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

Greg Feirn and Christine Albert discusses the response to COVID-19.
Practicing Social Compassion: How One Health System is Using Brand to Drive Business in its COVID-19 Response
Featured Speaker:
Greg Feirn, CEO | Christine Albert, APR
Greg Feirn is the Chief Executive Officer at LCMC Health, a five-hospital system that he spearheaded the creation of in 2009. Greg brings over 25 years of experience in expertise in strategy, hospital operations, financial accounting, investment portfolio management and academic research. With a mission to provide to the highest quality care for every patient, Greg has made sure that LCMC Health grows with an emphasis on innovation, personalized care, and the adaptability needed to succeed in a changing healthcare environment. 

Christine Albert is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for LCMC Health and its five-hospital system. She provides strategic leadership for all marketing planning and operations across the network. Ms. Albert received a Master’s of Public Policy degree from The George Washington University and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Mass Communications and French from Loyola University, New Orleans. She is a member of the Board of the American Hospital Association’s Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD).
Transcription:

Bill Klaproth (Host):  On this edition of the SHSMD podcast, we look at the COVID-19 response from one health system, two different perspectives as we talk with CEO Greg Feirn and Senior Vice President of Marketing, Christine Albert, both from LCMC Health. That and more coming up right now.

This is the SHSMD podcast Rapid Insights for healthcare strategy professionals in planning, business development, marketing, communications and public relations. I’m your host, Bill Klaproth. In this episode, it’s a CEO/SVP of marketing conversation as we talk about practicing social compassion, how one health system is using brand to drive business in its COVID-19 response. As we talk with Greg Feirn CEO of LCMC Health and Christine Albert, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at LCMC Health. Greg and Christine, welcome to the SHSMD podcast. As you know, we start every episode of the podcast with Rapid Insights, one quick tip someone can use to make their marketing communications better today. Greg, we’re going to start with you. Give us your Rapid Insight.

Greg Feirn, CEO (Guest):  Sure Bill. Good to be with you today. I would say think of ways to break through the clutter and reassure your consumer, your staff and your community alike that you have an emotional connection to a trusted brand.

Host:  An emotional connection. So important. Thank you, Greg and how about you, Christine. Give us your Rapid Insight.

Christine Albert, APR (Guest):  During times of crisis, like COVID-19, just like normal business operations, 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.

Host:  And that is your Rapid Insight. Christine and Greg, thank you so much and thank you for being here. I love talking to people and getting their different perspectives on the same thing and that’s what we’re going to do in this podcast as we discuss LCMC’s response to COVID-19. Greg, let me start with you. You took the phrase practice social distancing which we all use multiple times a day, each day; and you took this phrase and created something hopeful, something compassionate and something inspiring out of it. Can you tell us about that?

Greg:  Sure. We, at this time, we thought it was critical to be a beacon of positivity and heart, bringing our community together. The community who recognized our heroes so frequently and we really wanted to shine a light on all of the good that was occurring all around us in honoring the great work that our frontline heroes were providing each day.

Host:  Yeah, that’s really good Greg. I like that and I love that hopeful, compassionate and inspiring angle. I mean that’s really important in such a crisis like we’re in right now and speaking of the crisis, Christine, when you shifted into COVID-19 marketing mode at LCMC; what was your goal?

Christine:  Our goal is really to put our patients and community first and a big part of that was understanding and appreciating both what we were hearing anecdotally and what we could tell from just some pulse research that people were feeling anxious. They were looking for empathy, but they were also looking for someone to lead. So, we knew that the community trusted and valued hospitals and healthcare providers more than ever and were looking to us for information. But we also knew they were really anxious. Anxious about their healthcare and coming in and also just anxious about the other kind of economic factors happening, job loss, loss of insurance. So, there was a lot of uncertainty there and so part of our role was really to understand that and then to craft communications that really spoke to that.

Host:  Right, there certainly is a lot of anxiety and people are turning to their local healthcare institutions a lot more than they were three or four months ago. So, let’s talk about the campaign that you are rolling out. You’ve put together a fantastic crisis communications response to this. and you’re infusing it with your unique brand and personality designed to stand out and speak in a personal way to the community. And Greg, as you mentioned earlier, having an emotional connection is so important. So, let me ask each of you about some of the components of this campaign. Greg, let me start with you. Tell us about the community website and what you’re doing there.

Greg:  Sure. So, this community website is a hub where we share photos and news and resources. It’s the one place or one place where folks from the community can go for their COVID-19 needs. And also pretty heavily utilized by our staff. So, things like frontline stories are told on our community website. Lots of photographs of all the great work that’s being done across our facilities. There are certainly resources, new stories, et cetera that have been shown across our community. And all of those are part of that community web site.

