Study outlines how to improve company reputation

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An industry reputation study found out that protecting Big Pharma's reputation requires more than a single good deed: it requires coordinating actions and messaging across 46 touch points which fit in to eight larger categorical buckets.

The study, by Washington-based strategy group APCO Worldwide, pooled input from 3,500 participants that included policy makers, health care providers and key opinion leaders. This audience shared what they thought of the industry and what they expected.

The key takeaway from the Return on Reputation Indicator study is that it's not enough for the industry to produce safe and effective drugs, they also need to be perceived as active, trustworthy partners in the healthcare conversation, says Christine Zacherau, vice president of health care research.

The study showed that managing several fronts at once, from price and research transparency to community involvement and disease education, can have a significant impact on a company's reputation, which has a direct effect on a company's bottom line.

For example: every point increase in what APCO calls the Reputation Index corresponds to an additional 28,000 patients asking for a specific medication and a 0.23 increase in market capitalization.

Getting there requires a combination of messaging that includes pricing and research transparency, innovation, responsible marketing and community visibility in terms of disease management and awareness.

For example, “there's a sense that there's improprieties, an unethical method in which the industry is marketing its products to providers,” Zacherau says, even though sunshine laws require doctors and companies to reveal their financial relationships. Zacherau says the problem is twofold: built-in cynicism about the industry as a whole and lack of awareness that things have changed.

According to Zacherau, the study shows that the solution is not to simply tout the sunshine laws as the end of the transparency discussion, but to do that in addition to showing a company's commitment to better health, specifically chronic disease and innovation.

The study says that these two fields offer the most opportunity in terms of burnishing the field's image. But Zacherau cautions that it is just part of the overall balance of other messages, such as government cooperation, patient assistance and environmental responsibility, among others.

Zacharau says the payoff of maintaining multiple messaging fronts is the overarching goodwill it can inspire, both in discrediting critics and getting public favor.

“It goes back to the original premise of our approach on reputation – to improve an industry's reputation, you can't be singularly focused,” she says.
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