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USA Today Profiles CEO Who 'Stands Up to Protestors'

Activists and, in many cases, the news media often attack big businesses of all stripes, from coal, gas and oil to food or pharmaceutical companies.

The targeted companies often refuse to defend themselves. But one high profile CEO decided to take a different tack.

Dan Vasella, CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, told USA Today Dec. 21 that instead of being silent companies should go public.

“You win public support. With that, you can achieve anything. Without public support, you cannot achieve anything,” Vasella said.

Animal rights activists have attacked the Swiss pharmaceutical company, going so far as to paint “murderer” on the church in his hometown and vandalizing the graves of Vasella’s sister and parents.

“Other drug companies have not fought this so publicly. Aren’t you putting a bulls-eye on Novartis?” USA Today’s Del Jones asked.

“No. If others duck to stay off the radar, that’s a bad recipe,” Vasella replied. (Full Q&A is available here)

Ultimately, Vasella concluded that in his case they should have gone public even sooner. “We should have done more to engage politicians and the press in making them aware what was going on, because we need the public to understand.”

Pharmaceutical companies like Novartis have enough to contend with when protestors choose to vandalize property, but in many cases the bias of the mainstream media can also work against them.

The Business & Media Institute issued a Special Report in 2007 that found the network news’ slant against drug companies by excluding the viewpoint of the industry in 80 percent of stories. Drug companies got credit by name for their products in only 22 percent of stories.


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