Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's Get a Little More Serious

Enhancing Corporate Reputation By Playing It Straight
I held a session on risk preparedness, issues management and crisis communications, last week in my Strategic Communication class. One of the truisms I talked about was how, so often, damage to reputation, morale, operations and financial performance is self-inflicted.

The pharmaceutical industry, unfortunately, serves as a prime example. In my view, some of the fights to differentiate products and gain market share have fanned the flames of antipathy toward the industry. DTC advertising has helped a number of brands become household names but these efforts have not always enhanced the public trust. We’re not making our best effort to properly set expectations or adequately communicate the balance between risk and benefit when animated characters or claymation body parts are used to sell medicines. I’m sure these ads test well in focus groups but this environment calls for a more serious approach to marketing and education.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t be creative. We just need to redefine what creative means. The default definition of “creative” can’t be hosting big events or using celebrity spokespersons. It has to be more encompassing and it has to involve real analysis – a clear link to the needs of stakeholders.

Pfizer represents an interesting yin and yang on this subject. On the one side, they have Chantix(R), the smoking cessation product, with its ads using the tortoise and the hare to illustrate the importance of perseverance and compliance. But how seriously should we take the safety warnings when we see a petting zoo on TV? On the other side is the retooled Lipitor(R) campaign featuring an actual heart attack survivor who now takes the cholesterol reducer. If this guy is giving me the good and the bad, I’ll pay attention.

But what really interests me is the Company’s recently launched Medicine Safety Education web site. I don’t have any knowledge about how well this has been promoted, received or utilized, but this site looks like a good start in both communicating and collecting information on drug safety. And, beyond the attempt at putting safety in perspective, there’s another critical element – a step toward educating the public on risk perception. It’s a small but worthy – and creative – step toward rebuilding trust and reputation.

1 comment:

Roe said...

Interesting post! The new Pfizer Web site looks great- a lot of interactive, helpful videos. I think it would be more helpful if they provided a forum for two-way communication. However, I do understand why they would be hesitant to do so (legal reasons, no control).

I look forward to reading your blog.
Rosanne Ragone