Surveys verify impact of trust-building initiatives

NEW YORK: The results of last year's Harris Interactive reputation survey set off a flurry of trust-building campaigns among healthcare companies after less than half of respondents said they believed drug companies, managed-care companies, and health ins

NEW YORK: The results of last year's Harris Interactive reputation survey set off a flurry of trust-building campaigns among healthcare companies after less than half of respondents said they believed drug companies, managed-care companies, and health ins

This year's results suggest those efforts are paying off - somewhat.

The annual poll, which ranks industries by reputation, still places those three sectors at the bottom of the list, higher only than the tobacco and oil industries. But all three showed notable improvements.

For drug companies, 56% of respondents now believe the industry is doing a good job - up from 44% last year.

Harris cites drug prices that are rising more slowly, as well as the industry's trust-building campaigns, as possible causes.

Managed-care companies also rose in public favor - to 41% from 30%. The survey cites heavy news coverage of Medicare reform for taking the heat off health insurers.

Waggener Edstrom SVP Kathy Lewton notes that managed-care companies have done a better job of catering to public demands.

"They discovered what was unappealing with their products and started making changes," she said.

Hospitals had their best year ever in the 8-year-old survey series; 79% of respondents said they do a good job.

Supermarkets top the rankings list, followed by airlines.

Also released last week was the quarterly Delahaye Index, which ranks individual companies.

Wal-Mart gained ground in that poll, despite bad press for its union policies.

The world's largest retailer came in second behind Microsoft, which enjoyed the top spot for the fourth consecutive quarter, an unprecedented feat in the four-year history of the index.

KC Brown, SVP of Delahaye, said both companies topped the list partly because of their sheer presence in the market.

In fact, Brown said Microsoft generated the most negative coverage, but it was "drowned out" by positive news about company finances.

The exact impact of Wal-Mart's recent media campaign won't be seen until Q2, Brown said, but evidence of its more open policy with the media can be seen in how the company is represented.

"Qualitatively, I can see a difference in their coverage; they're speaking up in a way that they didn't before," he said. "There seems to be not just stock analysts or business professors coming to Wal-Mart's defense; Wal-Mart is coming to Wal-Mart's defense."

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