Will pharma remain a reputation winner?

By Craig Badings By Nicki Sambuco 3 years ago | In Comment, Industry
  • 3 years ago

19 July 2021

Leading ANZ consultancy SenateSHJ specialises in corporate reputation. Partners Craig Badings and Nicki Sambuco argue the pandemic has boosted pharma’s reputation but if it wants to hold onto and build on these gains, the opportunity to act is closing fast.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a watershed moment for the pharmaceutical industry. The value of the industry, which has historically been challenging to articulate, is now engaging every person around the globe.

Companies have become household names, the public has debated the intricacies of phase 3 clinical trial outcomes and communication shackles for healthcare professionals and other stakeholders have been lifted to help spread the facts and combat misinformation.

Looking forward, the question is how will the pharmaceutical industry capitalise on this momentum so its innovation continues to be recognised and it is suitably rewarded for the broader societal benefit it contributes?

SenateSHJ partner Craig Badings

A lot has been written about the opportunities to reinvent healthcare but the conversation largely missing to date, within the pharmaceutical industry at least, is the business impact of inaction for those who do not take this new world order into account.

Today’s consumers expect more from everybody. They expect more from business leaders, from governments and from their healthcare. And if there is one lesson the pandemic has taught us, it’s that rapid innovation is possible when the motivation to act is high and all stakeholders are united in acting quickly.

Right now, the attention is on the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines but when we get to our ‘new normal’, what expectation will the unprecedented speed in innovation and collaboration have set?

Will companies and government need to consider the potential risk if timelines revert to a pre-COVID pace? What will delays mean for relationships and reputation? And importantly, what can be done today to manage these expectations and build on the industry’s reputation in our new normal?

Patients impact pharma rep

SenateSHJ has researched reputation for almost a decade. Our research tells us uncertainty creates additional pressures and, with it, the need to move quickly, with confidence, and to bring other stakeholders along on the journey – something the pharmaceutical industry has traditionally found challenging, not least because of a strict regulatory environment.

The pandemic has set a new precedent for stakeholder engagement in health where collaboration and continuous communication have become part of the way the health system operates. Could this provide an opportunity for pharma to bring new ideas to the table and work collaboratively with stakeholders across the system to change how innovation is valued and made broadly available?

SenateSHJ partner Nicki Sambuco

True collaboration requires resources, capability and an authentic desire to engage and work together, otherwise, it can damage reputations.

The recent Global PatientView report on pharma reputation during COVID highlights this. Released in April and based on a survey of over 1,700 patient groups around the world, including Australia, the report found most pharmaceutical companies reduced or put on hold previously ongoing relationships with patient groups despite the significant increase in demand for their services.

This had a negative impact on patient groups’ ranking of pharma company reputations, with companies perceived by patients to have made a greater contribution towards alleviating problems caused by the pandemic ranked higher.

Patient groups are one of the most critical stakeholders the pharmaceutical industry has, not just because of their potential for fruitful collaboration but also for their potential to communicate the value of industry and the innovation it delivers.

As the only stakeholder who interacts with all other stakeholders across the health system, patient group influence on pharma reputation is broad-reaching.

The time to act is now

There is no doubt the pandemic has raised the expectation bar for the entire pharmaceutical industry and, with it, the level of responsibility.

The world was and still is vulnerable. We’ve witnessed unprecedented levels of collaboration to find vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. As a result, we’ve seen a positive impact on pharma reputation and, most importantly, public health because of this early and ongoing stakeholder engagement.

Now could be the time for pharma to take the bull by its horns and champion a new standard of cross-stakeholder collaboration in healthcare decision-making throughout the entire innovation lifecycle and to advance the way innovation in healthcare is both valued and recognised.

But the door of opportunity is closing rapidly.


Leave a Reply