Monday, July 27, 2009

My "Spin" on the Roche Summit

I pretty much lifted the title from Kelly Kunik's Diabetesaliciousness, but I hope she won't mind! I'm pretty late in posting my take on the Diabetes Social Media Summit sponsored by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche at their U.S. Diabetes Care HQ in Indianapolis. That's because I had real work to do on Friday (and into Saturday afternoon), so blogging took a back seat. Because of my delinquency on that, I have the distinct luxury of linking to almost everyone else's review posts on this particular topic! So here's the photo (catch it on Facebook, too!):

(Thanks to Manny Hernandez of "TuDiabetes" for the photo legend)
In the photo above:

1. Riva Greenberg "Diabetes Stories"

2. Ginger Vieira ""

3. Kelly Kunik "Diabetesaliciousness"

4. Fran Carpentier "Parade magazine's Diabetes Daily blog"

5. Crystal Lane "Calpumper"

6. Kitty Castellini "Diabetes Living Today"

7. Sandra Miller "A Shot In The Dark"

8. Christel Marchand

9. David Edelman "Diabetes Daily"

10. Brandy Barnes "DiabetesSisters"

11. Bennet Dunlap "YDMV a.k.a. Your Diabetes May Vary"

12. Lee Ann Thill "The Butter Compartment"

13. Allison Blass "Lemonade Life"

14. Gina Capone "DiabetesTalkFest" AND The Diabetes O.C. (FYI, O.C. stands for "online community")

15. Jeff Hitchcock "Children With Diabetes"

16. Kerri Morrone-Sparlin "Six Until Me" (see here for her photos)

17. Manny Hernandez "TuDiabetes"

18. Chris Bishop "The Big D"

19. Amy Tenderich "Diabetes Mine"

20. Kelly Close of Close Concerns, Inc. and "diaTribe"

21. Christopher Thomas "DiabeticRockStar"

22. Scott King "Diabetes Health" magazine and his editorials "My Own Injection" (see also here)

23. Bernard Farrell "Diabetes Technology Blog" and the Diabetes Search Engine

24. Scott Strumello (Yours Truly, no introductions necessary)

25. George Simmons "The B.A.D. Blog"

26. Scott K. Johnson "Scott's Diabetes Journal"

27. William "Wil", Lee, or Liam Dubois "Life After Diagnosis"

28. David (a.k.a. "Rick") Mendosa and ""

29. Charlie Cherry "Diabetes Power Show"

To be sure myself and a very limited number of diabetes social media people (a total of 29, to be exact) were selected and invited to attend this event, and apparently, the hosts at Roche had to work really hard to "sell" the idea of even having such a risky event to the company's conservative executives, so they deserve a big thumbs up for that.

Now, I have to admit that I have some degree of new-found fondness (that some of my peers may not) for Roche for being the pharma company that happened to end the life of the biotech company Genentech. Even though I lived in the Bay Area for most of the 1990's, IMHO, Genentech was kind of a sleazy company that pretty much shafted countless people with diabetes with their pushing biotech synthetic insulin that caused well-documented problems [see here for more] with hypoglycemia unawareness for countless patients without any undisputed conclusive evidence of benefits over the stuff it replaced. You can catch my review of the book "Invisible Frontiers" by Stephen Hall, to get some idea of why I'm glad Roche is kind of dismantling that company!

Anyway, having said all of this, I do think Roche received as much from this even as those of us who actually attended did. To some extent, the entire social media space (defined as bloggers, social networking communities such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as well as more specialized social networking communities focused specifically on diabetes including TuDiabetes, DiabetesTalkFest, DiabetesRockStar, and others) was/is a bit like stepping into the dangerous, untested waters. Their move was certainly not risk-free, and hopefully they learned some valuable lessons that can help them avoid the missteps some that their competitors (including Johnson & Johnson and insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk) have made in the social media space which made those companies look pretty stupid. But beyond that, I also believe that Roche received a healthy dosage of patient candor from their customers that corporations are far too often shielded from -- both good and bad, even if these were tangential to the social media aspect, these are lessons that the company should learn.

For example, a while back I
about my encounter with a Madison Avenue advertising person who worked in marketing pharmaceuticals and how their job was making sure the client was happy, which does not necessarily mean selling more products for the client (although it's supposed to be).

The event began Weds., and I believe Gina Capone (of DTF) and I were the first two to arrive at the Sheraton in Indianapolis where we all stayed (on Roche's dime, no less). After we both checked in, we decided to walk across the street to the Fashion Mall and we dared to eat food court grub because we were pretty hungry by then. We had only an hour or so to hang out until the next group of participants started trickling in, so we waited at the hotel bar!

As Scott K. Johnson aptly described these meet-ups, it was kind of like "sensory overload" (at least initially). Without providing every gory detail (you might be bored), I can say that my response was mostly due to seeing all of these people I've really come to know over the past few years via the blogosphere but had yet to meet in person, and that was and always is an incredible experience! Let's just say that I think we can conclude that the seeds have been sewn for some kind of semi-regular meeting (Allison Blass is working on that), hopefully expanded to include many of the people we felt were left out of this particular opportunity.

The first evening, we attended a dinner hosted by Roche, and a few executives gave some speeches. As Wil (a.k.a. Liam, Lee, or Printcrafter among a few of his better known aliases) Dubois wrote (and a pretty good overview of the company):

"Roche's stated purpose for hosting the Summit could be summed up (in my words, not theirs), as follows. Hmmmmm….These D-bloggers are a powerful force. We watched Novo step on their own dicks with the Twitter Debacle and J&J with their YouTube mess. These people shape decisions. We want on in that. But we don't want it to blow up in our faces. We want to know what your sacred cows are. What is holy ground. Where are the mine fields?

They want a seat at the table, and rather than just barge in and sit where ever they pleased, they are asking the maître'd if there are any seats available.

They were, I felt, pretty up front. They promised this would not be a day-long Roche add. They kept their promise. Beyond keeping their word, they treated us well. They paid our airfare. They put us up in suites at the Sheraton. They fed us, with high regard for our varied dietary needs. They treated us with respect. All they asked us for was honesty. And boy, did they get an earful of that!"

Were Roche's questions on social media addressed?

I think to some extent, but it's a work in progress, folks, so the answers aren't necessarily clear-cut. But they took a bold step which will be remembered by those of us who attended this first meeting, and I hope we gave them a perspective they may not have appreciated before! I don't necessarily think that the discussion about pricing of test strips was necessarily out-of-place here, and I was frankly a bit surprised that the company's President didn't have a well-rehearsed answer to that question.

I am looking forward to hearing Roche's perspective on this conference!


Crystal said...

So great to meet you Scott!!

Great post. Good stuff goin' on in D-OC land... said...

Really interesting ... and thanks for the photo IDs and blog links. It was almost as good as being there. (Maybe better, for us anti-social folks who don't like to travel.)

AmyT said...

Always great to hear your perspective, Scott. So glad you could join us!!

Scott K. Johnson said...

So I'm late...

But again, it was really great to meet you in person (FINALLY).

I too enjoyed your perspective on the summit, and yes, we'll have to see where it goes from here!