Hospital M&A Communications Rules 7 & 8
by: Magi Curtis | posted May 24, 2012
Fourth in a series on 12 rules for successful communications in hospital M&A
Remember when you were a kid and your parents or your teachers gave you a secret trick for remembering that poem you needed to memorize, they told you to repeat it seven times. While I’m not convinced on the magical powers of the number seven, the takeaway is that the more you repeat something, the likelier it is that it will be remembered.
This is particularly true when communicating something as stressful and as complicated as, “our hospital is being sold” or “our hospital is merging with X”. At the forefront of an employee’s or a physician’s mind upon hearing this news is, “do I still have a job, are my benefits going to change, how will this impact me?”
While it’s important to have answers to those questions, it’s also important to realize that your audiences have likely missed about 90% of the message you’re trying to deliver. Oh, and by the way, while you’re busy communicating with your folks, rumors will likely start and your opposition (often your competitors) will be launching their campaign.
So, how do you make sure your audiences hear and understand what you’re trying to tell them and that you don’t get sidetracked by opposition? We bring you M&A communications rules 7 & 8:
8. Don’t Dance to Someone Else’s Music
Overcommunicate: Say it once, then say it again. And when you think you’ve said it too much, say it a couple more times. People are busy and they tend to only take the time to hear the things that impact them. The more you communicate with your employees, your doctors, your patients and your community, the higher the likelihood that they’ll hear you and understand why this deal is important and in the best interest of the hospital.
Keep in mind that people absorb information in different ways, so try to reach your audiences using a variety of communications vehicles. Send out regular CEO updates via email, conduct town hall meetings with your employees, physicians and community members, hit the road and talk to local businesses and civic groups, meet with your elected officials and have a web presence dedicated to the deal. If you do it right, your nurses, doctors, patients and community leaders will start delivering the messages for you – they’ll be the hospital’s best advocates.
Don’t Dance to Someone Else’s Music: It’s as true in communications as it is in sports, the best defense is a good offense. Remember Rule #1 – Commit to a campaign – and Rule # 3 – Develop and own your message? These are you offense and you need to stick to them.
It’s going to be tempting to respond to stunts or statements made by the opposition; that’s why they’re doing them — they’re trying to distract you. Simply put, don’t do it. The most effective thing you can do to control the message is to stay focused and stick to your plan. Will it be tough sometimes? Yes. Will it require commitment from leadership? Yes. Is it worth it – driving the conversation? Absolutely.
The bottom line: Deliver your message and deliver it often.
Rule 5 – Be Personal and Rule 6 – Be Transparent
Rule 3 – Own your message and Rule 4 – Get the “talk right” inside first
Rule 1 – Commit to a Campaign and Rule 2 – Take a Seat at the Deal Table
Rule 9 — Be Flexible and Rule 10 – Think Like the Opposition