According to Chris Kenton of’s Inspire Blog, “Surprisingly few companies… have protocols in place to manage social media disasters as they unfold — even those that have sophisticated crisis management protocols in place for non-social media issues.”

Many pharmaceutical companies may be guilty of that lapse in their crisis management strategy. This topic came up today in the #hcsmeu Twitter discussion around Sanofi-Aventis and its VOICES Facebook fiasco (for the story background, see “Patient “Unadvocate” Lays Siege to sanofi-aventis VOICES Facebook Page. Where’s S-A’s Social Media VOICE?“). The specific questions under discussion were:

  1. How should Sanofi aventis have dealt with their Facebook problem? (submitted by Sam Walmsley; @sammielw)
  2. How should a pharmaco “engage” a “disgruntled” patient postings AEs on its social media (eg, Facebook) site? Are Terms of Use adequate? (submitted by me – @pharmaguy)

You can find a complete archive of the discussion here. I want to focus on the crisis management aspect. Please read. A bit of free advice ahead!

One type of social media crisis should be easy to manage; eg, someone has set up a Facebook page that uses your logo to make it look like an official corporate site. A case in point may be the “Sanofi Aventis” Facebook page described in the post “sanofi aventis Feels the Social Media Pain. But Is It Authentic?” The site looks authentic, but is it? It uses the SA logo, which makes it look real. But it allows comments, some of which are not complimentary to SA. That seems unusual for an authentic corporate FB page. Some people who should know about these things say it is a fake or at least not “official.”

To which I commented: If its is not official, why hasn’t SA taken any action to prevent the use of its brand logo on the site? Surely, it could send a “nice” letter from its legal department to the FB people and ask then to cease and desist serving this site that is using the SA logo without official permission.

@xbrochart said: “Agree w/ you John. But when, as a corp, you still consider SM as a playground for your children, why wld u care?”

That comment caused me to Tweet this in reply:

Mack’s #1 Social Media Maxim: “Social Media. Not Your Children’s Playground Any More!”

That should be in the preface to your SM Crisis Management Plan.

BTW, FOUR years ago I was involved in a case of unauthorized use of a corporate logo on a social media site (blog). Because of my notification to the drug company, its lawyers sent the Blogger/Google people a letter and viola! The logo/site was taken down. See “Cialis Blog Shut Down.”

So that’s a no-brainer in social media crisis management: protect your brand online so that no crisis that you can’t control becomes associated with the brand.

The SA VOICES FB page, however, is an authentic SA campaign and it’s in crisis. Many commentators in the #hcsmeu Twitter discussion group offered solutions for how SA should address this particular crisis.

More importantly, SA and other pharmaceutical companies should have a Social Media Crisis Management Plan, which is a set of internal policies that map out EXACTLY what tactics should be employed to deal with every possible scenario. New scenarios should be added based on lessons learned by you or by your competition. Social Media changes rapidly and so should your social media crisis management plan!

Having such a plan will allow you to realize:

Mack’s #2 Social Media Maxim: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Social Media, I will fear no patient (un)advocate.”