Success Story: The Five Steps to Building a Successful Government Relations Program
A $2 billion health system, the largest healthcare provider in its region, was struggling to maintain its footing among its competitors. It was not achieving a number of its strategic goals — gaining certificates of need, winning critical managed care contracts, cultivating champions and building support for or opposition to key legislative issues.
The system was committed to delivering excellent and affordable care for its patients, and it invested in innovative ways to fulfill that promise. But there was a clear disconnect between their efforts and the way the organization was perceived by elected officials and key opinion leaders.
The health system realized it needed to make some changes if it wanted more control over meeting key business goals, but it did not have a good understanding of what was causing their current GR efforts to fall short.
To get a better handle on the problem, we conducted an assessment of the system’s GR structure and activities, analyzing staffing and overall effectiveness. We also compared the system’s efforts with those of competitors and successful GR programs in health systems across the nation. We benchmarked staffing structures and department goals, state and national lobbying efforts and overall relationship status.
It was clear that the system needed to retool – and dramatically enhance – its GR efforts. We suggested a different way of operating, including having the department lead report directly to the president and CEO, and creating a supportive GR strategy leadership group comprised of key members of the system’s C-suite leaders.
This afforded GR a seat at the corporate table so that better information and strategy coordination could occur. We also recommended making the program freestanding and focused exclusively on GR. We then worked with the client to identify and hire a new leader for the department.
With these critical transitions agreed upon, we developed a yearlong strategic GR plan to help the organization stay on track. The plan was built around five key priorities:
- Build out a robust GR infrastructure.
- Establish close communications between GR and other key internal departments (corporate communication, community relations, managed care, etc.).
- Create a message platform that spans a variety of audiences, sets the system apart from competitors and positions it as a vital community (and state) resource. Messaging should be consistent and a coordinated effort within the organization.
- Develop a sustained outreach plan that leverages existing relationships and forges new ones with elected officials, regulators and key leaders.
- Cultivate a base of advocates willing to engage and advocate on behalf of the system.
We created key measurements, and as part of the strategic plan, we worked with the system to develop a month-by-month execution calendar that involved expanding the system’s outreach into the community, forming key relationships and strengthening existing ones. Through this process, we developed a new budget for the GR program and helped the new team establish its daily and weekly operating rhythm.
The system named a vice president of GR with close ties within the community, adopted a new messaging platform and began to forge bonds with targeted audiences. In addition, the GR strategy leadership group continues to meet regularly to coordinate strategies and operations.
As a result of the department’s new laser-like focus, the system has won significant managed care contracts and invested in community relations to help elevate its public perception.
Smartly restructuring how the organization approached and invested in GR and then developing a strategic plan that defined the overall framework, focus and goals enabled the health system to guide long-term and ongoing GR activities. GR has transformed into an effective and strategic force for the organization.