Novartis has taken some flack of late for the timbre of its Twitter social media presence @Novartis, which has generally deemed to be somewhat robotic in tone and lacking the rather more human voice of, for example, @Boehringer. @JohnPugh, the ‘voice behind the tweet’ at Boehringer, who describes himself in his bio as ‘Global PR manager at a large multinational pharmaceutical company in Germany’ appears to have become comfortable with the way that his social media presences are blending to the extent that he has on occasion signed off tweets from the Boehringer Twitter account as ‘John’. This is in and of itself an interesting strategy for pharma to adopt, but one that another post must address. In the interim, you may wish to review John Pugh’s entertaining account of his adventures in Twitterland to date in this Pharmafocus interview.
With Novartis having characteristically taken a rather more conservative approach to testing the utility of social media tools to their business, the soft launch of CML earth on 4th December 2008 was all the more surprising. I say ‘soft launch’, because despite the fact that the platform is Novartis Oncology branded, no press release concerning the platform has yet been posted at the Novartis Oncology Press Office. As I searched for the CML earth press release (and if you have to hunt for a press release, it is not doing its job) I noticed with a Roger Moore-esque raise of the eyebrow that the Novartis Oncology Virtual Press Office (registration required) does not appear to have been updated since 22nd November 2006. I struggled for a while to discern the difference between a virtual press office and a media press release homepage before giving up. It would appear that this little online backwater, which doubtless seemed like a good idea in 2005, has been lost in the PR mix. Perhaps the individual entrusted with updating it has left the company, or some other confluence of circumstances have conspired to result in its being forgotten about.
This, surely, is the point: Novartis does not yet appear to be acknowledging that the most effective way to communicate news about their web 2.0 experiments is via social media, specifically their @Novartis presence, which currently seems to have succumbed to issuing aporkalyptic declarations in a strident ‘broadcast news’ voice along the lines that the company is working on ‘develop[ing] a strong & effective response to the #SwineFlu outbreak’. This breakdown of best practice is amplified by the fact that no-one appears to have reviewed the CML earth brand for consistency. I have been referring to ‘CML earth’ with a lower case initial letter throughout this review as this is the way that the logo looks, as can be seen from the screen grab above. However, the site refers to itself throughout as ‘CML Earth’.
All of the above makes the appearance of Novartis-supported CML earth more surprising. The platform, which appears to be an elegant Google Maps mashup, describes itself as ‘a global, interactive social network dedicated to connecting the CML (Chronic Myeloid Leukemia) community, including patients, patient groups, and healthcare professionals from around the world. This evolving community helps patients find and connect with other patients of similar interest, as well as tell inspirational stories and receive support from the broader public. It also offers patients a valuable resource by connecting them to patient advocacy groups for further support.’
The site features differentiated entry points for patients, healthcare professionals and patient groups. In a nice touch, visitors are able to explore the site from the landing pages without having to register, and can see a short video about the platform via the ‘About’ tab. Users can sweep around the map, find other patients, healthcare professionals or patient groups, and connect with them as they wish. This contact can take the form of low-key, authentic expressions of solidarity (adding ‘smiles’, ‘hugs’ and ‘high fives’) or by reaching out by sending a message.
CML earth is a great concept which puts the Novartis social media presence back on the map (no pun intended). It conjoins social media’s extraordinary capacity to connect communities of purpose with the opportunity to garner effective support from CML patient groups and healthcare professionals, and Novartis are to be commended for supporting it.