Reputation Drivers in Pharma

The pharma industry is always interesting when it comes to understanding how reputations are built. It is an industry that has certainly had its ups and downs and an easy target to blame for this and that. A global survey that was recently completed among 800 patient groups in 43 countries provides interesting insights into how the industry is perceived. The survey is funded by PatientView and looks at the individual reputations of 33 companies and the industry as a whole.

Overall, the reputation for multinational pharma companies places 7th among healthcare industries examined, lower than biotech companies, generic drug manufacturers, non-for-profit health insurers, the private healthcare sector, medical-device companies, and retail pharmacists. Somewhat more than one-third -- 35% -- of patient group respondents give the industry an excellent or good rating on its reputation which fares at parity with results from 2012 although decidedly lower than positive reputation ratings seen in 2011 (41%). Work is still needed.

The report indicates that there are five key drivers of reputation in the multinational pharma industry. They are (and I quote):

  1. A good portfolio of products that brings hope to people suffering from the medical conditions familiar to the patient group.
  2. Media coverage about the company (allied to comments received on the ‘grapevine’ from peer patient groups about the behavior of a company).
  3. A sense among the patient group that a company is truly putting patients at the heart of its business approach. The company needs to demonstrate this fact, not simply articulate a desire to be patient-centric.
  4. A perception among the patient group of a year-on-year positive change in the company’s investment stance across the patient arena—whether it is support for specific patient organisations, for big campaigns, or for patient-centered research.
  5. A feeling among the patient group that a company’s relationship with it (and with peer patient groups) can be relied upon to be long, rather than short-term.

Trust in a company and its intentions over the long-term to do right by patients seem to be at the bottom of what drives a positive reputation in the pharma industry. That makes perfect sense. I was surprised, however, to see media coverage as prominent as it was. Years ago, pharma companies did not want to voice all the good things they were doing because it was believed to be implicitly understood. Today with all the access to news and information and the ability to connect with other patients in a matter of seconds, it is clear that pharma companies have to own their own conversations and make sure that misinformation is not being spread virally. This again makes the case for social media which reaches the media and which is used by journalists to confirm or deny what is being chatted about. Tangentially, we surveyed corporate communications heads in pharma companies around the globe about their use of social media and surprisingly learned that the reluctance on their part to proactively use social media to communicate has less to do with regulations but with internal silos and lack of what we called social confidence. Getting one's story out in all its positives and negatives is how reputations are being shaped today.






How Incivility Dashes Reputation & Sales

Incivility can hurt reputation and harm sales. With the holiday season upon us, we took a deeper look at our research on Civility in America to better understand the connection. No surprise, the research shows that consumers react negatively toward businesses that exhibit incivility. With early reports showing slow sales this holiday season, companies need to ensure that front line representatives are on alert to deal with consumer's incivility and their own short-temper-ness. It happens. We are human. But consumers don't want to just take it anymore. They have too many choices. A businesses' reputations is at severe risk when an interaction is discourteous and disrespectful. Why would anyone go back to a particular store or buy something online when they can't get a reasonable answer from customer service or are treated poorly? Our survey provides the proof that people turn away from businesses when incivility is out of bounds. They tell their friends and family and the online community quickly takes note. Looking at this research from another angle, just think how ultra-civil behavior can make a difference. If a business is on civility steroids, wouldn't that make you want to shop there more often and tell friends and family online and off. It could make all the difference between an okay holiday season and an off-the-charts one for some. Plus it could super-charge your company reputation. Just check out these stats below. 

Civility in America 2013: Corporate Reputation Edition, Weber Shandwick

Civility in America 2013: Corporate Reputation Edition, Weber Shandwick

Paying it forward.....

