Cerner is a health care information technology company, with more than 22,000 employees, who we call associates, around the globe. And if you “consider that every employee has an average of 200 Facebook friends, 150 Twitter followers and 350 Linkedin contacts,” that’s a potential social reach of over 15 million! These brand advocates are passionate about our mission to change health care, and we greatly benefit from the collective footprint of our team members. They continually build our brand through their interactions with each other, with clients and prospects, and in the communities where they work and live.

Founded in 1979, Cerner has grown at a rapid rate – nearly tripling the number of associates in a five-year period. So, in order to create associate advocates, this meant we had to develop a strategy that focused on educating each associate about our business while simultaneously building their passion for our brand. As part of our internal marketing strategy, we constantly share content with our associates that keeps them informed, knowledgeable, passionate, and inspired so they have the information and motivation to be brand advocates for Cerner.

Our strategy hinges on four key goals:

1. Keep employees informed of and engaged in Cerner’s direction

Health care is a rapidly changing environment, with regulatory and consumer pressures leading a shift from volume-based care (providers reimbursed for each action they perform and the more care they provide) to value-based care (providers reimbursed for increased quality, efficiency and prevention of readmissions). This monumental shift is crucial for our associates to understand as we adapt our offerings to help our clients meet these challenges.

2. Foster a deep knowledge of key business news and its impact on Cerner

Understanding industry news, key achievements by our clients and corporate news – before it’s released externally – is crucial to educating our associate base. This roots them in our company culture even more and helps reiterate that we’re all on the same team.

3. Help associates find passion in the work they do

The work we do at Cerner every day has the power to change the delivery of health and care throughout the world. By connecting our associate base to our mission, we build their enthusiasm for contributing to “the systemic improvement of health care delivery and the health of communities.” As we grow in size and employ associates with an increasing degree of specialization, it becomes even more important that our associates understand their contributions to our larger scale mission, and how they are transforming health care on a global scale.

4. Provide ample opportunities for our brand advocates to learn from and be inspired by thought leaders in the company

Cerner’s rapid growth means we have quickly gone from a company where associates knew senior executives on a personal level to a size where associates may be located in a different country from his or her direct manager (let alone senior executives). Our size has created a need for content that allows our associates to learn from the thought leaders in our company. This knowledge sharing fosters a more personal connection between our associates and our senior leadership, even if they never have the opportunity to meet in person.

Content that serves these four goals is shared through several key channels, including our corporate intranet, signage, social business collaboration applications (what we call uCern), events, and more. Our teams are dedicated to creating content that falls under the buckets outlined above, but as our business grows in size, complexity and offerings, we can’t feed the content machine within our small content teams alone.

To help feed the content beast, we also encourage our associates to become content creators, too. This ask is true to our culture of empowerment and our roots as an entrepreneurial company, since our associates have always played a key role in sharing ideas and content across our company. Their involvement not only improves our internal communication, but our external brand perception as well. Studies show that content shared by associates receives eight times the engagement of content shared by brand channels, and that the credibility of “regular employees” has increased dramatically, even ahead of the CEO. With data this powerful, empowering our associates is crucial to the overall health of our company.

Come back next week when we share Part II of Cerner’s brand advocates strategy.

The Authors

Lance Yoder is a Sr. Team Lead, CTS uCern, with Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, Mo. He manages a team of consultants for uCern, Cerner’s social business platform for engaging employees, clients and partners, as well as creating the content strategy for additional public-facing applications. In his 10 years at Cerner, he has also worked in marketing communications, solutions marketing and internal communications roles.

Mallory Murray leads the internal communications and executive presence teams at Cerner, where she is responsible for leading the strategy for creating brand ambassadors of more than 22,000 global associates located in 30 countries, and for positioning senior executive brand ambassadors internally and externally. Prior to her position with Cerner, Mallory managed PR and marketing teams at two regional universities. Mallory graduated from Pittsburg State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in News-Editorial Journalism and a Minor in Graphic Design, and her Master’s Degree in Communication.

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