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10 Brands. 58 Global Offices. One Story.

4 min read
How Ariel helped a healthcare communications company inspire and motivate from the top down – and win new business.
The Client

A healthcare communications company (denoted as HCC) is a division of a larger organization, which is the world’s third largest advertising and media company. This makes HCC the largest healthcare communications network in the world, with unparalleled global reach.

HCC manages top tier agencies that promote innovative solutions in advertising, medical education, message delivery, digital, market access, and medical and scientific affairs. Their 5,000 employees manage nearly 10 agency brands through 58 offices located in 11 countries.

The Challenge

In 2012, HCC’s business model shifted from a regional focus to a unified global presence. This meant an expansion in view, a realignment of groups, and a new management structure. Organizational change of this magnitude can send ripples throughout the organization, so executive management decided to host a three-day summit. During this event, the CEO and the organization’s top 30 executives would further HCC’s new vision and bring it to life through a tactical action planning session.

While the summit was a smart strategic and tactical move to get HCC leadership on the same page, there was a less tangible but equally critical component that was missing – inspiration. HCC leadership recognized that they needed to connect with staff across all 58 offices to make the coming changes positive and hopeful, with motivation at every level of the organization to make the shift to a global focus a success. Specific goals included:

  • To feel inspired, empowered and hopeful toward the organization’s success
  • To motivate others authentically, within their own teams and in the larger organizational context

Pitching is weird—it’s a wild ride and because you’re always trying to come up with that thing that’s going to hook the client and resonate with them…at least for us, storytelling is incredibly important… You gave us a different way to think about it and the tools to make compelling connections with your audience. – Participant

The Solution

HCC engaged the Ariel Group for the final session of the leadership summit to provide an interactive and inspiring session to motivate the HCC executive team, and build the critical leadership skill of inspiration.

The Ariel Group taught a variety of skills to the leaders gathered, utilizing the Large Group Pres model as an interactive tool to motivate them. Our facilitator taught the importance of storytelling and leadership presence, and had the participants work in small groups to role play.

The Outcome

The HCC leadership team was able to walk away from the final session with new skills and techniques for inspiring and motivating their teams through the organizational shift (and beyond), including:

  • The essentials of how making story powerful through “best-practices techniques”: using descriptive and sensory language, using the present tense to re-experience the event, emphasizing emotional content, etc.
  • How to achieve greater impact by using vocal and physical flexibility to really get points across.
  • The ability to coach other team members on the importance of storytelling and win the business of a high potential client.

They were able to utilize these tools and skills to create a compelling, motivational story for all of HCC, successfully positioning the business model shift as a positive one at every level of the organization.

Beyond The Engagement

A short time later, HCC was pitching the largest manufacturers of medical devices, going up against two other agencies. The manufacturer makes a number of products, including insulin pumps primarily used by people with Type 1 diabetes who need insulin to be able to live a healthy life.

Stakes were high and the pitch was critical. But based on their training with The Ariel Group, HCC did something radical.

They decided to forgo their original presentation and pitch.

Realizing that one of their team members uses the manufacturer’s insulin pump, they scrapped the planned presentation and instead decided to focus on their team member’s personal story to connect with the manufacturer.

Through their training with The Ariel Group, two of team members coached a fellow team member (not present at The Ariel Group’s original training) on the importance of storytelling.

On the day of the pitch, the team member who uses the pump stood up and shared his story to the client. He began:

“It’s Tuesday afternoon. I need to be at work because there is a lot I need to be doing. But instead, I’m at the doctor’s office again because my levels are wrong…”

He explained how his physician recommended the pump and he didn’t want to do it because he felt he would have a “leash on life—and lack of.”

However, the team member soon realized the pump wasn’t a leash. He explained how it actually gives him huge freedom and how lucky he is to have one. After he finished, he sat down. Another HCC team member bridged from that story, saying how they can take away three things that they believe are relevant for everyone. And that’s how they framed the rest of the pitch.

The personal story worked! The manufacturing client was completely captivated by their team member’s story so much so that they offered him a stuffed lion that they typically give to young children who are battling Type 1 diabetes. They said, “We want you to have this. Thank you for sharing your story.”

HCC was awarded the business a week later with the comment of, “You guys smoked it,” which is a rare thing to hear after a pitch for any agency.

By using a powerful story and coaching their team member to convey the passion he has for the product as he told it, HCC won the business and a great opportunity for their agency. As a result, the agency intends to use a “narratives and personal stories” approach for future business opportunities.

“Pitching is weird—it’s a wild ride and because you’re always trying to come up with that thing that’s going to hook the client and resonate with them,” said our client. “I do think, as an industry, at least for us, storytelling is incredibly important, and I think having The Ariel Group remind us of that was really helpful. You gave us a different way to think about it and the tools to make compelling connections with your audience. I think that a story is really about making a connection.”



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