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Internal affairs

Pharma needs to embrace the creation of in-house brand ambassadors

Two young women embracingEvery global company has a vision for the worldwide success of their brands. Energy, time and budgets are deployed accordingly on communicating this vision, disseminating the key messages to external audiences throughout international markets. A frequent by-product of this process, however, is that the needs of the internal customer are frequently overlooked.

Success today is no guarantee for the future. Brands are doomed when key people within a multinational organisation become complacent, bored or arrogant about their position and achievements. Employees in any market must maintain the quality, trust and loyalty at the heart of every campaign.

Fragmented meaning
A brand's meaning can become fragmented across employees in different markets with local drivers, attitudes and beliefs.

Without effective internal marketing, global brands can easily begin to lose their clarity, messages may become confused or diluted and people inside organisations can lose faith. Marketing and sales employees, in particular, can be affected and yet they hold the key to a brand's success, with responsibility to bring it to life for customers – and secure those much-needed sales. Such issues are often a consequence of poor communications within a company.

Maintaining motivation
Open, regular and consistent communications are vital in motivating and enthusing key employees in every affiliate. A consistent and engaging internal campaign will prevent the overall vision eroding, helping to ensure that brand messages resonate with all players in today's diverse external audience.

The clear advantage is that marketing and sales executives are able to help maintain the brand's consistency and intent. This is no simple task. First, global companies need global customers and, therefore, external customer focus is the raison d'être for any healthcare marketing department. It may also be difficult to measure the return on investment in communicating more effectively with internal audiences.

To align employees with brand strategy in a brand revitalisation process, strong leadership and training are as vital as effective internal communication. However, by applying brand principles to internal communications, multinational companies can accelerate the process of changing or re-aligning employee attitudes, beliefs and consequently their behaviour.

Rules of engagement
Audiences within an organisation are as varied as those on the outside. Engagement is affected by distance from the 'core' – locations away from head office, or down the chain from leadership – mismatched working patterns and by elements of emotional commitment to the company, determined by length of service. Sales teams tend to suffer from a high turnover of staff, creating inconsistency in the overall level of brand understanding.

In order to establish and maintain the right behaviours, programmes are required that immerse new people quickly into an organisation's culture and brand, maintaining valuable knowledge and behaviour through communications, training and leadership.
An engaged employee will go the 'extra mile' because they truly believe it's the right thing to do. They need to become an ambassador for the company, willing and able to start their own memorable brand conversations with local customers.

Share the story
Brands can be thought of as stories and need to be easy to follow – yet at the same time magical, surprising or intriguing. Everybody remembers a good movie or conversation not only because it was interesting but because it also sparked a feeling or emotion or perhaps sparked the imagination.

Brands are not simply an advertising campaign, logo or tagline. They start life as conversations, a collection of experiences and associations shared between different people, even those often separated by geographical and cultural boundaries.

Your brand is the central idea of what is unique about your product. This reflects the core values and beliefs. It defines your competitive advantage and how it is relevant to your customers.

To build a brand across several markets in Europe a campaign should express the uniqueness of a product or portfolio consistently – without dilution, deviation or confusion. Customers buy a brand because of the emotional experience they have with it. The story should be simple, clear and easy to follow, because your brand also lives in employees' minds and is replayed when they talk to potential customers or friends. It is what your customers then say to their peers when asked for their opinion.

A really good story opens up a whole new world. It creates a new reality and lets you see, imagine and feel things that may not exist. It is the world of Honda and Nike; and, for that brief moment, it is your reality. It allows us to see possibilities, to create ideas, to laugh and to express ourselves through thoughts, words and ideas.

The seed of all of this lies in our imagination and subconscious mind. Here we connect the dots in strange, different and exciting ways around a single idea or theme. Developing internal communications tactics before launching or rejuvenating external campaigns is the key. Make marketing and sales people feel part of the campaign, involve them in the process of developing the campaign communications; there's no better way to motivate and drive belief.

Keeping in touch
Your customer will buy from you if they have a positive experience where their needs are met at each touch point. People are unlikely to become emotionally involved with something they hear just once. This is why face-to-face interaction and new media can extend the reach to people whose roles keep them out of the office, travelling and distant from the core, or who have become over-familiar with traditional communication channels.

Creating a microsite and sending a link that users can access on their mobile phone means you can tease them with bite-sized highlights of your brand story. If face-to-face isn't practical, share video conversations between leaders, or have leadership write a blog to stimulate debate and allow the conversation to flow between your staff and your customers and suppliers. A good story to tell will give context to the conversation. That way belief is created.

Embrace the brand
Communicating internally is about providing information, inspiration and motivation for employees to embrace the brand and all that it stands for. An internal campaign opens up lines of communication across all levels. To be successful, however, it should be an inclusive and collaborative process, with buy-in from key departments, teams and stakeholders. Bring together the best people from brand strategy, communications, creative development, sales and marketing, and you will deliver something special.

As a result of their engagement with the brand, the salesforce and others will understand the main messages behind the campaigns and be able to see the clear connection between the brand – now aligned with their own beliefs – and use their new behaviour to achieve the desired behaviour in others. The process is motivational, consensus-building and creates a clear understanding that projects out into the international marketplace. From the inside, company management needs to embrace the creation of brand ambassadors who truly believe the brand's messages and exemplify on-brand behaviour so that brand promise is delivered every day and translated into global sales.

The Authors
Stephen Page is managing director and Zuleika Burnett is creative director at Medibrand, part of Euro RSCG Life

To comment on the article, email pme@pmlive.com

15th December 2009

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