Roche has today made the bold, progressive move of publishing its Social Media Principles (PDF).
As someone who has in their time handed out plenty of criticism to the industry, I would like to go on the record to say that it is my opinion that Roche should be applauded for its transparency in sharing this four page document.
The clear, straightforward advice it offers should not only be a boon to its own employees, but for all those who work in heavily regulated industries who wish to participate effectively within the social web.
The document is worth reviewing in its entirety via the link above, but I offer below a screengrab of the boxed summary of its key recommendations (click to see enlarged image):
I am pleased to see that Roche is giving equal weight to the way that its employees conduct themselves personally and professionally, and does not distinguish in terms of importance between speaking about and speaking on behalf of Roche.
This seemingly simple gesture contains a number of tacit assumptions that I feel are both trust enabling, and amplifiers of an authentic desire on the part of the company to participate fully and fairly within social web environments.
I for one appreciate Roche’s publicly stating that they consider their employees both conscious of the way that they deport themselves in their personal and business lives and responsible for their own actions.
This is empowering to the point that some of those on the payroll may consider it downright terrifying. However, I hope it is interpreted as the spur to ethical conduct that I perceive it to be, and a disincentive for the sort of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ characters I am sure we have all met in our professional lives to consider applying for a position in the future.
I like the fact that employees are expressly encouraged to acknowledge rather than disguise the fact that they work for Roche, scout for sentiment, and monitor their own relevant social media channels.
This one transformative action has allowed Roche employees to justly consider themselves at liberty to act as nodes in a cross-company listening network. As a consequence, smouldering crises may be damped down before they catch fire, or maybe through dialogue, the building of trust, the establishment of an enduring presence and the evidence of a listening ear, averted altogether.
Perhaps most importantly, I would suggest that today Roche has not only raised the bar for the pharma industry within the social web in general, but that they have also heralded in a new era for healthcare communications. Those companies that have been at the vanguard of experiments within these spaces such and Johnson & Johnson (including Janssen-Cilag), Novartis, Boehringer, possibly Pfizer and perhaps even the accident-prone sanofi aventis should be able to sail over this bar too if they get their run-up approach right.
However, those pharma laggards who have exhibited the sort of pusillanimous conservatism that has characterized the industry in the past do not have a hope of reaching these heights unless they begin to participate more fully. As it is, most of them are laps behind the leaders already, and realistically we should expect them to fall further behind.
Therefore, today’s developments lead me to ask: how many business cycles away are we from seeing the first signs of a quantifiable financial benefit for those pharma companies that have chosen to participate as fully as possible within the social web, as well as a quantifiable financial impact upon those that have elected not to?