Spokesperson Secrets to Build Your Brand: Atlantic Health System Communications Team

Spokesperson Secrets to Build Your Brand, celebrates the inaugural SPOKEies® Award winners. You’ll learn how to work with your internal team effectively to generate business building results. This panel features the Atlantic Health System Team.

Featuring: Luke Margolis, Corporate Communications Manager at Atlantic Health Systems, SPOKEies® Award Winner in the Non-profit Health Category, Jim Furgeson, Director of Communications at Atlantic Health Systems, and Valerie M. Simon, Chief Marketing Officer at Atlantic Health Systems.


D S Simon Media:

Get your leaders on television, reach large audiences through social media, create awareness for campaigns and initiatives and win the competition for attention at trade shows. D S Simon Media’s services include satellite media tours, video for news, live broadcast events and Social Media Live™.


DOUG: Welcome to Spokesperson’s Secrets to Build Your Brand. This panel is going to give us a deep dive into how you get the best result working together as a team. We’ll also look at their award-winning results for The Atlantic cast program that they created. Joining me for this panel is the SPOKEies® award winner in the non-profit health category, Luke Margolis. Luke is Corporate Communications Manager at Atlantic Health Systems, overseeing 16,000 team members. He’s joined by two of his colleagues Valerie Simon, seated far away from me as you can tell. She’s the Chief Marketing Officer who I’ve known for a number of years. Disclaimer: I’m not related but I am a huge fan. And in the center is Jim Fugerson who’s the Director of Communications and thanks for, and thanks so much guys for joining us. Let’s start as we’ve been doing with Luke. Do you want to jump in and maybe give us your top tip and lesson that you want to share?

LUKE: Sure. And I you know I’m sure we’re not going be breaking too much ground here in everybody’s minds, but I think it’s something you’ve touched on already. The value of authenticity. It’s something that I’m sure everybody’s going to hear a lot about today, but it really can’t be overstated. I think at the end of the day communicators, spokespeople, however you want to refer to us, we are- our mandate is to convey information. And doing that in a compelling way, is obviously important. Nobody’s going to pay attention. But once you’ve got them if you’re not building that trust between yourself and your audience your message ends up getting lost or not fully conveyed. And so I think ultimately it’s about remaining authentic to your message and who you are and to the people you’re trying to reach.

JIM: I echo that 100 percent and an ad-understanding the brand and the brand promise and being able to bring that to life for folks through your communications through how you’re tying them into the organization is very important.

VALERIE: The one thing I’d say to build on that, is to understand you’re not just crafting a statement but you’re actually building a story. And by that, I mean you know rather than writing words and focusing on that one of the things Luke does is he really produces a developing story over time.

DOUG: I think it’s also critical to assemble talent as a team, we’ll get to that in a moment. But there was another question another two that came through the social channels and folks are hijacking it. We love it. Let’s go for it. Here’s a question “what’s the best way for an unseasoned company spokesperson to prepare when working with the media trainer?” and that was a question from Julie Livingston thanks so much for that. And Julie one thing that I can say on top of that, and this is a social question, we’ll get to the polling question a little bit later, and there is that you have to make sure the story aligns with your skill set. If you’re throwing someone in with something they’re not familiar with they’re not comfortable with, that may not be their top priority or strongly. You’re going to be set up to fail. So, the key is setting up people for success especially as a first-time spokesperson we’re going to get some great tips from the panel folks.

LUKE: If unseasoned means young and boyish looking that absolutely that’s totally me. But actually I think it’s a credit to your point and I think it’s served us very well with Atlantic cast. I mean my background is not exclusively in public relations or in media relations. It also is on the journalistic side as a former TV broadcaster, so the fit with Atlanta cast and what the skill sets were that I brought to the table was really hand in glove and into credit. I think to Valerie and to Jim to empower me to do what came naturally to me from a from a training standpoint, career wise and just sort of who I am, and what my natural abilities are. And I think you’re right. I think it’s finding a way to maximize your abilities packaged with a really compelling story about-I mean who could find better material for a journalist to work within a hospital system.

VALERIE: I think that’s setting people up to succeed is key and that means not only giving them opportunities but giving them access to the right resources. So you know in order to understand speaking to the true subject matter experts. Making sure that they have access all the way up through CEO who frequently engages with.

DOUG: Now in Atlantic health systems, you guys seem very well aligned. So it makes it feel it was easy. I’m guessing there were moments maybe it wasn’t as easy as it might seem but a lot of organizations for the communicators getting on the same page with marketing and different groups C-Suites. How do you navigate that because I’m sure that’s a challenge many in our audience have to deal with on a regular basis?