Host:  Greg, you mentioned frontline stories. Christine, can you tell us more about those? What are those frontline stories?

Christine:  Our frontline stories really align to what Greg was talking about, that emotional response but also our LCMC Health brand is kind of uniquely built to tie into emotion. Our visual identity is a heart. Kind of the thing we are known for is that little something extra. So, that’s something we’ve infused in our culture that expected in our community which also really resonates with them. We were getting a lot of requests for media to come and embed in our Emergency Departments, to be with frontline providers, just a lot of curiosity and desire and hunger to know what was really happening inside hospitals and that was coming from that vacuum of again, the kind of fear, anxiety that the community was having. And so, we created frontline stories to help people have that bird’s eye view and perspective but safely. So not allowing clearly, folks to come in and embed in our Emergency Departments for example. But we asked our staff and that was a variety of people from supply chain management to ER physicians, nurses, housekeeping across the spectrum if they wanted to share what they were seeing and feeling.

And they were really quick and easy. People filmed them on their iPhones and submitted them to us and we shared them via social media, put them on our website and were pretty unfiltered so you got a really honest and vulnerable look from the frontline staff across our five hospital system. And it really resonated not only with the community, media outlets also really appreciated it but also our own staff who are supporting one another; really engaged with that content and the video content that was so accessible and so emotional.

Host:  Christine, you mentioned social media. Let me stay with you for a minute. Can you talk more about your social media strategy and the different platforms that you used?

Christine: Happy to. Social media for us, we found Web a destination for people but really, it’s social media engagement skyrocketed even more than our website utilization during this time. So, that’s where people are going and scrolling and looking for constant updates and information. And so for us, it was less about the tactics and tools and it was more about how do we overlay and have our brand and that brand voice and creative and still be consistent. So, although this was a crisis response scenario; who we are, what we stand for, how we visually and voice communicate with our community did stay consistent and so we’re based in New Orleans which is always a fun place to be and so even some of our social media content that we produced spoke to that.

So, we had floral decals that we would throughout our organizations, and they were coming in New Orleans vernacular where it would say things like it’s not personal darlin but keep your social distance. And so things that were colorful and vibrant just like our brand still appropriate for the situation or scenario but really spoke to that. Another example was on our Instagram having some custom creative graphics that were all really bold colors and crawfish boiling is the really big deal here. It’s crawfish season and so in telling people not to touch their face or their eyes; rather than saying it in that way we said pretend you are at a crawfish boil and you’ve just peeled your crawfish don’t touch your eyes. Everyone from this area knows that that means if you do that, you’re going to have all the salt and spices on it and it’s going to be really – it’s going to burn. It’s going to hurt. So, we crafted those expected communications that you needed to have around what to do or not do around hand hygiene and touching your eyes or face and kind of put that brand voice, look and feel on it to make the content more engaging and to speak to our unique community.

Host:  People want personality. So, so good to hear you’re infusing your personality into your COVID-19 brand response. Greg, let me ask you about this. You also celebrate the little something extra as well in your community and your external campaign. Tell us about celebrating the little extras?

Greg:  Sure so part of our brand is built on this culture of providing a little something extra. And we have a little extras website that’s also part of our community informational hub and so what we’ve done is we’ve partnered with local celebrities, those folks well known in our community who can bring together powerful messages not only for the community but for our staff to celebrate all the good that’s happened over the last eight weeks and share their stories. We see it more as a movement, something to connect our hospitals with the community, something less than a more traditional paid media campaign.

Host:  And Greg, everything you’re doing; why is this so important?

Greg:  Well we think it builds the strength of our brand in a very critical time not only for our healthcare system but for our community. Our brand is built around community so we think that the more we’re out there, the greater strength we’ll create with our community but we’ll also continue to build this very important culture across our 9000+ employees.

Host:  And then Christine, how has all of these communications been received in the community?

Christine:  The communications and kind of this engaging and having this conversation, this two way conversation around a shared experience this is really powerful, and the response has been significant. We’ve seen a lot of submissions to our little extras. We’re inviting people from the community as well as our staff to share and highlight and really elevate what they’re noticing, the good that’s there and shining a light and being that beacon for hope at a time when people really need it. And just from our metrics overall, our engagement on social media as well as the website, the frontline stories and YouTube is more than double our typical rate for engagement and views. So, really seeing that hunger there and we’re producing a lot of content to help fulfill that. So, it’s been very successful.

Host:  And that is really good to hear. So, I want to ask you each the same question and get your different perspectives on this. so, Greg, let me start with you. What have you learned so far up to this point dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic?

