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
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
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
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
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.
Sales and sales promotion executive, Laker Airways
Sales manager, Tradewinds Airways
Marketing director DHL UK
Head of communications for Europe and Africa, DHL