The same forces that increase competition also offer hospitals great opportunities to differentiate themselves, own markets, and find their way to the other side of the current turmoil — on a clear path they can follow into the future.
Ask yourself some vital questions:
+ What are your hospital’s greatest assets?
State-of-the-art facilities? Preeminent doctors? Competitive pricing? Respected history? Specialty expertise? Renowned
teaching facilities? Even a high-end cafeteria? Chances are your hospital can boast a combination of these and other strengths. The key is to determine which combination is the most differentiating, and develop a robust yet flexible brand that embodies and broadcasts those attributes.
+ How do you reach patients before they become ill or injured?
Make your hospital top of mind locally and in wider markets?
Establish to what degree you want to reach patients and how you want to reach them. The tools that offer consumers new power also give hospitals the opportunity to speak directly to consumers, and provide channels for two-way communication. As you identify your target markets, you will need to contact them in varied ways. It’s critical that brand aligns all platforms, language, and media.
+ How will you attract and retain talent that suits your hospital?
By applying a confident, differentiating brand, you can draw exceptional staff who, through brand-right behaviors (known as employee engagement) help attract and retain customers — which will in turn perpetuate the brand’s differentiation and strength.
+ Do you want to be considered either a local hospital or a destination hospital?
The popularity of destination hospitals opens up a whole new realm for messaging. As hospitals gauge the roles they play in local communities, many recognize that their strengths at home can transmit more broadly. Whether to capture the attention of corporate collaborators or individuals — in your community or further-flung regions — the keys here are definition and differentiation.
+ Are you using new media to your full advantage?
Both social spaces and the government’s Compare websites
offer organizations unprecedented access to insight that can be used to monitor the brand message in real time; to see where and how your hospital is being encountered and evaluated, every day. This can help you learn the language of decision — the very words patients use to frame and convey their experiences — which you can reflect back to them via brand. It will also help you efficiently discover new markets and improve operations. Many hospitals now have websites and Facebook pages that both track and shape the customer journey, serving as both forum and foyer. These virtual spaces are where many patients first “enter” a hospital, and are where they might most often return and refer others. You want yours to be welcoming, organized, dynamic, and definitive, and reflective of your brand.
+ Are you conveying your purpose to local leaders and legislators?
The definition and tenor of your hospital’s
local presence will be both mirrored and broadcast by media and policy makers who could have a say in how your hospital receives funding and projects permission. The more coherently you project your brand, the greater your power of persuasion.
+ How will you navigate restructuring? The tumult caused
by new legislation as well as mergers and acquisitions can be best charted by a definitive, unifying brand. During transition — especially for smaller hospitals being integrated into larger, more sophisticated organizations — a strong brand can steer the message, improve efficiencies, reassure communities, and unify all stakeholders.
Ultimately hospitals need to engage a wide variety of stakeholders — from current patients to potential patients, employees, payers, donors, employers, government, volunteers, and media—while streamlining the message.
The brand is a powerful business tool that, if strategically defined and creatively expressed, has the ability to galvanize and inspire all of these groups, and provide the vision to drive business performance, culture, experience, emotional connections, and attitude. By defining and applying brand consistently across every touch point, from the get-go, hospitals can harness flux and transform it into stable momentum, for the long term.