Words by Saskia Pronk.
Trust – a word often at the forefront of the pharmaceutical agenda. But can a patient truly trust a monolithic, faceless organisation where executives’ salaries collectively total hundreds of millions each year? In short: no. Trust is not that simple though. So, rather than driving over the same tired old bridge, buckling under the weight of existing competitors and stakeholders clamouring for attention, build a new bridge of trust.
The pharma industry’s ability to become a trusted go-to source ignited discussion at eyeforpharma, Barcelona, with claims that the foundations required for a new bridge of trust already exist at the heart of organisations. Nathalie Moll, Director General, EFPIA, explains: “Previously when working in biotech, we’d all wonder why pharma are so self-critical about their reputation; there is no doubt that it is the best industry in the world – they help people get better.”
“Alongside life-saving therapies, we have the inevitable tensions of an industry that creates billions in shareholder value”
However, these foundations have been somewhat obscured by the seeming juxtaposition of pharma: alongside life-saving therapies, we have the inevitable tensions of an industry that creates billions in shareholder value. Trusting, or having faith, in this high-stakes environment isn’t akin and can’t be compared to those everyday instances where trust is mentioned – e.g., I trust my alarm will go off or I trust this email finds you well. Andrin Oswald, Director of Life Sciences Partnerships, Global Health, Gates Foundation, emphasises this by asking: “What is trust in a company? And can I really trust a company when it is the life of my child?”
Existing in this reality, the industry must consequently focus on what it can do to gain stakeholder confidence, which includes getting patients to view your company through the prism of its core, and laudable goal of ‘We make people’s lives better’. To achieve this, the industry must rebuild from the bottom of the pyramid of trust. Moll suggests: “We must show our faces... as to trust something, you must know it and like it – but you must begin with knowledge.” This straightforward communication is often forgotten as companies have a habit of becoming trapped in a vortex of pricing conversations which overshadow their cutting-edge innovations.
Currently, the industry’s communication attempts are becoming more and more cloned every day. “Dedicating statements come from every company and they fall flat mostly, because they are not convincing enough in walking the talk”, explains Markus Leyck Dieken, Former SVP Global Head of CNS, TEVA. Therefore, companies must embark on something new to express and differentiate themselves.
“We must show our faces... as to trust something, you must know it and like it – but you must begin with knowledge”
The most effective way to refresh an established workforce and reinvent trust-building communication practices is through the acquisition of new staff, specifically, those who embrace your core goals. “We must actively recruit people who’ll teach us the means to express how dedicated we really are”, states Dieken. Bringing in fresh talent will help update and reinvent processes and thus, oblige the diffusion of contact between your company and patients to reach that credibility within.
The discussion at eyeforpharma concludes with belief that there will be a race of talent and innovation as a result of these new recruits. This is because having individuals who appreciate the complex landscape of pharma, live its core goal, and know how to effectively communicate it, will prove indispensable in developing a unique and stable framework for the new bridge of trust. And eventually, patients and other stakeholders won’t need to be told, they will just come across the bridge to you.