Analyzing the Biopharmaceutical Industry’s Reputation in a Critical Time

APCO Insight Conducts Seventh Year of ROR: State of Biopharmaceutical Industry Study

This year, against the backdrop of rising populist sentiment, the pharmaceutical industry has had to confront a uniquely hostile socio-political environment.

New political leadership brought with it a rebirth of conversations about “repeal and replace.” Mylan reignited concerns about price, and made this conversation more public and higher stakes than ever. And, long-debated changes at FDA may transform the way medicines are evaluated with the hopes of bringing them to patients safer and faster.

This context brings with it many questions about the future of the industry’s operating environment. Such uncertainty underscores the need to engage stakeholders to understand what is expected of the industry going forward, and how the industry has been performing in meeting these expectations.

Separating Signal from Noise

Since 2010, APCO Insight has been exploring perceptions of the pharmaceutical industry with our Return on Reputation (ROR). This study quantifies the impact of reputation so the industry – and its companies – can protect, enhance and track its most important asset.

But ROR breaks from the industry standard by diving deeper. Instead of relying on generalized audiences and narrow measures of trust or favorability, our proprietary model points advanced listening tools toward the stakeholders decisive in shaping the industry’s operating environment, and harnesses industry-specific measures to grasp the nuances of the biopharmaceutical industry.

We engage the health care providers on the frontlines of care. We listen to the thoughts of senior policy makers and influencers. We speak to payers. And we hear from those in the public who are active around health care issues.

The result is a highly actionable reputation roadmap that answers “why” reputation is what it is, rather than merely reporting a company’s reputational standing.

A Rising Tide of Concern

We have isolated 24 unique drivers of reputation and examined more than 30 specific companies operating in the United States. This year’s analysis identified industry-specific vulnerabilities, as well as opportunities, requiring concerted shifts in engagement strategies.

  • Industry reputation remained stable since the last year. Reputation was shielded from an overtly hostile socio-political environment.
  • Stakeholder expectations have remained fixed – and, in such, industry misalignment persists. Thus, there is little reason to believe reputation will continue in a positive direction, underscoring a need for shifts in engagement strategies.
  • The central industry vulnerability is a doubt about the industry’s purpose. To keep balance in favor of strengths (what the industry does)—and not tip to the criticisms (how it behaves)—there must be certainty that the industry is at the service of public health.
  • In this context, maintaining a positive trajectory is unlikely – and is seen as the reputation of specific companies are declining during the same period of time.

Ensuring A Return on Reputation

APCO’s powerful blend of stakeholder insights and communications strategists enables companies in the pharmaceutical industry to develop evidenced-based approaches to managing reputation.

Now is the time for engagement. The combination of unprecedented levels of civic activism with growing concern about companies’ conduct will keep the spotlight shining on the pharmaceutical sector. Scientific discovery must be connected to everyday value, not investment portfolios. And, the doors of companies must open to reveal researchers, doctors, nurses and public health experts, not sales teams.

As the people of the United States – and her leaders – continue to ask more of companies to fulfill its social responsibilities, the pharmaceutical industry must be prepared to engage in ways that specifically meet need their needs. APCO’s ROR study empowers companies to make meaningful, authentic connections.

To learn more about the Return on Reputation: State of the Biopharmaceutical Industry Study, please contact Chrystine Zacherau, senior director health care research, at