Molly James-Lundak on how AbbVie used social media to amplify their corporate responsibility message

“I like to call our challenge the Willy Wonka problem,” says Molly James-Lundak.

She's the Senior Director of Corporate Digital Marketing at AbbVie, a company that manufactures Humira, the world's best-selling drug — a company that's also facing an awareness challenge since its launch in 2013.

“How do we tell the world what our ‘Oompa Loompas' do and who they are? They don't make Everlasting Gobstoppers — they actually do really important work, like curing disease,” member Molly says.

But in pharma, navigating social media regulations can be tricky — especially when talking about your product. “The FDA's guidance doesn't give you a clear cut path for what you can and can't do,” Molly said.

Molly James-Lundak

To create awareness for AbbVie, she stepped back from the product and looked to their corporate responsibility efforts.

In 2014, over five days, 1,400 AbbVie employees in 11 countries spent one day volunteering in their community for their “Week of Possibilities.” And in 2015, they set out to triple employee participation, triple the number of countries involved, and earn more corporate responsibility awareness than ever.

To do it in social media, Molly's team set these five objectives:

  1. Engage employees: Not just the volunteers, but also the 27,000 employees who didn't get the opportunity to volunteer.
  2. Reinforce their commitment to the causes: Explain what their favorite causes are about — like narrowing the K-12 achievement gap in science and literacy — and why they're important.
  3. Support AbbVie's nonprofit partners: Help extend the message of their partners like Heart of America and KaBOOM! working on shoestring budgets and with limited resources.
  4. Use other people's voices to tell AbbVie's story: “We're very sensitive to the humble brag, and we didn't want our feed to be full of back-patting posts,” Molly says.
  5. Test and learn: Molly says this was a unique opportunity for her team to try out formats pharma usually avoids, like real-time communication.

HeartofAmerica Tweet

“But we couldn't just wing it for a week,” says Molly.

Two weeks before the initiative, they planned and scheduled content they knew their followers would gravitate towards and share. That included inspirational quotes, images related to their efforts, and educational graphics about literacy and education.

They also planned ahead to share their results. “It seems funny to plan a graphic a week before it started to share what happened during the event, but doing this stuff in the moment without graphic design resources would have been a bigger challenge.”

Twitter AbbVie

They also planned ahead to empower their partners and employees to spread the word.

They shared sample tweets, social graphics, and hashtag guidance with their partners to encourage them to talk about #AbbVieGivesBack. Molly also held social media training with AbbVie employees to explain the basics: how to tweet, the purpose of hashtags, how to take a video good video or photo, and how to self-screen what you can and can't say.

Molly explains, “We used this analogy: Imagine your tweet was being judged by an American Idol panel — what are they going to say about this content? What about your grandma? Your CEO? And most importantly, what about legal?”


But they also prepped them with the tools to share, like AbbVie-branded selfie frames to hold and pose with for photos. That way, the message and branding made it into every shot.

They encouraged employees internally by capturing #AbbVieGivesBack photos live from around the world and projecting them on a wall in the cafeteria.

On Twitter, AbbVie gained 2-3 times more new followers than their weekly average.

On Facebook, shares were up 808 percent. And on Instagram — even where AbbVie has no corporate social presence — they earned over 190 posts from employees. With over 238 stories about the effort covered in traditional media, and over 596 mentions of #AbbVieGivesBack in social, Molly says employees are already excited about participating next year.


Watch Molly's full presentation here and follow her on Twitter. Molly has been a member of with AbbVie since 2014, but she first joined our community with Premier Farnell in 2012.