Standing Out from the Crowd

What does your brand say about you and your practice?

Branding Brink Radiology

This past September, I had the privilege of attending the fourth annual summit of the Radiology Leadership Institute® held at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. Each year, I have found the programming to be absolutely terrific.

This year, Alexander M. Norbash, MD, FACR, chairman of the Neuroradiology Commission, and Guarab Bhardwaj, associate professor of management at Babson, planned a very innovative program that included a session on "personal branding." Professor J. Mark Carr from Babson College led the session entitled, "You are Your Brand: Personal Branding to Drive Growth." He emphasized principles developed over two decades ago by Tom Peters in an article called, "The Brand Called You."

Professor Carr reiterated Peters' argument that today's workers should use corporate branding principles to create their own personal brands, separate from their employer, to advance their own careers. "You're not defined by your job title and you are not confined by your job description," Peters writes. Professor Carr challenged three members in training and three practicing radiologists to define their personal brand for the audience and explain how it evolved and how it directs future behaviors.

For me, "collaborative leadership with strong emphases on respect, empathy, and inclusion" were what I articulated about my personal brand to the group. As an administrator, I would not say that these aspirations were present on day one of my career. Rather, they have been informed and developed from numerous experiences and lessons learned that date back to formative years.

These days, it's becoming harder and harder to keep these principles in the forefront of one's brand, owing to numerous examples of political leaders and popular figures alike who are not respectful, empathetic, or inclusive, and yet seem to succeed regardless. Even technical advances seem to thwart our ability to remain respectful in our discourse. My family recently purchased Amazon's "Alexa." This is a small cylinder that sits quietly in the corner of your living room to which you can bark orders such as "Aleka, play jazz music," or "Alexa, add milk to my shopping list." By not requiring "please" and "thank you," it is easy to see how such common courtesies can slip from our routine parlance, particularly if such households have young children observing these behaviors among their parents.

Beyond personal branding, I have found that careful attention to professional branding is important to radiology departments and professional organizations. Many radiology departments have sought names for themselves that reflect the breadth and depth of imaging and interventional activities within their departments. Our radiology department at Massachusetts General Hospital recently underwent a rebranding exercise. While the department to our academic peers and colleagues is known as "the department of radiology," our outward-facing brand to patients and referring practitioners is "MGH Imaging." This was done in an attempt to mitigate concerns about having words that sound like "radiation" in the title of our patient-facing brand while respecting the science and practice of radiology in our professional-facing brand. As concerns about radiation continue to fade with further reductions in radiation dose, it may be important for us to reexamine our brand from time to time to ensure that we are addressing the current social mores and standards of the day.

Professional organizations also need to look at their brands from time to time. In 2014, the American College of Radiology underwent an important strategic planning process resulting in a highly actionable strategic plan. This process then segued to a program assessment process focused on myriad programs and activities within the College to ensure that only programs that are responsive to our strategic plan are advanced. This has proven to be a very valuable exercise, and one that we have repeated on multiple occasions since its inception. Today, all new programs under consideration at the College undergo the program assessment process which enables ACR leaders to review and prioritize programs under consideration.

Beyond strategic planning and program assessment, brand positioning is the next step in the continuum of strategic planning and thinking. The strategic planning process enables us to define principles that are of most value to the organization and develop a strategy to advance these principles. The program assessment process allows us to monitor and adjust our programs to be responsive to these strategies. Brand positioning enables us to examine our brand relative to our strategic plan and make adjustments to ensure our continuing relevance to our specialty and medical community at large. I am pleased to report that the Board of Chancellors and Council Steering Committee participated in a brand positioning exercise at the recently held board retreat this past October. This completed the strategic planning and thinking cycle just in time for us to embark on a mid-course review of the strategic plan in 2017, three years after its inception.

The brand that we adopt personally says a lot about who we are and how we behave. The brand that we embrace as a radiology department says a lot about what our patients, referring practitioners, and the public can expect from our services and activities. The brand that we adopt as a professional organization says a lot about what we represent to our profession, society, and the medical community at large. It's critical that we get it right.


BrinkBy James A. Brink, MD, FACR, Chair

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