Pfizer quietly joined the tweeting masses last week, launching a corporate presence on social media phenomenon Twitter (pfizer_news). But while the initiative gives Pfizer another important channel of dialogue with its stakeholders, Ray Kerins, VP worldwide communications at Pfizer, admitted that the pharma giant is unlikely to ever use Twitter pages to communicate information about products.
“If there are [legal] challenges in a controlled vehicle like advertising, how do you do it on Twitter?” asked Kerins, referring to the 14 untitled letters about sponsored links that DDMAC sent out in March. “And if Twitter is a promotional vehicle, where’s the fair balance?”
Kerins was addressing 375 delegates at this morning’s Social Communications & Healthcare conference in New York on Pfizer’s social media strategy. The Twitter launch is the most recent installment in Pfizer’s ongoing transformation from media-averse megalith to an open organization willing to engage in dialogue.
“We’re trying to become transparent, but we’re doing it slowly and cautiously,” said Kerins. “For us to jump in with two feet would be stupid. The first task was to get the communications team cleaned up because we’ve had a bad rap in that area.”
The new Pfizer is dedicated to listening to its stakeholders and being part of the conversation. Social media is a big part of that, but it is not without its challenges, particularly with the lack of regulatory guidance. “It’s a foggy road,” said Kerins, adding that Pfizer is dedicated to reporting any adverse event posted anywhere.
Pfizer had been monitoring the Twitter space for several months, but until Bob Pearson arrived from Novartis — he previously ran the social media space at Dell — Kerins said he didn’t have the “manpower and intelligence” to launch a corporate presence. “You all would have ripped us to shreds,” joked Kerins.
For now, Pfizer’s media relations team is charged with controlling all corporate tweeting, but Kerins said he hopes to expand the pool soon. “I would love to have by the end of the summer 100 people, from medical to public affairs, who have been anointed by the company and who can go out and Twitter.”
Don’t expect Pfizer to actively recruit followers anytime soon. Rather, Kerins wants followers to find Pfizer. “I believe in discover versus sell,” he said. “Don’t applaud us for being on Twitter – we have to be there.”
Kerins admitted, too, that Pfizer is still very much finding its feet in social media. “I don’t think we have it right and we probably won’t for a while,” he said. “But we’re dedicated to finding our way through it.”