Practicing Social Compassion: How One Health System Is Using Brand to Drive Business in Its COVID-19 Response

By The SHSMD Team posted 07-07-2020 03:33 PM

LCMC Health is based in New Orleans, Louisiana, which has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Greg Feirn, the CEO of LCMC Health, and Christine Albert, senior vice president of marketing, shared their insights into branding during a time of crisis and how to convey empathy and leadership. 

Feirn and Albert shared two rapid insights:

  • Think of ways to break through the clutter and reassure your consumer, your staff and your community alike that they have an emotional connection to a trusted brand.
  • During times of crisis, you have to put the voice of the consumer first. So know who they are and what they want and speak to them specifically and directly.

Their marketing goal is to put their patients and community first. As COVID-19 spread, stakeholders were looking for empathy and for someone to lead. The community trusted and valued hospitals and health care providers but were anxious amid the uncertainty. The marketing team’s imperative was to understand the emotional turmoil and then to craft communications that spoke to it.

LCMC Health put this to work in developing their crisis communications response to the pandemic, infusing it with their unique brand and personality that were designed to stand out and speak in a very human way to the community. For example, the community website is a hub where both hospital staff and community members share photos, news and resources as a one-stop shop for the community’s COVID-19 needs. 

Local Touches

The system took the phrase “practice social distancing” and created something hopeful, compassionate and inspiring out of it by bringing their community together and shining a light on the work that the frontline heroes were performing each day. They made sure to use the New Orleans vernacular wherever it was appropriate. For example, the vibrantly colored floral decals they designed to promote physical distancing read, “It’s not personal, darlin’, but keep your social distance.” LCMC Health’s brand features a heart and they wanted to tie that heart into the emotions the public was feeling: anxiety, helplessness, fear and even curiosity about what was actually going on inside the hospitals. Much of the website deals with frontline stories and features people from across the spectrum of employees, from ER doctors to housekeeping staff. One of the goals was to providie a reassuring response to those emotional needs.

Albert commented, “These segments were really quick and easy. People filmed them on their phones, submitted them to us and we shared them via social media and our website. The content really resonated not only with the community but also media outlets and our own staff.” 

During the pandemic, LCMC Health found their social media engagement skyrocketing. The marketing team had responded to the crisis while staying consistent with who they are. In New Orleans, this includes vibrant colors, southern vernacular and crawfish references while reminding people about social distancing and not touching their eyes. 

Shared stories

LCMC Health’s brand is also built on a culture of providing a little something extra. They partnered with local celebrities to bring together powerful messages not only for the community but for the staff to celebrate all the good that’s happened over the last several weeks and share their stories. This strengthened the brand’s ties to the community in a very critical time. 

The result of all these shared stories and community involvement? The overall views and engagement metrics on social media, their website and YouTube more than doubled. 

Two biggest takeaways from the coronavirus pandemic:

  • “How we came together across our health care system to battle the pandemic; we have great unification across our facilities from leadership on down. It created a wonderful speed to action. It’s that kind of proactiveness and planning that we are going to capture and forward into day-to-day operations as we try to return to normal,” Feirn shared.
  • Albert added, “Stand behind your brand as a business driver. People are really looking for that emotional connection more than they’re looking for the functional use of your facilities.” 

Two thoughts looking forward:

  • Feirn commented, “We’re going to see a slower reengagement in health care services. We’re going to need to know how to build those services back and I think convenience for the consumer will play big in that role. Virtual care is here to stay. Need to re-envision the big brick and mortar hospitals of the past.”
  • “Everyone has been talking a lot about disruption in health care and putting the consumer first. The COVID-19 response showed that we can respond to what people need, when they need it and how they need it,” Albert pointed out.

To hear the full podcast or read the transcript, please click here. The full SHSMD series of COVID-19 Conversations is available here

To discuss marketing, communications, strategy and more with fellow health care strategists and share materials, please visit MySHSMD.

If you have stories to share about your organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please share here.

For more information to help your hospital or health system’s COVID-19 response, visit SHSMD’s collection of resources for marketing, communications, business development and planning. The AHA and SHSMD collaborated to create Resources for COVID-19 Communications.

SHSMD members can access even more resources for branding and consumer experience, including: