Yesterday Melissa Katz and Michael Parks — the corporate communications brains behind Centocor’s new blog CNTO411 (pronounced “Cento 411”) — were my guests on Pharma Marketing Talk, which is my live podcast/chat Internet talk show (you can listen to the audio archive here).

Melissa in her follow-up post to CNTO411 likened the experience to being in a frying pan (see “Out of the Frying Pan“).

Usually, when someone says “out of the frying pan,” the next phrase is “into the fire.” But, I can assure Melissa that (1) she was never in the frying pan during my interview yesterday, and (2) she hasn’t yet seen the fire!

Just to clarify: My goal is NEVER to put my podcast guests in a frying pan situation in a live interview situation. I prefer to do that here on this blog!

Actually, I do not think Melissa felt I put her and Michael on the spot. She was more critical of herself for not getting her points across and her post was meant to correct for that (ie, to get herself out of her own frying pan — not mine!). She says:

“I don’t know if you’ve ever done a live interview on TV or radio, but it can be a little nerve wracking. I knew the subject matter, but it isn’t like I’m out there giving my personal opinion; I’m trying to represent my whole company here. The worst part of it isn’t the interview itself – it’s when you replay it in your head and think ‘Doh!’ when you recount all the inane things you said (especially the joke that I made that John didn’t get).”

As far as blogs go, CNTO411 is a small step for a blog, maybe a giant leap for pharma.

We veteran Pharma BlogoshereTM bloggers expect a lot more from the pharmaceutical industry when they get engaged in blogging and other Web 2.0 applications. But we shouldn’t expect too much. When CNTO411 actually mentioned one of the company’s FDA-regulated products — REMICADE — in its inaugural posting, that was a “groundbreaking” event as far as pharma industry blogging goes.

I was disappointed that I could not pin down who the intended audience of CNTO411 is. It seems it’s everyone and anybody. And my brain started to glaze over when Melissa started talking about her plans for future posts about “supply chain” issues and “guest” posts focusing on the in’s and out’s of drug industry regulation. BORING!

Frankly, I’m already bored with every pharma company blog out there — all two or three of them (see “What’s Next? I’m Bored!“). At first, I was excited about JNJ BTW, but I never read it any more. I will keep a watch on CNTO411, but I’m keeping my expectations lowered.

Employee Blogging Pharma Style
Melissa and Michael give me credit for inspiring them to create CNTO411. But I’d rather inspire a pharma corporate blog that embodied real voices from within the organization — individuals working in R&D, for example. Maybe CNTO411 will give these and other employees a chance to write for the blog.

I have espoused this idea before. See, for example, “A Few Rules for Pharma Employee Blogging.”

Here’s how Lee Gomes expressed it recently in the Wall Street Journal (“Employee Blogging. What’s the Purpose?“):

“People are tired of dealing with institutions; they want to deal with people. My philosophy is that corporations are made up of people. How, then, do you free them up? If you have 100 people in customer service, why don’t you have 100 people blogging? The people in your company who are smart and passionate, who like the customer and who like their job, who think they are doing important work and who want to talk about it — free those people up.”

Perhaps now that someone other than myself has expressed the importance of giving smart and passionate employees a voice in corporate blogs, more of my pharmaceutical company friends will feel it’s about time that they try it.

Melissa, Michael, and Marc (JNJ BTW blogger): I love you! Let me rephrase that: I love your passion and the fact that you are taking risks with blogging and I understand the powerful restraints you are working under. BUT, STEP OFF DUDES! Give someone else in your organization a voice!

You are all professional corporate communicators and have about ZERO credibility with the public. If that is your audience — and please make sure WHO is your audience — you MUST dedicate your blog to providing the smart and passionate employees in your company with a voice on your blogs.

To What Purpose?

To improve the image of the your company and the drug industry in general. DUH!