JNJ BTW A-OK: a review for F500 Business Blogging Wiki
I had a lot of fun reviewing Delta’s Under the Wing Blog for the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki a couple weeks ago and received some great feedback so I thought I’d take a look at another one. I picked Johnson & Johnson’s By the Way Blog (JNJ BTW), which is authored by J&J media relations guru, Marc Monseau. J&J also has a blog dedicated to the company’s history named Kilmer House, written by Margaret Gurowitz, which, at first glance, is fairly cool. However, my review is solely focused on JNJ BTW.
Based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, J&J ranks 35 on the F500. To familiarize my self with the company, I spent quite a bit of time perusing their company site before looking at the blog. Looks like J&J’s business is structured into three units: consumer products, medical devices & diagnostics, and prescription products. In the first quarter 2008, Worldwide Consumer had sales of $4.1 billion, Worldwide Medical Devices and Diagnostics had sales of $5.7 billion, and Worldwide Pharmaceutical had sales of $6.4 billion. What struck me was just how pervasive J&J’s consumer products are in my life. For example, I thought of the past week and approximated that I used eight products – most of them on a daily basis like Splenda, Clean & Clear and Acuvue.
Review (scale of 1-10)
Ease of finding: 2 - I found it rather difficult to find JNJ BTW, even when I knew it was there. For example, in the News section of the site, there’s a passing reference to the blog, almost as if it’s a second class citizen when stacked against the almighty “press release” and “media contacts” links (tongue firmly placed in cheek). As a first step, I recommend J&J call out the blog along the left side menu of the News page. In the Company History page, buried at the bottom is a link to JNJ BTW but the reader would have absolutely no idea this is the corporate blog as it’s absent of any description. Lastly, I typed in “blog” in the site’s search box and not a single link to JNJ BTW came up. Not good for driving visitors.
Frequency: 7 – Since launching on June 4 2007, BTW authors have posted 96 times, approximately 9 per month (as of May 12, 2008). Overall, BTW authors have kept the posting consistent, with a slight dip around the December holidays and into the new year, which is to be expected. A bit disappointed by the fact that it’s May 12 and JNJ BTW has zero posts for May (even with J&J’s hearings before lawmakers defending their TV advertisements last week). For a breakdown on the number of posts by month: June-6, July-10, August-10, September-9, October-10, November-9, December-6, January-8, February-8, March-10, April-10, May-0.
Engaging writing: 9 – Loved how Marc expanded upon a talking point that was raised during the company’s analyst day from last summer. In Funding Innovation, Marc let us know that despite J&J being a hulking decentralized company with many operating units, it’s doing something very cool with its Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC). In reading this, I felt like I was getting an inside view on the venture unit as, at the time of posting, it hadn’t been discussed in the press. Acknowledging that J&J “has to get better at harnessing its own internal expertise and knowledge” also demonstrates the blog’s honesty.
I found Marc’s post recounting J&J’s media planning and buying agency review very interesting (“The Envelope, Please“). Well written, incorporating a few different angles including a dash of suspense.
In any given month, JNJ BTW responded to false media claims and accusations concerning the company (including the repeated disapproval of characterizing J&J as a big pharma corporation). In one instance, JNJ BTW was upset about a journalist who “ran with” the American Red Cross press release without proper context. Lazy journalism – what else is new! It got a bit old after a while.
Relevant: 8 – Solid content which consistently hits upon topical news and offering a position on behalf of J&J. Topics primarily focus on health related matters but JNJ BTW also mixes in other relevant topics such as the changing media landscape, emergence of health care bloggers, etc. In the Business of Green post, JNJ BTW was able to “set the record straight” concerning its corporate green efforts after being somewhat taken out of context in a BusinessWeek article.
Focused: 6 – JNJ BTW is overly focused on health care and pharma to a fault, in my opinion. Very little on its other business units. Although, there’s a very funny one called, A Little Detective Work in early January. Read it.
Honest: 10 - On July 31, J&J issued “plans to improve overall cost structure” in a press release. JNJ BTW was quick and timely to offer excerpts from the CEO’s letter to employees in an August 1 post. And, in a follow on post one day later, JNJ BTW clarified its position on how it alerts those employees affected by job cuts. Some reporters agreed, while others believe J&J should have been more forthcoming with specifics. Right or wrong, at least J&J is transparent on the issue:
Regardless of what is decided, one thing is clear: the affected employees will be told before the media or investment community. It’s only fair. Out of respect for the employees, it’s important for the supervisors and business leaders to have discussions with the people who are affected by these actions before they are reported in the press.
In another example of honesty well done, J&J admittedly gaffed when planning an event geared for blogging mommies. Hormones aside, I never knew the momosphere was such a cold and brutal planet in cyberspace. Nor did J&J. I’ll spare you the details because, frankly, I can’t stand these self righteous and sanctimonious bloggers. That said, nice work on damage control Lori and sounds like it was a success.
Interactive: 4 – The first post which garnered significant reader commentary concerned J&J’s stance on its lawsuit against American Red Cross for trademark infringement. Marc does a decent job of responding to user comments. One nit: when you click the “comments” link below the stories, you immediately get directed to a new page with the story and then you have to click “show comments.” Wonder if that is due to my Firefox browser? Anyway, it’s very annoying. And why no (or very little) use of video or audio on the blog (clips from Camp Baby would’ve been ideal)? Overall, the blog is a bit dull and one-dimensional from an interactive standpoint (not the “three dimensional view of J&J” as the blog’s tag line boasts).
Responsive: 9 - An August post about the American Red Cross suit was the first real opportunity for JNJ BTW to respond to a particularly sensitive topic. 29 comments came with the first post on the topic of which only two came from the editor providing answers. “Really disappointed at J&J,” “J&J is a greedy corporation,” “bloodsucking bully,” etc. were just a few of the barbs tossed at Marc in the back and forth over the ensuing ARC lawsuit posts. Though he did his best to keep to his approved talking points, one of the more catchy responses directed toward an over zealous reader had the following close:
I’d also just like to remind you that courtesy and politeness is not optional on this blog.
Overall: 55 out of 80
JNJ BTW did not need to score this low, in my opinion. If they make it easier to find, more interactive (polls, fun games geared towards consumer product line, etc), and a bit more aesthetically pleasing, there’s no reason why JNJ BTW shouldnt score in the upper 60s. After all, its writing and honesty are unmatched, but, then again, I would expect nothing less headed up by a former Bloomberg reporter.