Johnson & Johnson takes to Twitter to expand its network of storytelling patients

hospital doctor with patient
Janssen taps its Share network of patient volunteers for everything from speaking engagements to written testimonials to videos for branded and unbranded campaigns. (monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images)

If you want to connect with and inspire your audience, tell them a story. 

That may be a marketing mantra, but it’s also the premise behind Johnson & Johnson's SHARE Network, a program that asks patients to recount their health stories—and explain how a drug from its Janssen unit changed their lives.

The U.S.-based program, now in its ninth year, has grown from a few patients into a diverse network of some 200 volunteers who’ve had a good experience with a Janssen drug and want to help others by talking about it, spokeswoman Kelsey Buckholtz said.

Now, J&J's pharma arm is taking those stories to Twitter—with the hope of encouraging even more patients to join the network.

In recent weeks, Janssen has tweeted videos featuring patients with depression, Crohn's disease, HIV, pulmonary arterial hypertension and the blood cancer multiple myeloma. 

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“Stories bring people together—they inspire and provide hope,” Buckholtz said in an email.

Buckholtz said the volunteers include patients and caregivers in all six of Janssen’s therapeutic areas: neuroscience, oncology, cardiovascular and metabolism, immunology, infectious disease and pulmonary hypertension.

Janssen taps the network for everything from speaking engagements to written testimonials to videos for branded and unbranded campaigns.

Target audiences are other patients and caregivers, as well as healthcare providers and Janssen employees. Buckholtz said employees, in particular, like to hear from patients “so they can see the impact our innovations have on people’s lives.”

Patient stories on various brand pages are also sourced through the network “to ensure privacy, compliance and consistency,” Buckholtz said.

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Patients are free to pick and choose what activities they take part in and can leave the network at any time.

Why do patients want to tell their stories? In testimonials on the program’s website, members give various reasons, such as paying it forward, combating stigma and easing fear about their disease.

In a video posted July 12 on the JanssenUS Twitter page, an aspiring writer from Colorado named Grace speaks about her battle with major depressive disorder.

Diagnosed in 2011, the snowboarder, yoga enthusiast and lacrosse player said depression stole her hobbies, her friends and, at times, her ability to function. 

“As treatment after treatment failed, I began to lose hope,” she says in the two-minute video. “I was on the verge of accepting that this was going to be my life and that I would never get back all of the things that I had. That I would never smile or laugh again.”   

Then she found a clinic with “a different perspective” on the disease, she said. At the end of the video, Grace thanks the Janssen team, urging them to “keep doing what you’re doing.” 

Although there’s no mention of a specific treatment, Janssen’s antidepressant nasal spray Spravato won FDA approval in 2019 for adults with depression that isn’t alleviated by other drugs. Patients administer the fast-acting spray under their doctor’s supervision and in addition to their usual treatment. 

Spravato picked up another FDA nod last year for patients who are actively thinking about suicide. But the drug has faced criticism from pricing watchdogs over its cost. 

Buckholtz said Janssen first started promoting the SHARE network on social media in 2019 to increase awareness and recruit new patients and caregivers who may be interested in telling their stories.

The company also promotes the network through ShareMyJanssenStory.com and links on Janssen websites.