Featured in today’s issue of FierceHealthcare is Dr. Andrea Simon’s latest article examining the importance of branding and re-branding in the healthcare industry, “3 Steps To Make A Hospital Name Change Stick,” a follow-up to her previous article, “Don’t Lose Your Hospital Brand When Changing Names.”
Speaking from her experience as an anthropologist and founder/principle of Simon Associates Marketing Consultants, Dr. Simon focuses on three crucial considerations hospital administrators should take into account when contemplating changing the name of their institution: the power of their name, whether it really needs changing, and how to make that change really stick.
Dr. Simon offers the following advice and guidance pertaining to these three strategic questions:
1. What is the meaning―the symbolism―of the name you are evaluating? When your name is spoken, what associations does it bring forth among consumers (patients, their families, physicians, other institutions, community citizens)? Do people have a strong (or faulty) awareness of your name? Can they articulate what it stands for? Are you the ‘go-to’ place for the best in heart care “or merely ”a good hospital”?
2. What is the strategy around the name change? Why are you considering a name change? What are you trying to really achieve? Better consolidation of services? Simpler branding and marketing messaging? Better physician recruitment?
In our research, we found that physicians who originally had been adverse to changing the name of “their” hospital now became advocates for creating a more powerful name and unified brand, once they understood the strategic reasoning. That shift in their thinking was critically important to the successful transformation of the system. Subsequently, all levels, from nurses to support staff, were ready to support and promote the new name.
3. What is the execution plan? The power of a name change is all in the execution. And what makes the execution stick is engagement. The new name will come alive in people’s brains if they have a stake in how it is rolled out, and if the name is telegraphed to the public, “lived” within the hospital and communicated at every touch point. You must make your staff your brand ambassadors, because in a way, they already are. Who are they telling about this wonderful place where they work, and what are they saying about it?
One other very important point is to recognize and honor the legacy of the old name, even while you’re transferring that history to the new. People may mourn the loss of a name they believed in and thought well of in the past. But if you are proactive in your reasons for changing, and explain how you are building meaning into the new name, they will more easily make the leap from the old to the new.
This huge wave of name changing has been occurring across the country for quite a while now, and the trend is not going to slow down anytime soon. So when considering a hospital name change, approach the task with those three questions in mind.
Dr. Simon closes with one final piece of advice: What’s the difference between success and failure in the name-change game? Is it the degree to which you involve your community and get them to love the new name. Perhaps it is to build more respect for the institution. Really think through what you are trying to achieve and the naming process will become just one element in your overall brand and business strategy. Don’t forget to invite your staff to come along with you on the journey, and I guarantee it will be a much smoother trip.