In the wake of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hospitals across the country are merging, or being bought by larger institutions. This leaves the marketing and communications departments at these organizations looking at each other wide-eyed and confused: Who’s in charge? More importantly, whose content makes the most sense for this new entity?

At Aha Media, we work on many of these projects and find the same problems occur with each project, and often, they have nothing to do with the actual content. Rather, they are the result of people overlooking the natural, territorial feelings have toward content. People tend to feel like someone is stomping on their turf. Handing pronouncements from on high can have devastating political implications for everyone involved.

Moving Toward System-ness

If you want to avoid a system-combining mess, try these 5 tactics:

  1. Transparency: Let everyone know your plans. Communicate often. Invite people to open house meetings, demos and brainstorming. Send out surveys. With today’s technological tools, it’s much easier than ever to help people feel included and important. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, but making them feel a part of the process will go a long way when the new website is launched.
  2. Involve Stakeholders Early and Often: This is one of the Rules in my new book on content, The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web. Stakeholders can make or break a web project. In healthcare marketing we all know there are usually one or two stakeholders that can really MAKE things happens—and sometimes not such good things. So make sure you get in front of those people at least once or twice to discuss your plans and get their feedback.  If you are afraid of what they might say, and you don’t make those appointments for that reason, you know your fear is impeding you from managing the project well. Don’t kid yourself; if they hate what you’ve done, they’re going to make trouble for you. But if you’ve included them in the process, they will react differently.
  3. Talk to the front lines: When you audit content, you may be baffled as to why it is there. If you don’t talk to the front lines—call centers, doctors, nurses, administrators—you may not find out the reason why someone created it in the first place. It could be living in the wrong place, or it needs to be rewritten, but it’s probably of value to someone. Find out why and ask said stakeholders to work with you to get it right for the new site.
  4. Hire an outside consultant: You can also engage the web firm that is creating the website, but you must find someone to manage the content parts of the project. That person should be on the front lines, and should talk to stakeholders and discuss pressing political issues that may be emerging with you. We’re all too busy—I agree. But we’re not too busy to manage a project with this type of magnitude by shutting our doors and pretending we don’t have time to communicate with the larger organization. This person can help you do that—and act as the messenger, so you don’t get shot.
  5. Enforce your strategy but listen: Websites are monstrous, immovable things, yet they are changing every day. If you planned your strategy properly, then you are going to be able to move ahead with purpose. You will still get objections and doubts. So hear what they are. Then explain why you chose the strategy you did. You should have your executives support before these conversations, but try to keep an open mind. Ultimately, collaboration is the true key to success online.
At the end of the game, content is a shared set of assets in an organization. When two, or three, or 10 organizations come together under one web banner, there will be friction. Your job is to remember that you’re not only dealing with content and web design and CMS. You also have to manage the people side of the equation—often more messy and challenging—but without a doubt, your greatest impediment to a fabulous, new combined launch.


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