Centocor Enters Blogosphere

March 12, 2008

Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 0, Issue 0

Johnson & Johnson's biologics division launches a new blog in an effort to release easy-to-digest health information and corporate news.

Johnson & Johnson dove deeper into e-media, last week, launching its second blog—this time for its biologics firm Centocor. The usually conservative pharma giant is no stranger to the Web: Its corporate blog, JNJ-BTW, has already stirred up buzz and proved that pharma can indeed be part of Web 2.0. Getting the online treatment this go-round is Centocor, a J&J subsidiary familiar with alternative communication tactics.

Last year, the company premiered the feature film InnerState, which followed three people as they learned to fight and live with different diseases. "After the launch of InnerState, a lot of people were writing about Centocor on the Web," said Michael Parks, vice president of corporate communications at Centocor. "But with the exception of responding to comments and questions on other peoples' blogs, we didn't have a voice in that environment."

In an effort to find that voice, Parks phoned J&J's legal team and his colleagues to find out how the company could develop a blog that was engaging yet didn't break any legal and regulatory parameters. A year later, CNTO411 was christened.

Info, Not Products
"This is not going to be a marketing blog," Parks said. "This is not going to be a site where we predominantly talk about our products. It's something we want to use to talk about Centocor, but really to talk about the company in the context of the industry that we find ourselves in."

That conversation is going to be a two-way one thanks to the inclusion of a comments section—a feature that can cause more harm than good if a conversation turns heated. Or even worse—off-label.

"That is the biggest challenge for us," Parks said. "I really do not want to censor. This blog really should be the voice and personality of Centocor. To that end, we want to make sure that we are posting and voicing the opinions of the people who have an interest in the industry and Centocor. Whether it's good or bad, we are going to post it."

Or maybe not. The blog's comments policy states that comments relating to Centocor products will not be posted. Neither will comments on topics other than those originally posted about, comments about legal and regulatory matters, nor anything that falls outside of mainstream science.

On the design side, the team found an interesting way of incorporating fair balance into the site. In the inaugural post, a mention of Remicade—the companies top biologics drug—features a pop-up Web component. Hover over the name of the drug for a second and a tiny window featuring the drug's fair balance information appears.

"We don't want to overburden the blog, aesthetically, with all of the safety information, but we make sure that it meets all the appropriate legal and regulatory rules that we have," Parks said.

Buy In
So far, every comment written by readers has been posted, and it's not all rave reviews. Parks says he's fine with that: The more information he receives from people reading the blog, the more Centocor will be able to generate content that people want to read about. One week in, it's still hard to tell what direction the blog is going to take.

"As far as blogs go, CNTO411 is a small step for a blog, maybe a giant leap for pharma," Pharma Marketing Blog writer John Mack stated on his site. He told Pharm Exec on Tuesday that it might be a mistake to have the key authors of the J&J blogs be communications personnel and that if the company really wants to spark reader attention, then they should have scientists and researchers blogging.

Parks said that the blog would include new data sets released at medical meetings, new information about the disease state, and safety issues. But many posts will be more personal, said the blog's lead writer, Melissa Katz, senior director of corporate affairs for Centocor.

Articles to date included a farewell to Centocor President Neal Fowler and a comparison of the healthcare system 40 years ago (as featured in the movie Love Story) to the health communication today.

"If people are intimidated by pharma, this blog will help them realize that we are a group of people and we believe in what we are doing," Katz said. "To show our personality a little bit, it's OK."