Organizations in every industry are recognizing that the “silo mentality” or vertical strategy is an ineffective and disruptive way of doing business. The horizontal strategy has emerged as a best practice and enables cross-thinking among employee departments and populations. Automobile and technology leaders were among the first to recognize that bringing engineering, design, marketing, and financial teams together provides far better returns than those passing strategic plans from one department to another.
The same strategy holds true for hospitals seeking to brand their organizations in their respective markets. The days of developing a brand platform in the marketing department and then informing the rest of the enterprise about what it is and how employees should act are quickly disappearing. Those organizations that include teams and staff in the development and cultural integration of the brand will create brand champions who contribute to the long-term success of the strategy and help to create an environment that delivers on the brand promise.
Involving cross-sections of teams and employee populations in two critical stages of brand implementation is essential; brand strategy development and cultural integration. The following examples are from Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy clients that have recently launched new brands.
Brand Champions in the Development Phase
During the development phase of the brand strategy, it has proven vital to have a broad representation of internal stakeholders participate in the process. Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, Delaware, recently underwent a brand development process and formed a Branding Task Force to test messages, share their thoughts on the brand promise and brainstorm regarding the new brand rollout. According to Kelly Griffin, Director – Marketing and Communications, “the brainstorming session was a huge success and resulted in two great lists of messaging concepts for both internal and external audiences. Beebe achieved a wealth of knowledge regarding its present image and brand as well as thoughts about where the organization should be headed.”
If brand authenticity is to be attained, it must be meaningful, believable, and deliverable throughout the organization. And what better way to determine this than gaining input and feedback from a diverse mix of employees representing different ages, duties, departments, and customers.
Brand Champions in the Cultural Phase
Once the brand strategy has been determined, brand champions become imperative to delivering on the promise and making it part of the organization’s culture. Theresa Komitas, Director of Marketing for KishHealth System, in DeKalb, Illinois, recently helped lead her organization through a re-branding process. A key goal of the initiative is to create engagement from employees, many of whom are located in different entities and towns. “When selecting brand ambassadors for our organization, we recognized the need to represent all levels, from our front-line nursing staff to senior leaders. In order to succeed in employee engagement and ultimately change, it’s necessary to have peers lead the drive and not have our brand messages coming down only from Administration.”
The opportunity also exists to link cultural statements such as mission and values to the brand strategy to gain a more effective and aligned organization.
In addition to the Branding Task Force, Beebe Healthcare also implemented a Values Task Force to revamp the values statements for the organization to fit with the new brand message. “A direct result of all of the knowledge sharing and enthusiasm of the participants is that the team members comprising these task forces have functioned as a viral marketing/communication resource throughout the organization, sharing their ideas, enthusiasm, and support of our branding efforts with other team members.” This, according to Kelly Griffin, “is serendipity.”
Today’s brand-building strategies are more than a written statement. They make a statement about the organization, its uniqueness, and the type of experience a customer will have when interacting with it – at every portal and every level. Brand champions are not found entirely in the marketing department; they are found throughout the organization and have had input on direction, messaging, and fulfillment. And when done properly, it is not just their voices that are represented, it’s also their behaviors and influence with others in the organization. Here’s to you, Brand Champions!