Biotech should embrace open, online communication

Business of Biotech

At the upcoming 2011 BIO International Convention, we will issue a new opinion survey measuring public attitudes toward our industry and where government support for our industry ranks among other national priorities.  While the survey found some interesting new data – sorry, you’ll have to wait until next week to get the details – we saw some results that are nearly the same each year we field this survey.  We found that voters’ image of our industry is solid and stable:  We continually garner a favorable opinion among roughly half the public and receive very low unfavorable ratings.  Our research also repeatedly finds that while voters don’t know much about our industry, the more they learn about what we do – healing, fueling and feeding the world – the more they like us.  The more they like us, the more apt they are to agree with our policy priorities, advocate for more government support for biotech investment and research, and be less inclined to agree with our detractors.

A few years ago, I would say that this means we have an important opportunity to tell our story.  But the world of communications has changed so much over the past several years.  So today I say we have an important opportunity to engage in a dialogue.  Communications is no longer about simply posting a press release online, placing a single article on a web-based newsletter or even posting a single comment to respond to a blog or an article.  Audiences today demand, and expect, for companies and organizations to be more open in their communications, to participate in discussions, to actively engage with their audiences.

ConversationsThat’s why we’ve recrafted– bioengineered, if you will – our BIOtechNOW website.  BIOtechNOW will provide critical information about the biotechnology industry, facilitate the online dialogue about critical biotech issues and provide an online forum to connect with the industry 365 days a year.  The site is designed to be a “one-stop shop” to help keep subscribers in-the-know about the latest in biotech while encouraging quality discussions and providing quality information.  We will monitor the discussions to ensure they remain civil and reasonable, but will seek to foster an honest exchange of information and an open dialogue.

We recognize that the emerging world of social media can be intimidating and fraught with peril for many of our member companies.  We are a highly regulated business.  The slightest misstatement can bring an unwanted spotlight from the media, the FDA or the FTC.  But the world of communications has changed and it’s not likely to go back.  As an innovative, technology-based industry, we should be at the vanguard of embracing these new means of communication.

We hope that this site can help address issues our member companies cannot and, perhaps, help stand as a model for what can, and cannot, be done and said online in the world of biotech.  After all Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, blogs, Delicious and the new tool and sites that pop-up almost daily present a phenomenal opportunity to expand the discussion, counter misinformation and speak out on issues of importance.  And many companies are jumping-in.  Xconomy National Biotech Editor Luke Timmerman discusses the growth of Twitter in biotech .

I hope you’ll join us.  Engage in our discussions. Challenge our arguments. Spread the word. You never know:  The more you learn about us, the more you may like us.  Enjoy!

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