Two months ago, I made a classic mistake while re-arranging lumber in my workshop: I chose a 2-foot stepladder when the job called for a 4-foot ladder. I survived my error in judgment, but came away with a damaged shoulder, broken wrist, and a broken rib — and a whole new appreciation for what it means to align your people, place and practices with your brand. Stay with me here and I’ll explain.
As a result of the accident and various complications, I made 8 separate trips to Whitehorse General Hospital. I was greeted by 2 different security personnel, admitted by 4 different front desk staff, was attended to by 4 different admissions nurses and 1 intern, had 4 sets of x-rays taken by 2 different radiographers, had 5 different casts put on by 5 different doctors, and removed by 4 different nurses.

I had personal interactions with over 20 different hospital staff from a variety of disciplines over an 8-week period, and all were characterized by a remarkably consistent attitude, one that was:

• friendly and considerate

• genuinely compassionate

• attentive to even my small-ish concerns

• professional, but never at the expense of personal

I discovered that all these doctors (not just you, Dr. Bob) are real people too, happy to converse about shared interests, family, and personal aspirations.

What does this have to do with brand?…

An organization’s brand is everything about how it is perceived and experienced by its audience. “Everything” is a sum total that includes the good, bad and ugly things about your people, attitudes, performance, service, reputation and communications. In the case of Whitehorse General Hospital, what I encountered and experienced in all these visits was their brand.

Eight years ago, as the hospital approached it’s 100th anniversary, it engaged our firm to “design a logo.” We’re talking about a large organization with roots in a 19th century goldrush, playing a pivotal role in the day-to-day life of the territory, with no logo. Never had one.

Fortunately, WGH did have a distinct brand. Given its long and unique history, we saw (by way of research, review and interview) how it had developed in the context of isolation, extremes and self-reliance. Out here on the edge of the frontier, everyone is your neighbour—Yukoners look after each other.

At its core, WGH’s brand is centered on a multi-disciplined group of health-care professionals looking after their neighbours. You go to WGH, and you’ll see your neighbours, be cared for by your neighbours, be comforted by your neighbours. This is reflected outside the walls of WGH as well—heck, I see my family doctor not once every year or two, but once every week or two at a local coffee shop.

The logo reflects that neighbourly care in the depiction of the Yukon River that runs like a life force through the heart of the community and the heart of the territory, connecting us to one another and to our past, the ubiquitous Yukon crocus that marks the annual spring renewal in the territory, its 3 petals representing the professional, multi-disciplined team approach, and its heliotropic nature—a little dish that follows the sun, focusing its warmth, then folding protectively shut in the evening—a reflection of the warm care provided by Whitehorse General Hospital.

As I walked out for the last time three days ago, two different nurses called out “Bye Al–good luck,” as I passed their station. Waving my newly-released left hand to the young woman at the front desk, she flashed me a big smile and an enthusiastic thumbs up while continuing to chat with a caller on the phone.

That’s just the kind of thing you come to expect of a neighbour.

(ps: Dr Q, I did check out that website and it is amazing!—thanks for that. Also, that last cast? Not a problem, it’s all good now.)



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