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Communications Set the Stage for Successful Hospital JV Partnership

Challenge

After unsuccessful attempts to find a partner, a beloved nonprofit hospital was on the brink of closure. With thousands of jobs and access to care at stake, worried employees held candlelight vigils outside the hospital and elected officials became publicly involved in efforts to find a buyer.

Those efforts were ultimately successful, thanks to an innovative partnership between a successful for-profit hospital operator and a major academic health system. However, the partners would have to win the trust of battle-weary employees while beginning the long – and difficult – journey to stabilize the hospital’s finances and operations.

Strategy & Tactics

With less than 48 hours-notice, Lovell was tapped to help announce the deal and begin setting the stage for a smooth transition in ownership. In collaboration with hospital officials and partner communications teams, Lovell worked to align messaging, set strategy and create a suite of materials including a joint press release, internal communications and a dedicated microsite.

While the initial announcement was met with an outpouring of support, the partners soon faced challenges from competitors and questions from concerned employees and community members. Lovell helped its client share the vision for the hospital and dispel misconceptions through targeted stakeholder outreach, editorial board meetings and opinion-editorials. As the partners began making turnaround plans, Lovell also helped shape messaging around the changes – which included a new leadership team and a workforce reduction – that would be necessary to ensure the hospital’s continued viability.

Results

As a direct result of the team’s efforts to carefully manage messaging around the hospital’s financial challenges, the reduction in force was not a surprise to internal audiences and resulted in balanced, fair coverage from local media. Weeks later, the partners were successful in securing the necessary regulatory approvals and the sale closed with minimal delay. On the day of closing, Lovell was on-site to help facilitate a press conference, which included a live unveiling of signage bearing the new name and logo, and a series of internal celebrations. The events were extremely well received by internal audiences while the media coverage reflected the community’s sense of optimism about the new partnership.

In the months following the completion of the sale, the partners continued to build on the strong relationships established during those critical first months. Today, the hospital has completed its financial turnaround and enjoys strong engagement from both employees and physicians, as well as the community.

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