Depends who you ask, perhaps. But drugmakers may be "shooting themselves in the foot" by perpetuating the belief that they are poorly regarded, even though new research shows this is not the case, according to David Lewis of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, who spoke at a conference sponsored byPharmaTimes.
In a recent survey, 49 percent of UK Members of Parliament described their feelings towards the industry as “mainly favourable,” while the views of 18 percent “very” favourable. Only 16 percent described their opinions as “mainly unfavourable” - fewer than the 17 percent who said they held none of these views.
Moreover, of 2,000 UK adults who were asked the same question, 51 percent say they were favourably disposed and just 14 percent were unfavourable. And 26 percent of the adults polled also said their positive views of the industry were based on use of meds, either by themselves or someone else, and they admired drugmakers for their R&D and discovery of new meds and for saving lives. However, there was also widespread dislike of the industry’s perceived “excessive” profits, pricing policies and activities in Africa and the Third World, according to Lewis.
While the industry has long had to live with negative coverage in the broadcast and print media, the Internet has made the scrutiny of perceived bad corporate behaviour much greater and available to “anyone with an opinion and a laptop,” Alex Bollen, research director at survey research organisation Ipsos MORI, told the conference.
She described how a company’s “bank of goodwill” can persuade its stakeholders to be willing to hear its side of the story in time of crisis, and stressed that it is vital for employees to have buy-in and become “ambassadors” for the company. Your stakeholders are customers, employees, investors, legislators, journalists, non-governmental organisations – “in fact, anyone who can bugger up your business,” she told the meeting.
Roger Stubbs, deputy managing director and head of business research at Ipsos MORI, said recent research revealed a “sea change” in the factors which business journalists take into account when judging pharma. Quality and range of products, which has always had priority status, is now even more important, but the second and fourth most important factors – R&D spending and investment and financial performance – are declining, although R&D spending and performance is now assuming much greater importance.
If a crisis occurs, people expect to hear from the ceo, who is the voice of the company and responsible for 47 percent of its reputation, said Jennifer Garratt, managing director of Burson-Marsteller’s healthcare practice. However, she also pointed out that only two pharma ceo – Procter & Gamble’s Lafley and Novartis’ Dan Vassella - are included in the Burson-Marsteller/Economist Intelligence Unit’s list of the world’s 25 most-admired business leaders.
Loss of reputation is the second biggest threat to any company, after business interruption, and it takes an average of three and a half years for the crisis to fade and reputation to be restored. However, only 22% of companies have any kind of plan in place to deal with crisis issues, Garratt told the conference.