Here's How Atrium Health Managed Its Controversial Rebranding

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Rebranding is never a decision to be taken lightly for any organization.

There are big issues to be considered, such as ensuring the public is aware of the new brand and realigning marketing efforts with the updated image and mission statement. But there are also many smaller details to consider alongside them.

Factors such as new stationery, signage, or uniforms must also be considered. Company vehicles need to be updated with the new branding, as do email signatures and other communications.

However, despite all the hard work involved, rebrands can give an organization a new lease on life and provide an opportunity to connect with its audience in new ways.

Atrium Health

In late 2018, the Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System announced its intention to rebrand as Atrium Health. The company stated that it felt the time had come for a change of identity which more closely reflected the evolving nature of the brand - from a single community-based hospital into a large-scale multi-location regional healthcare provider.

"It's quite remarkable to think back to our humble beginnings in 1940, when a group of ambitious, young clinicians answered the call to serve everyone and opened our doors as Charlotte Memorial Hospital," said Atrium Health President and CEO, Gene Woods. "Now, nearly 80 years later, our doors remain open, and we've helped our community thrive. As we have maintained our mission to serve all, we have also evolved. Our new name reflects our organization today and where we are going in the future to make a greater impact for the people we will serve."

However, the decision to rebrand has drawn some concerns from local people.

"There's considerable angst among long-time Charlotteans, not just native Charlotteans ... about the pace of change," said Charlotte historian, Tom Hanchett. "It's hard on the soul. We need our moorings in the people and places and institutions around us. I think it tugs at the heart of many of us. On the other hand, Charlotte is a city long known for embracing change. This is a region that does reinvent itself, and so that's seriously part of Charlotte's identity."

The challenge, therefore, is for Atrium Health to face the controversy head-on and find ways to manage this change and make sure the company culture and image is maintained throughout the rebrand.

Company Culture

The best way to manage any controversy from without, is to make sure things are being properly handled within. After all, many of your staff are also likely to be residents of the same communities your health organization serves and are therefore also likely to share some of the concerns of the general public.

This is what makes company culture so important in the context of a rebrand.

For many people, their work and the culture therein form an integral part of their own identity - especially in critical industries such as healthcare. If your staff feel safe and secure and trust that the rebrand doesn't mean losing a part of their identity, they will be able to communicate this to those they serve through their actions and their demeanor.

Find people who are passionate about the rebrand and appoint them as ambassadors. If they can communicate that passion while they are assisting other, less convinced, staff with any issues or concerns they may be having, they will bring more people over to the cause. Thus, the network of pro-rebrand employees grows.

You also shouldn't rush a rebrand. Too much happening too quickly is a great way to put people off, so start small and spread the changes out over time.

Staying true to your company's ethos during the rebrand is also important. Atrium Health is reflecting this by retaining the "tree of life" imagery which the Carolinas HealthCare System built its brand around. A detail like this helps to connect the new to the old in the minds of your employees and service users.

"While we continue to evolve as an organization, we will always hold true to our roots," said Woods. "Our Tree of Life is strong and our mission to provide care for all will not change. Atrium Health will allow the organization to grow and impact as many lives as possible and deliver solutions that will help even more communities thrive."

Final Thoughts

Managing the rebrand of a beloved organization is never easy. However, by remembering that your employees can be your greatest advocates, you can always effectively manage the change.

Rebrand management and company culture are set to be hot topics at HR Healthcare 2019, being held in June, at the Hyatt Regency Austin, TX.

Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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