Whether it’s the result of a merger or simply a strategic business decision, rebranding offers an opportunity for health systems to send the communities they serve a clear message about who they are and why they matter.
Your health system’s brand is more than just the words and colors people use to identify it. Brand is the first line of public recognition and an opportunity to make the right impression.
When it’s time to revamp your brand, handle with care. These key do’s and don’ts can help you find your way.
Do: Research your market before and after.
To get where you want to be, it helps to know where you are. That’s why, when it was time for New Jersey-based South Jersey Healthcare and Underwood-Memorial Hospital to unify under the name Inspira Health Network, they took the time to measure brand awareness and reputation across the communities they serve.
“Before we rebranded ourselves in 2012, the average awareness for the three hospitals was about 84 percent,” says Gregory Potter, assistant vice president of marketing and public relations for Inspira Health Network. “We wanted to make sure we built a strong campaign so people would understand who Inspira Health Network was. One year after our brand campaign, we achieved 85 percent awareness for the new brand across the service area. It actually went up. That’s how we knew we were on the right track.”
Don’t: Abandon your brand and beliefs.
Embrace the best parts of your health system—the people who heal, the faith that drives it, for example—and make sure they have a place in the new vision for the system. [See “Rebranding Saint Thomas.”]
Do: Empower key players for efficiency.
It’s unlikely that all interested parties will agree on a new name or logo right away. Create a subcommittee to oversee the rebranding process. Choose members who represent the major interested parties, and let this group guide the decisions about your new brand.
Don’t: Attempt to rebrand before you know what you want to say.
Branding should reflect your health system’s mission and core values. If you don’t have those nailed down, do so before you start suggesting new names. Find out who you want to be, then look for the words and phrases that best extend that message to the public.
“We surveyed associates and patients across all our markets and went to every senior leadership team in the system to talk about what we learned,” says John Berg, vice president of system marketing for Denver-based SCL Health System. “We found out what our brand meant and used that to guide us. It’s not a logo on the wall but what happens inside the walls that matters.”
Do: Plan a staggered deployment.
Set a time line for the brand rollout that is realistic. It may need to happen one hospital at a time or over the course of several years to not only address a gradual shift in public awareness but to also make sense monetarily.
Post-merger Buy-in: Wooing the Crowd When Emotions Run High
Rebranding can become even more complex when two or more health systems come together. The key, according to John Berg, vice president of system marketing for Denver-based SCL Health System, is to take a three-tiered approach to personalize appeals and encourage buy-in to the newly minted organization.
- In the boardroom
Mergers make sense from a business perspective, and so do post-merger rebrands. Berg recommends making time to speak with each leadership group and appeal to their business acumen by outlining the cost savings and improvements to patient care that a new brand can bring.
- In the break room
Make the new brand about the people who work there. Berg created a video honoring the past and appealing to the hearts of system associates. By reminding them why they got into health care to begin with, he was able to make them understand why this rebrand was so important.
- In the living room
On the home front, SCL Health System’s rebrand was all about “People Healing People.” The system let patient stories lead the way and kept campaigns consistent in look and feel to create familiarity.
Time to rebrand? Contact True North Custom CMO Jason Skinner at 423-305-7692 or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how True North can help you devise an effective content strategy to educate and engage your community.