Sandra Laird - Dice

Strategic Image Management in the Pharma Industry

Strategy category icon Strategy

by Sandra | 07 Apr Read Time3 min

About the writer: Sandra Laird was a highly successful marketer working in various Brand Management roles at Abbott Laboratories before devoting herself to the field of brand analytics and in particular, impact resource measures of pharmaceutical brands. Sandra is a highly respected deep thinker with a keen eye for building brand value campaigns for our clients. Her title is Director of Medical Education and Market Access.


I’m passionate about the value the pharmaceutical industry brings to patients… but I never cease to be amazed by just how bad the industry’s reputation is.

My 13-year-old’s friend came home a few weeks ago, around the time Coronavirus was entering common parlance, and started spouting industry ‘poison’. Turns out that her science teacher had been ‘educating’ her students on the industry and its many, many failings. Had she ever worked in the industry? No. Did she actually know whether what she was saying was based on fact? No.

I was incandescent with rage… but it did make me think. Why is an industry which brings so much good, that is working tirelessly as we speak to research and develop a vaccine for the very virus that set the science teacher in a spin. Why?

The level of industry investment in research and development (R&D) is colossal, and the failure rate at every phase of the clinical development programme punishing. The research landscape in littered with dementia trials. So far all but a very few have failed to alter the course of the disease, but with time, effective treatments will be found. How much of this do we communicate?

Pharma Success Stories

There have been so many major wins in the last 20 years, let alone the last 100. To highlight but a few of these: As a result of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), HIV is now seen as a chronic condition rather than a death sentence. The introduction of effective treatments for wet age-related macular degeneration has saved the sight of many older people, and there are an ever-expanding list of available treatments for haematological malignancies.

Why doesn’t the press pick up these stories?

Investing in Image Management

In part it’s our own fault. As an industry our image management is poor. We don’t invest in it, we don’t prioritise it and as a result you could argue that we get what we deserve.

Perhaps we need to take a lead from the consumer sector. Bodyform’s CEO Caroline Williams witty ‘apology’ video to Richard Neill who had complained that the company was misguiding people into thinking that women’s periods were ‘happy’ times of the month.

Although this may not be directly relevant to pharma, it does demonstrate just how important consumer companies take their image management. We need to more actively manage the press and continually work with the media to seed the positive stories.

So, what we need is more ‘Breaking Bad’ to turn negative publicity around. Our advice to brands? Don’t wait to become ‘the’ news. Talk about the good things your company is doing. Get out more and shout about your great achievements and products.

In short, get into the press, and the press will get off your back.

At Dice, we define define and refine a precise strategy for brands based on a comprehensive understanding of the market situation. We do this through Pharmacohesion; our unique approach to consistent, cohesive brand communication. Tell us more about your brand or product by getting in touch with our team here.