Social media today is a very important tool for reputation building. Pharmaceutical companies are not best known for their use of social media platforms, but the time has come for them to cultivate and take care of their social media online reputation. Your online reputation is your reputation. What you say and do online equals what you represent or are offline.
1): What is online reputation?
In doing the research for this blog post, I was unable to find a verified definition of “online reputation”. So I will try to define it in my words. Very simply online reputation is what people find when they google you, your company, your products. It is also what people are saying about you or sharing about you on social media platforms. In other words, it is how you are perceived by the public online and what the public thinks about your products, business and services. What people say about your company on social media or anywhere online is todays’ most important reference for everyone.
2): Why should pharma care about their online reputation? Should pharma be interested in their online reputation? Does it matter?
It should be your top priority, since online search today is the first step for everyone and social media platforms is where the discussion takes place. Social media allows for the rapid dissemination of news about your drug, brand, your company. So any negative news will spread very rapidly. Deleting will not help either because once online it is a sure bet someone will have seen it. Pharmaceutical companies should take note of recent events that have taken place across social media such as EpiPen pricing controversy and price hikes by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical companies create drugs that people use and people use social media to discuss and express their anger and frustration.
3): Is there an expectation that pharma respond to social media engagements by patients?
If you think you can just be silent then you are wrong, somewhere online they are talking about you. Pharmaceutical companies we all know are not used to engaging with their audience or consumers on social media platforms. However in todays’ online world, interaction is vital to any online presence. If we think about #epigate EpiPen price gauging, it is because it is a life saving medicine and patients cannot afford it. Pharmaceutical companies today need to take time and have in place a strategy to how you would respond to negative news online. Pharmaceutical companies need to change their mindset and be able to face consumers and accept feedback, positive or negative. It does matter because it reflects the behavior of your company and how you communicate with the public. Think global, even if it is on one market it will have an effect across the globe.
4): What would a pharma company who is exceptional at managing their online reputation look like? Is there an example?
It is fundamental that you do not ignore patients or consumers and their angered frustration, but try to understand and answer. Do not think or pretend people are not talking about you. They are talking and you need to address them. The catch 22 is when and how should you respond to what is being sad. Easy to respond to positive feedback, but what about negative comments? There may be times when engagement or answer is necessary and other times it is not warranted. So how do you decide? It is vital for pharmaceutical companies to monitor everyday public online content of what is being said about your company or brands. Then process and analyze both negative and positive information found and decide how to address what was found. Your aim is to avoid online reputation situations such as #epigate. These cases are the worst since not only is your reputation shattered but the impact is felt on the entire pharmaceutical sector.
A good example in my opinion of pharmaceutical companies managing their online reputation would include the following points:
- listening to the patients or consumers, which gives an advantage for handling online reputation;
- not only listening but responding and creating the situation for open dialogues
- have guidelines and company policies in place for engaging
- take a more proactive approach in managing online reputation
- get rid of old school “damage control” mindset
An example of one pharmaceutical company and the modern approach to online reputation. What it has? real time online discussion with the public.
— Brent Saunders (@brentlsaunders) December 28, 2016
An example of one pharmaceutical company and the old school approach to online reputation. What is missing? listening and true real time online discussions.
As stated by Pfizer, “We focus on proactive activities that communicate with people”……However, old-school marketing it’s not – in that it doesn’t pitch any products, even indirectly. It’s a different, unexpected way to interact with people”……..
5): Is there a value to online reputation?
Online reputation is the new practice. The value of online reputation today is to be transparent and present. For pharmaceutical companies, or any company or person, this can be risky, but it pays off in the long run, along with your bottom line. What does being transparent and present mean today? It means that pharmaceutical companies will need to answer to good and bad news and decide when best to respond and if to respond to what is being said.
Reputation management with digital and social media. Retrieved 3 January 2017
Building A Reputation Management Strategy for 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2017
The Definitive Guide to Online Reputation Management. Retrieved 23 December 2016