Recently, experts from the world of PR and pharmaceuticals gathered in New York City for a panel on the importance of reputation in the industry.
Hosted by CARMA, which provides media insights and analysis for major brands around the world, the panel sought to assess the reputational standing of the pharmaceutical sector.
Analyzing Pharma’s Media Attention
The stage was set by Tom Vesey, Chief Insights Officer at CARMA, who used data gathered from more than 400,000 articles to gauge the general sentiment of coverage for the pharmaceutical industry- see above for a segment of that presentation. Analyzing media items from Europe, Asia, North and South America, Vesey explained that the coverage dating back to 2013 has been “extraordinarily more and more supportive” for the industry.
Digging into the details of this broadly positive sentiment, he explains the major themes underlying the articles. These include:
- Well-received financial results,
- Mergers and acquisitions,
- Industry analysts playing up the reports associated with the items above.
While the results of this analysis may seem satisfactory on first glance, Vesey goes on to explain that they are something of a red herring. Underneath the surface, he confirms that this positive coverage has “hidden some major challenges” facing the sector.
“Surfing a Risky Wave”
A major challenge for the pharmaceutical sector – or opportunity, as CARMA prefers to position it – is that the positive coverage described above can only sustain them for long. Indeed, the data shows that as the financial success stories started to tail off entering 2016, so too did the positive press.
When we remove the presence of articles by industry analysts and those covering mainly financial matters, sentiment turns broadly negative. The topics driving this alternative sentiment include:
- Regulatory concerns,
- The cost of medicine,
- Side-effects of drugs,
- Scientific research that questions a product’s effectiveness.
In his talk, Tom Vesey describes this position as “surfing a risky wave that is beginning to ebb away.” Strong performance is by no means a negative for pharma, but it cannot be all the goodwill that the industry receives.
Financials have limited appeal to certain already-invested observers. Conversely, negative articles affecting the sector are more attractive to the masses. A story covering regulatory failure or excessive costs, no matter how inflated, has the potential to reach far more of the general public than those focused on profit and performance.
As the positive coverage starts to dissipate, all that is left in the current climate is the potential for negative press that everyone will pay attention to.
From an optimistic standpoint, this represents an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to increase engagement. When the time comes, it is argued that companies who have made themselves available to the media and actively reached out to reporters will be in a much better position to state their case and improve their reputational standing.