It’s rare to turn on the TV, read the newspaper or open any local magazine and not see an ad for a hospital or provider within a few minutes. Healthcare providers like other industries understand that targeting consumers is vital to the growth of their organizations. While many regional providers are doing a great job of marketing to the public to build awareness it’s not unusual for them to neglect their most loyal group – employees.
If you ask the typical hospital employee to tell you about some of their main service lines or key physicians, chances are you will get a shoulder shrug. I’ve seen hospitals advertise services offered that their own employees were unaware that they provided. While these examples sound extreme there is always more that can be done to target employees. The last thing any health system would want is for one of their employees or their family members to go elsewhere for care that can be offered by them. However, when this data is available, it is not uncommon to discover an outmigration of your own staff to other facilities.
Internal marketing provides an important link to the community as the hospital is often the biggest employer in its own primary service area. “Word of mouth” advertising through employees, family members and friends can exponentially grow hospital volume and improve public perception. Building the brand from within is an underestimated component of the overall marketing plan and can be achieved through regular communications, internal promotion and progress updates for the system. Share all of your achievements and let staff know what they are and how they were attained. Do people really understand the significance of Joint Commission certification, Magnet status or a Five-Star HealthGrades designation? If they do not, then the average consumer certainly does not.
This level of communication should flow to all levels of the organization from volunteers to sr. leadership. It should also incorporate strategies to include other personnel who are actively engaged with the hospital such as the physician network, physician office staff, vendors and suppliers. Anyone who walks into the door of the hospital is a potential utilizer of services or knows someone that might.
The audience most often neglected in this process is the volunteer. They are expected to help everyone coming into the hospital, yet little is typically done to educate them regarding what the hospital offers. This is unfortunate since they are often the most vocal members on staff and they are typically involved with multiple other groups throughout the community. You can be sure if something is getting positive feedback they are going to tell others and the reverse is true as well. Paying special attention to this group though planning dedicated programs and events can go a long way to promote the hospital’s services to this key demographic of healthcare users.
Fortunately for those not actively targeting staff, an internal campaign can be far more cost effective as compared to the other traditional forms of media advertising. Adding education about the services provided during new employee orientation can establish this message early, but it must also be an ongoing effort. Take in inventory of the resources your organization has to communicate to staff and use these regularly to disseminate information. Common vehicles to accomplish this include:
- Internal newsletters
- Closed circuit video
- Staff memo and paycheck stuffers
- Intranet or social media pages
- Staff briefings and town hall forums
- Bulletin boards/signage in the cafeteria, lounges and other common areas
Does the hospital have annual events that can also serve as a springboard to educate employee on specific services? Most places now celebrate Hospital Week, Nurse Appreciation or other themed events. There is no reason these cannot serve multiple functions to educate as well as recognize staff for the work they have done.
A well conceived internal campaign will make employees at all levels feel included and take greater satisfaction in the services they provide to the community. Being creative in your approach, sharing your successes and using all available outlets will not only pay dividends by increasing overall awareness with consumers, but give employees a greater sense of pride.
Phil Feldstein is President and Founder of Creative Health Advisors, a healthcare marketing consultancy firm based in Pittsburgh. Phil has worked with over 100 hospitals, physician groups and other ancillary providers on the creation of marketing and branding strategies. Phil has spoken at national conferences and is an active member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD). Mr. Feldstein’s website is www.creativehealthadvisors.com.