Have a Singular Voice Across All Channels

Language is the dress of thought.” —Samuel Johnson

Dr Johnson, the 18th century essayist, critic and lexicographer, articulates that the words we chose are crucial to conveying our ideas.

As marketers, we share ideas through the brand voice. The brand voice engages and connects customers with the value and emotion our product provides, ultimately delivering on our strategy and business goals.

We recently worked with a global healthcare solutions leader to create a brand language that speaks across all media — from advertising to public relations to internal communications. This was our B2B client's first enterprise-wide marketing effort.

In partnership and strategic alignment with the client, our challenge was to take a complex organization and create a compelling way to describe the essence of who it is, what it does and the value that it provides to its customers.

Finding the language. Brands we know and love have a voice and a way of engaging with consumers naturally across media. For less consumer-facing brands, the language may not be utilized as frequently or as publicly — leading to a less defined voice. Despite that, industry marketers are increasingly telling B2B brand stories with a human touch.

As an agency, we immerse ourselves in the client’s industry and vernacular to understand the fundamentals of the business from its perspective. Each person working with the client needs to be attuned to the language as it evolves throughout the process.

Early in our process, we take stock of what a brand represents and to whom. To find the stories that informed our healthcare client's campaign, we had one-on-one conversations with employees — those with 20 years of experience and those with 20 days — and with large and small customers. Multiple perspectives helped define the “who we are” and “what we do” and how the enterprise could speak in one voice to a variety of customers.

Where we are and where we're going. Culling through the interview outputs allowed us to identify key phrases and words and, perhaps more importantly, to uncover the nuances of what's being said or not said and why. For example, our client doesn't say “we're smart” because they are humble and quietly proud of that humility. This nuance helped inform a strategy that promoted but didn't boast by connecting intelligence and hard work at the company to its greater impact of shaping healthcare delivery.

As our understanding of the language grows, we test what's working and what's not against who the client is today and who they aspire to be in two, five or even 10 years. A company that wants to be global in 10 years requires different descriptors than a regionally focused company.

In the short-term, our client wanted to be seen as a partner in enhancing patient care. We tested the campaign executions by incorporating proof points for how our client helped offer a better patient experience with the doctors, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare executives it works with daily.

Stop talking, start doing. Throughout this process, the defined language and resonant stories became tools for developing work efficiently and on target. The campaign had legs across advertising, events, sales, digital, HR, PR and other disciplines because the language was consistent and compelling.

The campaign brought multiple business units under a strong, dynamic and unified enterprise brand. Each business unit has its own specific function, skill sets and core competencies. The company is connected by language in a way it hasn't been before.

When the agency and the client team speak the same language, strategy development and the planning process move more smoothly. We rely on our shared language and vision for the brand to make strategic recommendations and have productive conversations about what will or won't resonate.

Results. One of the best results was seeing creative concepts displayed in trade publications and even a major business publication. When we saw the client had used ad materials in a new office design, we realized that the language we landed on truly spoke to the brand from all perspectives. Finding the authentic language is the first building block to a successful campaign. It helped align the organization and provide a rallying cry for key stakeholders. From here, we will monitor the brand and its recognition through an annual tracking survey that will inform conversations to keep the brand language alive and strong.

Tips for successful partnerships:

  • Invite agency partners into business conversations: These meetings offer invaluable insight, an opportunity to find the language and a chance for partners to ensure that the communications objectives and business goals are aligned;
  • Foster an inclusive and iterative relationship with partners: All good work gets better with perspective, feedback and pressure tests;
  • Clarify each partner's role: With multiple agency partners, language allows us to understand each other and produce cohesive work, but clear responsibilities fosters collaboration;
  • Recognize great ideas: The creative spark can come from anywhere, sometimes the digital team has a great PR idea or vice versa. Embrace when partners are thinking about your brand across disciplines and beyond their defined roles.
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