5 Tips for a Unified Health System Communications Department

Keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction becomes increasingly difficult as the number of hospitals and team members grows. Here are a few tips for ensuring the foundation is laid for success in your health system’s communications department:

1. Brand Guidelines

Creating and enforcing brand guidelines is critical to maintaining brand consistency among multiple locations and through multiple users and approvers. Besides the basic approved logos, your brand guidelines should include:

  • Brand overview, history, personality, values
  • Fonts and defaults fonts for headlines, body copy and print and digital use
  • Collateral, advertisement and business stationary templates
  • Colors including direction for usage. Color wheel showing ratios can be helpful
  • Image style/photography
  • Tone of voice
  • Merchandising guidelines
  • Website/digital standards

2. Partner Overview & Contacts 

Providing a list of approved partners and vendors is key for efficiency and consistency. Most marketers have a history of various relationships throughout the industry and it is easiest to call on those that we know and are comfortable with. However, as a health system, efficiencies can be realized by centralizing services for design, printing, photography, web design and more. And, by having a limited number of vendors creating for your brand, it is easier to achieve consistency.

3. Policies and Procedures

It isn’t reasonable to assume team members in multiple locations will intuitively know the procedure or what’s expected for every situation. While every possible scenario can’t be anticipated, policies and procedures should be developed and communicated ahead of time, whenever possible. Some policy and procedure documents to consider include:

  • External and internal communications approval procedures
  • Public relations and crisis communications
  • Social media policy and procedures
  • HIPAA guidance
  • Approved talent and other consent forms
  • Employed and non-employed physician marketing policies
  • Reporting templates
  • Marketing planning tools, creative briefs, etc.
  • Purchasing approval policy
  • Annual strategic marketing plan overview

4. Success

What does success look like for your health system? If quality measures are key, then the communications department needs to understand quality expectations, what factors go into quality scores and how they are measured. Whether success is measured internally or externally, HCAHPS, brand perception surveys, employee satisfaction surveys or market share, each member of the communications team needs to know how success is measured before they start reacting to each request that comes their way.

5. Health System Basics

It is surprising how many health systems that we work with have team members that aren’t aware of the basics of their health system. What is the reporting hierarchy? Who and where is the key contact list with contact information (internal and external)? What is the job description for their role and their key reports or people they work with daily? The health system ownership structure and entities owned. These are all questions that need to be established and communicated. 

We’ve found it helpful to create a marketing toolkit to distribute to all marketing staff throughout the organization. This is a robust binder of references which includes everything listed above and other items specific to the individual health system. Marketing staff have voiced that this is a helpful resource as a new hire and also on an on-going basis as requests and needs arise. This toolkit keeps everyone on the same page from day one and also equips staff to not only drive the brand forward in a unified way, but also to push back when requests arise that could undermine the strategic direction of the brand.

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