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Live Your Brand Promise – ISHMPR13/WHPRMS13 Recap

“I wish I could check into your billboard. It’s really friendlier than your ER.”

We just love attending regional health care conferences and leaving with take-aways applicable for health organizations big and small, rural or urban, all across the country. This year’s joint ISHMPR & WHPRMS conference (that’s Illinois and Wisconsin health care marketing and public relations societies) was no exception.

Topics were diverse, but all laddered up to a single key idea: Live Your Brand Promise. Both the opening and closing keynote presentations focused on strong brand positionings delivered all the way through the patient experience. The breakout sessions, both directly and indirectly, focused in on the execution of this same principle. Together, they tell the journey of brand promises successfully executed in 3 steps.

 1.     Create an actionable promise

Candace Quinn and Kristin Baird bookended the conference with fantastic keynotes driving home a single message: At its core, your brand is never better than the experience you deliver.

Quinn of Brand=Experience discussed the need to develop a brand positioning on which your organization can deliver, and Baird of Baird Group, hit home the concept of E3, which means delivering on your brand promise every encounter, to every customer, everyday.

So what did the speakers advise to create an actionable promise?

  • Avoid “kitchen sink” brand positioning. You’re never going to be everything to everyone.
  • Your perception of your brand potential doesn’t matter. What’s the market perception?
  • If your brand initiatives only involve your marketing team and your agency, you’re doing it all wrong.
  • Great brands connect to timeless human needs to feel welcomed, safe, loved, empowered, valued, etc.
  • Create a promise that your prepared to hire against

2.     Sing it from the billboards, website, EDs, front office, nurses’ stations…

Sessions throughout the conference helped illustrate the keynotes’ ideas as organizations shared their experiences in delivering on their own brand promises.

Kristen Johnson shared how OSF Saint Francis Medical Center takes great care to engage their internal customers with the brand experience. From flu shots to Magnet status, OSF Saint Francis employees know what’s happening, their own integral roles, why it’s important for the brand and, most importantly, why it’s important for the patient.

Brian Lee of Custom Learning Systems later reinforced that you can’t simply request a change in behavior from your employees without the “why” to connect dots and motivate. Organizations must operationalize brand change and experience with staff by employing “brand signals” to cue and reinforce branded behaviors.

Shannon Frazer of Endeavor Management reminded everyone that it’s equally important to deliver on your brand promise to referring physicians with positive experiences.

The moral of the story? Marketing can lie, but experiences don’t. Train your physicians, nurses, front office, kitchen staff, everyone, what it means to live the brand. Oh, and make them want to do it.

 3.     Be louder during times of change

Finally, speakers helped show that brand messages need to beat strongest during times of change and adversity.

Quinn explained how strong brands are the drivers in new mergers and partnerships to provide more access and more choice.

In launching replacement facilities, we learned how organizations like Silver Cross Hospital, Elmhurst Memorial Hospital and Little Company of Mary Hospital didn’t forget about the emotional value of brand promises already fulfilled, and commemorated their heritage via time capsules, numerous events and celebrations, and artifacts committees. The organizations also took steps to reassure communities of the future delivery of the brand promise in their new facilities. Elmhurst Memorial, for example, conducted an ambulance traffic study to reassure patients and patient prospects within the service area of their ongoing promise and dedication to access to emergency care.

Danny Chun and Mary Kay Grasmick of the Illinois Hospital Association and Wisconsin Hospital Association, respectively, talked about the duty of health systems to serve as community resources for information about health reform and its implications for patients as part of delivering on their brand promises.

As it turns out, your brand is more than just marketing, which is actually of no surprise to anyone. But its direct relationship with the patient experience has been brought more to light than ever with the combination of social reviews, empowered patients, HCAHPS, and the spotlight of health reform.

For more sound bytes of sessions, follow #WHPRMS13 and #ISHMPR13 on Twitter. Interested in learning more about the topic of meaningful brands executed all the way through the patient experience? Drop us a note and we’d be happy to chat.

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