Bringing the outside in is key to strengthening reputation

All businesses that rely on good stakeholder relations treat reputation as a key corporate asset.

All businesses that rely on good stakeholder relations treat reputation as a key corporate asset. Novartis has worked hard to establish a reputation as a company committed to scientific discovery, public health, and business success.

However, change is ubiquitous and you cannot afford to rest on your laurels.

CEO Joe Jimenez challenged our communications team to enhance the company's reputation in its significant markets. In turn, we established the Novartis Reputation Advisory Council, creating a board of outside members, experts in corporate reputation, healthcare policy, public affairs, and corporate responsibility from Europe, the US, China, Japan, and Russia.

External advisory councils can be crucial to shaping initiatives that advance image and reputation in a number of key areas.

Social media engagement. Companies operating in heavily regulated industries, such as healthcare, must follow appropriate regulatory guidance, especially in social media. Our reputation council, however, has pressed for accelerated efforts to engage with stakeholders through social and digital media, evolving to reflect the reality of how companies and stakeholders communicate.

Bringing a global perspective. Healthcare companies make significant investments in key emerging markets to build research, development, and manufacturing capacity, and meet the needs of patients worldwide. Operating in new markets requires an understanding of the global, regional, and local context, and an advisory group with deep global experience will help a company better communicate value and narrative in these important markets.

Telling the story of work in developing countries. Novartis is committed to meeting the needs of those who cannot afford medicines in developing countries. We want to tell that story not as part of a CSR platform, but as a commitment grounded in company values. The advisory council, with its wide-ranging expertise, will help us do so most effectively.

Our council is empowered by experts from around the world who work in industries beyond healthcare, which reflects an ambition to avoid the expected. It also is so valuable to Novartis because of the unique external perspective it brings to reputation management.

Advisory groups are not necessarily new, but in an era of considerable change a group of outside experts with multidisciplinary backgrounds can help push boundaries, challenge thinking, and, ultimately, help further strengthen company reputations.

Sheldon Jones is head of corporate communications at Novartis.

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