Roche Diabetes Summit: SUM Edition.
You have already read some great wrap-ups of the Roche Diabetes Blogger Summit from some of my fellow bloggers - Amy, Manny, David, Gina, Christopher, Bennet (Note: Mr. YDMV's updates are fictional. Well, mostly.), and Sandra. I just wanted to chime in with my thoughts and add my photos to the collection. :)
We met up in Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon, after I had flown from LaGuardia to Detroit and then to Indianapolis. (Yes, I took two flights so that I could avoid taking the itsy bitsy plane that Roche originally had scheduled me on. The travel people at Roche were very patient and understanding regarding my travel issues, and I really appreciate their compassion.)
But apparently my fear of flying wasn't kept within the travel coordinator circle, as several people from Roche mentioned at the dinner that "Some of us even traveled despite our fear of flying," and heads slowly turned towards me, to which my only xanax-laced response was "I walked."
Good thing I don't mind being laughed at. Or with. More on that later.
I'm no fool - part of what Roche wanted was to be talked about in the blogs. Hence why they asked many of the diabetes bloggers to visit their headquarters and brainstorm about social networking and Pharma involvement. But Roche did this right - they paid for our travel, they paid for our hotel, they made us feel as though we were valued guests, and they listened when we offered our opinions. We didn't travel on our own dime and feel taken advantage of, but instead appreciated. That's a good start, in my book.
It was really a groundbreaking sort of event, with Roche having the balls (go ahead and quote me on that, Rodger the Social Media Warlord) to invite a pack of opinionated bloggers into their house to talk frankly about social media and Pharma - specifically, THEIR Pharma. We talked about ways that Pharma can appropriately enter the social media space without being received by a mob with torches and pitchforks.
In my opinion, Pharma needs to simply embrace the fact that transparency, honesty, and being open to feedback can make a huge difference in how they are perceived by their patient base. For Roche to sign on to a social networking site by creating a fake profile or pretending to actually live with diabetes, well that's just plain stupid because we'll sniff them out in a second and destroy them. However, if Roche, or any other Pharma crew, is willing to put a face to their company and leap into social media by saying, "We aren't living with diabetes, but we want to help improve the lives of people living with diabetes - that's why we are here and that's why we want to be engaged" ... that kind of disclosure and transparency will go a very long way.
I gave the example of Albert Chen, a member of the Agamatrix team who, with grace, honesty, and class, joined the diabetes blogosphere with his blog "What Is Diabetes?" He said, right in his bio, that he didn't have diabetes, but wanted to better understand the community he was working to serve. That, Pharma companies who are reading this, is the way to work with the diabetes online community. Get to know us. See that we are more than just the sum of our co-pays. Remind us that Pharma has a face, and more importantly, that you remember we are people, too.
The Roche team didn't always directly answer the questions, but I can understand that "Why aren't strips cheaper" isn't a question that they can answer without sounding like a business. However, they need to understand, and always remember, that their business is our life. So while that chasm remains wide, I think this was an important step in beginning to bridge that gap.