Getting the Board on Board: A CEO and CMO Perspective on Enabling Change through Politics, Policies and People

Making big changes across an organization is never easy—especially when those changes challenge the status quo and disrupt the “way we’ve always done it” mentality. But that’s exactly what needed to happen in order to transform a network of New Orleans hospitals into an “extra”-extraordinary health system designed to deliver coordinated, seamless care. Led by a powerful collaboration between the system’s CEO and Chief Marketing Officer, LCMC Health launched earlier this year as a connected system brand that celebrates the legacy, community, and personality of the city it serves.

Last week, Monigle’s Justin Wartell sat down with Greg Feirn (CEO of LCMC Health) and Christine Albert (SVP Marketing and Communications of LCMC Health) at the SHSMD Connections Conference in Nashville to discuss exactly what it took to gain buy-in with stakeholders and build a system brand with authenticity. They got real about how they brought board-level individuals through the process, shared tips and tactics for maintaining alignment across their respective teams and painted a picture of the steps they took to create the LCMC Health brand.

The conversation flowed throughout the hour, and Justin, Greg and Christine shared a series of key learnings and insights that could make all of the difference for health care leaders embarking on a similar journey. In case you missed it, we’ve captured some of the top lessons from the session here:

Lesson 1: Clarify the “why”

The five hospitals united by LCMC Health were beloved local institutions, with rich histories of service stretching back more than 200 years in the New Orleans community. Yet, there was virtually no knowledge internally or externally that these hospitals were connected, and no clear articulation of what LCMC Health stood for as an organization. With prominent competitors leveraging systemness in the market, Christine and Greg knew a change was needed to remedy these gaps—but it would require educating board members and other leaders about the business case behind the brand initiative.

Detailed market data and in-depth consumer research played a major role in defining the “why” in a way that generated alignment. Instead of just stating the need for change, we were able to show it through numbers that made sense to this business-focused group, while demonstrating the need for a shared, unique story. “Simply being ‘not our competitors’ is not enough,” said Christine, and using research helped communicate that in a way that got the board on board.

Lesson 2: It’s about more than marketing

In order to make this wide-scale shift happen, we needed to demonstrate to key stakeholders that this was about more than just advertising or creating a new campaign. “This was not a marketing initiative or a branding initiative. This was an organizational initiative,” said Greg. And that meant it would require systematic, strategic change management across every facet of the organization.

A major part of conveying this successfully was having Greg involved, present and on-board for every step. CEO-level commitment and engagement throughout the process was a key strategy for signifying just how significant this initiative was for the organization at every level.

Lesson 3: Trust is everything

Christine and Greg discussed the importance of their unified approach and vision for the initiative, stating that establishing the “trust factor” was a key element in their success from day one. “I was 100% on board externally when talking about this across the organization, but I would go to Christine and constantly ask questions. It was important to have that strong relationship so that we could have those conversations,” said Greg.

In addition to staying on the same page as a core team, we were committed to keeping board members and key stakeholders, including the hospital CEOs, aligned and involved throughout the process. That meant being open and transparent, and providing regular progress updates to keep individuals engaged and excited. Equipping people with the tools and talking-points needed to present a unified front in the face of push-back was key in establishing trust and buy-in.

Lesson 4: Change doesn’t happen overnight

“Once the board approved it – they wanted it immediately. It was a surprise for everyone to realize that this wasn’t going to happen overnight” said Greg. Once key stakeholders had bought in, they were understandably excited about the opportunities that were in store. Monigle, Christine and Greg worked together to articulate the importance of taking the time and putting in the work to ensure we built the strongest brand possible. This meant going slower than expected in order to ensure that the systems, processes and tools were in place.

When stakeholders pushed for speed, we were able to convey that this initiative was 30% “stuff” and 70% internal culture—and building a unified culture takes effort and time. “As we went through the process, Monigle assisted in engagement with people and helped us articulate the story on why we couldn’t do it [overnight]…wow we have 9,000 brand ambassadors, which is more powerful and enduring than any brand campaign,” said Greg.

Lesson 5: People as the heart of the brand (not just the recipients of it)

“We thought we could create this [brand] organically, find out what’s great about us and build it [from there]. We had to go and uncover the insights about what make us different” explained Christine. And what we uncovered was that the most important element in the LCMC Health ecosystem is undoubtedly its people. “People do things in New Orleans differently” says Christine, “so we built a healthcare brand that celebrates that individuality, that warmth and that unique experience.”

With a mission to “celebrate extraordinary in a world of ordinary,” the LCMC Health brand is built around the unique individuals that make up the organization. By giving people permission to be themselves, the change became less about forcing a new identity on them and more about celebrating what had been there all along—extraordinary people caring for extraordinary communities.

From featuring real employees in brand reveal videos and advertising to hosting comprehensive culture leader trainings, LCMC Health’s people were front-and-center on launch day. This focus on building a brand from the inside-out enabled an exciting and inspiring brand launch that felt like a true celebration for everyone involved—and even the board members joined in on the fun!

If you’d like a copy of the full presentation deck—featuring photos and video from LCMC Health’s launch celebration—please reach out directly to Kim Hofland, Senior Director of Health Care Marketing at khofland@monigle.com