When Community Health Systems (CHS) signed a letter of intent to acquire the largest and most prestigious physician practice in Spokane, Washington, the deal required a successful vote of the Clinic’s 75 physician shareholders – and the transaction needed to close in less than 90 days. Spokane is a highly competitive healthcare market, and the dominant provider in the community was expected to pose significant competitive, legal and legislative opposition.
Strategy and Tactics
Coordinating with management, operations professionals, legal counsel and legislative consultants, Lovell’s strategic communications plan included initiatives to:
- Engender support and good will among all stakeholders
- Maximize positive media and communications opportunities, and to neutralize negative response
- Instill a sense of pride and accomplishment among employees and physicians
- Enhance the brand promise of the two CHS hospitals in the regional community
- Preserve relations with non-Rockwood members of the hospital’s medical staffs
- Position the transaction as the most appropriate way to advance Rockwood’s mission and vision
Findings from research and analysis of all stakeholders guided the development of the successful communication plan which included: talking points, internal and external Qs & As, press releases and media advisories, internal and external newsletter articles, intranet videos and podcasts, media pitches, letters to the editor, community e-blast updates, employee forums, website copy, advertising messages, community presentations and sponsorships.
The hospitals and Rockwood Clinic reached all identified stakeholders through multiple contacts over 12 weeks. Approximately 30 print and broadcast news stories were generated resulting in more than three million impressions. Traffic to the Rockwood and hospital websites increased 250 percent. The deal closed on time, as expected. Leaders from both Rockwood Clinic and CHS attribute the success of the transaction to the intensive and thoughtful communications planning that guided both parties through the transaction.