provide social media guidelines to the pharma industry. In our highly-regulated world where companies hang on FDA’s every word, it’s easy for companies to use the lack of guidelines as an excuse not to engage in social media.

Some companies have done just that. They’re waiting for guidance. Hoping for clarity. And hiding behind excuses. But despite the lack of guidelines, the U.S. Diabetes Unit of Sanofi has — refreshingly — blazed ahead. And I was thrilled that several leaders (and Intouch clients) within that group — Dennis Urbaniak, Joan Mikardos, and Laura Kolodjeski — were recently recognized with John “Pharmaguy” Mack’s Social Media Pioneer Award at the 6th annual Digital Pharma East conference in Philadelphia.

Added Challenges
Lack of guidance hasn’t stopped Sanofi from using social media. Nor did a “disgruntled” patient who, in 2010 wreaked havoc on Sanofi via social media. When this self-dubbed “Taxoterrorist” attacked Sanofi’s Facebook page, did Sanofi hide? Did Sanofi throw up their hands and give up on social media? No. They managed through the crisis, they handled it with grace, and they took it one step further: they went public. Dennis Urbaniak went on record to share his advice and their learnings from the episode. You can read “9 Things Pharma Should Learn About Social Media from Dennis Urbaniak” or listen to the original Pharma Marketing Talk podcast here.

Sanofi’s Secret Sauce
Two years later, they have come a long way, and they’re still sharing. A recent article in FastCompany lays out how Sanofi has engaged in social media “without running afoul” of the FDA. Sanofi’s 360-degree approach, which includes a designated community manager, a number of online touchpoints, and even face-to-face engagement, all build toward Sanofi’s goal of supporting the diabetes community with a 360-degree approach.

In addition to the PharmaGuy Social Media Pioneer Award and the FastCompany article, MM&M awarded Sanofi U.S. Diabetes the Gold Award for Best Social Media Program.

The Best Recognition of All
All of this recognition was hard-earned and well-deserved. But I bet if you asked Dennis, Joan, and Laura what the most meaningful recognition is to them, it’s something else. They might mention it’s the relationships they have built with the diabetes online community. They might reference the people they meet online and IRL (“In Real Life”) that are living with diabetes and say “thank you.” They might also reference this [link] quietly published study of WeGo Health activists where patients themselves said Sanofi is “doing it right” (quote)

The diabetes online community points to how Sanofi is engaging and says to other companies, “Look at what they’re doing. Don’t tell me you can’t engage in social media. Sanofi is! And they’re doing it the right way.” When the diabetes community themselves recognize the effort, that’s the biggest reward of all.

Hawaiian ShirtWhat’s With the Hawaiian Shirt?
Let me explain the Hawaiian shirt motif of the award. Around the time that the FDA announced it would hold a public hearing regarding regulation of pharma’s use of the Internet and social media, I started appearing at conferences in a yellow Hawaiian shirt, which was left over from a Hunter S. Thompson Halloween costume (see “Pharma Social Media Crips vs. Legal/Regulatory Bloods: Call for a ‘Peace’ Conference” for a sighting of me in the shirt at the 3rd Annual Digital Pharma East Conference). I also considered wearing the shirt when I made my presentation to the FDA at the November, 2009 meeting (see “Fear and Loathing in Washington, DC“), but out of respect for the FDA and the audience, I opted for a traditional suit and tie.

Although I didn’t wear my Hawaiian shirt at the FDA hearing, it became an emblem for standing out from the crowd, which is a necessary trait for a social media marketing pioneer. I think a Hawaiian shirt motif befits, therefore, what the Pharmaguy Pharma Social Media Pioneer Award stands for. Read more about the award here.

Some comments heard on Twitter:

  • @pharmaguy thx John, proud to wear the shirt, especially with our star @lkolodjeski #digpharm — @Durbaniak (Dennis Urbaniak)
  • On behalf of team, Thanks! RT @DigitalPharma: Congrats to @Sanofi for winning @pharmaguy’s Social Pioneer Award! #digpharm — @lkolodjeski (Laura Kolodjeski)
  • TY John! MT @pharmaguy: Congrats to @DUrbaniak @jmikardos @lkolodjeski at @SanofiUS on winning the sm pioneer award — @jmikardos (Joan Mikardos)
  • @DUrbaniak @jmikardos @lkolodjeski at @SanofiUS U deserved it! Winners @pharmaguy sm pioneer award #digpharm #socpharm — @lenstarnes (Len Starnes)
  • Well deserved! RT @Diabetes_Sanofi: Congrats to @DUrbaniak @jmikardos @lkolodjeski 4 @pharmaguy sm pioneer award #hcsm — @StaceyBernstein (Stacey Bernstein)

Issue: Vol. 11, No. 9: October 2012

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