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The Week That Was: Crises in Communications

The Week That Was: Crises in Communications

August 21, 2017 0 Comments

Like the rest of the nation, The Week That Was is feeling somber following troubling events in the US and abroad. And, we saw American business leaders wade into the political fray.

In this week’s installment, we take some time to talk about the significance of Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier’s decision to step down from the President’s Manufacturing Advisory Council. To offer some lighter fare, we endeavor to answer the timeless question “are emoji’s good or bad in work emails?”

Finally, we’ve written in the past about how modern activism on social media channels impacts healthcare. And we encourage you to check out a podcast from our inVentiv friend, Jeff Stewart, “Medicine in 140 Characters.” 

So, read on for The Week That Was.

Business Gets Political

Following last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier announced that he is stepping down from the President’s Manufacturing Advisory Council. Frazier attributed his resignation to President Trump’s failure to condemn the actions of the professed white supremacist groups that marched on the University of Virginia. In a statement released on Twitter, Frazier noted that “Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs…As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Within the hour, the President responded on Twitter, noting Frazier would now “have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Frazier was praised by many in the press and over the week, CEOs from a number of companies, including Walmart, Under Armour and Intel, followed suit by resigning from the council. On Tuesday, CEOs from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum decided to disband the council. Before the announcement was made, the POTUS tweeted that he was ending both councils. Cue the breakup jokes–and a significant shift in the business sector’s role within this administration.


This story received tremendous media attention—both traditional and social. Within healthcare, commenters noted that the drug pricing jab didn’t “hurt” Merck—a far cry from early days of the Administration when a critical tweet from the President could tank a company’s stock price. While some in pharma are breathing a sigh of relief, no one should feel out of the drug-pricing woods. While the President’s tweets on the matter may carry less market impact, companies should not discount the remaining populist sentiment on the affordability of medicines.

The story also revisited an issue that TWTW team has been tracking all year: the pressure for corporations to take sides in this political climate and the rising moral stakes. In-depth reporting suggests that a number of CEOs saw their role on the council as service to our country and the office of the President. However, as noted above, these leaders could not support the President’s position. So, “What is the role and responsibility of companies in this political climate?” As Ken Frazier demonstrated, the sooner a company can answer that question, the more influential it can be in shaping its role. Companies, especially those in healthcare, should think about where they want to live in a divided political environment, and if, or when, they choose to speak up. Not sure where to start? Give us a call and we can talk it out.


😊👍😉🐱🏈✈❤✔ are just a few of the emoji’s many of us use within our circle of family and friends—possibly even in more casual messages to colleagues. Emojis have become modern-day shorthand. In a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel are advising to stop using emojis—well, at least the “smiley”—in work emails. Researchers found that “smileys only marginally increased perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence.” Business partners seem to take you less seriously and may in fact send you less information in a response. Emojis also carry a gender bias: the study found that people assumed an email with a smiley was from a woman when the gender of the sender was unknown.


Given that the work we do focuses on serious topics related to the health and wellbeing of patients, we don’t often see emojis in our work email. TWTW team cannot, however, go on record saying that we have never used a smiley in other emails when thanking a colleague for support, putting in a lunch order or reacting with joy over a picture of a new baby or a pet. In a world where employees can be pelted with hundreds of emails daily, injecting the appropriate tonal inflection can be challenging and time-consuming…and emojis can provide an all-to-simple (albeit sometimes inappropriate solution). So for execs struggling with email etiquette, we recommend aligning with your corporate culture, staying professional where it counts and perhaps lighten up a colleague’s day with a rare smiley when needed! 😊

With summer coming to an end, TWTW will be switching to a slightly different schedule and platform, so keep your eyes out for a new and improved newsletter coming to your inbox soon.

 The Reputation & Risk Management Practice @inVentiv Health Communications

And now please enjoy this disclaimer that prevents our team from getting in a heap of trouble: This report may contain links to external or third party websites. These links are provided solely for your convenience. Links taken to other sites are done so at your own risk and inVentiv Health, Inc. (“inVentiv”) accepts no liability for any linked sites or their content. inVentiv makes no warranties or representations, express or implied about such linked websites, the third parties they are owned and operated by, the information contained on them or the suitability or quality of any of their products or services. inVentiv does not authorize the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material offered through these linked sites. Please refer to the use agreement and/or copyright statements of any external site you visit, or the terms and conditions of any externally provided web site for instructions, restrictions, and guidelines. If you have a question, please contact the webmaster of the external site.

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