The Reputation of Pharma Is Improving, But Will Pharmaceutical Companies Embrace the Invitation to Connect with the General Public?

2016-Pharma-RepTrak®_C

By Kasper Ulf Nielsen, Executive Partner, Reputation Institute

The reputation of pharmaceutical companies with the general public is average, but improving. This might come as a surprise to many industry insiders but the reality is that people actually trust, admire, and respect the individual companies in the pharmaceutical industry and want to know more about the companies behind the drugs.

The 2016 Global Pharma RepTrak®, released today by Reputation Institute, shows that the general public’s perception of the industry at large is on the upswing with the RepTrak® Pulse score of the industry improving from 65.7 to 67.6 between 2015 and 2016. And in the UK, USA, Australia, Brazil, Germany, and Russia, the reputation of the pharmaceutical companies is even strong, with scores above 70.

This should be a call to action for the pharmaceutical companies to engage and communicate more about who they are. People are not out to get them. The general public wants to understand what the companies are doing when it comes to their products, their citizenship, and how they operate as businesses.

The top three drivers of a good reputation are: products/services, governance, and citizenship. If the companies can be seen as delivering on these three dimensions, the reputation will improve even more. But this takes a new approach to communication and engagement from the individual companies. They need to tell their story and not just let the individual product brand lead the way. And, if they do, they will see the rewards.

Sixty-percent of people’s willingness to recommend and support the companies comes from their perception of who they are as companies, and only 40% from their perception about their products. But where are companies focusing their communication today? A full 55% are uncertain about what the companies are doing when it comes to citizenship. With the millions spent on CSR programs, this is not a good result for the industry. So there is a need for change – a change in focus which is more aligned with what the public expects from companies when it comes to being seen as a good corporate citizen.

The reputation of the pharmaceutical industry has been characterized by sameness for some time. No company’s reputation is particularly bad, but none are excellent either. In fact, none are that much different from the rest as far as the general public is concerned.

Bayer, the top rated pharmaceutical company in 2016, was the only one of 14 companies measured to earn a strong score of 70.6. The others – which include Abbott Laboratories, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Merck, Sanofi, Allergan, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, AbbVie, GSK, Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Pfizer – all earned average individual scores between 65.9 and 68.7. This narrow window, coupled with data showing that 39 to 77 percent of the public is not familiar with individual companies, highlights the opportunity companies have to set themselves apart from the crowd.

And the ones who take this opportunity will see the benefits. If you can improve your reputation by 5 points, the willingness to recommend your company will go up with 8.5%. So the business case is clear, and the reputation platform is strong, and the results are there to leverage, now it’s up to the individual companies to act.