The Five Pillars of a Strong Global Health Brand

This piece was originally posted on the Global Health Corps blog:

If there is one lesson I’ve learned from working at the Global Health Delivery (GHD) Project at Harvard University these last few months, it is that the global health field is full of extremely intelligent individuals that are required to maintain expertise in a variety of interdisciplinary skills. GHD’s mission is to build a network of professionals dedicated to value-based health care globally, and they do this by creating public goods that give global health professionals an opportunity to learn the varied skills needed to deliver health care effectively and efficiently without letting the quality of care they provide diminish.

Through their online virtual communities on, GHD connects more than 13,000 global health professional to solve their real-time health care delivery concerns. Doctors have the opportunity to ask engineers the best way to structure a TB clinic to prevent the spread of infection to new patients, while health literacy experts can share their health communications plans.

For this fellowship year, I am helping GHD with their marketing and development. As a trained marketing and communications professional, I can’t help but notice the gap in marketing and branding resources for global health professionals. Many organizations with marketing resources generally use corporate marketing plans and branding concepts, but others are missing the necessary tools.

Having a strong global health organization begins with a strong brand. Without a strong brand, donors and clients are less likely to trust your organization. Here are the five pillars of a strong global health brand. When you read them consider your organization. Do you have a strong global health brand?

1. Know Who You Are and Who You Want to Be
Branding is all about personality. With my team, I began the rebranding process by focusing on the adjectives that they believe currently describe their brand and the adjectives they would like to describe their brand. Since your brand personality is usually what people say about you when you aren’t in the room, it is helpful to create surveys or questionnaires to get this information from your donors and clients. If that isn’t possible, sometimes asking your team can help you get on track.

If the adjectives people choose don’t really match who you want to be. Start to pick 4 or 5 adjectives that describe who you want to be. Then use those adjectives to guide your communications efforts. For example, if you want your brand to be creative, accessible, helpful and friendly, then releasing a dry blog post with a lot of data and no graphics is probably not matching your brand image.Adj

2. Be Honest, Truthful and Transparent
The fastest way to lose clients and donors is to lose their trust. Being honest, truthful and transparent is the most important thing you can do as an organization, and your brand should show your clients and donors how important these three traits are to you. When disclosing information about your organizations think about ways in which you can show your audience that you are being transparent. For example, go beyond your yearly update letters and post regular updates to your blog. Share your team’s biographies and experience on your website and possibly even feature staff on your blog. The more your audience gets to know your organization and the people that work there, the more they will trust you and feel a part of what you are doing.

3. Consistency is Essential!
Figuring out what your brand personality is and being transparent is meaningless without consistency. It can be difficult for organizations to maintain image and message uniformity, but if you follow a style guide, or brand guide, and train everyone in you organization, you can ensure that your image stays consistent. This includes the style and use of your logo, letterhead, presentations and web presence.

Inconsistency in your image can cause your clients and donors not recognize you in a different medium or question your legitimacy all together. This is a serious problem with brands that use different logos or formats.

Consistency includes using your brand colors in maps and charts.

4. Speak to the Rational and Emotional Needs of Your Audience
After you create your transparent and consistent brand personality, it’s time to speak to your audience in an engaging way. This includes making sure your communications speak to the emotional and rational needs of your audience. I’m sure you know why people should engage with your brand, whether it is to donate or receive a service from you. Now you need to make sure you are communicating your reason in a balanced way.

They best way to do this is to make a list of the rational reasons why people should use your service or donate to your cause. (For example: You are a trusted organization. You have been around for a long time. You make a difference in people’s health.)

Then start to list the emotional reasons why your audience would want to engage with you. (For example: They want to feel like their donations make an impact. They want to feel like they belong to a community of people dedicated to health care.)

Lastly, come up with a couple of words that explain where the rational and emotion intersect. For example, your organization saves lives, and donors want to feel like they make a difference; the intersection, where you should focus your communications messages, is the impact of donating to your cause.

The above example may seem obvious, but I can’t emphasis the importance of thinking though the rational and emotion reasons for each communications plan. All too often brands get caught up in the rational and fail to engage their audience on a lasting level.

5. Realize that You Have Multiple Audiences
Many global health brands get caught up in reaching donors and grant organizations that they fail to realize that their most important audience is the population that they serve. Creating a brand image that appeals to funders is of course important, but building trust and recognition among the people you serve is imperative. This is why global health organizations should create branding and marketing plans with multiple audiences in mind. Don’t ignore the people you serve; they are the reason you here.

How to Use Your IMC Skills to Change the World, While Getting the Experience of a Lifetime


This is a guest blog post by IMC graduate, Angie McCrone.

After graduating from the IMC master’s program at WVU in December 2013, I was determined to embark on a new adventure. I had spent five years running a nonprofit that helps artists with developmental disabilities sell their work, and although my work was rewarding, I was ready to pursue something on a global scale. I wanted to make a difference in the world of global health.

My reasons for being passionate about global health are pretty intuitive; I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and have several family members in the medical field there. My whole life, I heard people refer to my home as the lost cause of Africa, a place they refer to like it is a county, not a continent. They would explain that there were too many problems, and pouring US dollars into it wouldn’t…

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Why Marketers Should Care about Global Health and Development

Today, I was asked a very important question from a new acquaintance, while we were discussing my work. I run a nonprofit that helps artists with developmental disabilities sell their work, and anyone that knows me knows I love my job, but my true passion is global health. “So why are you so passionate about global health?” At first I hesitated; a million reasons going through my mind. This is a question I’ve answered a million times in a million different ways, but today it made me realize that I’d like my response to start answering a bigger question, why should integrated marketing communications professionals care about global health and development?

