Community Relations Essentials for Energy Projects

Every US hospital marketing director is focused on building awareness, trust and preference in their competitive service territory. Non-profit hospitals are also tasked with creating awareness about community investments designed to address health issues in their local communities. Our clients have supported community revitalization programs, drug diversion programs and community shelters, among others.

While the intent of these community benefits programs is to "do good," they are also part of a fiscal promise in exchange for tax-exempt status. We've seen some hospitals seek to "own" and gain substantial credit for these efforts, which helps ensure visibility of their commitment as part of the tax bargain. However, perhaps a broader vision of collaboration could provide a bigger win, particularly in Ohio's current healthcare climate.

According to Ohio's Office of Health Transformation (OOHT), one third of Ohio's annual budget is spent on heath care, yet the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO), says Ohio ranks at a low 47 in terms of the value of our health care dollar. That means that Ohioans-and those of us who live in Franklin County-receive less favorable health care outcomes for the money we spend. HPIO data also shows that only 20 percent of community health is related to medical care with 80 percent directly under our control through basic human needs such as access to quality food, water and exercise.

We propose that these basic human needs offer hospital marketing and communications teams an opportunity to guide their employers toward more aggressive collaboration with other hospitals in ways that could exponentially impact community health issues. This partnering approach can remain a centerpiece of commitment to the community. And it can gain preference with local residents who value entities that provide not only quality medical treatment outcomes, but also collaborate to make a real difference with community health issues.

It would be inspiring to see all central Ohio hospitals collaborate on basic human needs such as access to quality food. Vinton County, just 30 minutes from Columbus, doesn't have a single full-service grocery store in the entire county of about 13,200 people. Even Columbus has growing "food deserts" where there is no fresh food and convenience stores may be the only food source.

OOHT plans to incentivize collectives and partnerships that focus on housing and nutrition. This will encourage more collaboration among hospitals and health organizations and discourage silos of isolated community benefit programs.

In our role as a conscience for our clients, health care PR counselors have an opportunity to nudge collaboration for the greater good and, as we do our jobs as storytellers, to also build trust and allegiance to our employer's brand.