401-drive-thru-open-right-arrow It is turning into a red hot trend and helping to chip away at that uncivil reputation about America. And it is happening right here now. A colleague at work even told me how a total stranger ahead of her on line paid for her cup of coffee the other day and how touched she was. Then I saw this article on the concept of paying it forward. When cars are waiting on line to order a burger or chicken sandwich or milkshake at their local drive thru, they pay for the person behind them -- no strings attached. And it just starts a wave of others doing the same. "We really don’t know why it’s happening but if I had to guess, I’d say there is just a lot of stuff going on in the country that people find discouraging,” said Mark Moraitakis, director of hospitality at Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A. “Paying it forward is a way to counteract that.” Some of these drive-thru operators are saying that this happens several times a day now. Because I dont drive often, I have experienced it less frequently here in New York City. However, it's a great idea for enhancing our reputation as a nation of kind human beings that have the capacity to speak in civil tongues (unlike the shenanigans in DC). For more on Civility in America, read here. Happy halloween!

Reputation is like virginity says Buffett

Warren-Buffett-9230729-1-402 You have to love him. Was just reading from Fortune's Most Powerful Women summit and came across Warren Buffett's latest description on great reputations. He obviously has the insanity in Washington D.C. over the debt in mind.

A great reputation is like virginity - 'it can be preserved but it can't be restored.' Once you default, it's hard to go back.



Ever growing complexity of reputation






Everyone wants to measure reputation. Measurement, big data, metrics are all the conversation today. As I have mentioned before, reputation is high on CEO agendas as they see more companies lose reputation equity and that calls for better research. I just came across the Arthur W. Page Society, The CEO View: The Impact of Communications on Corporate Character in a 24×7 Digital World  study which noted that some CEOs “report measuring as many as 30 different brand attributes as experienced by as many as 15 discrete stakeholder groups.” That give you a sense of how research has become more complex as the world has become smaller and scrutiny greater. 15 different stakeholder groups! It used to be employees, customers, media, investors and government officials. So whose among these added groups? NGOs, online influencers, bloggers, is never ending.

The report calls this "high-resolution measurement." A great term. Hard-data rules.


Employee satisfaction matters







None of us want to ever underestimate the importance of corporate culture and the impact of employee satisfaction on performance. It is not just window dressing. A study by Professor Alex Edmans at London Business School found that when a company makes it onto the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, it generates 3.5% higher stock returns per year compared to its peers. To be exact, it found that companies listed in the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” generated 2.3% to 3.8% higher stock returns per year than their peers from 1984 through 2011. Management journal, strategy + business says this about this effect of employee satisfaction,"There is money to be made from employee satisfaction. Let's all get rich and happy, but not necessarily in that order." I might have to argue with that but are the facts from the research. A great stat for demonstrating that it pays to build a terrific culture:

The results clearly point out that job satisfaction is beneficial for firm value and ultimately, reputation.

Read about it here.




High resolution reputation

Abstract big speech bubbleThe Arthur Page Society just issued a new report on The CEO View: The Impact of Communications on Corporate Character in a 24X7 Digital World. The 20 interviews with global CEOs reveals many insights on the evolving role of the CCO (corporate communications officer) in companies today. What is special about this report is that it provides a view from the very top, from the CEO himself or herself. In a section on what's expected from CCOs in this brave new always-on world, one of the findings caught my interest because of the reputation angle. They refer to it as "High-Resolution Measurement." The report states: Today, CEOs expect their CCO to deliver an accurate, data driven picture of their company’s reputation at a level of detail that is often very granular. Some CEOs report measuring as many as 30 different brand attributes as experienced by as many as 15 discrete stakeholder groups. While the levelof detail and timeliness demanded by CEOs vary, the new emphasis for 2013 is the demand for hard data.

It sounds to me like CEOs want it all because they now understand that the single employee loner or the most vocal customer detractor or the regulatory body in another country or the evolving patient group launching a new website or the members of a NGO group can easily harm the company's reputation within seconds and make the damage last days, weeks or months. Instead of just worrying about how reputation is faring among a set portfolio of key stakeholders, CEOs now expect CCOs to be on top of those peripheral stakeholders that can rise up and reap havoc. Hard data has the potential to answer many of these questions. I always say that managing reputation by anecdote does not tell the whole story (or even some of it).

There are many more insights worth discovering in the report. Give it a read to understand how the role of the CCO is changing and how vital that position is to the company, the CEO and to the reputation universe.