Transforming an aging hospital into a state-of-the-art facility was critical for the residents of rural Wyoming County. There was no shortage of challenges for everyone on the executive leadership team during the facility’s $20 million capital improvement project. My job as a consultant was to build a marketing and public relations department from the ground up.
I worked with the Communications Committee of the Board of Managers to outline the following challenges:
- There were no design standards.
- The logo was a dead tree with no leaves.
- Employees didn’t trust the administration.
- The community didn’t trust the hospital to provide quality healthcare.
- The press called random employees to get the latest news.
- The website hadn’t been updated in years.
- The entire facility was about to be ripped apart for a massive capital improvement project.
- CEOs came and went at a frightening pace.
This was our elephant.
How do you eat an elephant?
I took control of the press. I sent a memo to employees telling them to direct every media request to me. I sent a notice to the press saying the same. I created a protocol for issuing releases: I drafted the release, the CEO had three hours to edit or approve, and I distributed to the media on-time.
Next, I involved employees, physicians, and patients in the rebranding process. They selected the new logo, and every old logo was replaced. New ad campaigns went out, billboards were refreshed, and new signs went up.
Website development took time. Trust had to be built. Fear of HIPAA violations were justifiable. I convinced one of the best developers in region to tackle this project with me.
Social media hurdles
Proposing a social media launch was one of the biggest challenges. I spent over a year trying to get approval. Update: during Covid-19, WCCHS’s social media outreach has helped many families check on their loved ones.
One of my favorite projects was an employee photoshoot. I asked them to represent their departments and show up. They loved the results so much, they requested to put up posters everywhere.
But, posters weren’t going fix everything. We set up regular employee roundtables with the Executive Team. The first few meetings were a little tense, but over time trust started to form.
More cows than people
Wyoming County boasts a few things:
- Grand Canyon of the East (Letchworth State Park),
- More cows than people, and
- Attica State Prison, whose inmates are treated at WCCHS.
One of their biggest community outreach events happened every year at the county fair, because, cows. I personally took on the dusty task of remodeling their booth into a kid-friendly, chalk-art canvas.
Speaking of prisons
When construction began, the entire hill in front of the hospital was dug up. A new retaining wall was erected and quickly dubbed ‘Attica II’.
So, we fixed it.