Digital strategy

How to provide actionable guidelines for digital engagement


Rethink guidelines for the creation of websites, email and eDetailers – increasing their relevance to brand managers


A ‘recipe’ system enabled brand managers to find answers to their specific needs – making the guidelines part of their everyday work


Brand managers have a clear and simple series of step-by-step ‘recipes’ to follow, enabling best practices to be applied across the organization


A major global pharma company had created very comprehensive digital guidelines for website, email and eDetailer production, but was struggling to get brand managers to use them.

People felt that the content wasn’t particularly relevant, as much of the material related to activities in which they would not be directly involved themselves.

The guidelines also didn’t take account of the reader in other ways. They were too long and had no overall structure, so working through the material was difficult.

  • Re-think the guidelines for digital engagement
  • Increase uptake and engagement from brand managers
  • Be more relevant to people’s needs


Even though the existing content was correct and highly detailed, it was not created in a way which enabled the brand manager to quickly get an overview and take action.

Most of the existing content described overarching strategies and global processes which – though it was valuable information – did not enable brand mangers to start creating.

What was needed was a fundamental change of approach. Rather than trying to detail everything, we needed to apply what we call the human factor and put the customer in the center – who in this case was the brand manager. They didn’t want to ‘learn all the rules’ but rather to have answers to their specific problems.

The solution then was to ‘switch from rules to recipes’ – providing a series of clear step-by-step answers to what they wanted to do.

This was done by reviewing the existing guideline content and carving out the information that would directly enable brand manager to act – while also identifying any information gaps.

The material was then matched against the actual processes that the brand manager would go through to properly achieve the task, simplifying as much as possible.

To make it easy to use the materials, the same structure was used across the different guidelines. Now, no matter what the brand managers were working with – websites, emails or eDetailers – they could refer to a document that provided exactly what they needed to know in a format that was clear and familiar.

This required the content to be very precise, with just the right information to make an informed decision on the next step.

Key insights: switch from rules to recipes

Switch from rules to recipes: from enforcement to enablement

Common topic structure for all guidelines


The overall strategy matched how people today think and act. Guidelines are often created without considering the ‘human factor’. They may have great content but are not very user friendly.

When we buy a new phone, we don’t reach for the big manual but rather hope for a ‘quick guide’ so we can get started immediately. Understanding and designing for this resulted in a highly successful project with long term benefits to the company.

Structuring the content into a series of clear actionable steps made the guidelines far easier for brand managers to use. Now, with a ‘how to’ recipe in hand, the brand manager can plan more effectively and instruct their teams on best practice.

This makes the development of digital tactics much faster, as everyone is clear on what to do and when to do it.

The new guidelines have also made brand managers much more involved in the development of content – switching from being ‘brand administrators’ to active and engaged ‘brand creators’ who are better equipped to exercise their skills and apply their local market knowledge.

  • Guidelines that better meet brand manager needs
  • Actionable instructions driving faster implementation
  • Brand managers more engaged in content creation
  • Best practices applied across the organization

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