Episode 094 : What Does Your Brand Stand For : Understanding Your Why with Amy Austin

Amy Austin, a marketing and branding strategies guide, allows her clients to embrace the power of purpose in all aspects of their business and transform it into the central storyline of their branding and marketing strategies.

Her focus on empathy and building authentic relationships comes from nearly 20 years building successful marketing campaigns and brands in the health care sector.


  • Could you share with us a little bit about your journey? It says here that you have nearly 20 years experience building marketing campaigns and brands in the health care sector. How did you get into that? And tell us a little bit about your journey in the health care sector, working with different brands and building in different campaigns.
  • Can you share with us how it is that a company can make branding look like a real business instead of something that they’re doing themselves? But more importantly, how can we make sure our values and our brand is reflected in our customer experiences?
  • What are three core values that you think across the board that should be translated into the actual experience that the customer or the patient is having?
  • Can you share with us what’s one online tool, website or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?
  • Maybe give us one or two books that you’ve read either recently or maybe a book that you read a long time ago that has had a really good impact on you.
  • Share with us what’s one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about, either something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
  • Where can our listeners find you online?
  • What is one quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge, if you need to remind yourself of this quote to kind of help you to refocus or just to get back on that path to achieve what you’re trying to achieve?


Amy’s Journey

Amy shared that she started right out of college, she got a job at a radio station and it was at a time when that particular station was going through a lot of leadership changes. And so within six months of being there, she was feeling very insecure as a first time professional job. And she was seeing all these people get fired or leave. She was like, “I need to find an exit strategy.” Her exit strategy happened to be a job opening at a large tertiary healthcare system in her home state of South Dakota.

And she started working in their communications department. And it’s funny because when she started working there, she had a number of people ask her, “Marketing in a hospital, what are you doing? Promoting people getting sick?” She was like, no, that would not be what we’re doing.

What we’re doing is trying to make sure that when you do need the service, you’re fully aware of where it is you might want to go. So that you don’t have that stress in the moment of when you really need it, that you’re not having to try and figure out where is the best place for you to go. She always laugh about that because it’s like, “No, no, no, no, we don’t want people to be sick. We really don’t want them to use our services but when they do, we want them to know we’re here.”

So, she stayed at that particular hospital for about 5 years and really enjoyed what she was doing. She got to learn a lot about paediatric healthcare, women’s healthcare, and helped lead some brand development in both of those areas, as well as the affiliated Wellness Athletic Center that was owned by the health system that she worked for. And then not long after that, she started working at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. And she’s not sure if they’ve ever been able to prove this point, but they always like to say that they were the largest academic medical center by square footage.

And like she said, she’s not sure that they were ever able to validate that point, but they like to say it on occasion. And she worked there for 12 ½ years. And during that time, she served as the primary liaison with their advertising agency to develop out all of their image campaigns. So, their television, radio, print, sometimes billboard, sometimes the online component fell into that. But that usually was more specific to the actual services as opposed to that bigger umbrella image message that they wanted to get out there.

So, during that time, she worked on 8 or 9 different large campaigns to help build awareness. She also led the effort to change the name of their children’s hospital to be more closely aligned with the university name as opposed to what it had been. And really just really got to know a lot about the different aspects of healthcare, how we recruit staff into the facility, because nursing is a high demand job and there’s not as many people going into nursing.

And so, it’s typically an area that there are a lot of job openings and not enough people applying for them, and so she worked with their nursing leadership to develop a recruitment campaign at one point that helped their facility go from a 18% vacancy rate in terms of positions that needed to be filled down to a 3% vacancy rate. Prior to that, how they were filling those positions was with travelling nurses and so they would come in and work for 6 months and then they’d move on to somewhere else.

And so, what they wanted as an organization at that time was really to get nurses who were fully employed and fully vested with their organization, as opposed to somebody who was just going be there for a period of time and move on.

And so, they were able to do that. And it was an exciting campaign to be on because we really were able to see the benefits quickly of how appreciative the nursing staff was to have somebody next to them that they knew was going to be here for the long term. And there was just a difference in morale across the nursing staff as they started to fill those open positions with employed staff as opposed to travelling staff.

