Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Even Decade-Old Lies and “Omissions” Can Wreak Havoc on a Brand.

One would think that in our 24/7 news cycle and oversharing age, companies and celebrities – who depend on public goodwill to remain famous and profitable – would resist the impulse to lie or cover up less-than-flattering information.

Perhaps guess GlaxoSmithKline and “Dr. Drew” Pinsky missed that memo?

Last week it was revealed that Dr. Drew, an addiction specialist and host of Loveline and Celebrity Rehab took more than $250,000 from the British-based pharma giant in the late ‘90s to talk up its antidepressant Wellbutrin on Loveline.

Even as he touted the drug for its effects – or lack thereof – on libido, the good doctor neglected to mention he was being paid to promote the drug.

$250,000 is a rather handsome sum of money, but in failing to disclose his financial link to GlaxoSmithKline, Dr. Drew ended up doing a great deal of damage to his own brand – more than a decade down the line.

As a PR practioner, I’ve said this so many times to my colleagues and will continue to until I’m blue in the face: Dishonesty will always come back to bite you on the behind

The GSK kerfuffle could end up costing Dr. Drew far more than money – just read some of the comments following a recent CBS News report:

“Dr. Drew, too bad you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube once it is out. You are now and will forever be a pharma shill. Unlikely that you will ever be seriously considered an astute medical practitioner.”

That’s what I mean about being bitten in the bottom.  I wouldn’t want to be associated, even tangentially, to what officials are calling “the largest case of healthcare fraud in US history.” No sum of money can make up for such a loss of credibility – in my mind, at least.

I recently wrote a post about the massive PR blunder committed by lobbyist Stephanie Harnett of Mercury Public Affairs on behalf of Wal-Mart: she posed as a reporter to infiltrate a meeting of union members opposed to a planned Wal-Mart in Los Angeles. She was caught, then fired and managed to garner some (more) negative press for Wal-Mart, the exact opposite of what she – and her previous employer – had intended. Not that Wal-Mart is a stranger to awful press, of course.

While these are two distinct scenarios, they both raise the issue of lapses in professional ethics and serve as yet another reminder that dishonest behavior in business, particularly in our always connected age, can backfire disastrously.

So what have we learned from GlaxoSmithKline and “Dr. Drew” Pinsky?

Credibility is our most important asset. If we don’t have that, we don’t have a business. At least not a business worth having.

No comments:

Post a Comment