- 1 year ago
22 July 2022
Having quality products, being a good corporate citizen, and building trust in your brand contribute to a good reputation, a Mumbrella 360 panel session featuring three ANZ communications heads of large pharmaceutical companies heard on Wednesday, and while pharma’s reputation benefited from Covid, more needed to be done to build a mature reputation.
AbbVie’s Director of Corporate Relations Kate Richards, GSK’s Head of Communications Angela Hill, and Janssen’s Head of Communications and Public Affairs Adam Wyldeck featured on the Mumbrella panel alongside panel moderator and WE Communications executive director Gemma Hudson, who noted pharma had enjoyed a strong jump in positive sentiment over Covid.
In questioning the panel as to whether this could be sustained, Janssen’s Wyldeck responded that depended on what industry does next.
“The biggest determinant of how long that lasts is what happens over the next few years with Covid and how we as an industry respond to it,” he said. “This pandemic isn’t over… If we, as an industry, can respond with potentially new vaccines or new treatments for the new variants, that will go a long way in determining how we are perceived in the longer term.”
Wyldeck said while other factors were important in building a good reputation, Covid had demonstrated product was the hero factor, citing how AstraZeneca and Janssen had made vaccines available at cost but how this was considered less important to consumers than the safety and efficacy profile of vaccines.
In the end, pharma did deliver vaccines that worked and Wyldeck said the challenge now was to ensure people did not forget the role pharma played.
“I don’t know if that reputational increase will be sustained if we as an industry don’t remind people about our impact and how we were able to assist in many ways to get the world back on its feet,” he said.
“When the next major public health crisis comes around at some point in the future, which invariably it will, we want to ensure that we have a reputation with the public that is built on trust”.
GSK had the first Covid-specific therapy in the market, and Hill said her team worked “hand in glove” with government affairs while ensuring that the company’s talent was trained and ready to manage key messaging. She stressed the importance for pharma companies to “continue to do our core business brilliantly” while adding it was “equally important that we take the lessons from Covid forward into whatever comes next” by telling local stories that resonated.
AbbVie did not have Covid products, but Richards said it had a responsibility to maintain its existing programs with healthcare professionals during the pandemic while taking on a stronger business-to-consumer approach.
“It was really important that we didn’t take our eye off the ball and continued to serve our communities in that way, even though for many companies we had this additional responsibility of responding to the Covid crisis,” she said.
Richards said AbbVie could not “pivot” into new areas but stayed focused on consistency of supply and ensuring patients were diagnosed and treated, Wyldeck noting companies that could pivot to meet Covid demand received reputation credit.
He said for many companies this came off the back of decades of reputation programs that got them to that point and showed brands needed to “lean into their strengths to solve societal challenges” to build reputation.
“It’s one thing to make a big donation to a particular cause, and it’s another to use your core expertise as a brand or a business to solve societal problems,” he said. “I think that’s where the biggest difference can be made, and where the biggest reputational dividends can come from.”
Richards said Covid had made Australians aware of global queues for innovative medicines and said the PBS should be valued as much as Medicare “because, at one point or another, access to medicines will impact our lives”.
“Elections are won and lost on Medicare, why is there not the same affection for the PBS?” she asked. “Largely there is not an understanding of how impactful the PBS is on the daily life of Australians.”
She said people increasingly want to know about the brand behind the product, Hudson saying WE research showed that consumers were increasingly interested in the social impact and purpose of a business.
Hill said it was fundamental that businesses be able to articulate their position on core societal issues and both Richards and Hill stressed the need to ensure employees were brand champions, both in understanding the purpose of the business, and believing in the business, while also driving the business to meet societal challenges.