#PRAwards highlight: How Philips repositioned itself as a healthcare brand from an electronics giant

Philips took home the bronze award for "Best Corporate Affairs Strategy" at Marketing's and A+M's inaugural PR Awards 2020. With its campaign "Leading conversations on the future of health", the consumer electronics brand looked to shift the public's perception of the brand. 

Despite its transformation towards a global health technology leader four and a half years ago, Philips is still largely being perceived as a consumer electronics giant. Hence, together with its public relations agency Omnicom Public Relations Group (OPRG), it set out to change this perception among the public and Philips’ target audiences, and establish its leadership within the health technology space. Let's take a look at how they did it.

Challenge

In 2016, Philips launched the Future Health Index (FHI) – an annual, data-intensive global study report to benchmark the readiness of healthcare systems to address the big challenges they’re facing. Now in its fourth year, the media needed a fresh perspective to cover the study. Thus, Philips and OPRG developed an angle which allowed Philips to engage with public and private healthcare stakeholders, and potentially be a strong voice in influencing policy.

The strategic communications challenges were to:

  1. Shift public perceptions of Philips from a consumer electronics giant to a focused global health technology leader
  2. Leverage a national agenda around sustainable healthcare to secure media interest and roundtable participation of government stakeholders – a significant hurdle given their neutral stance and avoidance of visible alignment with particular corporations.
  3. Engage senior healthcare leaders to highlight the immediate need and crucial role of health technologies as essential tools to future-proof healthcare systems.
  4. Use data insights to tell a comprehensive, B2B industry-focused story in a relatable, easy-to-digest way and secure coverage across key local dailies and media outlets.

Strategy

Despite economic advancement, countries such as Singapore face rising challenges in meeting the future healthcare needs of their population. Ageing populations, shortage of skilled talent, and rising chronic illnesses point to an oncoming tsunami where existing healthcare policies and infrastructure will be inadequate to provide the care needed.

Philips saw the need to bring this to the forefront of media/news agendas, kickstart policy-making and industry discussions on the future of healthcare, to ensure that the healthcare system will be able to provide sustainable, equitable, affordable and access to healthcare for all. The government and public healthcare institutions have voiced concern over rising healthcare costs or budgets into the future, and the urgent need to revamp the healthcare system to future-proof care – particularly looking towards new technologies and upskilling of healthcare professionals.

Given that the FHI was in its fourth year running, there needed to be a unique media angle and approach, to capture the interest of the intended audiences, align with the business’ objective of directly engaging public/private healthcare stakeholders this year, and exemplify Philips’ position as a health technology leader playing a multi-faceted role in repositioning the brand.

For an impactful media activation, this required identifying the gap in media coverage on healthcare topics and issues and pairing this with insights from the FHI to secure a unique footing in the news agenda. Through FHI, Philips and OPRG sought to engage government bodies and healthcare institutions on the importance of healthcare and digital technologies, driving a collective effort to address rising healthcare challenges.

Execution

To create a compelling media story, build interest among healthcare leaders, and drive Philips’ thought leadership, a three-pronged strategy was adopted:

  1. Media launch (using data to drive a story)

The key to reaching Philips’ target audience was securing impactful coverage around FHI and healthcare issues. This required deep analysis of local data points and identifying a unique angle that provided a fresh perspective on FHI – in this case, how healthcare professionals are using artificial intelligence (AI) for administrative tasks rather than improving diagnosis and direct patient outcomes.

Ahead of the launch, a key initiative to ensure that this unique angle landed well with media was pre-pitched interviews for Caroline Clarke, CEO of Philips ASEAN Pacific, with top local and regional media to ensure favourable, prominent features on launch day.

The media interviews ahead of the official launch day also gave media the opportunity to further understand the challenges and opportunities for Singapore’s healthcare system and allowed for a more impactful and aligned story angle when published, as demonstrated from the resulting coverage.

  1. FHI roundtables (bringing together healthcare ecosystem leaders)

Having generated interest for FHI through the media launch, Philips and OPRG brought together key healthcare decision makers to discuss pertinent future healthcare issues. A C-suite closed-door discussion was held on 25 July with high-value healthcare stakeholders across the public and private sectors – a key audience for engagement for future business opportunities and policy-shaping.

The roundtable touches on key insights from the FHI study, aiming to strengthen relationships between current partners and forge new relationships with senior healthcare stakeholders. It also aims to position Philips as a trusted partner in healthcare. A whitepaper developed for the participants after the roundtable also helped sustain engagement and build industry ties for further collaboration and discussion.

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  1. FHI microsite (leveraging data points to create a content platform)

The FHI ASEAN Pacific microsite is the first and only region-specific microsite. It was conceptualised to build resonance with healthcare providers and hospitals, serving as a thought leadership platform with contributors being Philips’ top regional or local executives and healthcare professionals or key opinion leaders.

Leveraging insights from the FHI, the microsite addresses the unique healthcare challenges specific to the region, including the difficulty of providing accessible and affordable healthcare for large, dispersed populations across islands.

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Results

In the PR aspect, Philips achieved 23 pieces of coverage during the three-month launch across top-tier media outlets where 70% was coverage in tier one media, which saw a total reach of 16 million readers. Such media outlets included national news outlets, broadcast radio interview, and key trade media outlets. These were essential platforms to reach Philips’ core audiences of healthcare executives and government stakeholders. Compared to the initial FHI launch, Philips achieved 77% increase in total coverage volume, as well as 270% increase in total reach.

Notably, The Straits Times covered the FHI study with the headline “Singapore lags behind China and Saudi Arabia in use of AI and telehealth, says survey”, which encapsulated the campaign’s intention to highlight the underutilisation of new technologies such as AI to tackle healthcare challenges. Philips also aimed to meet and or exceed the quality score benchmark of 70.0 set by its global agency team. Through the campaign, the brand exceeded the benchmark with an 86.9 quality score, which demonstrated the quality and breadth of coverage secured.

Additionally, the campaign achieved a remarkable 94% message inclusion, which is well above the global benchmark of 70%. This indicated how well Philips’ intended key messages were covered in published articles and in interviews with Philips’ executives.

In line with Philips’ business transformation goal to position itself as a health technology leader and set itself apart from its competitors, for the month of the local FHI launch campaign Philips dominated its health-tech competitors with a significant 53% share-of-voice, with its two closest competitors having 5% share-of-voice each for that month. The media launch campaign, extending into the FHI Roundtable and sustained by the FHI microsite, helped entrench Philips’ image as a global health technology leader (rather than consumer electronics giant). It also cemented Philips as a credible leader in the future of healthcare through its proprietary thought-leadership study that informed healthcare policies.

The FHI roundtable was also key to placing Philips at the heart of ongoing discussions around healthcare, as well as positioning Philips as a leader in creating future-ready healthcare solutions and roadmaps. Themed around the future of Singapore’s healthcare, the roundtable reaffirmed Philips business’ commitment to the nation’s healthcare system and positioned Philips as a forward-looking and future-ready partner in the ecosystem.

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