July 10, 2018
The lines between product reputation and corporate reputation have blurred – so what does that mean for product marketing and PR?
From news to politics to retail, opinions about products, and the people behind them, have converged. Customers internalize their impressions of organizations and leadership, and vote with their wallets. So while communicators traditionally focus on brand publicity to drive sales – and the products themselves do indeed still matter – treating the product as completely separate from its manufacturer can inadvertently set up a flop.
The new reality is that corporate communications is part of brand communications. Today, potential customers evaluate the value of the product as well as the organization, asking: “Do I want to do business with these people? Do I believe they are acting in my best interests?”
In our work supporting multiple successful products across the health ecosystem, we’ve found consistently that when company reputation is elevated, the product becomes more compelling – more central to societal discussion (and purchase decisions). Product value is still expressed through its ability to save and improve patient lives – to make healthcare delivery more efficient and effective – but its credibility rests equally on corporate reputation strength.
Savvy communicators recognize company reputation as a brand asset. There may be a groundbreaking product in the portfolio, but if the organization has a shaky reputation – or its mission or leadership is unknown – it’s a proverbial two-legged stool. Addressing a clear unmet medical need and showcasing amazing science is no longer enough. Case in point: many people remain at risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes, yet new product introductions still struggle to take off. Corporate reputation – encompassing leadership visibility, pricing decisions, and organizational actions – may be that missing X factor.
Today, strong corporate communication sets the stage for strong product communication – and it doesn’t take a massive budget. Here are three easy ways to think beyond “product” for greater success:
- Leverage (and demonstrate) leadership. CEOs are increasingly viewed as assets of the company, and therefore, assets of brands themselves. Executive visibility – whether in person or in print, expressing thoughtful viewpoints about issues that matter to society – is connected to brand success. Don’t leave your executive communications strategy by the wayside to focus on a brand launch. The two are connected!
- Establish a corporate identity and issues that matter. Engage a corporate communications strategy that identifies opportunities to “see and be seen,” as well as to differentiate, among peers. Consider the issues on your C-Suite’s mind – topics that align with the product portfolio and societal need, such as access, health disparities, and cost of illness – and help them engage.
- Channels can be people too. Focusing solely on media channels (print, online, broadcast, podcast, social) to build corporate awareness and establish thought leadership is a potential trap. Relationships with patient advocates and thought leaders in the space are crucial for establishing voice, a reputation for partnership and commitment to improving the customer experience. Leadership requires enthusiastic followership – and that requires relationship-building. Advocacy and alliance-building are part of the plan.
It’s easy – and tempting – to focus on the awesome advances a new product brings to the market. These innovations should be celebrated, but it’s not enough to simply say, “People need my product.” People want to connect, support and believe – in a product, its science, the company that brings it to market, and its leaders. As communicators, our role is to ensure that all legs of the health-sector reputation stool are steady and support the interests of the market. When they are, brand success is in our sights.
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