Jack of All Trades

Got a Thinking Problem? It’s Time for an Intervention.

Health system marketing leaders have a thinking problem. We WANT to think differently; to come up with creative plans to solve problems. But it can seem like a fantasy when we are operating like hamsters in a cage running as fast as we can just to get the things done on our list.

We are asked for a flyer here, a billboard there, a snazzy brochure somewhere else. Sometimes a service line leader (your internal client) just calls and screams, “I need more marketing!” and hangs up.

If you really want to serve your clients, what do you need to do?

I say: Ditch them.

Want to think differently? Start by thinking of yourself differently. If you are calling your service line leaders “clients,” you’re creating the perception that you are “serving” them. What I recommend is a different relationship — less as a vendor serving a client and more as an equal partnership.

Why is that important?

The world is changing and old thinking about marketing and communications won’t cut it anymore. Healthcare is undergoing seismic shifts. Patient expectations are different. The way people expect to be communicated with is different.

If marketing is to deliver on the health system’s strategic goals in this new world, we need to redefine the relationship with our internal clients so we can do our jobs.

A good way — and the perfect time — to signal the change is when we are creating the marketing plans for next year. Don’t just get out last year’s plan and dust it off. Throw it out and start over. And begin by getting in front of service line leaders and telling them why today’s realities require new thinking.

Let’s give our clinical friends the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the neuro, heart and ortho service lines leaders just don’t realize how much communications has changed. Share with them how it has. In fact, why not create a roadshow you share with anyone who will listen? Explain that you’ve been keeping on top of things and, as a strategic partner, you are going to give them expert advice. They are going to get your best thinking instead of just fulfilling the latest request.

Changing the words you use changes the thinking around them. Replace the client relationship with a partnership. Because, when you’re in this together, it leads to a whole new way of thinking.