Trust in Pharma: Just Forget It

Time to drop the stiff corporate-speak - and open up our companies.



After 3 days, 99 speakers and 6 awards, I’m more convinced than ever. Pharma companies need to forget what they know about trust, in order to become trusted.

What do I mean by this? In my opening address at the eyeforpharma Barcelona 2016 conference this week, I explained that companies are trying too hard to centralize and structure the message. Because it’s really not complicated.

Every one of us has a trusted partner, friend or family member. How did we gain that trust? I don’t even need to wait for your answer; the rules are so simple. It’s a basic human instinct.

But when we put on that suit in the morning, when we turn up at work, we are faced with the equally strong human instinct to formalize, structure and control every aspect of our image.

This dehumanizes us. It doesn’t endear us to anyone.

I believe we need to look at the reasons why we are trusted in our personal lives. I boil it down to 4 things – all very obvious.

1.      Show what you’ve got. If you’re looking for a relationship, you need to bring your own personality and values to the table.

2.      Don’t ask for marriage on the first date. A loving, lasting relationship is built over time, with a gradual alignment of our values and goals.

3.      Spend time with each other. Simply enjoy one another’s company.

4.      Don’t sleep around. Remain faithful and authentic, and stop actively courting others. We don’t need to be in partnership with everyone, we need to select key people who should join our close family, and commit to them.

Effectively, what we need are more ‘naked’ pharma companies. Our corporate communications departments need to rely less on the exterior veneer they apply, usually on instruction from top executives who say that the right image is about control. Instead, we must open up – allow their employees to demonstrate, on a human scale, their own passion for our industry and the power it has to transform lives (and already has) – as evidenced by my ‘love’ project a month ago on Valentine’s Day.

It is a little bit like being as authentic in your job as you are in your personal life – [only] then will you convince people and effect change.

Having befriended many communications executives in the past couple of years, I can tell you that privately, they absolutely agree with the above.

David Epstein, CEO Pharmaceuticals for Novartis and this year’s closing keynote speaker shows he is more enlightened than most. He explained that his company is looking for a different culture. ‘We are aiming for authentic and inspirational leadership'. He further explained: “It is a little bit like being as authentic in your job as you are in your personal life – [only] then will you convince people and effect change.”

The next job is, of course, to do exactly what we say we need, and spend more time with our partners. Our plan for eyeforpharma Barcelona 2017 is to have these partners in the room. These partners will take the form, of course, of many payers and patient groups as our principle stakeholders. But, because this industry needs and deserves it, I also want the leaders of major charities, technology companies and healthcare organizations to be in the room. But I need your help to get them there.

Let me know how: psimms@eyeforpharma.com - and continue to comment using #trustpharma.


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