The Most Hated Business Sector in the Country

Every year in August, Gallup does a poll asking the Americans about their opinions on various business sectors in the country. Not sure why August – maybe so that the adults can take care of one more thing before the school starts.

I read the numbers for this year and the outcome is disturbing.

Who do you think the scumbags of the society are as per the American people? The realtors? Nope. The used-car salesmen? Wrong again. The oil/gas industry? Nah. Everybody’s favorite punchline – the lawyers and how the 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name? Uh-uh.

The pharmaceutical industry is the most hated  business sector in the country. That’s right. We’re more hated than the used-car salesmen, the realtors, the oil and gas industry and the lawyers! Check out the table below yourself and the Gallup survey results.

Business and Industry Sector Ratings, The Gallup Poll

The people who deliver vaccines, and antibiotics are only slightly more popular than the politicians and the government bureaucrats but less popular than literally everyone else in the country.

So next time when you go to a party and you’re the only person affiliated with the pharma industry, remember that you’re the most hated person at the gathering.

But why is that ? That doesn’t make sense and it ought not to be the case.

The pharma products save lives and ease pain, right? We don’t lose our loved ones due to polio anymore. About 20% of the patients survive cancer. Deaths due to infection is rare and noteworthy rather than norm. It would suck to live in a world without having access to the modern medicine.

And maybe that’s one of the problems with the pharma industry image.

Every dollar in the industry comes from the suffering of the others. There is no money in the drugs business if there is no pain and illness. It’s very hard to appreciate an industry that flourishes only when the population suffers. It’s just the nature of the business.

But that’s not the only reason, is it ?

The pharma industry has made its image worse by lots of self-inflicting wounds. You can look at how the industry is behaving during a newsworthy event and how it might affect the public perception.

When was the last time you came out thinking positively about a pharma company after it’d been in a news cycle? The industry is in the news for wrong reasons only – the news business model is to scare people – and when it is, the pharma company’s response always feels like completely lawyered up without any emotions.

A pharma company’s response to a bad event is like food that fills you up but looks ugly and is completely devoid of nutrition or flavor. No one’s going to remember that food fondly. If that’s the only reaction from the industry, can the people be really blamed for regarding the pharma companies as secretive and deceiving?

Our underutilized use of the social media should also be taught in business schools as what not to do.

Just a cursory glance at the digital presence of the industry will tell you that we’re still stuck in 1980s and why we’re losing the public opinion battle.

When was the last time you subscribed to an Instagram account or joined a facebook page or retweeted something created by a pharma company because it was informative, entertaining or inspiring or what my 10-year old son would call it – cool? My point exactly.

And guess what? Everyone who’s writing crap about the industry is on that platform with tens of thousand of followers who read it and in turn share the content with their followers. I’m not saying what is being said there is true or false, but it’s not wise to let only one side drive the narrative.

The pharma industry is leaving a lot of goodwill on the table by not engaging the populace on the social media.

Sure, you may think that the social media is juvenile because high school kids post duckfacing pictures or stupid backyard stunt videos, but those contents are being shared with their parents who in turn share the content with their parents. It’s got everyone’s attention just like TV had everyone’s attention in 80s and 90s.

I find the sheer disrespect and indifference towards the social media by the pharma industry when they’re losing the public opinion battle so badly (again, see the table above) mind boggling. I’m not sure what the reason is though. I’d love to talk to a pharma PR person over drinks why it’s so lame and bad.

The scary thing is that this is just the beginning.

Although the pharma has consistently been rated at the bottom in the Gallup polls, very soon we might be even less popular than the politicians. Think about the politicians you hate the most and imagine being hated more than them. That’s what the industry will be in 5 years.

Information moves very quickly these days.

Twenty years ago, if someone wanted to get a story out to the general population, he or she had to beg to a print, radio or TV media person and had no control over the final version of the story. Today all of that is free, fast, and fun.

A person can get a story out quickly before even getting out of the bed in the morning and many do just that. The public opinions are formed quickly and decisively and there are real consequences.

Sure, it helps to have understanding lawmakers and regulators, but it something stinks in the public court, that won’t be a much help either.

There are going to be real, billions of dollars financial consequences if the pharma industry stays where it is in the public opinion ladder.

Let’s just tell our side of the story in a language the public understands using the platform they prefer with honesty and integrity.

We can’t go any lower, right?

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1 Response

  1. Samir Gondalia says: