Building bridges builds brands

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Bringing Together HR and Marketing Creates Alignment

I once had an unnamed health system marketing director tell me he would willingly give up his marketing budget for a year so that the health system could focus on developing the patient experience.

He got it. Engaged employees lead to highly satisfied patients. Highly satisfied patients will discuss their experiences through word of mouth – arguably, the best but most ubiquitous form of marketing available. As a result, his job would become easier and, ultimately, employees and patients would win.

But, this act of selflessness is rare. Especially, if your health system has a hard time removing the concrete wall that often separates human resources and marketing.

Of course, there are many reasons this wall exists:

  • Rules (or lack therof). Human resources leaders follow the rules! Marketing leaders break the rules!
  • Ownership. Human resources owns employee engagement. Marketing owns external messages.
  • Egos. We all have them. Some of us have them more than others. Ask yourself if your own ego is getting in the way of truly advancing the health system.

But, I argue that there are many more important reasons to overcome these self-inflicted restrictions for the good of the people your health system serves.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Consider this: According to the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development’s 2017-2022 publication, Futurescan, 83% of health system leaders believe their organizations will invest in additional resources in managing organization-wide cultural change. Without a doubt, this will significantly impact human resources and marketing.

How human resources can help marketing.
Engage marketing in building an employee experience map. What does it look like when someone applies for a job? Starts at the organization? Receives communication from the organization? Participates in an annual review? Are these experiences consistent with the organization’s mission, vision and values?

Identify the cultural gaps you may be experiencing as a health system and work to address them as a cohesive team.

How marketing can help human resources.
Designate a communications liaison to advise human resources on strategies and tactics for leading cultural change. In addition to serving as a consultant, lend additional resources (not to be confused with order takers) to help affect change within your organization.

Patient experience

In the Advisory Board Company’s 2015 report, “What do Consumers Want from Healthcare,” patients revealed they were significantly more likely to switch primary care physicians after encountering rude staff than being assigned to another staff member for care.

When patients leave the practice, we all lose. Fortunately, marketing and human resources can work together to identify and implement service standards to prevent these episodes.

How human resources can help marketing.
Human resources can work with senior leadership and clinical leaders to enforce service standard behaviors. This may include recognition for high-performing areas and formal processes to identify and address a failure to meet service standards. Training and performance expectations should be updated (if they haven’t already) to continually remind employees of service standards.

How marketing can help human resources.
Marketing can work with senior leadership and clinical leaders to identify service standard behaviors. Marketing has an innate ability to serve as the voice of the customer and can help interpret how that customer’s voice can and should impact organizational change.


The Bureau of Labor statistics predicts that the demand for registered nurses will increase 19% between 2017 and 2022. Competition is steep. And, this is just one of the health-related professions that is thirsty for talent. The health systems that approach recruitment collaboratively – with both marketing and human resources around the table – will have an immediate advantage over the competition.

How human resources can help marketing.
Provide a rich and detailed profile of the people you’re trying to reach. Go as far into the weeds as you can. What are their priorities? What keeps them awake at night? Why should they choose you? What are the barriers to choosing you? This information can help your marketing counterparts develop a deeper empathy and understanding for what makes your audience tick.

A word of advice: Suggestions are always helpful, but be mindful of being overly prescriptive when it comes to execution.

How marketing can help human resources.
You’re armed with an excellent recruitment persona from your human resources friends. Now, it’s up to you to recommend how to reach the target demographic. Advise on the messaging strategy and the media placement strategy. Ultimately, you should be able to answer this question: What is the right way to reach the audience we are intending to recruit?

Mark my word, when marketing and human resources start to collaborate, patients, employees and entire health systems will win. How have you found ways to collaborate with your marketing or human resources counterparts for mutual success?


Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Health.


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