Bayer, GSK, Novo and Roche rank in top 10 for online comms

David Bowen, Bowen & Craggs

Group-level marketing matters. And it seems that pharma companies are pretty good at it. The Bowen Craggs & Co. annual index of online excellence looks at 200 of the world’s biggest companies by market cap to find the 30 best online communicators, and this year four of the top 10 are pharma companies. 

Bayer ranked No. 2, jumping by 13 points from last year, followed by GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and Roche ($RHHBY), all tied for the No. 5 spot. GSK and Novo Nordisk both increased scores from last year, while Roche dropped by two. 

Bowen Craggs ranks companies on 8 attributes: construction, message, contact, along with how well they serve society, investors, jobseekers, media and customers. This is the ninth year for the index.

“The reason why pharmaceutical companies tend to be quite strong in this area is they live in an industry where reputation isn’t always the best,” said David Bowen, cofounder of Bowen Craggs. “A lot of these companies are using their corporate websites and associated social media channels at an enterprise level to try and get their story across and say, ‘we cure people.’”

It’s worth noting, however, that the four highest ranking pharmas companies are headquartered outside of the U.S. In fact, of the top 30 only a few near the bottom are based in the U.S. 

Bowen said that’s partly due to the fact that U.S. communication teams aren’t as centralized as European ones. In the report, he points out that American internet work tends to focus on “selling stuff,” although some are very good at attracting potential employees. 

“What they lack is the sense that this is all part of the same effort--whether you are ‘selling’ the company to customers, jobseekers, journalists, investors or whoever, you can use the same messaging. But only if you coordinate. Often American companies do not have a core web team, or at least one with any influence. Europeans usually do, and it shows in the effectiveness of their internet efforts,” he wrote in the report.

GSK, for instance, uses “Behind the Science” to explain what the company does in its labs to effectively market to its core visiting audience. They are marketing to people who might want to work for them--which makes up 50% of corporate website visitors--that this is an exciting and interesting place. 

Bayer does similar things with coordinated corporate brand building with its own digital magazine and other engaging features, along with a large collaboration of social media channels that are coordinated well. 

“It’s not marketing in the traditional sense, but marketing the enterprise as a whole to people wanting to work there, to people who might be suspicious about the industry, to journalists and to investors,” he said. "They treat it as something very serious that should be done at headquarters level because it’s the way the world is going to look at them.”  

Corporate doesn’t have to equal boring, however. Pharma companies have stories to tell, Bowen said, and using “a bit of old-fashioned journalistic skill,” there’s no reason why most can’t tell compelling stories of research and treatments on their core websites and across social media.

- read through the report

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