In high school freshman biology, my son’s class covered Charles
Darwin’s theory of biological evolution. Following Darwin, eons of
observation shows that organisms arise and develop through the natural
selection of small, inherited variations that increase a species’
ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.
Much like Darwin, honing brand identity in our dynamic, changing
industry, is often called into question. Among my V2V colleagues we have
an ongoing conversation of what comprises the unique brand identity of a
health care organization. Today, it’s so much more consumer-focused and
patient-driven than ever before. Can you express your brand, on-time
and within budget? Yes, it IS possible to accomplish this goal.
What comprises your organization’s brand is definitely evolving in
health care. Much like natural selection, certain patterns have
developed, requiring you to be much more intentional than ever before.
Yet, there are specific steps to take that ensure your brand survives
and thrives in this new business of health care. I have found that an
organization that CAR3ES about its people, employing five key elements, creates a distinct, successful, and enduring brand.
- Culture: First and foremost, a positive, distinct, brand requires a culture that commits to excellence. My colleague, Debra Wiggs,
says that culture eats mission for breakfast. Oh, ain’t that the truth.
One hospital I supported, literally, painted their mission statement on
the walls. Yet, they still languished at the bottom of the heap in
terms of quality outcomes and patient satisfaction.Once they committed
to a rigorous program of quality measures providing their patients with
compassionate+skillful care, a very real shift took place. The entire
health system kept score. From housekeepers to PT aides, to RTs/OTs, and
the nursing and physician cadre, whether in- or out-patient, everyone
asked themselves, “How can I help keep the promise of effective, compassionate care that makes a positive difference in our patients’ lives?” Their mission finally became their culture.
- Action: Effective brand strategy takes action. Deb also says “Take small steps, frequently,” and that is especially
true in brand positioning. Earlier, I wrote about my stand-walk-run
philosophy, and this reflects the power of asking your team: What
can we do now-soon-and later to build success at branding our
organization, building patient volumes, and reaching our business goals?First
and foremost, what are your business goals? Do you know where you want
to be at the end of the year? What are your priorities and what are
your greatest revenue-generating service lines? What’s the budget to
operate and then maintain or grow your business this year? Develop your
vision and plan for the way forward. Garner buy-in at all levels of the
organization. Create a calendar that puts in place milestone
achievements. And, make sure you add in some bright, shiny things to
demonstrate quick success, trust, and relationships.
- R3ock stars: Remember that Real people are Rock stars in health care.
So often in health care promotion, I see the same faces, selected from
myriad stock images or video. Seeing that just grates on me, like
hearing fingernails across a chalkboard! I feel it’s a brand detractor,
even if the ad development team does select the correct environmental
backdrop (you’d be amazed how many where I’ve seen use of the wrong
demo- and geographic mix).I feel it’s a total cop-out if your
organization selects actors instead of real people in your promotional
imagery because of HIPAA concerns. Time and time, again, I’ve found it’s
really done because the organization won’t commit to
refreshing imagery every year. If you have spent, literally, millions to
ensure your quality measures, patient satisfaction, and employee
engagement, why have you stopped at branding? If you need to find the
quintessential person or team who reflects your brand identity then look
no further than these groups:
- Your employees
- Your patients
- Your vendors
- Your community leaders
- Your governing bodies and accrediting organizations
- Yes, you will have employees featured in
your advertising or marketing pieces that leave your organization. Yes,
your patients will move away, or even pass away. You will also find some
people who, due to personal or professional issues, can no longer be
featured in your public, promotional imagery. However, if you commit to a
refresh of your imagery on a regular basis, that is okay. It is
factored into your ongoing commitment to tell your brand story by
featuring the real-life heroes and champions of your organization.
- Efficiency: Make efficient use of all your communication platforms.
Nowadays, we have SO many ways to reach out, directly and indirectly,
to our key stakeholders. There’s snail mail, email, Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and billboards, print magazines,
newspapers, and their e-platform counterparts. It can be a crazy, mixed
up, mad, mad, Worldwide Web world!It’s important, no, it’s critical to
understand which stories and messages will resonate with each audience
who use each specific platform. Once you have a grasp on that issue,
then make a coordinated, date-driven, nimble plan that makes use of all
the resources at your disposal in a cost+efficient manner. No, it’s not
rocket science. And, yes, it can be pulled off on a realistic budget.
- Say Thank You: As simple as that.
Tell the people who allowed their stories to be told that you
appreciate how they helped your organization. At one health system, we
took two years’ worth of marketing and advertising images and stories,
framed them and invited those people in to break bread with us. Over an
hour and a half, we presented those framed pieces like they were the
Academy Awards and expressed our sincere gratitude for their support of
our efforts.We stood and applauded their survival of illness or injury,
their contribution to ensuring safe and compassionate health+care, and
for their support of our lifesaving role in the community. There wasn’t a
dry eye in the place. It was an impressive, sentinel moment for this
health system and it will be for yours, too.
Just like the organisms that Darwin identified, there are specific
ways to evolve and adapt in order to survive and thrive in this new
business of health care. It requires that yours to be a nimble
organization that CAR3ES about its community: Including your patients, providers, employees, and your key area leaders. Are you ready? We can help your organization gain a Distinct Advantage℠ in your health care brand.