JIM: What’s one of the things that’s interesting about our group is Luke does bring that broadcast experience, Valerie, as a seasoned marketing veteran and also having the vision of what this broadcast could be, as a communication tool for both our 16000 plus team members, as well as the communities we serve. And then I sort of serve in that directorial capacity where I bring clinical leadership to the table. I’m constantly looking throughout this I’m for the good news for the stories and between the three of us were able to come together and produce this.

DOUG: What do you do, say if the CEO is just not comfortable with what you’re directing, or wants to push you in an unhelpful direction?

VALERIE: So our CEO, Brian Gragnolati is incredibly supportive. I think one of the reasons that he brought me to Atlantic Health Systems was because he realized we needed to do an even better job telling our story. So I had that kind of unique challenge where we have incredible stories happening everyday, first in the world clinical trials; things that you really would expect to be happening. So, our challenge is it’s a burden to make sure we’re getting out these stories everyday. And that people are aware of what’s going on. You asked about how do we align whether it’s digital marketing or PR or traditional marketing. And I think one of the things we’ve tried to do is focus on the patient whether it’s the customer or the patient. But if we can align how we communicate and we all it starts out with our strategic plan. Right, so we all know our mission. We all know our strategic plan and then we figure out how what role we play in that.

DOUG: Excellent. So that’s a great way to do it. We do have another question from the social media folks here and we really appreciate your efforts in this. So let me get right to it in there. “What are your tips for establishing your organization and spokesperson as a go to resource?”

LUKE: As a go to resource for the media, for I mean-I think it’s a little bit of a different thing for different folks, I mean one of our one of our strong suits is that we are all-and I am. There are other folks who handle our responsibilities in our organization as well. But ultimately, we are all a very tight knit group. We meet frequently, we discuss the issues surrounding organization frequently, the issues surrounding the communities we serve frequently, so remaining as a cohesive unit makes us super valuable whether it’s to our partners in the community, who are members in the press because they know that they can reach out to us to any of us frankly, and that they can get the quality information they need to do the stories or reports that they need to do so I think remaining all on the same page as cohesive as possible is a huge asset.

JIM: And we and we’ve really been able to maximize the use of our intranet. And folks know now that they can bring. We have 16000 plus investigative reporters if you will. And the best spokespeople in the world are our team members that go out into the community and share the story of Atlantic Health System so they know if they come to us that we can help them craft that and we can give them the information they need to be able to go into the community and tell our story.

DOUG: So it sounds like a key element that you’ve set up a process with the voices of the people who work within the organization, have a channel to be easily heard. Are they frequently engaged in the Atlanta cast content?

LUKE: Yeah, I mean I this is again, it’s very much a credit to Valerie because I think we, so for the uninitiated we run the Atlantic cast format. Very much like any traditional news station, when run their story their morning story, meetings we don’t do it every day, from a morning story meeting capacity but certainly bi-weekly. And it’s that level of pitching stories getting things sent in from around the organization having an e-mail inbox where people know they can send stuff directly to us, on a first person basis. We will respond to them. We’ll get more information. We’ll follow up, ask for photos ask, for a video. So, it is it is very much a newsroom style process integrated into how we do what we do from a communications standpoint and have and again I’ve said it before I’ll say it again it’s very much a credit to the format that’s been built by Valerie and Jim to enable that type of format.

DOUG: Great, we are going to give you a chance to wrap up with your final thought before we move to the next panel-once you’re completed, we’ll be taking another question from the audience a polling question on that. And so give us some time for a final thought that you have on that takeaway that you want to leave the audience with lesson learned.

LUKE: First thanks for having us today. Ultimately, it’s sort of how we began the conversation I think remaining authentic and true to yourself is just absolutely key, thinking and it’s something I may have even sent in and we sent the word yeah yeah. Ultimately, it’s not about you as a spokesperson. It’s about the people you’re trying to serve.

DOUG: Great. And we’re also looking at some feedback on the importance of recognition the SPOKEies® award. The fact that you won.

LUKE: A huge honor for me. So thrilled to be here today and thankful for the for the recognition I think to be amongst such talented and accomplished people is something I’m sure all treasure for a time.

DOUG: Great. Well you guys have been great. I’m hopeful my team can put the polling question in the prompter, so I’ll be able to relate it to you, if I can go with that. But thanks to this great group we’re standing by to go back to Carolina and if we can put the second polling question up so the audience gets a chance to vote for it and there it is. Thank you. So “what are the keys to an award winning campaign and you can select all the answers that apply to you” A) The development and implementation of a focused messaging strategy B) Campaign reach C) A high level of achievement of your organization’s K.P.I’s that see and for those of you watching on CommPRO make your selection onscreen. If you’re watching on social media tweet your answers with the SPOKEies hashtag followed by the question number and your choice. You can pick more than one as I said we’ll leave the pool open for about 15 more seconds so move your mice really quickly of course if you’re online you can continue, to provide us with those updates and we’ll continue to welcome your questions to the CommPRO portal or via Twitter using the SPOKEies hashtag.