Finn Partners’ healthcare and corporate social responsibility practices had operated independently for years when the agency recently decided to marry the two for a new specialty practice.
The new Health and Social Impact group formalizes Finn's already-merging interests across health clients in cancer, mental health, nutrition and women’s health. And it creates a platform where pharma clients—current and potential—can build on their emerging goals for corporate social responsibility.
Doing good is not new for the pharma industry; after all, its purpose is treating disease and saving lives, and drugmakers have done charity and philanthropic work for decades. But corporate social responsibility is a newer umbrella that also includes working to be good corporate citizens and conducting business in a sustainable way. Bolstering corporate image isn't the only goal, but it helps, and that's something pharma companies desperately need these days.
“We think that there is a new window on the world opening up within pharmaceutical companies where they’re starting to realize that speaking within their industry and staying very close to the territory they’re most comfortable with—talking about earnings, talking about pipelines—is not enough,” said Gil Bashe, Finn’s health practice managing partner.
“These companies are really well suited to take on social issues. And that by doing so, their reputations will improve," he said, adding, "Companies that step outside to do great things for society—people look at them differently than they look at the pack.”
Finn already works with many pharma clients, and it's obvious that those clients aspire to do good in the world, he said. The issue is how to turn those aspirations into actual campaigns for societal good, and that's the impetus behind the new healthcare social impact group.
Finn's move reflects changes in pharma marketing and communications overall. Pharma marketers need to address the industry's move to value-based healthcare, engage with society to improve their reputations and work to improve public health, because that's the context in which their treatments work.
“It’s hard to heal people with asthma if air quality is poor. It’s hard to raise children in your town in Michigan if the water quality is not pure. It’s hard to worry about managing your diabetes if you can’t get access to healthy foods,” Bashe said. “We’re starting to realize ‘is the solution solely about medicine or are there societal issues that are best addressed through social impact campaigns?’ ”