Biotech Meet the Blogosphere

I’m sitting here in the Biotech and the Blogosphere breakout session at BIO 1008 in San Diego. It is the most sparsely attended session I’ve been to so far with only about 50 people in the room. 50 people who have admittedly made a point of being here to learn something, but given the overwhelming influence of blogs today I did hope there would be more.

But honestly I didn’t expect many more. My experience with science and open forums, blogs etc. on the web is that the chemistry still isn’t working. There APPEARS to be (no science to this opinion folks ) 2 reasons: 

  1.  They still subscribe to a school of thought that the message can be controlled
  2.  They want to ‘fly under the radar’ and don’t want controversy.

 Well consider this as a wake-up call:

  1. You never really could control the message completely and
  2. You fly under the radar when you either have done or are about to do something wrong.

Meanwhile by not participating in the discussion it carries on without you. For instance if you feel that by talking about GMO you’ll be inviting criticism, you may in fact be right at times. When the critics come at you however, at least you should already have established a line of communication to talk with them. If you don’t engage guess what – the critics will simply chatter among themselves about you. They will choose to do it as long and as loud and as hard as they darn well please and they are under no obligation to be fair or even accurate.

The first speaker in the session was Bo Piela from Genzyme. He looks on their social media efforts and their blog as the company “bringing people around the metaphorical table to talk”. It was a good way to put it because in good times and in bad, a lot can happen when people sit down to talk. Even though he didn’t use the same term, Michael Partridge from Vertexreally was saying the same thing when he described their CEO blog for employees. Employees everywhere want to know more about their company, want to know what direction their industry may be going, and maybe ask a few pointed questions. A CEO blog like the one Michael Parridge described therefore becomes a great internal communications tool. It is written entirely by the CEO and isn’t vetted by HR or the lawyers. A scarey thought perhaps, but HR research usually points to open communications as a factor in a winning company and an internal CEO blog is really just a tool to that end. It is that chance to sit around the table. There are always things to be wary of and Marc Monseau of Johnson and Johnson had a couple of thoughts that my experience would say should be at the top of the list if your company is considering a blog.

  •  Be prepared for a lack of control.
  •  Be prepared for criticism.

Once you’ve thought it through, laid the ground rules, and braced yourself for a big corporate change I agree with the final thoughts from all the panelists. Just do it.


6 Responses

  1. Is “Any Press is Good Press” appropriate in the life sciences? Particularly when early-stage entities, or later-stage IP is efforted to remain in stealth mode…

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for the great summary. I wasn’t able to make the session, but I’m glad you were able to report on it. I’m optimistic that things will continue to change and some of the barriers to open communication will be reduced.

  3. As editor of, I applaud the inclusion of this session at BIO. I am a former ag biotech executive, now ranching and selling beef at local farmer’s markets. We started the blog because there is a big hole in the food and mommy blogs for accurate information about biotech and other food-related issues.

    As a Mom, rancher, market vendor AND scientist, I am communicating with consumers as someone who understands their issues, and in whom they trust (rightly or wrongly) more than govenrment or corporate spokespeople, whom my readers largely view as trying to influence rather than communicate.

    If more biotechs had open blogs, they might change that image.

  4. […] Should Biotech companies Blog? Are blogs by biotech companies a good idea from a corporate standpoint? Maybe if more companies had open blogs, there might actually be some real communication. […]

  5. I too applaud the effort to include the session. Maybe next year there could be a boot camp plus a more in-depth session.
    As for the question about ‘Is any press good press?’ comment it isn’t necessarily that cut and dried. You can talk a lot about interesting science or people connected with science without ever revealing IP or opening the door too far into the research. When I get the opportunity to go into a lab I inevitably come out with an idea that I can pitch to the media that can raise awareness of the the researcher or our own name.
    There is indeed such a thing as bad press – a good blog is just another tool to keep it as good press or mitigate the bad stuff.

  6. […] least one attendee took away that we were all saying “just do it,” and there is some truth to that — […]

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