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Perception, reflection and communication: an empirical case study within the pharmaceutical industry

Georges Ulrich (Based at the gfs Institute of Research, Zürich, Switzerland)
Sybille Sachs (Based at the HWZ University of Applied Science in Business Administration, Zürich, Switzerland)
Bruce Millett (Based at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 11 August 2010




This paper aims to show how instruments of empirical opinion research can help to provide a basis for interactive communication between a company and its stakeholders via the media, so that important issues can be identified and discussed internally and externally. By doing this, the company can actively participate in the process of forming public opinion and building trust.


Concentrating on the company of Pfizer, in order to acquire a comprehensive view, an empirical analysis of the opinions of those stakeholders mentioned in Pfizer's vision was conducted. In a first step, a content analysis of the Pfizer web site, two representative computer‐aided telephone interviews (CATI) surveys with the Swiss public, a content analysis over a period of two years of the five most important daily newspapers, and interviews with the top management team of Pfizer Switzerland were carried out. In a second step, the findings of the analysis were reflected on in a workshop with Pfizer's top management team.


The role of the media was recognised for its function for informing, and as a platform for initiating dialogues in appropriate areas of interaction. But it was also obvious that the reports published by the media, and the actual perception of the population, were distinctly different. In this realm, opinion research in its function of objectifying information makes a significant contribution to the ability to reflect on the actual situation.


The knowledge of the opinions of the relevant stakeholders based on a high standard of empirical data and the self‐reflection by senior management of its own beliefs provide an additional foundation for stakeholder‐oriented communication.



Ulrich, G., Sachs, S. and Millett, B. (2010), "Perception, reflection and communication: an empirical case study within the pharmaceutical industry", Corporate Governance, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 432-444.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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