Early this week, Scrip published an article that notes that the FDA still considers social media a “high priority,” even though the agency’s working list of topics in need of additional guidance hasn’t included social media in a couple of years.

It’s tempting to say that the FDA’s continued commitment to more explicit rules really doesn’t matter. At WCG, we’ve been consistent for years in our belief that no company need wait for the FDA before wading into social media. There are well-established, safe ways into interact online, and the simple act of setting up a blog or responding on Twitter is no longer causes eyebrows to arch or tongues to wag. (For an excellent example of how one large pharma company — that happens to be a client — is plunge ahead, check out Fast Company’s examination of Sanofi’s efforts.)

That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been consequences, and I outlined some of them last December. But most of my concerns from last year have been allayed, in part, by the rising number of successful case studies and trial-and-error advancement made by the pharma industry in moving forward (cautiously), even without rules.

But one of the consequences I didn’t talk about then was the impact of the FDA’s inaction on smaller companies: organizations that don’t have the legal support or regulatory know-how to test undefined waters. Though pharma is sprinting ahead in its exploration of this space, biotech companies remain laggards, and the smaller the company, the more resistance there is to implementing social media platforms without some sort of solid direction from the FDA.

Increasingly, these are the groups that need guidance the most: more and more of the important conversations — among patients, among investors, among doctors — is taking place online. And while my colleagues at WCG can certainly present options and show how others have done it safely, there is no stack of case studies high enough to outweigh the positive impact of FDA action.

So this week’s news that the FDA still “committed to this area in terms of both time and human resources”, could mean good things around the corner. Especially for those who need it the most.

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Over the last two or three years, it has become crystal clear that South by Southwest Interactive is THE event to attend if you are interested learning more about the latest and greatest trends in digital, social and mobile. Equal parts innovative startups and smart corporations, the crowd of 25,000+ people that flood Austin, TX in mid-March each year understand that they are in for five action packed days of intense networking and education.

The double edged sword with SXSW is that there is SO much good content — many times too much — that it’s often hard to figure out which sessions to attend. One of our goals at WCG/W2O is to help curate this process for our employees, clients and partners. Because the decisions on the panels making the final cut is still a few months off, we thought it would be helpful to start this journey by teeing up some of the panels that our customers and employees (including myself) have submitted.

Below, you will find four panels that we have collectively submitted. By clicking on the title of the session you can get much greater detail about the session. If you think it’s interesting, we encourage you to vote for it on the panel picker page. If you really like it, feel free to share it with your network:

More Than Pills

Who says patients deserve a voice in healthcare? Well … actually Healthcare does. The trick is: how do you make this happen? Traditionally, the industry has been slow to adapt to the connected age, marginalizing patient input on life-changing solutions and treatments. But innovations from Sanofi, US Diabetes’ Patient Solutions are now realizing the future of healthcare: open, two-way conversations, and success determined well beyond sales. Know how they did it? You only think you know … but Michele Polz, Head of Sanofi Patient Solutions, lets you in on a secret that’s revolutionizing patient interaction.

Speaker: Michele Polz, Sanofi Patient Solutions


Social COE: Extending Social Across the Enterprise

The biggest problem that many large companies face is scaling and codifying social media across the organization. During this advanced panel, experts from Intel, Verizon and Fidelity will talk about their experiences, insights and best practices in creating social media centers of excellence within their organizations during this panel.



Paradise By The Dashboard Light: Success in B2B
Mitsubishi Electric is teaming up with WCG to for a talk discussing analytics and integrated marketing and how Mitsubishi is utilizing unexpected tactics like augmented reality and iOS apps to penetrate the HVAC market in the U.S. Mitsubishi is already a dominant force around the globe and the U.S. Mitsubishi team are proving that social and digital are viable marketing channels for even the most industrial of B2B markets. Even better – they’re measuring everything including revenue growth to their efforts.


The Power of Patient Perspectives
In this panel, ePatients who have started companies and charities will discuss how patients have grabbed the reins to begin changing the $2.3 trillion world of care. (Organizer: Brian Reid W2O Group)


Because we at WCG/W2O are all about making the conversation a two way street, we encourage you to not only vote on any/all of the panels above (you can do so by clicking on the title of each session) but go ahead and post your own session or others that you find interesting in the comments below. Note, we work with a lot of smart clients/people and one of our jobs during SXSW is to help curate the best of the best to our clients. Documenting them here makes that a much easier job.

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Among the many amazing conversations that we had during SxSW this year, the one that Kyle Flaherty and I had with Sanofi’s Michele Polz stands out for a number of reasons.

First, the work that’s been done by her Patient Solutions team in Sanofi’s US Diabetes franchise (WCG Client) is truly remarkable.  More on that in a moment.  The second is that they were able to build a highly visible innovation challenge, in partnership with Todd Park and the Department of Health and Human Services.  In six weeks.

The idea behind the first Data Design Diabetes Challenge, now in its second year, was born at SxSW in 2011.  The program was formally launched in June of that year at the Health Data Initiative Forum.  I’ve known global corporations that couldn’t get a twitter account started in six weeks time – much less an innovation competition that had over 100 entries, and is now supported by its own blog, twitter account and facebook page. AND, if you really want to know more, you can sign up to watch Demo Day live on May 16th.

According to Michele, the main enabler of their success was that there was an incredibly focused cross-functional team behind her, including all of the right players from their legal, regulatory and compliance teams.  The winner of that competition,, is now being considered as a potential partner while other entrants have successfully started their own businesses.  The 2012 competition is now in full swing – you can learn more about it on the Data Design Diabetes web site. Or,

As you know, we always close these LiveFromStubbs conversations with a conversation about music and barbecue.  Michele’s shouldn’t be missed.  TEASER: Michele’s story involves Katy Perry and a law enforcement officer.  But you have to watch the video to fid out the rest. 😉

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The Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge

We’ve known for many years that we are smarter if we ask the right crowds for their wisdom. James Surowiecki wrote Wisdom of Crowds on the topic awhile back. My old company, Dell, built to gather ideas direct from customers and determine how to best improve new products and services and Starbucks has further broadened how this can be done with

When it comes to transforming our health, there have been too few examples to speak of, to date. However, we now have a unique initiative from Sanofi called the Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge that is asking the diabetes community and all with an interest in diabetes to crowdsource ideas on how to improve life with the condition.

It is one of the most powerful ways to innovate. Ask the experts, often patients themselves, to harness their intellect to improve society…and while we’re at it, create new tools, programs and other innovations that may lead to new companies.

If you are interested or know someone interested in this innovation challenge, you can share your ideas via (or click on the image below) by February 12th. Whether you share insights or not by February 12th, you are also welcome to submit an idea, starting February 23rd. All of the details on the challenge can be viewed at the site.

Data Design Diabetes - Powered by Sanofi

The best ideas are eligible for funding and, even more important in my view, industry-leading mentorship is also available. So if you have a great idea, but aren’t clear how to get it across the finish line, you’ll have plenty of help.

Our goal is shared. We all want to transform health. I hope you take the time to share your thoughts and possibly your idea.

All the best, Bob Pearson

Note: Sanofi is a client of WCG

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