August 2016

Marketing is a promise.

Hospitals promise that a patient will feel the way marketing told them they’d feel. In many cases, they promise a patient experience second to none. Often they promise—with appropriate qualifications—an excellent outcome. As branding messages, these are good. As promises, they’re broad and hard to deliver on. Patients are set up to feel gaps in the promise.

Emphasizing your best qualities helps people find reasons why your hospital really is best for them.

When a patient feels a disconnect between what you promise and what you do in practice, at least part of their experience is bad. No matter what actually happened, you told them to expect something they didn’t get. A specific promise does the opposite: it gives people an example of follow through on the overarching brand promise.

Expectations Change Experiences

Say you go to a movie. It’s okay. You have a pretty good time. Now rewind. Say you read a rave review of a movie. You go to that movie. It’s just okay. Now there’s a disconnect. You feel shortchanged.

Same with patients. If you tell them it’s going to be great and it’s not great in every aspect, they can feel shortchanged.

Does that mean your messaging should be, “Come to us because we do a pretty good job most of the time”? Of course not.

Guiding Expectations

What are you great at? What does your clinical staff do across service lines that rates high in patient satisfaction surveys?

  •    Do your doctors work especially well together in ways patients can recognize?
  •    Do staff make the transition home noticeably easier and more effective?
  •    Is your hospital particularly welcoming and comfortable for patient and family?

Distil those measures into concise benefit messages. Get specific. Put them in brochures, run them in outdoor and online cycles, bring them up on social. Help people expect something specific you know they’ll receive.

Keeping Promises

Keeping promises depends partly on setting expectations. Set the right expectations and you set your hospital up for success. A record of delivering on expectations improves word of mouth and can spark positive discussions on social.

Tell people what to look for and they’ll look for it. Emphasizing your best qualities helps them find reasons why your hospital really is best for them.

Featured Recipe



Start early in the day. Better yet, start the day before. Cassoulet is better after it sits a while.

Duck and pork are common in cassoulet, but sausages work just fine. Or put in ham, chicken, smoked turkey, etc. All you need is 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of pork, fowl or lamb, some of it spiced or smoked.

Use a large pot that can go in the oven (6 quart is good). You also need cheesecloth and string or a bouquet garni ball.

2 1/2-3 pounds Sausages (chorizo, Andouille and Italian work well; use a variety)
1 tablespoon Oil
2 Onions
5 Tomatoes
1 Apple
3 cans White beans (any kind will do)
1 1/2 cup Chicken broth
3 tablespoons Tomato paste
1 teaspoon Sage
1/2 teaspoon Thyme
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1/8 teaspoon Ground clove
1/8 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
pinch Coriander
pinch Cardomom
6 cloves Garlic
1 Bay leaf
1 tablespoon Rosemary (I use whole; use 1 1/2 teaspoons ground)
1 Carrot
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Chop the onion.
Chop the tomatoes.
Core and chop the apple
Chop the carrot.
Bundle the garlic, bay, rosemary and carrot in cheescloth or the bouquet garni ball.
Heat the oil in the pot.
Brown the sausage in the oil. A little crust adds nice texture.
Remove the browned sausage.
Sauté the onion.
Add the tomatoes.
Sauté the tomatoes until soft.
Cover the pot and put it in the oven.
Heat an hour.
Remove the stew from the oven, stir and let sit covered for fifteen minutes.
Remove the bouquet garni bundle.
Reheat with microwave, oven or stovetop.