Inside Out

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When turnaround ace Fred Hassan took over as CEO of Schering-Plough, employee morale was badly in need of a lift. Hassan and his team wanted to restore confidence in the company from the ground up, starting with the staff. So they gave Schering-Plough's 32,000 employees their own daily newspaper.

Schering-Plough's Current is a multi-page daily electronic newsletter produced by a staff of two corporate communications execs. The digest is written in English and translated by local communications staff for employees outside of the US and the UK. In addition to covering Schering-Plough product developments, financial news and other items relevant to the company, Current also tackles issues affecting the pharma industry. Recent articles have explored the impact of the shifting balance of power in Washington and the possible effect on the company's fortunes.  
“We are continually trying to educate our employee base about the issues facing the industry that they're reading about in the paper before they get to work,” says Schering-Plough group VP, global communications Jeff Winton. “We try to provide as much context as possible.”

Much as GlaxoSmithKline has harnessed the power of its sales reps, drilling them on access and affordability issues, Schering-Plough sees its employees as ambassadors to their communities. “We like to think we have 32,000 PR people in this company, because they're carrying the story about the good we're doing and that the industry is doing back to their families and friends at the end of the day.”

The importance of a local presence was affirmed by the Edelman Trust Barometer, which found a strong correlation between trust and locality. In North America, 58% of respondents said they favored companies with a local presence over global brands, while in Europe, 62% favored a local presence. US brands, which tend to speak with an American voice abroad, run a trust deficit in other markets, while European brands, which are more likely to adopt a local flavor and promote their presence, are in the black. The lesson: When in Rome, do as Toyota does. “Trust is directly related to locality and familiarity,” says Edelman's Nancy Turett. “It's about how similar opinion elites feel toward a company.” In short, it's a matter of letting local voices speak for your company.

“A lot of companies are so focused on Wall Street and the news media that they ignore their own employees, because they don't realize the value of an informed employee,” says Winton. “They need to hear the bad news, too, and we're very deliberate about what we communicate to our employees.” 

That means all the information on negative news as well as the positive. “You can't sugarcoat things,” says Winton. “You've got to be brutally honest. If things are good, make sure they know that, but if something bad happens—a product issue or a lawsuit—they need to have a complete picture of what's happening. If you don't tell them, the news media will.”

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