Engage Employees Early On to Ensure a Successful Brand Transition

 In Preparing for the Future

The act of merging cultures among different organizations, let alone their finances and operations, seems like a difficult road to navigate. There are so many elements to consider – what are your collective values, what is your unified mission, what is your brand promise? Does one organization’s brand culture trump the other(s)? Or do you start fresh, with a renewed vision fueled by new and different perspectives?

A couple of years ago, while working for a home care and hospice trade association in North Carolina, I heard that two of our member organizations, Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro and Hospice & Palliative Care of Alamance-Caswell, were joining forces. A few people at the association knew the two legacy organizations were partnering with Transcend Strategy Group to help navigate certain aspects of this merger. In this merger scenario, a brand name change was inevitable as the two existing names were limiting in reflecting their entire service area and the potential of adding new service lines.

From the outside looking in, it seemed that AuthoraCare Collective was born overnight. To me, the transition was seamless. I was impressed with the name, the visual story, the tagline, the brand’s architecture – everything. I couldn’t help but wonder what the culture was like behind the beautiful imagery. Did this new brand promise – “Your Story. Our Expert Care.” – resonate with the team in an authentic way? Were employees living that brand promise? The answer would become clearer as I continued to interact with staff from the newly formed healthcare organization. I saw the strategy in action as it was implemented in AuthoraCare’s communities to inform and empower both public and professional audiences. I even heard about first-hand experiences from friends who were employed there during and after the transition, and their reactions seemed genuine and positive.

What does it take to achieve this level of synergy? What seemed from the outside to develop overnight in reality required months of meticulous intention.

About a year after the brand reveal, Transcend and AuthoraCare Collective spoke to a group of marketing and PR professionals through NHPCO’s myNHPCO Marketing/Development/PR Section Chat about their new brand. As a Steering Committee Member at the time, I was excited to hear the story behind why they chose their new name. The presentation made it clear that reinventing an organization is not as simple as removing the word “hospice.” It requires a deep dive into the priorities of the organization, both short- and long-term, and the values of consumers and referrers in their markets. It warrants an objective view of what is standing in the way of success. Perhaps most importantly, it requires buy-in from current employees. They must believe in your culture and live your brand if they are to carry out the organization’s mission successfully.

It may seem obvious, but engaging your team early on in your brand’s evolution provides you with key cultural insights and a baked-in brand ambassador team who fully understands and represents your organization with pride and authenticity. This alone could help set you apart from the competition, as the experiences your team delivers to your patients and families will be consistent and unforgettable – distinguishable from the pack.

Brand rollouts are more effective when an organization’s employees can:

  • Name the organization’s brand, its differentiators and effectively communicate them
  • Sense authenticity in the organization’s purpose
  • Identify how their own values align with those of the organization
  • Connect the organization’s values to their work
  • Access resources and receive training on messaging and values

AuthoraCare Collective’s leadership engaged their internal team in the new brand and positioning as part of the brand rollout. Not only did the new brand need to resonate with external audiences, but it also had to serve as common ground and a foundation for the newly formed team originating from two different organizations.

The AuthoraCare executive management team engaged small Task Groups comprised of a range of individuals with varying roles across both organizations. These Task Groups helped to articulate the purpose, positioning and differentiators for the new brand, and the involvement from staff fostered not only buy-in, but actual authorship of the new brand hallmarks.

Speaking of authorship, the Task Groups’ input helped lead Transcend to suggest “AuthoraCare Collective” as the new brand name. The first part of the name created the platform for messaging that patients should be the authors of their remaining chapters of life, and the agency’s approach gave them and their families authority over their own care.

From the brand name, the tagline “Your Story. Our Expert Care.” emerged. It was a concise way to communicate that empowering patients to write the remaining chapters of their own stories took priority, supported by the agency’s expert care.

Kristen Yntema, CEO of AuthoraCare Collective, said she knew the brand’s positioning, purpose and passion were really taking root when she had a memorable experience shortly after the brand was launched. Kristen said she overheard a nurse and social worker talking (and they didn’t know Kristen was there). The nurse and social worker were focused on defining what they thought a patient’s plan of care should be, when they stopped and said something like, “Hey, wait. This is their story, not our plan of care. We need to make sure they are in charge of their own care plan.”

This unprompted statement from two AuthoraCare team members is a strong indication that the strategy was successful. Another supporting fact is the agency’s turnover, which reached 14% after a little more than one year – 8% below the national average. Healthcare employees are a major representation of any provider’s brand and carry out the organization’s mission personally through direct care and patient interaction. It makes sense, then, to empower them with knowledge of your brand promise and associated values.

Consider Chick-Fil-A and almost any experience you have had with one of their franchises. The smiles, the cheeriness, the “my pleasures” … and although the drive-thru lines can be frustratingly long, the Chick-Fil-A crew seems calm, confident and genuinely happy to serve you. There are countless Chick-Fil-A case studies meant to dissect its operational prowess and masterful customer service, and employee engagement is perhaps the most important ingredient.

Think of engaging employees early in your brand’s evolution as a compelling value proposition for all stakeholders. A well-crafted brand will permeate an organization’s culture, leading to the perception of purpose-driven success. During the age of “The Great Resignation,” it is ultimately your people and your culture that attract and retain top talent. When teams consist of top-notch employees who deliver your brand’s promise with purpose and passion, your patients, caregivers, families and referral sources will feel the difference.

Whether you are considering a brand identity update or brand transformation, Transcend has over 20 years of experience collaborating with organizations like AuthoraCare Collective through the evolution process and employee engagement. To start a conversation about your brand’s goals, feel free to reach out to me at courtney@transcend-strategy.com.

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