Johnson & Johnson’s blog, JNJBTW – good meets bad

May 26, 2008 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

Pharmaceutical companies face a labyrinth of issues when starting a blog, which is why it’s not surprising to see that there’s only one that I know of. JNJBTW.

Not many companies in America today are as despised as big pharma. They get sued, they get attacked by politicians, they have to justify enormous profits in the face of a health care system that is positively Dickensian. And yet, media is evolving, and blogs are becoming so mandatory, that even big pharma has to make a move into the blogosphere, and social media as a whole. It simply isn’t an option to hide their heads in the sand anymore.

JNJ’s blog shows just what a good corporate blog can be, and the pitfalls, all in one. Let’s start with the bad news. Like any big company starting a blog, JNJ’s internal debate about blog strategy, the purpose of a blog in the first place, and where they want it to go, is apparent on the blog itself.

Sporadic posting, random staff showing up to post frippery, and the inevitable self-congratulatory pat on the back are pretty regular. It’s a symptom of the larger issue, that JNJ appears to have spent a real long time putting this together, and once it’s live, 26/7/365, JNJ kinda looked around and said, “now what?”

But JNJ does what any company as controversial as big pharma simply must do if they plan a blog. They address controversy head on. There is a category for “Litigation“, much of which details the ins and outs of a JNJ lawsuit against the Red Cross over trademark and copyright. Getting sued by a major charitable organization is a PR nightmare – being the plaintiff against a major charitable organization is another level altogether.

The first post on the Red Cross suit is pitch perfect from the beginning.

As a former journalist, I appreciated how undeniably juicy the story would be: Johnson & Johnson sues the American Red Cross and other parties over…. What?! … the use of the RED CROSS?!

It was almost too easy.

I also know that companies, like Johnson & Johnson, built on innovation and long-lived brands must resolutely defend their rights in these innovations, and in these brands.

Too many companies in controversial sectors refuse to treat such matters with the authenticity that the blogosphere demands. Conversation is no longer one-way. A reporter writing a story and the company responding, all being the sole discussion of the matter, is history.

Conversation is two-way, from the instant a story hits. If a company, with a blog, does not enter the discussion honestly, and in a way that allows the viral nature of social media to decide for itself how it thinks, based on honest facts, the company will dig it’s hole ever deeper. Staff time will be sucked up, lawyers will bill hours, and the story could get even worse, spiralling.

It is the authenticity of JNJ’s blog that really saves it from the dustbin of pathological puffery that passes for blog content on most corporate blogs. The frippery posts get no comments at all. The litigation posts, obviously, get a lot of comments. But the comments are in a context of the honest discussion of an issue, a discussion begun by JNJ. That is a net plus, any way you slice it.

Sure, JNJBTW will lurch from marketing speak, to weeks of silence, to multiple authors posting incongruously over time…these are the result of any corporate blog failing to spend the time to get a strategy in place long term. But if there’s an authentic voice on the blog that readers rely on for the real take from the company, all the other process issues kinda fade.

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Entry filed under: strategy. Tags: , , , .

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