Centocor — a J&J company that was the first to produce a feature length disease awareness documentary (“Innerstate”) — has just launched a new corporate blog that may break new ground in pharmaceutical company blogging. It’s called “CNTO411“.

[NOTE: What’s with these blog names that J&J companies come up with? JNJ BTW is the J&J Corporate Blog written by Marc Monseau. At least there’s a rhyme in the name that adds to the reason for that blog. But CNTO411? Well, to find out why CNTO411, you can listen to my Pharma Marketing Talk podcast interview of Melissa Katz, Senior Director, Corporate Communications at Centocor, Inc., and the main editor of CNTO411.]

Get this: I inspired the creation of CNTO411! At least I am mentioned prominently in the inaugural posting:

So now the obvious questions are: “Why Centocor?” and “Why now?” Many of you may read John Mack’s blog, Pharma Marketing Blog. Almost a year ago, he blogged about the first of its kind patient education documentary film we made called Innerstate ( “No Oscar for Centocor PR Effort” [Feb. 26] and “The Innerstate DVD. Is TV Next?” [May 21]). Michael Parks, our VP of Communications who also produced the film, broke the traditional news comment mold and used the blog forum to respond to the comment and correct some inaccuracies by putting forth Centocor’s perspective and facts. In addition, he treated this blogger as we did every other journalist and let him screen the film. These small acts may appear to the casual observer to be incidental transactions, but for us, it was a big deal. Why? Because by engaging in a dialogue with John Mack in real time, he was able to immediately correct mis-information, provide the facts, and thus, give John a reason to restate his perspective.

How could he do that? Is that allowed? Should we be doing that? And what will the backlash be? Nobody knew. But that’s what pioneers do: they forge a path through the wilderness and hope they aren’t going to fall over a cliff.

At first I thought Melissa was talking about me in that last paragraph — you know, pioneer and all. It fits me. But, no. She is talking about Michael Parks, Centocor’s VP of Communications and her boss. It’s always good to say something nice about the boss!

One small comment by way of correcting the history Melissa laid out in her comments: I wasn’t on the list of invitees to the first NYC screening of Innerstate (see “Innerstate Private Screening: Philadelphia Style“). But I give Parks credit for correcting that faus pas. Not only did I get a private screening, but Parks even showed up in person to be interviewed. I must admit that if I were treated like this regularly — which I imagine many popular journalists are — I could get a big head and might be influenced to write nice things. But that’s just me — I’m weak. I’m sure real journalists and other bloggers are strong and are able to remain unbiased!

Speaking of other bloggers, you may recall some of the history between me and J&J’s interest in blogging. I once famously asked the question “Should We Dine at Pharma’s Table?” (No! That’s not me and Melissa dining naked!)

Funny thing. That “Dine at Pharma’s Table” post resulted in a lot of angry backlash from bloggers who dined with J&J at that fancy NYC restaurant (and didn’t tell the world). In contrast, the J&J people didn’t seem bothered by my critique. They still seem friendly whenever I meet them at industry conferences, etc. Of course, it could all be an act.

Eventually, I too dined with J&J (Centocor, actually) at the invite of Michael Parks, who I learned is a “good ol’ boy” from Texas or Louisiana. Someplace south like that! Melissa was there as well as a few other people that were advising Centocor about how to get into blogging.

As a result of that meeting, a colleague and I came up with the “Rate Your Social Media Marketing Readiness Survey/Tool“, which helps companies like Centocor discover where the organizational and regulatory hurdles are that they need to overcome in order to implement a social media marketing program. We weren’t paid to do this and I do not know if Centocor used the tool or not in planning for the launch of CNTO411.

Anyway, I plan to ask questions like that in my upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk podcast interview with Melissa on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 2 PM. Some other questions I have are:

  • Why are you doing this? Who is the audience?
  • Please explain the name.
  • Will you be able to comment on Centocor product-specific news or issues on the Blog?
  • How will you comply with the regulations regarding communications about your products?
  • How do you think the blogosphere will respond?
  • Will you post every comment submitted?
  • Will there be “guest authors” such as regular employees?

Listen to the podcast here.

[Disclosure: I once was paid by Centocor to give a presentation to a product brand team about the risks of social media marketing. I never have done any paid consulting work for Mr. Parks or Ms. Katz.]