There actually are no guidelines for corporations like Pfizer in what we can and cannot do in social media, and that's a problem.On its own, that's not a huge development. But look how far drug companies have come in the last year or so: In October 2008, I wrote this story about pharma and social media, and the tone of it was: digital agencies are urging companies to get with the program, but companies are resisting because their in-house lawyers won't let them do anything. Here's a representative quote:
Bill Drummy, CEO at Heartbeat Digital, New York, agreed: "We've talked about this with our clients for literally five years and in every case that has been shot down by regulatory and legal folks." His clients have included Abbott Labs and GlaxoSmithKline.Now see what Kerins (pictured) said next:
Twitter for us is an opportunity. I mean, I consider it a newsfeed. It's as big as a newswire, as far as im concerned.For Kerins to refer to the FDA's lack of guidelines as a "problem" is also a step-change. The FDA has refused to write new rules for the internet, insisting that the principles about fair balance for old media should apply.
The FDA caused a small crisis recently when it cited 14 drug companies for failing to include fair balance in its search engine advertising. Those ads, consisting of a single sentence of text maybe a dozen words long, don't have enough room to both a description of the product and fair balance -- making search engine advertising virtually impossible for drug companies.
Which is why Kerins feels handcuffed, even though Pfizer is in the process of building a 100-strong Twitter army: He can't write about products, in case the FDA wants to know why there was no fair balance within the 140 character Twitter limit.
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