Business leaders across all industries had to dig deep to find new skills and levels of resilience in 2020. For those working in the health sector, this was particularly pronounced, as the industry was thrust into a global spotlight. Vaccines took centre stage – but any company involved in diagnostics and therapeutic interventions will have felt a greater level of scrutiny.
With this new level of public interest comes both risk and opportunity. The risk, of course, is that the more you say, and the more attention your brand receives, the more criticism you open yourself up to. But if you don’t create your own compelling narrative, someone else in your sector surely will – whether it is a competitor dominating the limelight themselves or a critic shaping perceptions of your brand. So it’s vital that healthcare companies embrace this moment to share what they stand for, and the value they bring to society, in a meaningful way. The question is, how?
Look to your leaders to shape brand perception
Senior leadership has a vital role to play in representing organisations. We know that the behaviour of company executives massively influences the perception of a brand amongst key stakeholders, including HCPs and payors. Leaders who do this well – bringing their own personal values and stories to the table – can help to build a human connection with stakeholders and the wider public.
New research from WE Communications shows how the events of 2020 have re-shaped leadership expectations and are unlocking new ways to lead organisations. In a survey of more than 300 global business leaders, WE found that COVID-19 and its repercussions have prompted deep introspection in leaders about their role in a changed world.
Out of all this thinking comes a new mindset, new behaviours and new leadership strategies in 2021. And all of these are critically linked to how organisations ‘show up’ and impact the world around them – whether that means tuning into (and acting on) employee concerns and aspirations, or finding ways for leaders to publicly champion the issues that are important to them personally, as well as to stakeholders.
Why organisations can’t afford not to find their voice
The research underlined that it’s imperative for health and pharma companies to take a stand on relevant societal issues. A majority (89%) of business leaders say that customer demand for brands to have a positive impact on society will continue to grow. And to meet that demand, 71% believe that it has become more important over the past year to define and articulate their own core beliefs, and elevate their own voices.
With unprecedented levels of public attention right now, health brands have a unique moment in time to show their purpose, and – in collaboration with the communities of which they form a part – tackle issues which matter to their stakeholders.
There is often a reticence among those in leadership roles within the health sector about speaking out. So, as communications professionals, how can we support senior executives to step up? We’ll need to use learnings from the past 12 months, and make the most of all the channels that are open to us, to build a brand and a sector that are worthy of stakeholders caring about.
Are you a senior comms professional navigating this challenge right now? Email Patris.Gordon@haymarket.com and request to join a roundtable later this month with your peers on rethinking the purpose and meaning of leadership.