The Critical Moment When Hospital Reputation Management Matters Most

hospital reputation managementMany marketing executives and communications professionals recognize this headline is a bit of trick. The answer, of course, is that hospital reputation management (HRM) matters constantly. Reputation is the core component of nearly everything.

This post provides a few of the most meaningful moments when hospital reputation management matters the most. Plus we include five important tips and techniques for maintaining a first class reputation.

“Your brand name is only as good as your reputation” according to Richard Branson. But the trouble is—and here’s the tricky part—it is not an episodic, campaign-reliant or a crisis-inspired kind of thing. In our digital age, people turn first to the Internet at a time of need.

Growing a positive and respected reputation through careful planning and painstaking effort is the tough part. The tragic side is the potential for a positive online reputation to be lost through neglect or poor management. Consider these critical moments:

The quiet before the storm. Creating and maintaining the elements of reputation management fulfill an important need…literally around the clock. Organizations that neglect HRM before a crisis, a PR hotspot or even positive news event will have no time or opportunity to quickly create a quick “reputation splash” at the last minute. Hospital reputation management requires ongoing time and attention.

Be prepared for the emergency. Sooner or later there will be a crisis—a major or minor storm that will test your reputation in the minds of the public. In addition to being prepared (and rehearsed) with various “urgent scenarios,” your regular and ongoing communications prep will pay extra benefits in a storm. It’s the urgent moments that showcase a well-established reputation.

The moment of a medical need. Often, the principal challenge in healthcare communications is in engaging consumers today for solutions they may need tomorrow. People rarely care until there is a moment of need. And the reputation that people discover online while in search of a best-care solution needs to be strong, capable and caring.

Fortunately, nearly 50 percent of patients believe that reputation matters when they select a new provider. Unfortunately, about the same number of doctors—roughly half—do not actively manage their online reputation, according to MedData research. Also, hospitals are more proactive with reputation management than doctors. Therefore, reputation may influence patient care decisions, but primarily about an institution or health system and less so about an individual doctor.

Keeping your finger on your reputation pulse…

The key component of hospital reputation management is creating and using a monitoring system. Know your primary audience and be aware of what the public is seeing. Here are some of the ways to create and maintain a first-class online image:

Find your digital presence. Closely monitor your primary social media platforms and the connecting points for your audience. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others are among the biggest.

Make it a dialog; respond to comments. Audience interactivity unlocks engagement. Always contribute to comments and discussions. Provide a quick reply especially with a negative or incorrect comment.

Be positive, upbeat and supportive. Even when the comment or conversation is less than flattering, take the high road. Always bring a positive and constructive tone to the conversation.

Encourage patients to contribute reviews. Most people will offer online comments and ratings that are positive. Encourage people to resolve negative issues with the staff. And, having done so, the online comments will reflect a supportive voice.

Never ignore or neglect negative comments. Many online issues can be easily addressed. (It’s too bad they were not resolved before being posted.) Always respond to negative comments immediately—before they take root, fester and become even larger problems or an outright crisis.

The Internet is today’s public front door for hospitals and practitioners. The reputation and information that consumers discover online are guides to their own provider and healthcare selections. What’s more, the comments, collective reputation and reviews tend to influence the decisions of many others.

With the growth of the Internet—in size and convenience—the task of reputation management is increasingly demanding and challenging for hospitals and health systems. In summary, there is never a moment when reputation does not play a vital role with both the institution and with the public.

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Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.

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