We’ve seen it many times. Healthcare providers engaged in mergers and acquisitions embark on the implementation for a rebranding only to get stymied by unforeseen stakeholder concerns. What sets healthcare rebrandings apart from others is that hospitals and health systems face more potential issues because of the number and nature of constituencies involved.
Staff, patients, directors, donors, volunteers, regulators, shareholders, accrediting agencies, worried families - all of these stakeholders influence brand development, and they have a role in the logistics of implementation. Not until these stakeholders start to see the mockups or prototypes of signs, uniforms, stationery, vehicles, and other assets do they finish raising red flags over implementation details.
In one case, we had a client who was certain the organization’s naming was fully resolved and signed off. But when renderings of signage for actual clinics were presented with service lines removed, the head of clinics stopped the project in its tracks. It took a full year for the naming strategy to be resolved and for the project to restart. We encourage our clients, early on in the process, not just to review naming architecture diagrams or logo illustrations but to take real examples of existing locations and show before and after images of the signs – this is a much more tangible exercise that takes the discussion from theory to practice. It’s better to surface this difficult discussion early than have it be uncovered fully in the middle of the rebranding rollout.
In another case, we prepared signs for a clinic featuring the newly merged health-system brand. As it turned out, two separately owned and accredited entities occupied the same office. They had a business partnership, of course, but regulations required their separate ownership be disclosed on exterior signs.
Many types of companies have to involve a host of stakeholders. But there tend to be far more layers in health facilities. The world of healthcare rebranding would be simpler if all that mattered were the concerns of the user. But that’s not the way in healthcare. Many stakeholders have an emotional connection to the organization. These include patients, patient families, volunteers, and donors. Many others are charged with intense scrutiny of costs. These include nonprofit watchdogs, insurers, and the federal government’s Medicare and Medicaid operations.
Still others have a stake in, or statutory responsibility for, keeping the public safe. These include state regulators, doctors, staff, company directors, and accreditors. The concerns over compliance matter even more - compliance with the norms of medical care, the criteria of accreditors, the regulations of state and federal statutes (Affordable Care Act, American with Disabilities Act), the concerns by municipalities over fire and policing. Accrediting agencies, principally the Joint Commission, can stop rebranding work whose implementation does not comply with every one of its detailed standards. These combined interests all roll into a hypersensitive brand implementation environment.
At BrandActive, we do not advise clients on stakeholder management during brand design – your branding agency will help you with that. Our role is to help facilitate the approval process for rebranding assets, and highlight the need to ensure that legal, regulatory, accrediting, and other stakeholders are consulted at the right stage in order to avoid issues before snarls threaten the implementation schedule.
To the stakeholders in healthcare enterprises, details matter. If you hit a glitch when implementing new ID cards, key personnel may not be able to get into areas of the hospital they need to reach in critical, emergency situations. If nurses’ views on the new uniforms are not considered, negative perceptions of the new brand and what it represents may result.
Jean Hitchcock is a healthcare executive responsible for three rebrandings, one of a $4.5 billion system of ten large hospitals. Hitchcock notes that specialized legal, medical, and managerial counsel are always required during a rebranding implementation - required for details as diverse as legal name changes, joining vendor contracts, updating Medicare numbers to match legal entities, removing non-disclosure agreements that block communications, coordinating with unions over collective bargaining, and working with chief nursing and medical officers on accrediting issues.
Hitchcock explains, “There are thousands of issues that have to be considered. You need a good partner to help track all the various activities that go into a rebranding. It’s so critical to work with someone who will ensure there will be no surprises, keep things on track, and ensure everything is on time for people who are waiting to get the assets.”
In healthcare, to achieve a rebranding on par with the world’s strongest companies, executives want to be sure they have a clear strategy not just for brand architecture, but also for dealing with the numerous and varied constituencies that can impact the success of implementation. To achieve a swift and effective implementation of a new brand with maximum impact requires first getting the stakeholder implementation issues right.