February 1, 2018

Culture Wars: Leveraging the Health Care Marketing Trend

Love it or hate it, “speaking your truth” is here to stay. Powered by shifting social perception and market reactions, organizations are dissolving the disparity between how they promote themselves and who they truly are. Who are they, then? An amalgam of their actions, their inactions, their policies, and their employees. Hopefully you noticed that we left out “brand.” More on that later.

If you haven’t already, be sure to download our full 2018 Trends Report where you’ll find even more information across all 5 trends that will most impact health care marketing this year.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

As divisive as the news organization is between warring political parties, you can’t ignore that NPR has reacted to the #metoo movement with transparency both from within and without. Those who have been reported on have been swiftly moved out, internal communication has been thorough, and the organization’s ability to self-report without hiding behind legal counsel is noteworthy.

For your own brand: Recognize your actions are on display – not your messaging. For your brand strategy, you must ensure you see your organization for all of its function and dysfunction and tell a story to your audience that highlights the positive without overpromising. When in crisis, devise a communication strategy based on action and taking command of the situation from within. In general, your employees will leak information – it’s human nature. For this reason, especially, the story you tell publicly must align with the reality you experience internally.


Inaction Is Toxic

It seems as though the Cleveland Indians have finally caught up to the power of taking action: Chief Wahoo is making his official exit. After years of declining brand perception and a counter-audience that was growing steadily larger and more vocal, the organization is leaving the charged icon in its past.

As a stark contrast to this, the Washington Redskins continue to drive controversy with their name and logo. Parallel to that, the research done pre- and post- anthem protest show that ratings, attendance and favorability are all in decline. The continued inaction on the naming controversy in tandem with the parallel decline in key metrics could force management’s hand. The critical question will then be: what did their inaction cost them? The Cleveland Indians might know the answer.

For your own brand: Inaction is never favorable. Organizations who march forward with blinders on only delay the inevitable: facing the music. If you are experiencing an identity crisis, do a brand study, be honest with yourself about the results, tackle your brand’s mission/vision/values, and realign your organization around who you truly are – with enough optimism to be aspirational, of course.


Policies Should Be Both Proactive & Reactive

You haven’t dusted off your social media policy in a while, and let’s not even talk about what you’re doing to monitor your brand perception.

Your social media policy should reinforce your values as an organization, help provide a plan of action in case of negative feedback, and give context to employees for what is expected of them and what is truly forbidden. It should tackle your brand’s voice and tone on social and common creative approaches that align with your brand’s look and feel overall (including examples of do and don’t).

Brand perception matters. Tracking your mentions, your positive/negative feedback on social, and your online feedback can give you early insights into operational, communication and resource issues you might be facing. By understanding your ongoing brand perception, you’ll stay ahead of the curve within your own organization as well as within the competitive set.

For your own brand: Sign up for Google Alerts based on your organizations name and your more public-facing employees who might be mentioned in articles (CEO’s, “Top Docs,” etc.). Do a Google Image Search of your logo every once in a while and make sure that the top results are being used in materials that you find appropriate or warranted. Redefine your social media policy, which really isn’t as simple as “using a template.”


Your Employees Are Your Brand

Remember when we told you that we left your brand off the list? We didn’t. Your employees represent you as an organization when they’re at work, and they act as your brand advocates when they aren’t. If you’ve ever flown Southwest, then you know where this is going.

You don’t hear about negative interactions with Southwest employees. In fact, their Brand Intimacy Quotient is off the charts. Their employees care – they have heart. They’re recruited, trained, and sent out into the world to provide first rate service with a smile. All of that cheeriness doesn’t feel fake either, it feels like real people, with real stories and real compassion, whom you just happen to interact with along your own journey. Southwest feels authentic – because it is.

For your own brand: Figure out who you are as an organization, what you stand for, and why that matters. Hire employees who reflect your brand, all while promoting a brand that is truthful and authentic enough to generate institutional trust. If your HR and Marketing departments don’t regularly sit down to talk about recruiting strategy and whether your career messaging aligns accurately to your internal and external messaging, then begin there – once a quarter is a good starting point. By doing this, you’ll attract the right personalities who are able to live out and serve under your Mission, Vision and Values.

Organizations who take action will succeed. Organizations who fail to take action will suffer. Organizations who only view policy as reactive will never be future-focused. And organizations who fail to recognize their employees as the only human touchpoint of their brand will never experience internal/external alignment of their brand perception.

Our 2018 Trends Report is available to download, in full. Be sure to check it out, along with our first trend’s blog: Design Thinking.