Healthcare’s branding advantage in an era of distrust - Strategic Brand Communications l 603-658-1600
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It’s a must-read for marketers: the Edelman Trust Barometer. Here at Creative Co-op we look for data to complement our instincts as brand strategists, and this year’s Edelman survey is a bombshell. Its conclusion: turmoil, fake news and biased definitions of truth have helped crash Americans’ trust in many respected institutions. When trust is hard to come by, how can you advance your institutional brand?

The answers may surprise you. But first, here are some points that illustrate why Edelman is reporting a record low in U.S. public trust, dating back to the firm’s first survey 18 years ago:

  • A 37-point aggregate drop in U.S. trust scores for media, government, business and NGOs/nonprofits over the past year – making America far and away the biggest “trust loser” among 28 countries ranked
  • Across-the-board declines for all four institutional categories in the U.S., with only NGOs and businesses trusted by close to 50% of respondents
  • Widespread uncertainty, with 63% of the U.S. general population finding it difficult to distinguish between real and fake news, and average trust of platforms such as social media and search engines falling by 11 points

Trust is hard enough for brand strategists to earn in optimistic times, and healthcare is no exception. Gallup polls indicate that a steady 71% of Americans continue to believe that the U.S. healthcare system is in a state of crisis or has major problems. Yet we are intrigued by some of Edelman’s trend lines, pointing to strong advantages for nonprofit health providers and similar NGOs that seek to establish their brands.

  • WHAT’S DOWN: credibility of typical spokespeople “like you” (54%)
  • WHAT’S UP: credibility of technical experts (63%) and academics (61%)
  • WHAT’S OUT: government as trusted agents of change
  • WHAT’S IN: NGOs and businesses as initiators of measures supporting innovation, prosperity, safety, privacy and community

In short, health systems and providers are rich in a scarce commodity – trusted authority figures such as scientists, researchers, technologists, physicians and other experts. Plus, commitment to bettering human life will always resonate with the public, even as many other institutional missions are called into question.

We believe that this is an accurate view of today’s mental landscape for health consumers. And it’s one we’re accustomed to, after much work in polarizing public utility sectors where trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. In fact, we have often leveraged respected individuals to establish credibility and revive troubled brands, in much the same way suggested by Edelman.

For a robust healthcare brand, then, that can foster patient trust and loyalty over a lifetime of care, appropriate tactics might include:

  • External campaigns publicizing elite physicians, researchers or academics as brand ambassadors, explaining advances in fields such as precision medicine or genomics
  • Public advocacy, tips, features or tutorials on hot-button community issues such as diabetes, aging populations and the opioid crisis
  • Stakeholder updates on your efforts to enhance local quality of life, bring elite capabilities to your community and provide a superior patient experience
  • Institutional report cards that demonstrate transparency and make the public aware of your continued progress via factual, easily grasped metrics
  • Patient engagement programs that offer resources, incentives and recognition to community members participating in their own good health
  • A vigorous internal communications program that makes your mission and vision an integral part of daily conversation, promoting not only a common brand voice but a level of personal engagement that boosts staff retention and patient experience

If you’re a healthcare professional facing internal or external branding challenges in a world that is difficult to convince, you can trust us. Contact Creative Co-op today or call (603) 658-1600.