Communication Strategies - Our Ministry Embraces the Public Perception Project

March-April 2006

Ms. Crowley is executive vice president, Catholic Healthcare Partners, Cincinnati.

In the last issue of Health Progress, my colleagues Sr. Kathleen Popko, SP, PhD, and Peggy Moseley wrote about the Public Perception Project (P3) and its effort to provide a research-based method with which Catholic health care providers could communicate the many positive aspects of our ministry. The authors provided readers with the steps taken, by more than 50 of their colleagues, to design a message platform based on years of CHA public opinion research. They also highlighted the efforts of the P3 Steering Committee to educate the ministry and described a "tool kit" developed to assist ministry communications executives to use the message platform.

As Catholic health care faces a myriad of public relations challenges, it is important for us to remember that the message platform is designed to help us talk about ourselves in a manner that will be embraced by the public. Only by continual use of the message platform by our systems and facilities in our many communications opportunities will we see a favorable impact for the ministry in public opinion.

Over the last few months, some organizations have put the P3 message platform to work for their organizations and the ministry at large. Elements of the message platform are popping up in annual reports, employee newsletters, and advertising. In this column, I would like to share some of the best examples of the P3 message platform created by and for our ministry.

Annual Report by Providence Health System
The 2004 annual report created by Providence Health System, Seattle, makes excellent use of the P3 message platform. In adapting the message platform to their own needs, Providence's leaders developed their annual report according to various categories, which they titled "Excellence," "Mission," "Compassion," and "Vision."

Providence's definition of Excellence meets our definition of quality. This section of the report highlights the dedication of the Providence team, its investments in the communities the system serves, and external recognition of their work.

The section on Mission emphasizes the special place Providence enjoys in today's delivery of health care, its history, and its dedication to meeting the many needs of people as they journey through life.

The Compassion section uses language directly from the P3 message platform, including the notion that the caregivers of Providence attend to the needs of the individual by focusing on the whole person — body, mind, and spirit. It also provides information about the benefits Providence provides to its communities.

Finally, the Providence annual report emphasizes its Vision in meeting the challenges involved in providing health care in today's world, its efforts to work with communities on delivery, and the fact that no one is turned away.

In each of these sections, Providence introduces the reader to individuals who really make Excellence, Compassion, Vision, and Mission count. They are the people of Providence.

The 2004 Catholic Health East Community Benefit Report
Catholic Health East (CHE), Newtown Square, PA, published a 2004 Social Accountability and Community Benefit Report that categorized that system's achievements through the use of key themes and messages from the P3 message platform, including sections on "Quality," "Compassion," "Mission," and "Vision."

In the report, each message from the P3 message platform was reinforced with examples of work done at facilities throughout the system. CHE actually highlights stories that depict the message platform as they occur in real-life examples of services provided by the system's organizations.

Covenant Employee Newsletter
Covenant Health Systems, Inc., Lexington, MA, has been a leader in effectively utilizing the P3 message platform in both its internal and external communications. In its employee newsletter, News Link, Covenant educates its employees on the importance of the P3 message platform.

News Link provides a synopsis of the research behind P3, the actual platform itself, and its uses. Covenant encourages its employees to be their own advocates of the Catholic health care ministry.

Mercy Medical Center Print Advertisement
The P3 tool kit provides sample advertisements that incorporate the P3 message platform. Mercy Medical Center–Clinton, IA, used these examples as a basis for a print advertisement focusing on National Healthcare Week.

In this advertisement, Mercy combines the notions of "Quality" and "Compassion" in the headline: "Even the Most Sophisticated Technology Needs the Human Touch." The advertisement's text reinforces the notion of quality health care delivered with compassion.

Holy Family TV Advertisement
Holy Family Memorial, Manitowoc, WI, developed a series of television advertisements incorporating the P3 message platform.

One commercial emphasizes the compassionate nature of Catholic health care when combined with cutting-edge technologies. The ad focuses on the hospital's whole approach to "body, mind, and spirit" with what it calls a "delicate balance of science and respect."

Share Your Efforts with Us
These and other similar communications efforts can be viewed in their entirety on the P3 section of the CHA website, www.chausa.org. Organizations that would like to share examples of their own work with the rest of the ministry should forward them to CHA's P3 project manager, Indu Spugnardi, at [email protected].

The themes and messages of the P3 message platform are based on years of public opinion research conducted by CHA. The platform was designed by ministry peers representing every facet of Catholic health care. If we who serve the ministry embrace it, use it, and adapt it to the challenges the ministry faces, we can improve the public appreciation for the wonderful work that our systems and facilities perform every day.

Copyright © 2006 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Communication Strategies - Our Ministry Embraces the Public Perception Project

Copyright © 2006 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.