And so that was exciting. Obviously, the roll out of the name change of the children’s hospital was also a really exciting project to be part of. Part of that, too, as if you ever need to know where to find a mascot costume, she has those resources as well because they ended up developing a mascot for the children’s hospital and she had to find a place to make the costume, which was not anything she ever thought she would do in her career.

But she did found a company in Canada, not sure if they still exist or not, but did find them and rolled out a new mascot for their children’s hospital, which was a lot of fun.

Understanding Your Brand

Amy shared that she has worked on her own now for 8 years and through the course of that time, what she has realized in working with a variety different clients in different aspects of different stages of their business and in different industries, not just healthcare anymore, is that a lot of times they rush to just get marketing strategies out the door.

They want to see something happening and coming back into their business, and they believe the best way to do that is to get an ad out the door or get something on Facebook or whatever that might be. And oftentimes what ends up happening is that they end up frustrated and feeling like it didn’t produce the results that they wanted.

Well, when you peel back that and really look at why, it’s usually because they haven’t done the work to truly know what their brand stands for. Why did they start their business? What do they stand for? Where’s their mission and vision? Where are they hoping to go in the next 5 years? And really understood and developed out a strategy for what their brand and their marketing needs to look like.

So they’ve gone and thrown out a message that maybe doesn’t align with what they’re doing or it doesn’t attract the right audience. And so then it fails and so when you do that foundational work first. And really get that clarity around who you are, what you’re doing, why you do it, how you do it and who you’re doing it for. Then you can understand what issues are they facing at the time that they need my service? What problems are they trying to solve that is causing them to get really frustrated and seek out someone or something to be able to help solve that problem? And that’s where you come in as that brand to be able to help them.

And they see themselves in that message and they’re willing then to take a chance on you or they start building some trust and relationship and work with you. Then you’re going to start seeing better success in those marketing strategies that you’re putting out the door. And you’re going to feel good about them. And what she likes to tell her clients is that by doing this work, by understanding your brand and what elements of story are going to be really important to that target audience that you’re looking for and also what experience pillars you want to put in place when you’ve done those things, the end result that you’re going to have. You’re going to have clarity, consistency and confidence in your marketing.

Clarity to understand what it is that you’re talking about and who you’re talking about, what the messages are. Consistency because you’re going to say the same thing over and over, even if it’s not exactly the same thing, your customers are going to know that it came from you because it sounds the same. And confidence in that you’re doing the right thing. You’re going to feel better about putting those messages out and feel that calming sense of, “Okay, I’m doing the right thing.” instead of that phonetic feeling of “I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do, but I’m going to do it because I feel like I have to.” And when you have that feeling, not only does that make you nervous, it also comes off in what you put out in front of people regardless of what avenue or what tactical measure you’re doing.

If it’s a video, if you are in front of a camera and you’re feeling that uncertainty and anxiety, the person watching your video in the end is going to see it and they’re going to hear it in your voice. Whereas if, you know, if you go into producing that video with a certainty of what your messages, of what you want to accomplish with it, of who you’re speaking to and what it is they need from you at any given moment.

You’re going to have a confidence and an air of calmness that is going to come off as authority and they’re going to see empathy from you as well. And they’re going to want to come work with you or buy your service, whatever it might be, whatever transaction that you’re making with them. They’re going to feel confident in doing it.

So, you’re not only projecting yourself with confidence, but you’re also instilling confidence in your target audience that they are making the right decision.

Me: So those are some things that we can do to ensure that our brand and our values transcend into our customer experience. As it relates to customer experience in the healthcare sector, what are three values that you think should definitely be transcended in all healthcare experiences to show that you are really an organization or a healthcare facility or institution that is driven by your customers experiences, whether you are a medical facility, a blood bank or a hospital regardless of the avenue of healthcare that you offer.

Must Have Brand Values for a Quality Customer Experience

Amy shared that first and foremost, she thinks that you need to treat your patient as a person. If you are not doing that, if you’re not thinking about this person who’s sitting across the exam table from you or in this room or any exchange that you’re having, “This person could be my mother, my brother, my sister, some family member. How do I want them to be treated?” If you are not treating them in the way that you want to be treated, you need to take a step back and think about why not?

