GCI Health recently partnered with Fierce Life Sciences on Inspired Exchanges™, a series of rich panel discussions that brought together industry leaders for candid conversations about the new realities and opportunities healthcare communicators are facing in our rapidly evolving environment. Inspired Exchanges kicked off with How Communicators Can Lead During This New Era Like Never Before, a panel I moderated that did a deep dive into how the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation has changed for the better in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s no surprise that, among the impacts of COVID-19, perceptions of the pharmaceutical industry are changing. This unique and unprecedented historical point is shining a positive spotlight on the vitally important and tireless work that these companies are undertaking to develop the testing, treatments and vaccines that are going to help us re-emerge from this pandemic. These efforts, in addition to those to support frontline and essential workers, have played a substantial role in elevating the reputation of the entire industry in the public’s perception. Never before have all of the world’s eyes been trained so closely on the industry – perhaps any industry, for that matter – in a way that can powerfully increase positive perception and to sustain this positive perception shift, showcasing empathy-driven action will be critical.
This shift in perception was highlighted by Rob Jekielek, managing director of The Harris Poll, who shared recent data illustrating a two-to-three time increase in positive reputation sentiment for the pharmaceutical industry compared to reputation tracking over nearly two decades. Further, in looking at this historical data, the broader longitudinal timeline reveals an even higher spike versus what has been seen previously.
Similarly, Pfizer found that its Science Will Win initiative resulted in positive perceptions of the company from the public. According to Ed Harnaga, Pfizer’s VP of R&D Corporate Affairs, it was the honest message of hope and action, grounded in humility and science, that enabled the campaign to have such a positive impact on viewers. Moving forward, the industry can take cues from what has been successful in furnishing the positive paradigm shift and embed those insights in future approaches.
But what we’re seeing isn’t just a reaction to what’s going on right now. The Harris Poll data also show that there’s a staying power to much of the positive perception, which bodes well for the question of sustainability and is an important database trend to focus on. Further, communications and advertising will play an integral role in elevating these messages and sustaining the positive impact of this continuously changing landscape.
As communicators, we’re now tasked with continuing to uplift messages of hope and examples of concrete action to keep offering the public a new and brighter view of the pharmaceutical industry. Public sentiment has often been that pharmaceutical companies are part of the problem with healthcare, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity to showcase how they are part of the solution. Overall, it’s important to remember that the mission of the pharmaceutical industry is to create breakthroughs in healthcare and ensure that those breakthroughs make it to patients. Now, more than ever, communicators have the uncommon opportunity to capitalize on the recent perception shift and sustain the fresh light that the industry has been cast in.
I’m inspired by the opportunity the healthcare industry has today to show up differently!
Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health