Is tweeting the C word bad PR or does bad PR deserve it?

After tweeting the word ‘crap’ last Friday and finding it quoted on the popular pharma marketing blog, I wondered if I was in danger of literally soiling my digital footprint.

The Tweet

‘I generally find pharma #PR agencies utter crap when it comes to SocMed. Better trust it to a gorilla in a wet suit’

The Context

The blog and twitter discussion was whether Pharma co’s should outsource their soc med campaigns to PR companies, after their alledged failure and lack of competence in this area.

It also asked whether interactive marketing agencies would be best placed to fill this social media competency void.

Actually in this context, and with hindsight I feel the language in my tweet was rather weak.

My opinion was formed from my time in pharma marketing, rather than having some inter-agency axe to grind. (which i don’t)

If pharma wants to become trusted it needs to paradoxically let people express their lack of trust, and take part in the conversation.  To illustrate i have highlighted negative comments out of the ADHD You tube project I lead while at Janssen.


‘DRUG PUSHERS. Dont pretend to try to help when all you want to do is advertise your name so people stuff your drugs down their necks’

‘Support groups that are not propped up by drug companies are where people should go for help. Not drug dealers’


‘Drug company propoganda posing as information video’

Now these are out of context and the beauty is these comments are balanced by opposing view points.  Without this open dialogue we don’t go anywhere apart from fostering anti-pharma extremism over the web.  The thing is allowing these type of comments is anathema to most ‘traditional’ PR agencies.

When I try to explain to PR folk, this concept of allowing people to express opinions unfavourable to the industry on pharma’s digital real estate, they laugh like its some sick joke.  When they realise I’m serious their expression moves quickly to one of disdain, a visual cue  that confirms they categorise me as an ueber idiot.  They politely excuse themselves and tootle off to a fluffier place with canapes, champagne and some journalists willing to seed their sugar coated one way messages.

My tweet was never going to offend.  Most pharma PR guys have either buried their head in the Twitter sand or have mal adopted Twitter as a shouting platform.  Busy broadcasting their own messages, my tweet would not have penetrated their sealed off ear canals.  The PR guys that saw it are the good guys who are engaging and trying to move their industry forward and clearly not my target.

I have made the point that we need open dialogue in pharma and my view that most PR agencies are poor at this.  Their is another important overarching point to close on.

Before you decide whether to hire a PR agency, interactive digital agency or implement your social media campaign in house, take a step back to look at your objectives and strategy.

Your shortlisted agency PR or otherwise, may end up being great tactically and really understand the need for open and transparent dialogue.  However if the strategy is absent or wrong then the end result of your social media campaign is likely to be….. utter crap.

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