Stephanie Burton

How to Position Your Health System vs the Competition

By Stephanie Burton on February 11, 2016

In previous blogs, we’ve spent time learning why your health system needs brand definition now and how to redefine your health system’s mission, vision and values.

Now, we’ll move onto assessing the competitive landscape and positioning your brand to “win.”

Chances are, your health system has already claimed, or allowed, your patients to position you in one of these three categories:

  1. Patient intimacy (high touch)
  2. Operational excellence (third-party awards and accolades)
  3. Innovation (high tech – usually, academic medicine centers naturally fall into this category)


Pick one of these positions, ask whether it is believable and relevant to your target audience and stick with it. Much easier said than done? Absolutely. But, there are some natural cues to help you determine where you “live.”

First, take a look at what your competitors are claiming about themselves. Are they the high-tech leader? Are they the “gentle, caring” health system? Are they trying to be “all things to all people”?

Now, take a look at where you fit. Can you claim something your competition hasn’t already gone to market with? Is it believable, true and relevant? Excellent. This is the start of a viable brand position.

I know what you’re thinking (or, what your CEO is thinking): Yeah, but we’re good at all of those things. You may well be. But a brand position isn’t about standing for everything. It’s about standing for one thing that you truly can “own” in the patients’ minds, and then saying that one thing clearly, convincingly and repeatedly.

Think of your brand position as a headline. All the other attributes are the body copy in your brand’s story.

Speaking of the CEO, as well intentioned as a marketer or human resources professional may be, working to redefine your brand simply won’t work unless you have the support of the guy or gal at the top of your organization.

If you are the “keeper of the brand” at your health system, it’s worth initiating these conversations (I’ll go as far as to say it’s your duty) with the powers that be. If the support isn’t there, find out why.

Bring in a third party to help you have the conversation. Many agencies (mine included) will have initial conversations free of charge. No matter how good you are in your role (I know! I’ve been you!), outside consultants have the “prophet-from-another-land” appeal that health system execs often respect.