For the past 100 years, St. Charles Hospital has been providing rehabilitation services for those with traumatic injury, illness, or surgery. In fact, it was founded as a rehabilitation hospital those many years ago when in 1907, 27 homeless children with disabilities boarded a train in Brooklyn headed to Port Jefferson, where they were lovingly accepted into the care of four French Sisters with a mission to provide support, care, education, and medical and surgical treatment. By 1910, a three-story structure designed to accommodate 250 children was dedicated as St. Charles Hospital.
Stories of remarkable recoveries made by the children at St. Charles began to circulate throughout the region and helped establish a reputation for outstanding rehabilitative care that remains today.
What truly sets St. Charles apart from other rehabilitation programs is the extraordinarily compassionate care that patients and their families receive. The hospital is a certified Traumatic Brain Injury Center, Spinal Cord Injury Center, and Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center, with 9 satellite rehabilitation sites from Albertson to Riverhead. It also continues to serve the community through a number of comprehensive outpatient clinics for children and adults with disabilities.
The St. Charles story is deep and inspiring but not well known. They have not done a good job of self-promotion outside of their loyal constituents, and needed to position their rehabilitative services against a competitive set, which includes institutions such as Burke and Kessler, as a mission based center whose history of compassionate care is their recipe for truly effective restoration of the physical as well as the emotional.
We had originally been engaged by St. Charles Hospital to develop a campaign to promote their Emergency Department. At that time, we implemented our brand development methodology which we call the Reality Check. During our Reality Check, we performed a series of activities designed to clarify and reveal the Hospital’s position in the community, their full service offering, their short and long term goals and the community mindset.
The Reality Check yielded some very interesting revelations about the rehabilitation offering. The most profound was in the behavior of the target; our research revealed that by its very nature, a traumatic injury or illness is often unexpected, and, very often, the responsibility of choosing a rehabilitation facility falls on a close family member who has just a few days to make this important decision. It makes perfect sense that these families often turn to the Internet to do their research.
Unfortunately, when family members researched, the competitors in the rehabilitation space (identified regionally as Burke and Kessler, predominantly) by and large had positioned themselves as dedicated solely to rehabilitation services, and many of these institutions specialized only in rehabilitation, providing no other medical services.
By contrast, not only does St. Charles provide many other typical hospital services, but they dedicated only a few pages on their main hospital website to inpatient acute and sub-acute rehabilitation. This lead to an assumption amongst those tested that the St. Charles rehabilitation services were somehow less expansive or specialized than those of the “specialty hospitals,” despite St. Charles' efforts to articulate the highly specialized, cutting edge rehabilitative medicine being performed.
Our recommendation called for a paradigm shift at St. Charles.
We challenged their conventional wisdom with regards to how their rehabilitation offering was perceived both within the organization and by their referral partners, and as a result, how it was promoted.
We proposed to develop a freestanding name and brand identity: St. Charles Rehabilitation Hospital. Essentially creating a “specialty hospital within the hospital,” this would differentiate the highly specialized service offering from the more mundane hospital services and help to elevate them in the minds of referral partners and potential patients and their families.
On the face of it, this seems like a natural conclusion, but very often it takes a fresh and highly trained eye to see what is right in front of you, and to know how to leverage that information.
The Reality Check was presented to the leadership team during an exciting and revealing session, which led to a very enthusiastic expanding of the scope of the project.
Slightly Mad went on to strategize and design an integrated marketing program that reaches across all customer touch points, including development of a freestanding St. Charles Rehabilitation Hospital website, print and broadcast ad campaigns, sales and informational materials, newsletters, and much more, as our three plus year relationship with St. Charles continues and as new initiatives are explored.
The Reality Check
During the Reality Check, we performed a series of activities designed to clarify and reveal their position in the marketplace, their full product and service offering, their business goals, and the target mindset.
Based on these exercises, we began to develop a better articulated, more targeted, high-touch communication strategy. We created a new positioning firmly rooted in the hospital’s long and storied history. The new positioning: “A Catalyst for Learning” became a rallying cry for the organization and began a paradigm shift. This report, which we call “Reality Revealed” was presented to the leadership team in a session that was to be described in the years to follow as a true turning point for the company.
The company was experiencing a lack of clarity regarding their mission, vision, core values and objectives. Different departments and functions were competing for limited resources and clearly some of the functions of the company were housed in the wrong department and run by the wrong people. We created a new organizational structure based upon the new corporate strategy, which would enable and support the company's future growth. We challenged senior leadership to make a commitment to the new positioning and allow it to be the lens through which every business decision is seen.
Slightly Mad went on to design an integrated marketing program that reaches across all customer touch points, including development of a new brand identity, website, advertising campaigns, product and new lines of business naming projects, packaging, collateral, and trade show experiences, over the years to follow.
St Charles Hospital has gone to the top of the Catholic Health Services network and rehabilitation is their largest driving force.
St. Charles Rehabilitation Hospital is achieving its rightful recognition in the medical community, both from the perspective of industry accreditation and public perception.
St. Charles Rehabilitation has achieved CARF accreditation.
Referrals and admissions are up significantly.
Within only a few months, the new Rehab website www.stcharlesrehab.org has achieved a pagerank of 4.
Inquiries about and visits to Downtown St. Charles have increased dramatically.
The entire organization has been re-invigorated from the top management, through the ranks of the rehabiliation doctors and staff with a new excitement and understanding of the Rehabilitation Hospital’s positioning.