Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How do you communicate to your patients or plan members regarding a merger or acquisition?

With the acceleration of mergers and acquisitions across all healthcare verticals, the question is posed for your consideration, how do you communicate with your consumers, patients or plan members about a merger or acquisition? Do you communicate on a personal level what's going on at all, or do you rely on the news media to carry the story?

This is an important question.

After all, most organizations, if they are paying any attention to communications detail, are decent at communicating with physicians and employees about what's going on. Timing can sometimes be an issue internally, especially if a news reports hit the street before employees know.

But commonly, where most healthcare organizations fall down in the communications chain, is how they communicate the merger or acquisition with patients, consumers, and vendors.

They are important audiences and you need to control your message with them as you do internally and with the media. In the age of social media where everyone has the potential to become paparazzi, why would take a chance on publicly generated comments? Comments, that may or may not have your brand messages and information.

When you did your Q&A for internal audiences, did you consider who has daily interaction with consumers, vender and patients, creating and training them with a Q&A for their use? Probably not. That my friends, is a missed opportunity to point up the positives, strengthen your brand and create a better experience for your end-user.

But the communication does not end there. You also need a plan that provides all of your audiences with regular updates about how the merger or acquisition is progressing and what it means to them. You have an opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialogue with your patients during this period. Don't waste it. Just don't assume that because they are your patients, that they don't care, don't have concerns about how it effects them, or don't want information about what's occurring in your organization.

And if you are think about changing the name because two health systems merge, then you need to start planting that idea now.

Having been though more mergers and acquisitions that I care to remember, my communications plans have been extremely detailed and project management oriented. Most importantly, the plan also detailed how I has going to communicate with patient's message frequency and methods.

Never, ever, miss an opportunity to strengthen you brand messages and control the messaging with key audiences.

My best merger-acquisition marketing communication plan ever? Glad you asked- 5 brands, 17 legal size paper pages, containing over 250 steps, not only to inform and minimize patient, employee, physician and consumer defections, but to move four of the acquired brands to our existing brand and brand architecture at the same time.

Good luck. Be detailed. Take nothing for granted. Use all available communication means- direct mail, press, web site, social media etc.

And communicate, communicate and communicate.

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For more information, or to discuss your strategic healthcare marketing, customer experience management, marketing/sales integration or start-up needs, you can learn more at my web site the michael J group; email-; or phone by calling me at 815-293-1471.

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