By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
[Podcast Series] In our continuing hospital leadership series, Lonnie Hirsch talks with Laurie Labishak, VP Marketing, PR and Community Relations, Ohio Valley Health Services and Education, Wheeling WV. Recorded at the SHSMD Connections meeting in Chicago, Laurie describes the community hospitals’ recovery strategy, successful turnaround and public relations strategy.
The public relations situation could hardly have been worse for the two community hospitals.
Only five miles apart, but separated by the Ohio River and a state line, the Ohio Valley Medical Center (Wheeling, WV) and East Ohio Regional Hospital (Martins Ferry, OH) are part of a hospital system that has been in existence for over 150 years.
But in our podcast interview, Laurie Labishak describes the bleak situation to Lonnie Hirsch. About four years ago, the long-established medical facilities faced severe business troubles and dire financial straits that put them on the brink of bankruptcy.
The successful recovery story begins with a C-suite “changing of the guard” in operations, a new CFO, putting the financial house in order and undertaking overdue third-party contract negotiations. The bottom-line result; Ohio Valley Health Services was able to achieve an $11-million turnaround in one year.
But, due in part to the financial challenges, Ohio Valley still had a PR “black eye” in the community, according to Laurie, and they also had a need to rebuild trust in the community and with their employees. (Some were long-term employees with decades of service.)
The podcast provides additional details, but a key consideration in addressing the public relations challenges was to stop doing what Laurie describes as “dog fight” advertising with their main competitor. If one facility advertised a service line, the other would answer with a campaign on the same subject.
Part of the answer was to switch to brand-driven messages, positioning the hospitals as a resource for the community, encouraging healthy living alternatives and lifestyles. Campaigns focused on service to the community with local outreach efforts including work with schools, local business, and special events, both in the community and at the facilities.
RECENT INTERVIEW/PODCAST POSTS: You’ll find previous installments in this educational series available on this page of the Healthcare Success Blog.
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Ohio Valley Health Services is a nationally recognized healthcare organization, receiving numerous awards for excellence in patient care, innovation and financial and operational turnaround efforts. Ohio Valley Medical Center, located in Wheeling West Virginia, and East Ohio Regional Hospital, located in Martins Ferry Ohio, are a 340 bed combined organization with over 1,600 employees.