The Verdict Is In: the Best Place for Marketing to Report Is… (Part 2)

So in my last blog, I left you hanging a bit. I told you the “verdict is in” but then left you to dwell on the possibilities of where Marketing truly belongs. I’ll now explore each of those areas for you and offer some key takeaways for use in planning.

Let’s take a moment to explore key functions within a health system. Throughout my career, I have seen and experienced Marketing reporting to many departments in hospitals and healthcare systems. Let’s take some time to explore the pros and cons of each of these areas.

Business Development/Strategic Planning
There is a case to be made that Marketing should report to Business Development/Strategic Planning. As we discussed, the health system’s Strategic Plan starts it all and the Marketing Plan should follow; so it makes perfect sense that Marketing report to Business Development. But isn’t Marketing more than Business Development? It’s storytelling, it’s experience, and most importantly, it’s the brand. Marketing’s scope is much greater than Business Development and Strategic Planning.

Patient and Customer Experience/Operations
Patient and Customer Experience are key today and Operations of the health system is at the core, so it stands to reason that if Marketing is about the brand and if brand is what people say about you when you are out of the room, well then Marketing should report to Operations.

Marketing can work with each Operations Departments within the health system and create plans that are aligned with experience and track their efforts. All very important for the Marketing function. Marketing is more than Operations, though, as part of its job is to always think big picture – it truly is a function that must think global and act local. It must understand the strategy and break it down into practical consumable items of each target audience.

Information Technology
Living in the digital world of Marketing, I worked with a Chief Information Officer who once told me he believed that Marketing should report to Information Technology (IT). IT has a very wide scope of the organization and certainly the tools that Marketing uses for the many communication channels – web, intranet, social and mobile – are in the wheelhouse of IT. There is a project management focus in IT, and that is a good tool for marketers to use. And IT is the best at garnering resources.

So, does it make sense that Marketing report to IT? Unfortunately, the tools are simply that: tools. IT’s main focus today is on security and the electronic medical record. These are big and important functions. Marketing would get lost in the many priorities. Marketing must stand on its own and have alignment with IT.

So How About Community Relations?
Community Relations was where Marketing had its origin many years ago. The way you increased awareness and got your brand out there was through events, sponsorships and benefits offered to the community at large. All not for profits must do a community benefit report and it should be Marketing who leads that project, right?

In addition, understanding and communicating the legislative issues at the local, state and federal level is incredibly important – and this is especially true in Children’s Hospitals because of the ever-changing nature of providing healthcare to children. Today the reality is Marketing needs to collaborate and work closely with these areas but not necessarily report to it. Marketing’s focus is not on one audience but many.

In Children’s Hospitals, because of the way they are funded, philanthropy is one of the most important functions of the health system. Perhaps Marketing should report to the Foundation. Fundraising must have a targeted approach to marketing to target audiences; and focus and metrics are keys to successful campaigns. Fundamentally, Marketing takes the same philosophical approach (identify, convert, loyalty) so Marketing should report to the Foundation, right?

A Foundation’s goal is to raise awareness and money for an organization, but ultimately, it must be laser focused on raising money. With this goal, they must always have this as a main priority and respective target audience top of mind.

The challenge with this reporting relationship is Marketing must be much wider scoped. It must include all internal and external target audiences. Though the principles are similar, Marketing will falter if they are focused only on fundraising. (Quick side note, If the President of the Foundation understands this and can effectively wear both a Foundation and a Marketing hat then this could work. I have seen and experienced the best and worst of this reporting relationship.)

The C-Suite
Certainly, the case can be made that Marketing should report directly to the CEO. It is a core function that embodies every aspect of the organization. This is the ideal: Marketing needs a seat in the C-Suite. They are integral to most discussions in the health system.

But the CEO is dealing with many, many departments and issues, so does it really make sense to have Marketing reporting to the CEO? At a minimum, no matter where Marketing reports, it is important for them to have a seat at the C-Suite table. There are far too many organizational decisions and issues that directly impact the effectiveness of Marketing to not have them at the table.

And the Answer Is…
So, the question remains, where is the Best place for Marketing to report? And after many years my answer is well, IT DEPENDS! As you are considering organizing or reorganizing your marketing department, here are several key questions and takeaways to consider as you go through the process.

Key Takeaways
In planning your Marketing organization, it is paramount that you:

  • Create a Marketing assessment – talk with key stakeholders inside your organization; identify best practices in the industry. Understand and know the culture of your organization.
  • Interview the current Marketing staff. Does it match the vision for the future? Are these the skills needed for now and the future? Create a skill and expertise-needed diagram.
  • Become a master of alignment, collaboration and partnerships to cultivate your newly-created Marketing Department.
    • Marketing should to be aligned with all departments in the health system.
    • Identify departments where you need to collaborate regularly or there may be potential for conflict.
    • Identify departments where it would be useful for Marketing to have ongoing partnerships. Departments should include Finance, IT, Human Resources, Government and Community Relations and the Foundation at a minimum.
    • Set regular meetings with staff members from the respective areas.
    • Are there opportunities for matrixed positions to achieve the best results?
  • Understand Operations of the hospital – Marketers must understand the process of admissions, physician practices, who referring physicians are and who medical staff members are and how to they interact with the health system.
  • Embrace Marketing strategy – Marketing leaders must be stakeholders in Business Development and Strategic Planning. It is important to use the Strategic Plan as your guide to creating a Marketing Plan.
  • Marketing is leader of the brand. It is accountable for how the brand performs and must understand any nuances of the market.

So Where Does Marketing Belong?
The reality is it could be within any one of these functions depending on the structure of an organization. Whether your organization is flat, matrixed or hierarchical may be the rationale of where marketing ends up reporting. It also depends on the leader and his or her training, expertise and experience.

Asking the right questions and creating a Marketing Assessment and Plan will ensure your success in an organization as a productive Marketing Department. I would be happy to answer your questions and further discuss this important topic.