OSU Wexner's marketing chief on creating a humanized hospital brand

Skip Hidlay, chief communications and marketing officer at Columbus-based Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, created a collaborative culture and expanded its strong partnerships with physicians, patients and digital marketing to make its brand successful, according to an interview branding agency Monigle shared with Becker's.

In partnership with the American Hospital Association and Society for Health Care Strategy and Market Development, Monigle surveyed more than 28,000 consumers who weighted hospital's brands on their performance in delivering a humanized experience. 

This list for 2022 included 200 hospitals and health systems, with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as No. 2 on the list, with three of Ohio's health systems making the top three spots on the list. 

Below are key insights Mr. Hidlay shared with Monigle on how Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center makes its brand successful:

Question: What made the Ohio State brand successful? 

Mr. Skip Hidlay: We produced a half-dozen new TV spots with our internal video team during the pandemic. All of them featured our physicians, nurses and other staff promoting vaccine safety, telehealth, safe in-person care, the need to get timely screenings for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. We played these new spots on the highest-profile TV events — the Super Bowl, the Olympics, March Madness and, of course, Ohio State football. I think this showed the community we were there for them no matter what the pandemic threw at us.

Q: What advice would you give to healthcare brands that struggle with leadership buy-ins?

SH: That we've had an infusion of new senior leadership at Ohio State, and we all have great relationships. We get along and we focus on moving the organization forward together. Everyone's opinion is respected. We all share the awareness of how important brand experience and patient experience is, and our senior leaders value strong marketing and communications as a way to create trust and deliver human experiences. We've made sure everyone is aligned. Our physicians know our brand and value it.

Q: How have you approached content and communications strategy this year? 

SH: People don't remember facts and figures — they remember great stories that connect with them emotionally. I've tried to break down silos between the marketing, communications, PR and digital strategy disciplines. Most places I've worked have been very siloed when I began, but I see my role as fostering integration and creating a collaborative, creative culture where everyone is focused first and foremost on identifying great stories. I believe great marketing campaigns are built on a foundation of powerful owned media storytelling on the web and social platforms.

Q: How does your health system stay tapped into what's happening in the world?

SH: We have a team that listens to trending questions on Google and on social media, so that we can build content that answers the questions that consumers have in real time. That helps us meet people in that moment. We also partner with our physicians when sharing content, which adds credibility and builds trust in our brand.

Q: How has data influenced your what type of storytelling the health system does? 

SH: Over the years, I've found from analyzing website traffic that the best performing pieces are about physicians, including FAQs with physicians as the source or byline, or any content about research advancing care at the bedside. The essence of what we are after is explanatory, informative storytelling, with a humanized angle. That is the content we've found people are looking for: quick health answers based on what’s trending, and then deeper, detailed content based on physicians and their medical research.

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