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  • 11 Jul 2022
  • 5 min read
  • by Brian Coane

Your Role In Supporting and Influencing Policy Decisions

Brian Coane reflects on what makes successful communications for organisations representing industry stakeholders.

Industry organisations are all lobbying to influence political decision making.

Many people criticise lobbying.

But what these organisations are doing, is making the case for industries that are more important than we often realise.

In Europe the pharmaceutical industry accounts for over 800,000 jobs. In Ireland 50% of all exports is from the pharmaceutical industry, making it the largest pharmaceutical exporter in Europe. Viewed through this lens the case for building a good reputation or industries looks different. The value comes from innovation in medicines but also through jobs and support for communities.

But often the bigger picture gets lost. Short-term political considerations can trump longer term ‘brand building’ for industries.

A positive industry brand may not lead to a direct change in policy, but it can help oil the wheels of the machinery. It’s reputation that dictates whether things go smoothly or grind along unproductively. Whether conversations about policy are conducted with an understanding of the wider impact any change may have.

Over the last five years we’ve been fortunate enough to work with the trade bodies that represent the pharmaceutical industry around the world. With EFPIA in Europe, IFPMA globally outside Europe, IPHA in Ireland, and the ABPI in the UK.

We also look after the corporate reputation of pharmaceutical brands like Eiasi, Fresenius Kabi as well as brands in other sectors with similar challenges where their reputations can be under pressure - plastics, utilities and financial services.

This work makes us well placed to reflect on how to successfully create communications that can build a positive reputation for an industry.

The journey has to be as good as the destination

The start point for successful campaigns comes from understanding the need to bring stakeholders along on the way. It’s a little bit of a mantra at Leith for the way we work: the journey is as good as the destination.

With many years of working with partners who have multiple stakeholders we’ve developed a range of methods to ensure that we do this effectively.

We’re good at listening, moderating and distilling partner input.

We’ve developed a range of techniques for workshops, such as laddering-up, to get to the important factors that create most alignment/agreement.

Our strategists are skilled at moderation. We work with stakeholders to distil information and research down to powerful strategies.

We identify insights that have the power to galvanise stakeholders and change behaviour

Insights are often talked about. But often they are no more than interesting research findings.

Our team of strategists are experts in separating the interesting from the insightful. We do this by assessing which insights can lead towards the change that we’re seeking. If they can’t trigger change, then they will not be strong enough fuel for our creative thinking.

Sometimes it requires thinking differently.

For EFPIA we recommended re-framing the terms of the debate around the price of medicines from price alone to a wider discussion about the value of innovation. To tackle a lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccines we recommended a human rather than scientific approach for IFPMA based on stories from the people making the vaccines and how they needed them as much as anyone else.

It also sometimes means there’s a need to challenge thinking.

For Plastics Europe we worked with the client team to demonstrate to their members that communications needed to focus on doing more rather than focussing on what had been done already. Our ‘Changing Plastics for Good’ campaign avoided a self-congratulating tone which would have been rejected by the public.

We develop creative ideas that are strong enough to become platforms for the organisation

At Leith we focus on developing ideas that have broad shoulders. We recognise that for trade organisations there are many issues to cover and many different groups to work with.

Any creative ideas developed need to be flexible to cope with short-term demands as well as long-term brand building. EFPIA’s #WeWontRest campaign has been able to cover everything from innovation to price to rare disease to intellectual property.

They also need to be ideas partners buy into. We have developed campaigns that deliver value for the trade body and their members. Our ‘Innovate for Life’ campaign for IPHA in Ireland has featured 13 company partners and various disease areas over the past four years. It’s telling the story from local communities, in healthcare, innovation and for the Irish economy.

These three tips have been core to help build a positive reputation across our client’s industries. While these campaigns may not have led directly to a policy change, they have helped to lay the foundations of a positive industry story, reaching the people responsible for direct policy change.

Want to speak more about the positive story we can start crafting for you? Please get in touch.

Brian Coane

Brian Coane

Client Partner - Health

Brian leads our creative work in health. With 15 years experience in public health campaigns he brings a strong understanding of the patient perspective. He is currently leading the teams working with EFPIA, IFPMA, IPHA, the Scottish Government and Vaccines Europe. Brian is a Council member of the Advertising Association and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.