I read with despair the article in today’s AdAge about Glaxo’s strategy to use its sales force as a “PR Machine” (“GLAXO DRAFTS EMPLOYEES TO POLISH INDUSTRY IMAGE: New Strategy Makes Entire Sales Force a National PR Machine“).
“Deciding to eschew a traditional corporate branding campaign, Mr. Pucci [Michael Pucci, GSK’’s VP-external advocacy] instead has unofficially ‘deputized’ his sales force to speak on behalf of GSK and the industry about the affordability of prescription medication; how today’s medicines fund the next generation of blockbuster drugs; access to state and federal programs that offset drug prices; and even some common misconceptions about direct-to-consumer advertising.”
I have written about Pucci’s efforts previously (see “The Empire Strikes Back” and “GSK Strikes Back with a Grassroots Campaign“) and I even praised the strategy.
However, I did not pay enough attention to what appears to be Pucci’s key tactic: using the 8,000-member GSK sales force to carpet bomb “every county in every state in the country.”
I have very little faith in the ability (or even the desire) of sales reps to become credible spokespeople, especially after reading “Hard Sell” (see “Generation X Pharma Reps“).
Sales reps, however, are plentiful and are perfect agents for spewing forth the party line equipped with “aids” and canned presentations, which I am sure is what Pucci is arming them with. But credible they are not!
I imagine an encounter between a Gen-X sales rep and a Rotarian member after the Powerpoint presentation: “Dude, what will it take to get you to love my company?” Sales reps just have to close the deal!
And credibility is the whole enchilada! Why send out the LEAST credible employees to do PR? Come on, Pucci! Get with it!
Pucci and GSK (and other pharma companies for that matter) need to broaden their horizons and enlist MORE CREDIBLE employees to carry the PR load. I said this before — use your rank-and-file employees (secretaries, researchers, etc.) to tell their OWN stories not “salient talking points and answers to tough questions,” which are the features of a typical detail!
Also, get with the 21st century version of buzz! Forget the “Rotarians, Elks, Lions Club members, and senior-citizen groups” — they cannot create buzz. Try blogs, podcasts, etc. If you need help with this, I’m sure there are dozens of people — including myself! — who can help you. But, really, get help.