Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli is a public relations pro's worst nightmare and proof that no matter how good your PR company may be, if you don't listen to their advice, it's going to come back and kick you in the teeth.
In case you haven't heard by now, Shkreli's company has been called out in articles around the globe for raising the price of its recently acquired drug Daraprim from $13.50 to nearly $750 a pill. What reason, other than greed, makes someone take a drug that's been around for more than 60 years and jack up the price some 5,000 percent. Daraprim is used to treat a parasitic infection that can be life threatening to some including those with AIDS and cancer.
By doing what he did, Shkreli has been labeled, among other things, the most hated man in America. Even Donald Trump called him a spoiled brat.
And, every day the news just gets worse for Shkreli. After taking to Twitter and essentially giving anyone who criticized him the finger, Shkreli put his Twitter account on private and backed down in the wake of a tremendous backlash. He's since come out saying it was all a mistake and he would lower the price of the drug.
But it's too little too late. He's being blacklisted by a lot of people, including the drug and biotech industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which tweeted "@TuringPharma does not represent the values of @PhRMA member companies."
Big Pharma's efforts to distance itself from Shkreli is in a sense ironic since it too has been criticized for years for essentially doing the same thing. He's even prompted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to come up with a plan to take on the entire pharma industry. So, not only has Shkreli given himself and his company a black eye, but he's shone a negative light on the entire industry.
As most folks in PR know, there are clients who make it impossible for us to do our jobs. They hire us for our expertise and then fail to listen. Or, worse yet, they take matters into their own hands as Shkreli did, and now his PR team is left to mop up the mess.
Companies and their leaders will make mistakes. Just how much of a public relations disaster those mistakes become will depend on how they respond. Rather than take a defensive position, Shkreli and his team should have admitted the mistake, promised to make amends and attempted to move forward. Instead, he took a defensive stand and his PR team put up a wall by (as evidenced in some newspaper articles) refusing to comment.
In today's fast-paced world, where bad news travels at the speed of sound, companies need to be prepared to respond just as quickly and in a way that mitigates the damage and allows them to move forward in a positive light.
Susan R. Miller is founder of Garton-Miller Media, a full-service, South Florida based public relations firm. Susan is a former journalist with more than 30 years of experience.
Garton-Miller Media is a full-service, South Florida-based public relations firm. Founder Susan R. Miller has 30 years of experience as a writer, journalist and PR professional.