Twitter Defense: Pharma’s 2017 New Year’s Resolution

Welcome to 2017- strategic and budget planning for the next 12 months is at the forefront of to-do lists, campaigns and initiatives are kicking off and the President-elect is firing reproach at the pharmaceutical industry in broad strokes. While the narrative of demonizing the pharmaceutical industry has seen a growing prevalence over the last decade in the public and political spheres, the ability to target and destroy a company’s value today is unprecedented. Make no mistake about it, from big pharma to start-up biotech, there are only 140 characters standing between the daily status quo and a PR nightmare.

Since the election, @realDonaldTrump has torpedoed major corporations in a variety of industries, blasting out condemnation to over 20 million of his followers (not to mention coverage from mainstream media) and sinking stock prices right along with investor confidence. The now infamous “Cancel Order” Trump Tweet, whether off-cuff or by design, sent Boeing stock tumbling 1.6% in a matter of hours in December, and that’s just one example.  In total, over 60 companies have felt the very real heat of the Trump Tweet, including Boeing, Time Warner, Apple and American Airlines. At his final press conference before assuming the role of Commander-in-chief, President-elect Trump did not mince words regarding the pharmaceutical industry;

We’ve got to get our drug industry back. Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don’t make them here, to a large extent. And the other thing we have to do is create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder.

– President Elect Trump, (January 11, 2017)

The dramatic and immediate effect his discourse had on the industry is only foreshadowing of what may come in the next four years. Predictably, the suggestion of government pricing pressures shook investor confidence and resulted in an immediate pharma stock slide, however, the long-term reality may be equally grim. In this instance, Trump did not single out a particular company, but referred to the "drug industry” as a whole. There is a very real possibility that the next public blast will come direct and targeted at a single pharmaceutical company, the effect of which will likely rock the foundations of all activities, from R&D to marketing and sales.

As you move forward into the new year and finalize strategic approaches to competitors and environmental changes, there is a new realm of contingency planning to consider; POTUS Tweet-ageddon. Company initiatives to conduct in-depth research of public perception, with the goal of understanding the topical issues of the pharma industry, disease spaces in which they operate and specific company negatives that they are associated with, will provide actionable and potentially company-saving insight. This information will be critical in helping to predict what angle the President would be most likely take in a twitter lash-out and inform a response strategy to mitigate the subsequent fallout. Additionally, current policies and future public decisioning should be evaluated for their potential for political backlash, more so than ever before.

There are steps to be taken to strengthen every companies image, both for the altruistic good as well as to proactively disarm weaknesses that could be thrust into the spotlight overnight in a sporadic official POTUS Tweet. Let’s resolve to make Pharma a conscious, respected and less targetable friend to the public in 2017.