Profile: Chris King, Novartis Consumer Health - For medicinal purposes only/Former DHL man Chris King gets a healthy dose of OTC medicine PR

Novartis Consumer Health’s newly appointed international communications and PR director Chris King is reasonably easy to spot sitting in the overstuffed reception area of London’s Berkshire hotel. He’s the one with the crutch and the gammy knee.

Novartis Consumer Health’s newly appointed international

communications and PR director Chris King is reasonably easy to spot

sitting in the overstuffed reception area of London’s Berkshire hotel.

He’s the one with the crutch and the gammy knee.



King, who assumes his new position next week, had ligament surgery three

weeks ago. Not that he intends to let that stop him: ’I’m doing double

physio, got to be mobile by next week,’ he says without a hint of

martyrdom.



King is obviously looking forward to joining the OTC division of the

world’s largest pharmaceutical company. It is a big move for this

solidly built 42-year-old in several ways. First, he is leaving DHL

Worldwide Express, the company with which he has been for 13 years and

within which he has moved from sales and marketing through to head of

communications for Europe and Africa. Second, he will be relocating from

Brussels to Geneva, which is a boon for an avid skiier of 20 years

standing.



However, he will initially be commuting between the two cities and as a

father of two he knows that is likely to be expensive. ’You know how it

is: being away for one day is all right, two and they are sulking, by

the third day they are standing on the doorstep saying ’well, what have

you got for me then?’,’ he laughs.



As Novartis Consumer Health’s first international communications and PR

director, King is stepping into the unknown. The company is just six

months old and was formed through the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz,

which was the largest corporate merger in history. Announced in April

1996, it started trading on the Swiss stock exchange at the end of last

December. The OTC division accounts for seven per cent of turnover,

which equates to dollars 1.2 billion.



’One of the fundamental attractions of the job is that I haven’t got

anything set in stone. I have got a big white book. It is not exactly a

case starting from scratch but it is the opportunity to ask ourselves

how we would like to do things,’ he says.



King will instigate an overall review, but he is swift to point out that

he will not be interfering with established relationships between PR

agencies and the company at country level. Nor will he be muscling in on

advertising strategy at local level. ’We have very established

relationships with our agencies and it is important to continue working

with people who have a clear, open-minded approach as well as focus and

understanding. I don’t see any reason to interfere at local level.

Everything I do will be collaborative.’ he says.



King describes his role as to coordinating the communications activity

across the division. ’I have to look at what our needs are at corporate

worldwide level,’ he says. ’Mine is a strategic job.’ King has been

chosen for his experience as a marketer and particularly his consumer

experience.



Roland Jeannet (President and CEO for Novartis Consumer Health) is

deliberately bringing in people with a marketing background at a

worldwide level, says King, rather than pharmaceuticals experts. There

are very few non-doctors at the helm of the company.



One of the greatest challenges for pharmaceutical companies is

developing consumer marketing and communications expertise as more and

more medicines are deregulated and given over the counter status. ’We

need to build relationships with consumers based on trust and

reliability. We need to create those feelings and more than that we need

to communicate our values and what we as a company stand for,’ says

King.



Internal communications in the short term is even more important than

telling the outside world what Novartis Consumer Health stands for. King

does not see himself as a centralist: ’I am a facilitator. I am here to

help bring people together, get them talking, understanding and sharing

in the vision so that we have one team going in the same direction and

we can show the world that we are a dynamic, positive company with real

values,’ he says.



HIGHLIGHTS

1980

Sales and sales promotion executive, Laker Airways

1982

Sales manager, Tradewinds Airways

1993

Marketing director DHL UK

1995

Head of communications for Europe and Africa, DHL



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