I recently had the pleasure of attending a Nashville American Marketing Association (NAMA) event that featured Saint Thomas Health’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Rebecca Climer. Having recently led the organization through a rebranding initiative, she shared actionable insights on an issue that hits close to home for many healthcare organizations.
In the last year, Saint Thomas Health has completely rebranded and unified all nine hospitals in its system, which is one of the leading faith-based hospital networks in Tennessee. Guided by Climer, this rebranding process took an extremely introspective and slightly unconventional approach.
First, Know Your Why
In order to move forward with focus and clarity, Saint Thomas Health’s leadership invested the time to articulate three guiding principles as the basis for all decisions related to the rebranding project:
- Focus on authenticity: Tell only real stories with real people.
- Differentiation: Show what sets Saint Thomas Health apart from all other care in the Nashville area.
- Faith is the foundation for all messaging; service lines are secondary.
Climer hired a consultant that specializes in faith-based hospital reorganization to facilitate a period of deep introspection for Saint Thomas Health’s leadership. From this emerged a personal tagline for Climer and her team: “From rational to emotional.”
These words encompass the process of cutting to the core of all messaging so that it is clear and creates an emotional connection with their target audience. In order to be effective, Climer first examined:
- Why are we doing it?
- Who are we doing it for?
- What are our desired outcomes?
How Saint Thomas Stays True
All photos and videos depict real patients and staff, and all messaging is clear and unified with Saint Thomas Health’s faith-based mission with a focus on population health. Because every action is based on the guiding principles established early in the process, Saint Thomas Health’s marketing campaigns are built to evolve and continue to tell compelling stories of compassionate care and patient success.
In fact, Climer does not call their marketing efforts a campaign at all. She prefers to call them messaging in order to stay connected to the intimate, personal, story-centered relationships they value in all of their hospitals.
One of Climer's challenges was determining if Saint Thomas Health should use their faith-based mission in their core messaging. What if they alienated persons of different faiths? What if faith-inspired messaging set unrealistic expectations for care and healing? In order to move forward, Climer and her team invested the time to set three rules for all messaging:
- Never exploit our faith-based mission.
- Always tell the truth.
- Always work with other terrific people.
Integrate Your Messaging
All of Saint Thomas Heath’s communications are standardized and optimized for multiple channels. From billboards to social media posts, every message is hand crafted and depicts real patient/provider interactions.
Digital messaging is original, curated content that links to their ministry site’s content hub, www.nothingshallbeimpossible.com, which focuses on patient success stories and content that resonates with readers.
The Results So Far
In the first year of the rebranding operation, surveys show affinity and resonance with their employees, and early marks are showing an increase in values-related preference and awareness among Nashville healthcare consumers. Climer also indicated a lift in some service lines that use the Nothing Shall Be Impossible campaign as its base, but have service-line specific CTAs.
After a roaring round of applause, Climer invited herself to return next year (for a third time since the rebranding operation launched), to give us an update on their second full year as the unified Saint Thomas Health. As a healthcare marketer, it is refreshing to see such a thoughtful approach that is not afraid to question what has been done in the past. I am very much looking forward to Rebecca Climer’s 2016 update.
Searching for your organization's "Why"?