Managing Your Reputational Risk Is Essential

If you expect to build trust and loyalty among patient and physician audiences, ensuring they choose you over competitors, then reputation management is everything. Your company’s reputation is a primary consideration to physicians deciding what medications to prescribe and technologies to implement and to patients asking about specific treatments for their conditions.

Reputational risk is the potential for events, both within and beyond your control, as well as negative perception or publicity, to harm your reputation and – by extension – your performance compared to competitors.

Let’s explore the factors that can affect your life sciences company’s reputation, the difference between risk management and crisis management, and how you can assess and manage your reputational risk.


As life sciences marketers, you’re already dealing with some industry-specific reputation challenges stemming from perceptions that drug and technology prices are too high, transparency issues leading to public – and even governmental – skepticism, and questionable promotional practices, to name a few.

Many factors can damage a pharma or biotech company’s reputation beyond skepticism, including data breaches; product recalls due to manufacturing or safety issues; failure to report adverse events; reports of fraud, corruption, or other unethical behavior by company representatives; and publicized lawsuits.

Misinformation intended to deceive and incorrect interpretations of health information – which are prevalent across social media – can also negatively impact public perception of the industry or your company, and they may dissuade people from requesting or prescribing your products. This misguided distrust could directly damage your organization, especially if negative comments and misinformation are shared in response to social posts created by your company.

Even a few negative online reviews can have a big impact on your reputation – especially if they are not counterbalanced by positive reviews, patient success stories, or patient or physician testimonials. An absence of positive press can also have a negative effect.


Risk management means identifying, assessing, and responding proactively to an issue or event that could negatively impact your reputation and performance. Crisis management is responding to, managing the fallout of, and recovering from an unexpected event that could harm your organization.

For example, risk management may be noticing an uptick in social media posts sharing the same negative perceptions of your company, possibly based on misinformation. To mitigate potential effects on prospective physician partners and patients and possibly prevent your stock from taking an undeserved hit, you push out some positive patient testimonials, press releases, and social media posts highlighting your high ethical standards and transparency. Crisis management would be trying to recover from a significant medication or device recall.


To manage your life sciences company’s reputational risk, you must understand what those risks are. To do that, you need to know what’s being said about your brand. Social media listening and monitoring will give you insight into what people are saying – both the negatives and the positives, what people are looking for to improve their engagement with your organization, and how people feel about your competitors. Subtle changes in social media perception can indicate a bigger problem on the horizon, so it’s important to pay attention. You should also keep track of reviews of your individual products on sites like WebMD and RxList.

Once you determine the reasons for negative reviews, comments, or publicity, you can respond directly to patient or physician concerns, develop strategies to address issues that are adversely impacting patient experiences and public perception, and find ways to expand upon the content you’re sharing that shows all the positive impacts your company and its products are making.

Next, assign risk scores to the factors potentially affecting your reputation and weigh them against your organization’s risk tolerance and appetite. If a factor’s score falls outside your risk tolerance, develop a prevention, reduction, and damage-control plan to address it. Finally, tie key risk indicators (KRIs) to specific key performance indicators (KPIs) within your organization so it’s easier to see how risks affect your ability to achieve specific goals.


Your company’s reputation is intertwined with its potential for success, so reputation management needs to be part of your overall management strategy. Here are five tips for maintaining and encouraging positive patient, physician, and public perceptions.

  1. Ensure Reputation Management Is a Leadership Priority: Your brand’s reputation and image are key to attracting new patients and prescribing or partner physicians and maintaining and expanding relationships with existing ones. You need clear strategies for regularly monitoring and responding to any risks – and people in charge of ensuring those strategies are carried out.
  2. Create and Communicate Clear Standards and Processes: Identifying, mitigating, and preventing reputational risks requires buy-in from every member of your organization. Communicate your company’s values and expectations clearly to every team member, as well as each person’s importance in contributing to the perception and progress of the organization as a whole.
  3. Respond Directly to Feedback and Pain Points of Patients, Physicians, and the Public: By paying attention to social media and reviews, you have opportunities not only to respond directly to improve individual experiences but also to incorporate comments, critiques, and praise into strategies for increasing communication and transparency and helping your prospective consumers and partners feel more confident in the quality of your products.
  4. Have a Response Plan in Place: No organization is perfect, so there will be threats to your reputation caused by certain internal actions, lapses in judgment, and unforeseen emergencies. Having clear guidelines in place about who will respond – and how – if your organization is exposed to one of the risks you’ve identified will lessen its long-term impact.
  5. Promote the Positives to Patients, Physicians, and the Public: You can feature plenty of positive and helpful content – including success stories and patient testimonials – on a user-friendly website, trustworthy blog, and well-managed social media accounts. Sharing patient stories humanizes your brand and makes patients more likely to imagine their own positive experiences with your products – and physicians more likely to recommend them.

Risk is inevitable in the life sciences, but there are plenty of ways to protect, monitor, and manage your reputation, even if you face situations beyond your control. Ready to launch your own reputation management strategy and communicate it to all the key players on your team? Reach out to LIGHTSTREAM.