Developing a communications strategy A Roche case study

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Introduction

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This case study examines the way that a multi-product, multi-national company has developed an integrated Corporate Publicity Programme to improve communications both externally and internally.

Sponsoring the Body Zone within the Millennium Dome has enabled Roche to build on its reputation as a major player in the British healthcare market, increase brand awareness, and move towards becoming a household name.

Roche is a large multi-national Swiss pharmaceutical and healthcare company which produces a wide range of healthcare products. It has been operating in the UK for the past 90 years and now employs around 3,000 people in the UK (55,000 worldwide).

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Roche has a multi-divisional organisational structure, with four separate business divisions based at various locations throughout the UK. Each division has a high degree of control over the way it runs its business:

  1. The Diagnostics Division develops, produces and markets systems to improve the detection, evaluation and monitoring of disease.
  2. The Pharmaceuticals Division develops, produces and markets prescription drugs to combat human disease.
  3. The Consumer Health Division concentrates on some of the best known over-the-counter pharmaceutical brands, including Sanatogen®, Rennie®, Redoxon® and Aspro®.
  4. The Vitamins Division manufactures and markets a range of vitamins and mixes for animal and human nutrition, food production, healthcare and cosmetics industries.

Roche is the market leader in three of these four business areas. It is the second largest foreign investor in UK healthcare, and ploughs back more than 20% of its turnover into research and development.

Roche has pioneered an integrated approach to its products, based around a ‘cycle of care’. Research helps Roche to identify the people most at risk from a particular disease. The company then provides targeted screening tests that show when this predisposition might lead to illness. Hopefully, this knowledge will help prevent the disease from developing. When someone already has a disease, fast and accurate diagnosis is the best way to provide effective treatment. At the same time, monitoring therapy allows medicines and treatment to be tailored to the individual patient’s needs. This leads to a feeling of wellbeing which is supported by Roche’s other product lines.

Developing a corporate publicity programme

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Until recently, even though Roche was a major player in the UK healthcare market, it was not a household name. Its somewhat conservative approach to publicity affected its attitude towards the media. It reacted when faced with bad publicity, but rarely talked of its achievements.

The company decided to take a more proactive approach. At the same time, it was invited to become a sponsor of the Body Zone in the Millennium Dome. This would give the company a chance to demonstrate its integrated healthcare capabilities to many million visitors. Also, Roche could highlight the importance of research and the advances that will enhance health and well-being as we begin the new century.

Sponsoring the Body Zone

Boots the Chemists, L’Oreal and Roche put together a package worth £12 million to design and build the Body Zone. The Body Zone consists of 2 elements; the body itself and a large plaza area filled with interesting interactive exhibits.

The body, a piece of modern architecture, 27 metres high, represents both the male and female figures in one reclining form. Visitors enter through the elbow, travel up an escalator in the arm and take a journey through the body. Passing through state-of-the-art special effects, they arrive at a gigantic beating heart.

The journey is designed to induce a whole range of different emotions including relief, apprehension, fear, humour and sadness. The plaza area contains a range of thought-provoking exhibits which explore the opportunities that science, genetics and medicine will bring in the new millennium.

Planning the project

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As with all projects, the first step was to establish clear objectives. Roche UK already had corporate communications objectives. These were to:

  • raise the profile of Roche
  • build the company’s reputation
  • create a positive environment for growth of the business.

Roche also laid out some clearly defined communication objectives for the Dome Project itself. These were to:

  • generate and build employee interest in, and enthusiasm for, Roche’s sponsorship of the Body Zone
  • use its Dome sponsorship to develop new business opportunities
  • actively involve Roche staff in the Dome Project
  • ensure that the content of the Body Zone reflects Roche’s integrated healthcare capabilities

The project also aimed to raise awareness, both inside and outside the organisation, of Roche's:

  • sponsorship of the Body Zone
  • contribution to the content of the Zone
  • contribution to the UK economy
  • range of businesses
  • cycle of care
  • brand name.

A strategy for communication

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Once these communications objectives were established, Roche had to develop a strategy to achieve them. The first step was to involve and generate enthusiasm among all its employees. There is limited integration between the various sites so the company established project teams that encouraged cross-divisional co-operation.

Representatives on the project teams contributed different types of expertise, such as research and development, production and marketing. They were responsible for involving all the staff from their division, collecting ideas and input and representing these at the project team meetings. Progress was then reported back to the various sites.

The Dome project encouraged staff to work together and helped to build a sense of corporate, rather than divisional or site, identity. As a result of this input, Roche has provided equipment, advice and expertise on many of the topics included in the Body Zone to supplement its financial sponsorship.

Site briefings, videos, competitions, team challenge events, balloon races and coach trips to the Dome raised awareness of the project internally. Project members also produced a Countdown 2000 newsletter, wrote articles for the Roche Leader (the in-house magazine) and used the company intranet and notice boards to inform all employees about its progress.

The benefits of the Dome project

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Roche’s involvement in the Millennium Dome project has had numerous, and sometimes unexpected, benefits. Co-operation across divisions opened up lines of informal communication, which will prove useful in the future. For example, a visit to the Dome by all senior secretaries in the company enabled many of them to meet face-to-face for the first time. The workforce gained much better knowledge about the activities of the different divisions. Employees have become more focused on corporate objectives and how their own divisions fit into the overall picture. This has proved to be a tremendous motivator.

For Roche, the improvement in motivation may prove the most important benefit of the Body Zone project. A sense of belonging and ability to identify with the corporate and divisional objectives could improve productivity in all the divisions. Roche has recognised the need to continue this level of interaction in the future.

Roche’s involvement in the Dome has also brought a number of business benefits. Working in close partnership with Boots the Chemists and other suppliers in the development of the Body Zone created a network of valuable contacts.

As a direct result of meetings about the development of the project, the company has developed new communication routes into Boots the Chemists for its diagnostic products and vitamins. Roche has made important contacts with key customers and opinion leaders. Although such benefits may not be immediately obvious, they will become more apparent in the long term.

Conclusion

The involvement in the Millennium Dome project has been a public relations triumph for Roche.

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To communicate with the many different groups involved in the project, it had to examine all forms of formal and informal communication. For example, it was necessary to produce a corporate hospitality package and a media dossier about Roche’s activities to send to guests visiting the Dome. Many of Roche’s most important customers were given a sneak preview of the Dome in late 1999.

Being a main sponsor of the Dome enabled Roche to invite and brief some key figures in the media world. The hospitality suites in the Dome will be used extensively during the year-long celebrations to entertain customers, journalists and employees.

It is often difficult to quantify the benefits derived from sponsorship. To assess the impact of the project on public and media awareness, Roche will use statistics on corporate recognition, collected before the involvement in the Dome project, as a baseline for future comparisons. Such benefits are likely to be long term, but early results are very encouraging. Roche is well on the way to becoming a truly household name.

Roche | Developing a communications strategy