Nothing Shall Be Impossible: Rebranding Saint Thomas Health

by | Sep 11, 2015 | Healthcare Industry Insights

Having recently led the organization through a rebranding initiative, Saint Thomas Health’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Rebecca Climer shared actionable insights on an issue that hits close to home for many healthcare organizations.

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. 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, the lead­er­ship at Saint Thomas Health 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 Health Stayed True During and Post Rebranding

All pho­tos and videos depict real patients and staff, and all mes­sag­ing is clear and uni­fied with Saint Thomas Healths 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.

Be Authentic

One of Climer’s chal­lenges dur­ing the rebrand­ing 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:

  1. Nev­er exploit our faith-based mission.
  2. Always tell the truth.
  3. 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,, 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 Climers 2016 update.

Let’s Plan Your Strategy

Let our health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing experts help you nav­i­gate these shifts. 

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