National Healthcare Branding Case Study

Integrated Communications Case Study: Developing a Green Branding Strategy for a National Healthcare Services Company

A $3 billion publicly traded healthcare services company wanted to start its first formal PR initiative. It felt PR could shorten its sales cycle and build relationships with the national news media by telling how hospital leaders are “greening their operations.” The company historically was only focused on investor relations. PR efforts would be customer-centric, or told by its hospital base, to leverage 3rd party, objectivity and become one of the most quoted companies in a highly regulated and complex industry with stiff competition. A PR goal was to reinforce its healthcare leadership position over its largest competitor and to show how it was helping hospital leaders increase their sustainability efforts.

The largest U.S. waste management company, four times the size of our client in revenue, was increasing its presence in healthcare with a large PR effort. We were selected to develop a strategy for a three-pronged branding initiative. A plan was to highlight industry trends and its customer voice to broaden the company’s external focus beyond investor relations and diminish its radio silence with the news media. In addition to building relationships with business and trade reporters, the plan included the company’s first national speaker’s bureau and an awards program concept. This integrated PR effort would be beneficial for increasing industry visibility with customers, vendors, partners, employee recruits, and other stakeholders. Also the integrated initiative enhanced customer loyalty, employee pride, and website optimization with organic rankings from securing links to third party customer and news sites.

National Media Relations:

Ballast Group’s customer-centric PR philosophy was blended with a grass-roots approach for success. In one year, Ballast Group developed a compelling story into custom press releases for a select group of 60 national customers. This number surpassed a first-year goal of convincing 12 hospital community leaders in substantial media markets to release news with our client.

This grassroots effort was combined with ghost-written bylined articles that were accepted by six major healthcare trade publications. The objective and educational content was focused on sustainability trends, the greening of hospital operations, pharmaceutical waste compliance that kept drugs out of the public water supply, and using reusable containers that decreased landfill mass. The carbon footprint data correlated the annual pounds of carbon dioxide prevented and gallons of gasoline not burned by hospitals using these green services.

This PR strategy led to more than 20 million impressions nationwide in one year, including a syndicated Associated Press story, a Health Leaders article, and stories about decreasing carbon footprints that appeared in outlets including the Houston Business Journal, Austin Business Journal, Fox 12 Portland, ABC24 Memphis and others.

National and Regional Speaker’s Bureaus:

The company’s first national speaker’s bureau was developed to include both national and regional efforts, resulting in nearly 50 lead-generating, customized speaking engagements. The continuing education-approved presentations were completed in 11 states for the American Society for Health Pharmacist chapters and other national conferences such as The Joint Commission, Association for Health Materials Management, Practice Greenhealth and others. This program was developed by creating compelling content delivered with the client’s customers. More than 2,500 hospital, pharmacy environmental services and infection control leaders were made aware of the client’s services in less than two years, shortening the sales process for representatives accustomed to selling 1:1 with these prospects.

For the company, PR:

Increased awareness that helped to decrease time to close sales 
Reinforced the company as a thought leader in the marketplace 
Led it to be one of the most quoted companies in the industry 
Positively affected public perception as evident by significant stock performance 

For hospital leaders, PR:

Increased awareness of the hospital as a good community partner 
Ignited a regional hospital competitiveness to tell green stories 
Became a catalyst for highlighting hospitals’ green teams 
Added value to the sales process with quotes in press releases and presentations 
Enhanced legislator, patient, community and employee recruit awareness 
Showed hospitals ahead of the legislative and regulatory compliance curves 
Reinforced hospitals as fiscally responsible with cost savings and cost avoidances 

Besides the benefits above, this PR strategy and integrated approach led Mad Money’s Jim Cramer to invite the CEO to appear on its “Green Week.” More significantly, it recognized the company for its sustainability efforts to improve air and water quality by its customer base. In the first year implementing PR, the stock went from $51 to $81/share and in its second year continued to climb as seen below. Formal efforts began to complement existing investor relations, including those by Motley Fool