ABPI looks to speak out in bid to shake off 'old Volvo' image

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's comms director has revealed her strategy to take on issues like animal testing in an attempt to shrug off its 'old Volvo' image.

Speaking out: the ABPI’s Stephen Whitehead
Speaking out: the ABPI’s Stephen Whitehead

Corporate comms director Amanda Callaghan arrived last January and has since expanded the comms team from four to nine, bringing in a director of stakeholder engagement and a director of policy and public affairs.

Callaghan told PRWeek the body is now looking to speak out on sensitive issues such as animal testing and clinical trials, from which it previously would have ‘shied away’.

It has also implemented a series of initiatives including a new code of practice.

Callaghan said: ‘The ABPI was thought to be very reactive, very slow. The tone was very urgent and demanding, there was only one tone a lot of the time. When we did member surveys the terms "old Volvo" and "elephant" were used to describe us.’

She added: ‘We now have more media coverage. Neither Stephen [Whitehead, ABPI chief executive] nor I shy away from conversations that the industry finds difficult.’

Whitehead, who was formerly group comms director at Prudential, was appointed a year ago.

He said: ‘I joined with a mandate to change the way the ABPI engage with our members, the government and the general public.

‘I made the conscious decision to increase the resources in our corporate affairs team in order to build stronger relationships with both the media and our members.  I am confident that the ABPI is now much more fit for purpose and a stronger voice for industry.'

A senior pharma source said the ABPI’s comms had improved, adding: ‘They are more vocal on issues such as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme.’

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