My personal reasons are easy to understand. I grew up in South Africa and have several family members in the medical field there. These aren’t distant problems of a faraway land; these are issues that affect my home, my family.

The second reason that I am so passionate about global health is that we can make a difference. My whole life, I have heard people explain the lost cause that is Africa. A place they refer to like it is a county, not a continent. A place with so many problems that pouring US dollars into it won’t help anything. The more you learn about global health the more you realize that calculated and researched strategies make big differences! Consider the recent eradication of polio in India or Botswana’s achievement of bringing HIV transfer from mother to child down to just 4%. These are incredible and measured results of global health initiatives that save lives.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Infographic on Saving The Lives of Mothers and Kids

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Infographic on Saving The Lives of Mothers and Kids

So it is obvious why I have a vested interest in global health, but I would argue that other marketing and communications professionals should also care. Marketers have an incredible ability to create messages and campaigns that change behavior. Brian Ssennoga, a Global Health Corp fellow, recently made the following call to action:

“There must be something in your community that you can affect. There must be a health injustice that keeps you from dreaming in the night. There must be something we can work on together. Find it. Share it. Solve it.”

With this incredible ability to change behaviors, I believe that marketers should use their creativity to make a difference. It doesn’t even have to be a global health campaign. Each community has a health issue that you have the ability to change. You don’t even have to quit your day job!

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offer marketers an opportunity to make a difference each year with their partnership with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Their Cannes Chimera Initiative asks marketing and communications agencies to design campaigns that solve global problems. The truth is marketers are problem solvers. Why not use that skill to help heal your community or the world?

Tomorrow, Bill and Melinda Gates will release their annual letter from the Gates Foundation. This year, they are focusing on the common myths about poor countries. The Wall Street Journal published an essay by Bill and Melinda Gates on three of those myths:

  1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.  
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
  3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

If you are interested in learning more about the difference global health initiatives made, you can sign up to receive the full annual letter here.

Go on marketers, go change the world. Isn’t it great to know that you can?

The New Fundraising Marathon

Reaching donors is becoming more and more competitive for nonprofits, but a company called Extra Life is giving new life to the traditional fundraising marathon. Instead of running, donors spend 25 hours playing video games and have friends and family donate a certain amount per hour of game play. Children’s Miracle Network, an organization that raises money for more than 170 children’s hospitals, is working with Extra Life and raised more then $2 million before the marathon even started!

Extra Life

Several of the donors that I talked to were excited by the opportunity to do something they enjoyed for charity. Nonprofits are always strapped for resources, but Children’s Miracle Network is definitely looking beyond the traditional methods and found a great alternative. Marketing is all about knowing your audience; fundraising events should follow the same logic. Reaching a new generation of donors means finding out their interests and empowering them to use those interests to help you succeed.

Who is surfing in Russia? Lifestyle Brands in International Markets.

Many brands offer a specific lifestyle to their consumer. Although people in many different countries can be attracted to a similar idea of a lifestyle, culture doesn’t allow them to take on the exact same lifestyle. Hofstede explains why this is in his research, which proved that his six dimensions are more powerful than religious affiliations. So even though people in many different countries are Catholic, they are still more like their non-religious countrymen than they are like their fellow Catholics around the world.

Roxy Magazine Ad

For many people the sport that they play is similar to a religion. Their entire lifestyle revolves around that sport and they are tied to people in other countries by the lifestyle that they live. Although brands are able to embody that lifestyle, they have to alter the lifestyle they portray depending on the country they are targeting in order to be successful.

I am currently visiting friends in Southern California and have had an opportunity to spend some time around the surf culture here. Durban, South Africa has a similar surf culture and therefore, a similar lifestyle. Although brands like Roxy and Billabong are extremely effective in selling that lifestyle to surfers in California and South Africa (as well as many other countries), they have to alter their lifestyle image slightly to sell the lifestyle effectively in each country.

South Africa Billabong Social Wildfire

There are several ways that I have observed surf brands altering their lifestyle appeal based on the country in which they are selling. They have specific clothing lines that are targeted to each location that include specific cultural references (like flags or local surf spots.) Their product offerings are altered to the location as well, depending on the climate and surf conditions. Although brands don’t alter their logos, they also alter color schemes to make them more relevant to the local culture. By incorporating culturally significant images into their products, these brands are able to relate to the lifestyles that are specific to each culture.

Most surf brands are also skate and snow brands. They usually focus on selling their skate and snow related products in land locked areas. There are some stores that sell surf brands in areas throughout the US without selling the surf, skate or snow gear. These stores, like Pac Sun, focus on selling the California surf lifestyle (Pac Sun, 2013). When I visited other stores like this in other countries, they seemed to have a similar goal of selling the surf lifestyle of their own coastal cities. So in Johannesburg, South Africa the shops focused on selling Durban style surf attire.

Surf South Africa Mike Wrankmore

As far as countries with no surf culture at all, surf brands are moving in quickly. Billabong opened stores in Russia in 2008, and like many other surf brands, they have stores in Scandinavia and Finland. These stores focus on global surf locations and customs to sell their products, and in this case a global lifestyle appeal is extremely necessary. Most international markets are familiar with surf culture from movies and international surf competitions, so they are familiar with the big surf spots throughout the world. These locations and international surf customs can be used in countries that don’t have their own surf lifestyle.