If you’ve been in healthcare marketing more than a couple years, chances are you’ve lived through a merger or acquisition — or will very soon. Here are four principles to keep in mind the next time you’re planning to announce a new or expanded healthcare brand to your community, caregivers, and other constituents.
The volume of healthcare mergers and acquisitions achieved nearly double-digit growth in Q1 2017 when compared to the same period last year. And the trend won't be slowing down anytime soon, as M&A transactions are driving the 2017 growth plans for more than a third (38%) of healthcare executives according to a recent Capital One survey.
Along with the HR, finance, and operational plans associated with these transactions, the communication strategy is integral to launching a successful branding initiative following a merger or acquisition. Having helped guide the content strategy for hundreds of hospitals and health systems, we understand the most effective methods for leveraging your paid, owned, and earned media to announce a new brand identity or expanded network.
Based on our experience, here are four keys to success when planning and deploying your communication strategy.
Start at home.
Best-selling author Simon Sinek said it best, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” This is a highly influential group as most hospitals are among the largest employers in the community, so ensure your employees' voices are heard by involving team members — including physicians, nurses, volunteers, and other employed or affiliated personnel — at every step when crafting the communication strategy to announce your merger or acquisition.
Begin by creating a communications task force or cross-functional review panel to glean ideas and feedback as you're fleshing out the plan. By inviting employees to participate early in the process, you'll have their buy-in throughout the launch and implementation of your new or expanded brand.
Let your team tell the story.
Humanize the brand by featuring your caregivers early and often when communicating a new brand identity and promise. By showcasing those on the front lines who are closest to your customers, the message will be more authentic and create an emotional connection to your audience.
Also, empower your employees to share key message points, video segments, infographics, and other assets via their personal social media accounts to foster pride in the organization while proliferating the new brand.
Share experiences over statistics.
When organizations merge, it’s tempting to tout the number of facilities, affiliated physicians, and other “by the numbers” information that result from the transaction. While this can certainly be part of the communication plan, don’t lead with data. Rather, focus on the benefits like more convenient locations and better outcomes that patients and community members will enjoy when engaging with the new or expanded organization.
Be consistent in the message and the medium.
While communication strategies of divested hospitals that are in place prior to the transaction should be re-evaluated, be careful not to send the wrong message by pulling the plug on tactics too soon. Newly acquired organizations may change logos and even leadership, but you can maintain a connection with the community during times of transition by continuing to deliver relevant information through magazines, email newsletters, and other channels that your patients and caregivers trust.
Want to see these practices in action? We interviewed Ascension Health's SVP and CMO Nick Ragone about their communication best practices.