Following our first feature with Karl Pemberton from Active, MD Mark Easby recently sat down with Senior Marketing Manager for North of England Commissioning Support (NECS), Ben Murphy, to discuss the importance of brand within their organisation.
With a turnover last year of £68.8 million, NECS support health and social care customers to improve outcomes and increase efficiency. We have worked with NECS for a number of years, providing both brand and campaign-led creative support across the organisation. In that time NECS has grown to employ over 1200 people at 26 bases across the UK, with projects delivered to 200 customers up and down the country. Ben is responsible for business to business marketing and corporate communications, all with the aim of supporting growth and increasing revenue while encouraging behavioural change.
What are NECS famous for?
We are famous for large scale transformation of services bringing multiple partners together to work collaboratively for the benefit of local health populations.
Many of our people have extensive NHS and public sector experience. Our values are very much aligned to the core NHS values and we have a sharp focus on customer care and a relentless pursuit of continuous improvement.
What is the best thing about your job?
We have developed some fantastic digital products recently which have made a real positive impact on people’s lives. For example, our web based tool, Capacity Tracker is currently being rolled out nationally. The tool helps hospitals and local authorities identify care homes and their available beds in real time, helping to reduce delayed transfers of care of the elderly and frail.
My role is constantly changing and expanding to meet the needs of the organisation. This can be challenging but encourages me to develop my skills and gives me the opportunity to experience working in different areas of the country – no two projects are the same.
Working across a large geographical area brings its own challenges but ultimately I’ve gained, and will continue to gain, lots of experience across the health and social care sector.
I have also been working on a regional campaign encouraging people to purchase medicines from their local pharmacies and supermarkets. At these outlets, people can buy medicines such as paracetamol for as little as 30p instead of visiting their GP where costs can be a lot more when you add up the drug costs, dispensing fees and the GP consultation. Within the first twelve months of the campaign it has already shown impressive savings with over £1million being saved on the prescribing of products for simple pain relief alone in the North East and North Cumbria region.
These are just recent examples of how my role can be rewarding, seeing tangible results helping to improving people’s lives.
NECS – My Medicine My Health Paracetamol Campaign by Better.
How was the NECS brand born?
NECS was created following the restructure of the NHS in 2013 when Primary Care Trusts were abolished. NECS was created to support the newly developed Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) with the vision of making life changing improvements to the communities we serve. Since then we have grown from strength to strength and now deliver services outside of our birthplace of the North East with 40% of our income generated from outside Cumbria and the North East. Our name was created from our roots of delivering services originally in the North of England, however we have now expanded nationally – maybe we need to review our branding to reflect our growth! NECS celebrated its 5th birthday in April this year.
The NHS is a trusted brand, readily recognised by members of the public. This is due to the consistency of each NHS organisation in their use of the brand.
As a commissioning support unit, we do have an element of flexibility, however, we must always be mindful that we are part of the NHS and are using the branding guidelines and colour palette correctly.
The NECS brand, including our values and tone of voice, was developed with involvement from our staff and customers. As our organisation continues to grow and develop, we may need to ensure that our brand continues to serve our purposes.
What role does branding plays in the business?
Branding is much more than our logo it’s a mix of both tangible and intangible elements. Tangible elements such as communication tactics, our products and services mixed with intangible aspects such as the feelings and behaviours of our people driven from our values mixed with the experiences our customers have with our products and services; all of these elements for me build the NECS brand.
When a brand is being developed it is a relationship that is being built with current and potential customers and stakeholders. This is important to NECS because we place great importance on strong relationships which are critical to our success.
This is why our values are so important, they reflect who we are and it’s our people that mainly deliver the brand experiences to our customers.
What makes you different and how do you stand out?
We don’t stand still we are always looking at innovating and developing new and existing products. We pay a lot of attention to continuous improvement and it is embedded into everything we do in NECS. Stripping out inefficiencies by standardising processes and constantly improving services we deliver makes us stand out from our competitors.
We are constantly striving to improve and are continually updating our accreditations and awards. We have recently achieved Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus. This is a government-backed scheme which aims to ensure that commissioning support units are operating securely, protecting us all against cyber-attacks. We also have achieved the Better Health at Work Gold Award which shows that we help our staff to keep healthy and safe.
NECS Annual Review 2017-18, created by our creative team.
How is your brand influenced by your culture and values?
We have a well-defined set of values that link clearly to our vision which supports our people’s behaviours and attitudes, helping to shape our customers experience of NECS.
Our people have a variety of ways in which they can be involved in the direction of or brand development and values of the organisation. We have monthly team and individual of the month awards where the criteria links to our values, we hold two staff conferences yearly (Autumn and Spring) where our executive team present our business plan as well as monthly staff surveys and staff initiatives which all link in to our values.
How is your brand and marketing activity linked to commercial growth?
I work very closely with our business development team using the insight they have to market our products and services.
It’s one thing to have a great product, but it will never be a success unless our current and potential customers know about it.
That’s where marketing comes in, bridging the gap between our products and services to our customers. Working with heads of services, we start developing a plan or strategy where we define what we are trying to sell and to whom, where and when, and then work out how best to get to that target with the budget we have available.
We measure return on investments wherever possible, some investments we can see a return straight away and some take longer to realise the benefits.
As your business has continued to grow how important is it that your brand evolves?
As we grow more and more outside of the North East our brand will need to evolve also, one thing we need to look at is our name, this can sometimes be off putting to people in the south and midlands.
The only constant in the NHS is change; I intend to embrace the inevitable change that is on the horizon and the opportunities it brings. NECS are already developing sophisticated digital and population health management tools for us to offer current and potential customers which is really exciting.
When NECS was established, there were 17 CSUs across the country. Over the years, this has reduced to only 5 CSUs now. NECS now offers services across the length and breadth of the country and although we still have our main bases in the North region, we have staff based across the country delivering services to our customers. We are able to provide digital solutions that do not need staff based in a specific location to deliver them such as our Capacity Tracker and RAIDR tools.
What does the future hold for you and NECS?
I’ve worked in a variety of sectors from broadcast media, retail to public sector. It’s the public sector that brings me the most job satisfaction by supporting improvements to the way health care is delivered. I have been with NECS since its inception and would like to develop professionally as the organisation grows.
What are you most proud of and why?
My greatest achievement on the business pitch would be being part of one of the world’s largest employers and making a real difference to the lives of thousands of people every day.
My greatest achievement and the thing I’m most proud of outside of work has to be my daughter Ellie. Ellie has taught me so much, having a conversation with a 3yr old always helps you put life in perspective and realise what’s truly important. Having Ellie wasn’t an easy process for me and my partner, sometimes we thought it would never happen, but some things seem impossible until they are achieved.