Healthcare Brands: Building Trust, Ensuring Transparency

In marketing and public relations, branding is everything but healthcare has always been a special case, not only because of regulatory and ethical issues, but because healthcare has such a major impact on our lifestyle, even to the point of life and death.

Reputation matters in healthcare, so a brand has to reflect that. One of the most respected healthcare brands in the world belongs to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recently, Abbigail Tumpey, MPH, CHES, Associate Director for Communications Science, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the CDC presented a very interesting talk on “Marketing Your Brand: Building Trust, Ensuring Transparency & Avoiding Communication Traps.”

The following blog is based on her presentation, with some commentary by yours truly.

Forbes lists the top seven characteristics of a good brand as audience knowledge, uniqueness, passion, consistency, competitiveness, exposure and leadership. So what makes a healthcare brand great in that context?

Abbigail Tumpey suggests three key aspects, culture, ethics and transparency. In terms of culture, she says it’s about being both compassionate and committed. Are employees of the brand motivated to protect and serve patients (their customers)? Culture impacts how a brand communicates both internally and externally. Some brands are guilty of “group think” which can prevent open communication and innovation.

The ethics part of corporate culture ties into questions like is the company doing the best it can do? Is the brand always keeping patients, consumers and end-usesr in mind? In terms of transparency, is the brand accountable? Does it provide patients the information they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare? For many companies, the goal of transparency is the hardest to achieve, not only for competitive reasons but there can be legal implications. But transparency can increase trust in your brand.

The website has a hospital compare feature, so many times the information the public needs is disclosed anyway. That’s another reason why it’s key to be open and honest about public information to serve the best interests of all.

Important aspects of culture include open communication, innovative approaches, celebration of successes for motivation, continual improvement with a focused drive towards the underlying mission.

It is possible to achieve trust and transparency according to Tumpey. According to a primer by the Navy Environmental Health Center, there are four factors that determine whether the public will perceive a messenger as trusted and credible: the degree of empathy and caring, the quality of honesty and openness, the source’s dedication and commitment and the demonstrated competence and expertise.

Questions, comments? I’d love to hear from you.