Monday, April 18, 2016

Chief Communications Officers in health systems, advocates and publishers?

In an article written by Agnes Estes and posted on LinkedIn April 6, 2016, Modern CCO “No Longer Explains the Company to the World, But the World to the Company” posed some interesting observations. The title of the post came from comments by Christof Ehrhart, EVP, Corporate Communications and Responsibility for Deutsche Post DHL Group in the  Arthur Page white paper on The New CCO: Transforming Enterprises in a Changing World. (Both of those thought leadership pieces are must-read for all communicators.)

After reading the materials, I started to question initially the impact of how the new media environment changes the health system role of Chief Communications Officers.  A second issue that comes to mind is how does that role change in the light of all the public data that is available which can either support or contradict the communication effort internally and externally? 

The challenge now for CCOs is a previous healthcare one-way data street has become a two-way public thoroughfare.

One side of the data-street are the bytes and bits coming together into the health system to manage individuals care, populations, operations, or build a network for example.  On the other side of that data-street stands the publically available data, good and bad that a patient, physician or health care consumer can access.

It only gets better.

The quandary faced by many CCOs is that sometimes the message or story of the reason or the anticipated results of action may not match up with the reality of the information spreading across multiple media platforms. The tail, in essence, begins to wag the dog. The incongruity of messages and information can touch the very soul of the health system brand, reputation, and culture.

Self-inflicting wound?

It doesn’t help when the senior team has decided what the message should be without the involvement or least a serious discussion with the CCO on the implications of positions. Well meaning no doubt, but rife with unintended consequences. Unintended consequences because of the changes the way information is transmitted nearly immediately and globally feeding the demanding media ecosystem, whose audiences have short audience attention spans requiring sensationalism with shares being the new currency.

The CCO has several competing roles in one.

It’s several roles in one. The first role is that is communications strategist. The second role is that of a tactician. The third role in this new age of consumer-driven media and data is the internal advocate on how communications impact the health system reputation, values, and culture. And the fourth role is the leadership responsibility to have those tough internal discussions and educate the leadership team on the implications and impacts of communications as their fundamental business model changes. The fifth role is that of the publisher.

This new paradigm, whether the data is related to health system performance or a national study implicating all health systems, can call into question the transparency, values and truthfulness of the organization.  The bright lights of the media distribution channels bring message inconsistencies (this is what I say, but the data shows otherwise) more quickly to light impacting the reputation, culture, brand, and truthfulness of the health system.

From earned media placement to media publishing company

It’s no longer about only earned media. Though while the story in USA Today or US World and News Report is great, the game for the health system CCO is now content creation and how that content matches, supports and builds the values and reputation of the organization. It’s about becoming the publisher across a multitude of channels and vehicles that often overlap with engaging content or compelling stories not pitching and placing.

Health system executives today have a lot on their plates and may not fully appreciate the impact of communications, the new media environment, and the effects their actions may have on the reputation, values, and brand of the organization. In today’s world, though attention spans are short, people pay attention and look for the slightest inconsistencies between words and actions.
In the past people believed what the health system communicated. In the world of data-driven transparency, that’s no longer the case. The actions in any given situation are just as important as how the health system communicates the message.

And that is the role of the CCO, publisher, leader of change, and advocate for the health system reputation, values, and culture.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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