How Can Pharma Communicate Better?

Drug InformationBy Guy Mastrion (@gmastrion)

We’ve been grousing about how pharma doesn’t take its own reputation seriously enough. So we decided, okay, let’s be productive and think of ways to better that. First question.Are there better venues to educate the public about drug performance and the issues facing the industry?

Put another way? There’s got to be new ways to talk to people about pharma. Because right now a lot of it stinks.

Can’t we educate consumers that a lot of what you see when you see “pharma” is actually all of the restrictions that are placed on the industry? The ridiculous fair balance rattled off in the TV ads, the fine print – of course it’s important, of course it’s awkward, but we’re not evil and we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

Harris Interactive does an annual reputation survey of what they consider the most visible companies in America. Johnson & Johnson appears to be the only pharma company on the list, so I’m not really sure how they figured it all out, but while J&J is #2 out of 60 with stellar scores that improved year-over-year, the pharma industry overall is ranked #9 out of 11 reputationally, beating only utility and tobacco companies.

Oil barons, cigarette pushers – and healthcare. Well, at least it’s better than the year before – when the utility companies beat pharma. Ouch.

There are great minds in this industry, but we’re not focusing on some emerging methods of communication. I’m thinking specifically of what I think of as presenter-less presentations. They could be an infographic, sometimes they’re a set of slides – but they’re visually engaging data. The kind that could help the public make sense of what the industry are doing. Here are a few pharma-related examples:

  • Dan Roam has done a Back of the Napkin presentations on the healthcare debate
  • Next Generation Pharmaceutical on “How Big Is Big Pharma?
  • The popular interactive graphic from the University of Utah on Cell Size and Scale

There are increasingly elegant, fun, interesting ways to explain and visualize. We need to become online educators to help the public understand what we’re doing. So how can you explain yourself – not just in a way that’s thorough and accurate, but in a way that’s great to look at?



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