As the people who must deliver honest and compassionate messaging to patients who may be facing uncertain or stressful journeys with their health, the marketing teams at hospitals and healthcare facilities have a tough task ahead of them.
Below, seven healthcare marketers share their advice on how to create and maintain an authentic brand voice.
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity and style.
Katy Dalton Rigsby, vice president of marketing and communications, OhioHealth (Columbus): Our brand voice reflects who we are as an organization, what we do and how we do it, in a way that is genuine and unique to us. We always hear from our customers that we’re friendlier and more approachable so that’s how we try to communicate. While we have brand guidelines for tone, look, personality and voice, the real test for us is how it feels to people. Is it believable and trusted? Would people recognize it’s us talking to them if our logo were removed? Our values help serve as a compass for that.
Two years ago, we added “inclusion” as one of our values to guide our internal and external efforts around diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough just to talk about being a diverse and inclusive employer. As a brand, to be authentic, our actions must match our words.
Tanya Andreadis, chief marketing officer, UCLA Health (Los Angeles): Brand authenticity starts with knowing your customers’ values. At UCLA Health, I am always so impressed by and grateful for how important the voice of the customer is to all of our executives. Our CEO reads daily reports with feedback from patients coming from social media and other channels. Brand isn’t about what you want to be or what you think looks really cool, it’s about respecting your customers and your staff, acting with integrity and providing high quality experiences at every touch point.
Suzanne Hendery, chief marketing and customer officer, Renown Health (Reno, Nev.): Your customers often know you better than you know yourself. Do your research! Determine what they think is “most meaningful and differentiating” about your organization and what value you bring to their lives. Being authentic is about being real. Working to be sure the reality of the healthcare experience matches your messaging, is where you gain respect, credibility and trust.
Manny Rodriguez, chief marketing, experience and customer officer, UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.): Our motto, “live extraordinary,” and related brand dialogue highlight the reasons why we are here and for whom. We improve lives, and our brand is about the patients for whom we provide care. Our digital channels and marketing efforts are designed for engagement and we encourage sharing of our brand voice. To keep it authentic, we create guidelines. There is a structure for how our message is communicated. We enforce these guidelines – for example, we ensure logos are used properly and approved images are pulled from our official brand center.
We are vigilant — we ensure former initiatives that may be languishing online or in physical locations are replaced with our current campaigns. And, we hold this to a high standard, no exceptions. This assures that we are consistent in our communications to both employees and providers as well as patients and the general public, and they know what to expect from us. However they interact with UCHealth, they are familiar with what they see and will experience.
Joan Gubernick, chief marketing officer, Einstein Healthcare Network (Philadelphia): Einstein’s brand, voice and visuals came directly from the employees of our organization.
An extensive series of formal and informal focus groups, and then repeated testing led to a position as we say, “people could wear proudly.” We are a mission-driven organization so the words — more than medicine — surfaced. It was, and has remained, an authentic representation of who we are and how we practice care.
The criteria for positioning included: what does this organization mean to you, to your family, to our patients, to the communities we serve? Can you see yourself in these words, does your job or position apply, does this transcend the moment we are in so it can support forward thinking? Seeing themselves in the brand words selections was essential.
In the days of a pandemic, it has taken more than medicine, it has taken courage, compassion, clinical expertise, and the deepest level of caring from our staff to push through the most challenging of days.
Sandra Mackey, chief marketing officer, Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati): Crafting an authentic brand voice starts with clear organizational alignment on our mission, values and core culture behaviors. At Bon Secours Mercy Health, our associates live our values and core culture behaviors every day, which is evident in the way they serve our patients and communities. Our brand is merely an expression of their collective voices and commitment to what BSMH stands for, and it is evidenced by the experience consumers and patients have every time they engage with us at every touchpoint.
William Koleszar, chief marketing officer, National Spine and Pain Centers (Rockville, Md.): There are three things we consistently do to help craft an authentic brand voice. Firstly, the marketing team starts by thinking about the mindset of the patient suffering with chronic pain. We do that by constantly reviewing patient satisfaction surveys, visiting our centers in-person, monitoring social media and more. Said another way, we start by simply listening.
Next, constantly engage with our affiliated physicians. We listen to their experiences in treating patients and we tap into their expertise, particularly in describing treatment options in terms that a layperson can understand. Lastly, we like to collect patient testimonials and use the patient’s own words to describe how their life has been improved through the efforts of our affiliated physicians. We take all of these inputs, filter them through the tenets of our brand, and infuse them into our copy and creative.
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