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Reputation Management: More Than Just Crisis Control

A healthcare organization’s reputation is essential to its success — and survival. Although reputation is considered an intangible asset, it drives tangible benefits for the organization through consumer and investor confidence and support. And there’s good reason: A hospital’s reputation and perception is associated with better care quality and outcomes.

 

In the fiercely competitive healthcare market and dynamic social environment where perception can change in an instant, reputation is not only foundational to success, but also something to be constantly managed. However, too often, people intrinsically connect reputation management solely in the context of crisis event and aftermath. A shift needs to occur.

 

With the explosion of social media and mobile technology as well as the emergence of the 24/7 news cycle and millions of engaged consumers online, the communications (and crisis management) landscape has forever changed.

 

And it’s no longer sufficient to view reputation management just as crisis control. Rather, reputation management is a valuable investment in proactive and ongoing communications that happen before a crisis is even on the horizon. This investment helps organizations build a foundation of trust so that if/when a crisis does occur, there’s still some leftover trust in the bank to help prevent irreparable damage.

 

Healthcare organizations should consider the following proactive reputation management strategies:

 

  1. Know your organization, inside and out. Crafting a strategy informed by research is key and involves both careful internal and external examination. Organizations must first understand their brand’s goals, mission and vision. Then, compare how the internal perception of your brand aligns with the external one target audiences have. The next phase is to assess the brand’s environment. What are the key challenges and opportunities in your industry as it relates to reputation? Where do competitors stand? Most importantly, who is your audience, both on- and offline? Knowing who you are as well as understanding the needs and challenges of your audience sets the stage for authentic and impactful communications.

 

  1. Engage audiences in meaningful ways. Informed by research, healthcare organizations should develop a proactive reputation and communications strategy. Inclusive in this strategy is an approach to continuously reach your audience by providing relevant information at every stage of the patient journey, whether that includes sending service line updates, relevant content and surveys about their experience. Also consider how your audience prefers to receive information as well as content (woo, video!) that encourages engagement. At the end of the day, engage with your online audience in the same way you would if they were sitting right in front of you. No one like to be talked at, and sometimes giving your audience permission to chime in and have a real conversation is all it takes.

 

  1. Invest in relationships. Developing and maintaining key relationships with satisfied patients, partner organizations and/or other influencers is critical to help build, or rebuild, ongoing trust and credibility. Activated third-party champions for the organization are effectively transformed into a stable of relevant and credible ambassadors to amplify and reinforce the organization’s messaging and success stories. Having a diverse stable of go-to support voices is critical and can be especially powerful, particularly given the rise in trust of “people like me” and the significant and growing mistrust in U.S. executive and government leadership.

Proactive reputation management is a win-win. Not only does a proactive approach create an effective shield against crises, but it also breeds positive associations among audiences and fosters meaningful relationships.

 

A strong reputation in the healthcare industry is a competitive advantage that can drive brand awareness and recognition, patient acquisition, market standing and revenue.

 

This is why we need to rethink proactive reputation management. It’s not just planning for a crisis, but rather an integral part of any communications strategy from the outset.


At this year’s Health IT Marketing and PR Conference (HITMC), Maria English, VP of account management at MERGE Atlanta will shed light on how to proactively manage an organization’s reputation.

 

Be sure to catch the session, “Reputation Management is more than Crisis Control,” at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday, April 5.

 

About The Author

Maria English, Vice President at MERGE Atlanta

 

English brings deep experience in integrated communications, public relations and crisis communications to MERGE Atlanta serving as strategic counselor for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to trade associations and start-ups. With a passion for both storytelling and navigating complex environments, English oversaw a number of award-winning healthcare communications programs and has helped client partners rebuild reputation and trust following some of the most challenging crises of the 21st century.

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