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Online Reputation Management Part 3 - Questcor

Posted by | 9:43am on Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you allow false information about your brand or product to dominate search results, you might as well close up shop now. 

pills-and-bills.jpgWe are in the midst of a four-part series about online reputation management. On Tuesday, I discussed the importance of defending your brand online. Yesterday, I explained how the online channel directly effects the healthcare industry in particular.

Today’s post is about online reputation management gone wrong – a case study of the PR ramifications.

I will wrap up the series tomorrow with suggestions of free and paid monitoring tools and discuss your strategy for times when the online buzz is positive. Subscribing will ensure you don’t miss any of these topics (email and RSS subscriptions both available on homepage in upper-right).

How Does The Online Channel Impact Me?

As I wrote yesterday, doctors and patients are going online more. And maybe it’s affecting their treatment in a positive way. But how does that impact you?

As patients come to the internet in droves, they increasingly use search to research their condition and find potential treatments. No matter where you are in the process, you need the most accurate information portraying your product in a fair manner. If you allow false information about your brand or product to dominate search results, you might as well close up shop now.

In addition to being irresponsible, neglecting your online reputation is preventable. People may discuss your brand on blogs and in forums, but knowing about this and providing correct information is a way to easily monitor your online reputation.

One Example To Learn From

In April 2008, a mother whose infant suffered from seizures posted about his treatment. The only medicine that could save his life was ACTH and it had gone from $1,500 per vial to $40,000 per vial in one year. Her child would need multiple vials as part of his treatment.

Their insurance company stopped shipment on the ACTH, made by Questcor. And adding insult to injury, the mother learned that the price increase was very deliberate. An executive vice-president was quoted, saying that the new price was the result of “estimating how much insurers and employers would be willing to bear…The reality was better than we expected.”

Now this mother who can’t afford these payments and the outright greed has no where to turn. Except the internet.

She blasted Questcor time and time and time again. Her posts raised the ire of friends and family. She got support (and I suspect links) from mothers like Jen and Lisa. Finally, she gets a call from a Senator’s aide. They had found her blog and she ended up testifying on Capitol Hill.

Her online activity had garnered support, information, links (which rank her higher in Google searches), an active network, and the opportunity to testify before Senators about her case. She was an active member of the conversation. Where was Questcor?

They likely thought she would go away. That’s what always happened before. In the old world, you could ignore or stonewall for long enough and eventually the problem would take care of itself.

Instead, Questcor was faced with a PR disaster. By the time Questcor joined the conversation, it was to grovel to this mother. They sent a nice email, but then delayed shipping the medicine her infant needed to live. Her rebuttal is moving:

“Look into Trevor’s eyes & prove that you care. About him…more than the bottom line.

Prove it by making the turn-around time less than 24 hours from submission of paperwork to receipt of the medication. Every time. Prove it by spending more than 13% of your company’s profits to fund Research & Development. Invest more on finding a cure for Infantile Spasms than you do on employee wages. Prove it by under-writing projects like the Epilepsy Phenome-Genome Project which is in progress right now.”

Questcor could have nipped this in the bud. They could have shown kindness – if not to the community, than at least greased this squeaky wheel.

But maybe they thought they couldn’t afford this type of online reputation management. Maybe they thought it wasn’t important. I wonder if all the moms who read her blog would agree? I wonder if the Senators who asked her to testify thought that? I wonder if Questcor realizes the number of times her negative posts come up in search engine results pages?

Learning And Moving On

It takes a brave and nimble company to monitor their brand online and respond effectively. Clearly, we can all learn something from the Questcor case study.

How would your company react if they were attacked online? Is there a response policy in place? Who in your company is tasked with oversight and online relations?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, now is the time to prepare.

That is why tomorrow’s post will outline some free and paid tools to help you monitor your brand online. Plus, I will explain why not to let down your guard when times are good.

Feel free to share your comments below.

(Image courtesy of Jessica L. Hernandez via Flickr)

About Wendy White

Since founding Siren Interactive in 1999, Wendy has been recognized as a thought leader at the intersection of niche pharma brands, patient empowerment and online marketing. Her vision for how the internet can facilitate interactions and provide crucial information that patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers previously struggled to find has propelled Siren to the forefront of relationship marketing for rare disorder therapies.

View other posts from Wendy

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  • http://brassandivory.blogspot.com Lisa Emrich

    Check the timing on these posts which you highlight. Events as presented are out of order.

    She blasted Questcor time and time and time again. Her posts raised the ire of friends and family. She got support (and I suspect links) from mothers like Jen and Lisa. Finally, she gets a call from a Senator’s aide. They had found her blog and she ended up testifying on Capitol Hill.

  • http://brassandivory.blogspot.com Lisa Emrich


    Reputation management is certainly important and Questcor certainly has not done a great job in monitoring and responding to theirs.

    But the story you present here fails to grasp the full extent. Here’s a sampling of the pieces I wrote regarding the Questcor story (which you should have seen on my blog).

    September 2007 – Questcor Uses Orphan Drug Act as a Strategy Tool to Boost Marketing and Development

    October 2007 – What Questcor Didn’t Tell You about Their Income Losses

  • http://brassandivory.blogspot.com Lisa Emrich
  • http://brassandivory.blogspot.com Lisa Emrich

    Then Trevor’s Mommy contacted me just days before the JEC Senate hearing. I was previously unaware of her blog or her story, and certainly had not linked to her.

    So I prepared this:
    July 2007 – Small Patient Population – Big Drug Prices

    After the JEC Senate hearing:
    July 2007- Price Gouging in Extremely Vulnerable and Captive Market

    August 2007 – Questcor’s CFO is Resigning

    This damaged reputation has been long in coming.

  • http://brassandivory.blogspot.com Lisa Emrich

    I apologize the dates in that final comment should read July 2008 and August 2008. It was late when I responded to your post. And Wendy, I do hope that you choose to allow these comments to post. It provides an important piece of the puzzle in regards to Questcor’s current reputation.

  • http://www.sireninteractive.com Wendy

    Thanks so much for clarifying this Lisa, and sorry it took so long to respond.

    What you did and are doing is very important work. I am sorry for the unfortunate metaphor (the “squeaky wheel” bit). I live in a town jokingly referred to as “The peoples republic of Oak Park” and many of the best advocates I know are squeaky wheels (and proud of it).

    Likewise, I look at this story as one of a parent with a point and a big PR mistake. I’m a parent of a special needs child and head of a marketing firm. My clients are pharma companies and if you read some of my back posts you can see that I firmly believe that the best marketing is outstanding service and transparent communication.

    The big elephant in the room is the high price of these therapies. I don’t really have an answer for that, but the playing field is now more even because people like you can have a big impact. Keep doing what you are doing because it obviously makes a difference.

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