If you’ve been in healthcare marketing for some time, chances are you’ve lived through a healthcare brand merger — or will very soon. Here are four principles when announcing a new or expanded healthcare brand to your community, caregivers and other constituents.
The number of healthcare brand mergers and company acquisitions remained consistent in 2019. The trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon with COVID-19 having a dramatic impact on finances for many healthcare organizations. In fact, nearly a third of hospital and health system executives are considering a brand merger, acquisition or partnership in light of COVID-19
The communication strategy is integral to launching a successful branding initiative following a hospital merger or company acquisition. Strong messaging pairs alongside the HR, finance and operational plans associated with these transactions. Having helped guide the content strategy for hundreds of hospitals and health systems, we understand the most effective methods for your paid, owned and earned media to announce a new brand identity or expanded network.
Our experiences in partnering with healthcare organizations during times of transition have informed our current strategies. Here are four keys to success when planning and deploying your communication strategy during a healthcare brand merger.
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 hospital merger or company 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 patients and caregivers have grown to trust.
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