Greg:  My biggest learning as a CEO as we came together across our healthcare system to battle the pandemic; we have great unification across our facilities from leadership on down. It created a wonderful speed to action. Folks were unified in their decision making. And it’s that type of proactiveness and planning that we are going to look to capture and move it forward into day to day operations as we try to return to normal.

Host:  And Christine, from where you sit as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications; what have you learned so far from this crisis we’re in?

Christine:  Key learning is something we knew before, but this has really driven that home is to really understand and to stand behind looking to your brand to be a business driver. People are really looking for that emotional connection more than they’re looking for a functional we have the service please come. They’re looking to have that feeling of being heard, seen, as an individual, as a person and having your needs met. And we knew that before, and we’ve really been crafting and working on that and that’s part of our overall brand strategy to drive business. But really double down on that during this COVID-19 crisis that will be a sustained crisis but really delving into that, putting that consumer first and knowing that what drives that connection, that preference and ultimately advocacy all of which impacts the bottom line is the ability to connect deeply and well with your consumers.

Host:  And then Greg, from the CEO chair, I’ve asked you to look back, now if you could look forward; as we move through this crisis and we get into reopening and people coming back to businesses and those things, we get into the summer months and then fall and who knows if we are going to have a resurgence; tell us your thoughts now going forward. What do you think we’re going to see and what do you think you’re going to do?

Greg:  Sure. So, we do know we’re going to see a slower reengagement in healthcare services. So, our volumes on the outpatient side will continue to be softer than they were before the pandemic. 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. So, certainly virtual care is here to stay. And it’s going to be a big strategy on our side. We’ll also have to be mindful of the large bricks and mortar platforms that we have built over the years as healthcare systems and how might we re-envision those in the future.

Host:  And then Christine, from where you sit as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications; tell us what you think we’re going to see and how are you going to react to this as far as marketing through the next few months?

Christine:  I think although this is a crisis and certainly one, we would not have chosen to experience; I think there’s a lot of good that’s coming out of this. And to a certain extent, this is kind of healthcare’s Amazon moment. So, we talk a lot about disruption in healthcare and putting the consumer first. I think some organizations have been better than others, but overall hospitals and health systems have done more talking about that than really speed to action. I think the COVID-19 response showed that we can respond to what people need when they need it how they need it. For example, Telehealth or virtual health now is a huge part of what we’re doing. Here at LCMC Health, we had piloted a program but essentially set up a virtual health program in about two weeks.

So it normally might have taken us the rest of the year to really fully implement we stood up in a way that was effective and useful. So, I’m excited for what this means for how we view, the lens through which we view our work going forward as really being consumer centric and knowing that things won’t really go back to normal, it’s going to be a new normal. So, how do we adapt how we provide the services that people need in a new way that meets them where they are, when they need it and how they need it. And it may be bricks and mortar in our clinics or in our hospitals. It may be more virtual health and home health monitoring. So, I’m excited for what this means for healthcare in terms of really speed to action on evolving rapidly.

Host:  And then as we wrap up, thank you both for your time. I really appreciate it. Greg, let me start with you. From the CEO chair, for any other CEOs that may be listening. Can you just share some thoughts or advice right now as far as dealing with COVID-19 and what you have to deal with from the CEO chair?

Greg:  Sure. I believe we’re going to be dealing with COVID-19 and some volume of Coronavirus positive patients for some time into the future. So, we’re going to have to learn to manage around it. people are anxious. We’re going to need to tell them what they need to hear and continue to reassure them that it’s important to reengage in your healthcare.

Host:  And then Christine, as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, for our other healthcare marketers listening to this podcast; what advice would you have for them as we move forward through the Coronavirus pandemic?

Christine:  Well this is an unprecedented time not just for healthcare and our day to day jobs but just the world overall from an economic, healthcare and kind of a human crisis perspective. So, I think as healthcare marketers, the importance there is to really understand the total impact on not just our patients or consumers but also on our employees and those who are providing that care. So, think thoughtfully and carefully about really the human element of what will be an ongoing crisis and how to respond and meet the needs of people from that human perspective in order to be successful.

Host:  That human perspective. So important and now is the time to really focus on that human element. And as you said earlier, emotional connection. So, important. Greg and Christine, thank you so much for your time today, we really appreciate it.

Greg:  Thank you Bill.

Christine:  Thank you.

Host:  That’s Greg Feirn, CEO of LCMC Health. And Christine Albert, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at LCMC Health. To see what they’re doing, you can check out www.lcmchealth.org. And to learn more about SHSMD you can visit www.shsmd.org, that’s S-H-S-M-D.org. And visit our education page to learn about upcoming educational programs at www.shsmd.org/education. And if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on all of your social channels and please hit the subscribe or follow button to make sure you get every episode. This has been a production of Dr. Podcasting. I’m Bill Klaproth. See ya.