Stephanie Burton

Don’t launch your health system’s brand until you’ve done this

By Stephanie Burton on June 27, 2017

Three steps to launch your health system’s brand

After two years of working toward a new brand and brand identity, you’re ready to go to market. Or, are you? Unless you’ve considered how this campaign impacts your employees, or better yet, how your employees impact the brand, you’re not quite ready. Here are a few simple tips to incorporate your health system’s employees to ensure true internal and external brand alignment.


Gain buy in, not permission

  • Start with why. Why does your health system do what it does? The first order of business is connecting your organization’s “why” with the campaign why. Draw a thick line between the two to help your employee base buy into the brand you’re building. Repeat it often.
  • Involve your employees. People buy into what they help build. Period. And, we know that branding belongs to every department, not just marketing. So, look for opportunities to involve staff at every level in your brand roll out – in research, on committees and through formal brand ambassador programs.
  • Be open minded to new ideas. Yes, Dr. Jones wants his face on a billboard and the Big Toe department wants a QR code on the cafeteria’s Java Jackets. Some ideas are horrible. But, if you subscribe to the belief that good ideas can come from anywhere, you’ll find that some of your employees may have insight or even an idea that can contribute to the success of your brand rollout. Place yourself in a position of yes.
  • Establish true two-way communication. Be open to feedback and always respond. Some health systems hold frequent town hall forums during a brand roll out. Others open a specific forum on the intranet that allows employees to ask questions and receive answers publicly. Find a method that works for you, but remember that this is about communication, not information dissemination.


Cascade communication from the top down

  • Start with leaders. I’ll make a bet with you. If you dust off your latest employee opinion survey, I’ll bet your employees say they prefer to receive communication from their direct supervisor (preferably in person). Arm your leaders with the tools they need to communicate a brand initiative first, then develop communications designed to educate, excite and engage your workforce.
  • Show elements of a brand campaign theme. Sneak previews provide an opportunity for staff to feel exclusive and in the know. Provide special viewing parties across shifts allowing staff to see in person what they will soon see in the community.
  • Establish a repository for all communication. Employees may have questions or want to see that video again or need to provide suggestions that can help your content-generating efforts. Help make this possible by establishing a single location, such as an intranet, for all campaign communication.
  • Reach everyone in the health system, no matter how difficult. In larger health systems, we have people working from dozens of locations, some even out of their homes. It’s important that everyone is brought on board. Based on my experience, the best way to distribute information to everyone about a big initiative is through (wait for it …) snail mail. The more personalized the communication, the better. This should happen after less formal activities have taken place internally (e.g. your kick-off event).


Make it fun

  • Host a kick-off event. At a minimum, kick things off with your leaders. Deliver the message from people who matter – your CEO or even your patients. Keep in mind that you may need to hold multiple kick-off events to cover all locations and shifts.
  • Provide ways for employees to amplify the brand. Employees are any marketer’s greatest asset. Provide fun ways for employees to get involved. Calls to action should be clear and include a diverse enough to appeal to a wide variety of employees. E.g. “Use our Facebook filter on your profile image!” Or, “Send us your patient stories by May 31”.
  • Keep it going. This is the hard part. But, it’s also the part that keeps your campaign from being a flavor of the month. Branding is not a set it and forget it proposition. Your brand must be nurtured internally and externally in order to build and maintain strength. Develop a plan that refreshes your employees’ excitement for the brand on at least a quarterly basis.

These are a few ideas to get you started. What’s worked for your health system?

Stephanie (Hungerford) Burton, APR, is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Creative. Follow her on Twitter @shungerford.