Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mystery Blog Panel Revealed

A few months ago, Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot, asked me if I would like to participate on a blog panel he planned to moderate at an upcoming DTC Perspectives conference (see "Do Pharma Blogs Have Any Influence?"). At the time, however, I was embroiled in a tiff with Bob Ehrlich (see "Mack and Meyer Clash with Publisher Over 'Journalistic Integrity'"), the chairman of DTC Perspectives. So I assumed that neither Myer nor I would be invited. Ed made no promises and I told him not to worry -- he shouldn't go out on a limb to get me invited.

Well, I wasn't invited, which is OK. This is not sour grapes. I was busy presenting at another conference elsewhere anyway (see "J&J Blog, Shire PR: The Whole Story and Nothing But the Whole Story!").

I have since made amends with Bob and helped his people promote the DTC conference by being a Media Sponsor. I did hope to attend the blog panel session and report on it, but in the end I decided that I couldn't afford to be out of the office, spending 4 hours driving back and forth to attend a 45-minute session. I hoped that Ed would blog about it on Pharmalot -- but so far, he has said nothing.

In fact, Ed and Bob had been very secretive as to who exactly would be the bloggers on the panel. The conference agenda on the website just said "Bloggers/Panelists to be announced" and even when asked, Ed refused to name the panelists. Even up to the day of the conference, Ed remained mute on that subject (see his post, above).

Why all the secrecy, I wonder?

Here's a report on the panel from Christiane Truelove, author of the Pharma Blogs: Week in Review e-newsletter:

Bloggers on pharma blogging
Yesterday I left the office and made the trek up to Parsippany, N.J., to participate on a panel about pharmaceutical blogging at a conference hosted by DTC Perspectives. Mr. Silverman had invited me to participate, and I was flattered. I am unaccustomed to public speaking, having spent most of my career lurking around with a notebook and pen and asking the questions, instead of having questions asked of me.

The more-than-two-hour-drive along Route 287 notwithstanding, the panel, which examined whether pharmaceutical blogs were influencing consumers and opinion leaders, went pretty well. Some of the highlights:

Mr. Silverman touched on how blogs create the opportunity to exploit word-of-mouth communication. Most of all, pharmaceutical blogs give an opportunity for people from very different areas a chance to mingle and network — physicians, industry people, and consumers. “These were people who two years ago, weren’t connecting with each other,” he says.

For Mr. Hensley, the comments to posts on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog are extremely interesting because of the intelligent level of the discourse. “Sometimes the blog is just a starting-off point,” he says.

Mr. Pitts says although the pharmaceutical industry may wish these blogs to go away, blogging — “a wonderful, terrible, unexpurgated type of media” — is here to stay, and the industry must learn how to deal with it. He pointed out that certain types of stories are getting deeper coverage in the blogs rather than the mainstream media.

In answer to an audience question as to how companies should address legal fears about participating in the online conversation, the panelists generally agreed that the corporate lawyers always will give the most conservative advice. Mr. Pitts pointed out that the FDA regulations about online communication as far as blogs were concerned were practically nonexistent, and companies that want to engage in more online communication should be able to prudently handle what risk there may be.
The "blogger" panelists -- Ed Silverman (Newark Star-Ledger/Pharmalot), Scott Hensley (Wall Street Journal/Health Blog), Peter Pitts (Manning Selvage & Lee/Drug Wonks), and Christiane Truelove (MedAdNews) -- were of all one stripe: journalists or PR hack! It can be debated whether or not they are representative of the Pharma Blogosphere community as a whole, but at least they know the territory and are familiar with all the luminaries.

A Hack-in-the-Pack
Peter Pitts (the PR hack-in-the-pack), however, would not have been on my list of invited panelists. He is neither trustworthy nor transparent. Pitts is the biggest shill for the pharma industry there is. Don't take my word for it, read what GoozNews has to say about him here.

Pitts often uses words I do not understand like "unexpurgated" to describe blogs! (I looked it up on Google: it means "not having material deleted" or "uncensored news reports".) That's very funny coming from a guy who is known to delete posts from his own blog (see "DrugWanks Pull Post")!

OK, so it wasn't my dream blogger panel! But who would be on such a dream panel? Give me your opinion by taking this simple poll (see results so far after you vote):

Select the Members of YOUR "Dream" Pharma Blogger Panel
Mack/Pharma Marketing Blog
Myer/World of DTC Marketing
Giles/Pharma Giles
Shanley/On Pharma
Henessey et al/WSJ Health Blog
Carlat/The Carlat Pschiatry Blog
Lowe/In the Pipeline
Monseau/JNJ Blog
Pitts/Drug Wonks
Someone Else/Not Listed


pharmalot said...

Hi John,

You know, I fully intended to post something about the panel after it finished, but didn't have time. Why? I had to get back to my usual routine immediately and was pre-occupied enough that I just put the thought aside. As soon as the panel ended, for instance, I had to listen to a teleconference with Bristol-Myers execs and so missed almost the entire lunch, which would have been a nice opportunity to schmooze. It was my mistake for not coming back to it late in the day or even on Friday, though.

As to secrecy, there was never any intention. The list of panelists was a moving target from the start and the final line-up shifted more than once, mostly due to scheduling problems, personal issues and my own desire - however faulty - to get a mix.

As for Pitts, he was included since he blogs with industry backing, and the panel was about the extent to which blogs can influence consumers and opinion leaders. It wasn't restricted to any one type of blog. But it was my decision and I take full responsibility, for better or wrse. Fyi, both Roy Poses and Merrill Goozner wrote quite insightfully about Pitt's recent NYT op-ed, which didn't fully explain his industry ties. But as Merrill points out, the issue there may have been as much, if not more, with the NYT op-ed policy about limiting space for author identification.

As to a dream team, well, if I ever get asked again to organize a panel - and I've no idea if anyone else wants to take such a chance - I will again extend an invite to you and hope it works out differently than it did this time.

ed at Pharmalot

PharmaGuy said...


Thanks for your comments.

Regarding "secrecy," I understand the moving target theory. However, as a conference marketer I would want to whett people's appetite. Often this is done by listing panelists who were "invited." This helps people make the decisions to attend or not.

For example, had I known Christiane Truelove was invited, she and I could have car pooled! And suspecting that Pitts would be there, I would have donned a disguise and celebrated Halloween early! (This gives me a great idea for my Halloween blog post!)

The other side of the "secrecy" coin is the silence from the "invitees," none of whom mentioned beforehand that they were invited or planned to be present. Were they ashamed to have their names listed as panelists? Their silence is still a bit of a mystery wrapped in an enigma!

pharmalot said...

Well, just to follow up. The DTC Perspectives team had the list of panelists in advance and could have posted those names on their site in the agenda space. They chose not to do so, for whatever reason. It wasn't my call. And I updated them as names came and went.

I agree that it would make it more interesting to know who is to appear on a panel. But the bottom line in this case is that it wasn't my conference. And I can't speak for the panelists either.