The Evolution of Internal Communications in Healthcare: “Brand Identity” and the Heart and Soul of the Business Unit



In 20+ years of watching the practice of healthcare PR transform, one of the most notable shifts that I have seen is the integration of internal communications in the marketing mix – specifically with Brand Identity.

Pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies realized over time that the beating heart of its organization lies–not in its products but–in its business units (BUs).

The internal communications function, formerly the poster child of poster hangers (as in, what do you do all day–hang posters?) has evolved into a Sherpa for Brand Identity, working in collaboration with agencies to develop a BU look and feel, establish pride in the sector, support employee recruitment, and create the BU internal/external narrative and key messages.

More than just hanging posters, the internal comms team now leads content creation via video, blogs and other channels, promotes the group through thought leadership awards, and is tasked with forging a smart look and feel for the group.

The Brand Identity process can be looked at as the first chapter in telling the rest of the business unit’s story: establishing tone, character, setting, and driving the “plot” forward.

Ultimately, the process, if done right, should yield more than just some beautiful pictures, rousing themes and “wall art.” It should be the beginning of a larger program to roll out and reinforce the ideals and ideas expressed in the Brand Identity. The unit or corporate entity needs to live the brand it has created. Nothing crumbles faster than a shell brand with no foundation or substance.

Internal Communications Branding 2.0 requires a partner agency that has a proven track record in this space and possess a combination of traditional PR, digital, corporate communications, branding, copywriting and advertising skills .  Because internal responsibility for Brand Identity sometimes lies with a public affairs team or a business unit itself, the agency must be able to draw out the passions and ideas from a business unit, a CEO and a public affairs team. They must be able to reflect those ideas back to internal stakeholders in a way that capitalizes on existing corporate brand equity and guides the tone and final look of the business unit’s Brand Identity.

The Brand Identity process is a peculiar one, very much centered on gaining consensus on what are, essentially, abstract thoughts captured from disparate stakeholders. But the process itself–even before the outcome–can serve as an internal tool for defining the unit’s mission and illuminating the “essence” of the brand as expressed by the team.

What are you doing to drive portfolio Brand Identity forward in your company?

*Special thanks to Barry Schmader, Core Principal, Nukleus Health

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