An Interview with Marc Monseau

I’m changing things up a bit today by interviewing Marc Monseau, of Johnson & Johnson. Marc runs J&J’s corporate blog: www.jnjbtw.com.

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I want to clearly state that I am under the employ of Johnson & Johnson.

I am not, and never will act as a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson on this blog. Anything that I state in this blog is my opinion and does not reflect the views or positions of Johnson & Johnson or any of it’s companies or brands. Please do not ask me about Johnson & Johnson in any way, I will not respond.

 

Geek Whisperer: What are your experiences in new media? 


Marc Monseau: As a former journalist, I joined Johnson & Johnson more than a decade ago, with responsibility for managing Ortho-McNeil’s newly created online communications tool, and to lead the development of the business’s first website. 
At the time, the development of the website was considered to be an innovative project to tap into the growing use of digital, online media by people seeking health care advice. 
Later, I joined Johnson & Johnson’s corporate communications group, with responsibility for media relations.  As such, I have been watching the growing influence of bloggers and other members of the online community to influence the mainstream media as well as other online communications sites and communities. About five years ago, at one of our annual communications meetings for all J&J communicators, I saw a discussion led by Adriana Lukas, an influential political blogger from the UK.  Her discussion, which shed additional light on the way in which the mainstream media was being threatened by bloggers, and other so-called citizen journalists.  That presentation set off a more sophisticated conversation within our corporate communications department about how we could and should start to get involved in these online conversations.
 Two years ago, we realized that through our own corporate blog, we could start to set the tone of the conversation, ensure we can communicate with some of the influential members of these online communities and gain some experience that could be applied to other businesses within J&J.  With this in mind, I developed and then gained approved to create a corporate blog, www.JNJBTW.com, to provide a voice and presence for the corporation online. Since then, we have found that the blog has helped us tell our story in difficult situations, such as our suit against the American Red Cross, correct and take on misrepresentations of the company in other news coverage and provide a way for some of our employees to tell stories about their activities in their own words. In addition, the blog has provided us with a way to start to become part of several key online communities.  Not only are we now part of the community that discusses the business of health care, but we are also a member of a large community of nurses and known to several key physician bloggers.  One key learning has been that the audience who follows the blog is not the one we originally anticipated – rather, it varies according to the topic covered, and involves groups, such as mommy bloggers and nursing bloggers, who are interested in the corporate overall.  


GW: How difficult was it to create a blog in Johnson & Johnson’s corporate environment?

MM:
The biggest concern was the idea that the company could play host to comments from consumers that could be damaging to the company.  In addition, the company is not geared up to respond or move quickly to news or commentary.  To overcome these internal objections, we worked closely with the legal department, regulatory and senior management to understand their concerns, and then devised some approaches  — such as pre-reviewing CGC and establishing a strict comments policy – that could mitigate these risks.  Before going live, however, we did need to seek approval from the office of the chairman.  By providing a sense of how in this changing environment, we risked losing our voice online and, ultimately, damaging the company’s reputation, and by providing a way to triage CGC, we gained the confidence and support of management. 


GW: What constitutes success for a corporate blog? 


MM: The success of this blog is multi-fold – first, the blog has helped me and the company become a credible and trusted voice in several key online communities.  That in turn provides opportunities to not only be part of the conversation, but to lead it.  
Secondly, the blog enables me and the company to develop closer relationships with key, influential members of different online communities.  Through these relationships, we can better serve the interests of the people who buy our products and influence our businesses. 
Thirdly, the blog gives us a sense of what else we need to do to change how we, as a company, communicates with the people who buy our products, but also with our employees.  The way people talk, share ideas and make decisions about what to buy or who to do business with is changing thanks to the new tools available on the social web, and if companies don’t understand how to get involved and be part of these conversations, they will lose out to those who do figure this out.

GW: Where do you see the future of corporate social media going?

MM: The next stage is to form deeper, more meaningful relationships with key members of the online communities, and the people who use our products.  At this stage, we are, in many cases, not even listening to what is said, let alone being part of these conversations, let alone members of these communities. 

This next stage may take different forms – but depends upon whether companies can start to provide people with information, content or other things that they can use and apply to their own lives – and not just empty marketing or advertising messages.  It will require companies to respond to the needs of the people online, and to serve their interests – not the interests of the company or the brands involved.   In the field of health care, there is a growing army of patients who are taking charge of how they manage their health care needs, and they are redefining how insurers, providers and companies will have to work with them.  Though the smoke has yet to clear to clearly identify what companies will need to do in this space, one thing is certain – the days of one-way, broadcast communications of messages about brands and products are over – companies will need to be increasingly open and honest, provide information that is useful and actionable, and will need to listen and respond to people on their terms.  

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