It is all about me …

What could be more self-serving and vain than quoting yourself? How about republishing an entire speech verbatim? Ego and laziness all in one entry.

My address to the New England Society of Healthcare Communicators:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been at a gathering where a speaker has asked you to raise your hand. Typically what happens is the speaker then goes on to make a point that relates to the question posed even if only two people raise their hand. The idea is that somehow the audience response has supported the speaker’s notion. This is a phenomenon known as spurious affirmation. It is assertion without proof.

The other day, I conducted an Internet search for the phrase “Our people are our (fill in the blank).” There were 164,000 citations that included “Our people are our greatest asset, strength, biggest innovation, competitive advantage, family, power, or most valuable resource.” 164,000 citations stated in one form or another by everyone from Nortel to the Wheeling Auto Center. All I can say is, wow – these must be some special people.

But for the vast majority of these organizations, they were just engaging in the same spurious affirmation that I did a moment ago. It’s a proposition without the value. It’s risky business. It is the exact opposite of an employer brand.

If just anyone could develop, manage, and deliver your organization’s services, you wouldn’t need an employer brand. But if just anyone could do those things, there would be nothing distinctive about what your organization offered its patients and customers.

Knowledge capital and talent are the keys to making an organization successful. Attracting both requires not only a fair exchange of value between employer and employee, but also a relevant and differentiated offer.

In other words, an employer brand – one that can be crafted and articulated in advertising, networking, and communication channels.

Let’s talk about this talent, this knowledge capital that all organizations need to be successful. These folks consciously or unconsciously seek to affiliate with brands. They only have the capacity to be familiar with a certain number of brands. And absent brand affiliation, they are likely to make choices based on price-point. In other words, they are just like any other consumer.

And just like consumers, you have to wonder: how long are they yours?
Service brands, experiential brands/institutional brands, rely on moments between staff and customer, staff and patient. Sometimes these are big moments – sometimes they’re small. But as you know, perhaps better than anyone, they’re all important.

In the mid-90s, a white paper was published in the Journal of Brand Management by Simon Barrow and Tim Ambler, both of the U.K. Their premise was that the best shops (a decidedly British phrase) created the best word of mouth, which in turn led to the best applicants, resulting in the best people, which of course, came full circle to the establishment of the best shops. While much less complex than quantum physics, it’s still a simple and powerful idea today. In fact, it is the foundation of the employer brand concept.

The purpose of an employer brand is to create a desired perception of an organization as an employer in the minds of employees and candidates that is both relevant and differentiated. It is fact-based – founded on those attributes of the employment experience that an organization delivers and a candidate/employee deems to be important. It is constructed to achieve rational and emotional resonance while connecting with an individual’s aspirations.

It should be designed to further the achievement of an organization’s mission by increasing engagement of current employees and attracting future employees who are naturally aligned with those goals.

It will connect with more of the candidate market with deeper, more meaningful messaging. It will enable an organization to attract candidates based on important tangible and intangible brand attributes rather than just commodity attractors such as compensation. And it will provide a unified voice for an organization that brings clarity to recruitment efforts – from the career site to employee referrals. Not that anyone here has to worry about attracting healthcare professionals – what with the overabundance of RNs, PAs, and the like, and demographics working so well in your favor.

However, while the premise is simple, it cannot be achieved simply through the development of a new recruitment advertising campaign. Ten years ago, a study estimated that the average person was exposed to 500 brand messages each day. Imagine what it must be now. Globalization has led to the introduction of an increasing number of brands to a given market. Technology leads to more pervasive delivery of brand messages, contributing to message saturation. Not that we have too many pharmaceutical ads.

Breaking through with messaging that actually results in an employer brand requires the concerted and aligned efforts of staffing professionals, marketers, brand managers, and communication professionals. Otherwise, you’re simply contributing to the noise.

But in the end, if you work together, you will not only effectively deliver a more meaningful message to candidates and a more significant experience to employees, you’ll also deliver a better brand experience to your patients, your customers.

Raise your hand if you agree.

Thank you.

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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