How the Nation’s Largest Nonprofit Health System Stays on Message
The nation’s largest nonprofit health system, Ascension, has more than 153 hospitals in 22 states and 2,600 sites of care with 156,000 employees. It maintains health care services as well as a solutions division, which includes investment management, a ministry service center, and a venture capital fund.
Despite its spread across varied regions and specialties, Ascension strives to maintain a cohesive messaging and PR strategy, the center of which is a robust thought leadership program.
“Thought leadership is telling your story and ensuring it’s bold and different,” says Johnny Smith, Jr., senior director of marketing and communications at Ascension. “People have to care about what you’re going to say.”
Smith’s results are impressive — in Q1 of FY2019, Ascension saw 145 earned media stories with 3.1 million impressions, an estimated $2.66 million in publicity value. On the social media side, that same quarter saw 245 social media posts reaching 1.47 million users, which earned more than 34,000 clicks and 6,500 engagements.
“We were a large holding company with all these different markets and had a distributed leadership model,” Smith explains. “But we wanted to bring everyone together and create an idea of ‘One Ascension.’ It’s about making a cultural change to operate holistically.”
As Ascension was exploring ways to form a more cohesive PR and messaging strategy, it focused on three major priorities:
- Establish recognition of the Ascension brand and what it means to be part of a national organization
- Promote core service lines and clinicians, especially those in oncology, mental health, cardiology, and orthopedics
- Grow Ascension’s thought leadership
“A successful service line promotion program helps you keep your job, but a successful thought leadership program gives you influence within your organization,” Smith says.
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