Yesterday, I figuratively gave the Hawaiian shirt off my back to Tony Jewell (@tonyjewell), Senior Director of External Communications at AstraZeneca US, for his pioneering use of Twitter. I picked Tony specifically because AZ was the first pharmaceutical company to host a Twitter chat (#rxsave; see “OMG! AstraZeneca Hosts Twitter Chat & World Does NOT End!“).
This memorable event was captured on video by the Pixels & Pills/Zomega people at the Digital Pharma East conference in Philadelphia:
There were several other contenders worthy of this honor, including
- Brad Pendergraph, Novartis
- Dennis Urbaniak, Sanofi
- Kevin Nalty, Janssen
- Ray Kerins, Pfizer
- John Pugh, Boehringer Ingelheim
- Craig DeLarge, Novo Nordisk
Over 100 readers of this blog voted for their candidate in an unofficial poll (see “2nd Annual Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer Award Goes to…“). Although Tony did not garner the most votes in this poll, I still picked him as MY favorite — after all, this is the PHARMAGUY award, which is not a popularity contest.
Tony received many kudos via Twitter, but at least one fellow blogger — PharmaGossip — was not pleased because of Tony’s PR role in defending Seroquel against critics (see “What a week for AstraZeneca’s Tony Jewell!“).
The open #rxsave chat was a pioneering event not just because it was the first ever pharma chat. It was pioneering because AZ did it even though it knew that Seroquel critics might try and “hijack” the discussion. In a Twitter chat it is not possible to “edit” or “not publish” comments made by participants. And the conversation can actually be hijacked by “disgruntled” patients or employees (see here).
As I noted previously, two critics were by far the most prolific tweeters during the chat. These 2 people made 256 posts — about 30% of the total — during the one hour chat session. @AstrazenecaUS made just 37 tweets and mostly listened and learned. AZ (ie, Tony Jewell) did not ignore the “critics,” who posted off-topics tweets about Seroquel.
Despite the volume of off-topic, critical, and branded tweets made by a few people during the chat, the conversation about how AZ can help more consumers save money on prescription drugs went on and was, IMHO, successful.
So, even though Tony may be a PR person whose job is to promote good news about AZ and “spin” bad news, he deserves my award and I hope his pioneer social media effort is emulated by other pharmaceutical companies.