“Why am I not doing that?” And what do you need to change in order to be able to get to that position? She can think of times when you go and check in at a clinic appointment and they’re rushed because they’re also answering phone calls and they’re trying to check in the person ahead of you, they’ve got 7 or 8 different things going on around them that then they get to you and they’re frazzled.

Well, fine. But take a deep breath. Give this patient that you’re now checking in your full attention and just do the job that you need to do. And don’t let all of the other things that are going on around you as the person doing the checking in interfere with that interaction that you have with that person because they maybe don’t want to be there either.

You don’t really want to have to go to a physician or to a clinic, chances are you’re there because you’re sick, you’re not feeling well, a loved one is sick, not feeling well, and you need help. And so you’re dealing with people at the most vulnerable time of their life. And show them some grace and be patient and be willing to help them understand what’s going on. Be clear in what you’re asking them to do next, where do they need to go, how long will it take.

Just have that transparency, that’s another value that she believes you should have in healthcare but in any organization. If you can’t be transparent in what’s going to happen next in their journey, they’ve decided to work with you. So what’s next? What are we going to do next? How do we get started? Whether it’s in healthcare, have a seat here, we’ll call you back if you’re not called back in the next 10 minutes or whatever your window of time is that is deemed acceptable by your organization. Let them know, “If you’re not called back in 10 minutes, please let us know and we’ll find out what’s going on. And we’ll give you an idea of how much longer it’s going to be, if it’s going to be delayed further.”

But the same is true for any other business. What’s the next step in the journey of working with you? When I bring in a new client, it’s what happens when we sign the dotted line. Now, what’s the next step? So, maybe it’s a discovery call, maybe it’s a in-depth fact finding mission, whatever that is, let them know what it is, set the clear expectation of how long that’s going to take, what the process is going to look like and when it’s going to be finished.

Me: So it’s almost like you’re trying to get clear on what the customer journey is.

Amy shared that she thinks when you are working, it doesn’t matter what type of business you have, and it’s all about building a relationship. You can’t have a business if you don’t have somebody who’s willing to use your service. She can say she has a business, but if she has no clients, does she have a business?

No, not really. So, it is about building experiences because those experiences are going to help you know what works and what doesn’t work. But it’s also going to give that person an opportunity to say, “Wow, I had a great experience working with Amy recently.” or “I had a great experience working with X, Y, Z clinic recently. And I would highly recommend you go back to them.”Then you’re going to start getting that word of mouth.

Think about that. Who do you tend to believe more? Somebody that you know that has had experience with a service that you’re considering? Or an ad on Facebook? You’re going to take the word of the person who you know because you can ask them questions, you trust them already, you have a relationship. Marketing and branding is about creating relationships.

Me: Good answer, thank you, Amy. So we heard that you need to have empathy, you need to be transparent and you need to work on building relationships that there’s a lot of trust equity involved in it so that people can trust you, they know what to expect. They’re clear on what is going to happen next in the customer journey and you’re not surprised because it’s that element of surprise a lot of times that causes customers to really get upset and then you have to run into service recovery.

App that Amy Can’t Live Without

Amy shared that she recently started using Trello and as she’s getting more into using it and figuring out some of the power behind it, of tracking things like with her own podcast. She has started doing a lot more tracking of when she has talked to somebody to be a potential guest and putting notes in there. And then when she has recorded it and just moving them up the chain within that and really tracking what she’s doing with them and that’s been very helpful to keep track of that and she has used it with some of her client work as well. So, she really likes Trello, but she fully knows that she doesn’t know the full extent of what it can do for her.

Books That Have Impacted Amy Greatly

When asked about books that have had a really good impact, Amy shared that she can give two. The first one, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. For her, reading that and then really starting to internalize what it all meant has made her see correlations that she didn’t see before. Such as, one of the physicians that she used to work with very closely, her very first meeting with him, he said to her, “My ultimate goal is total world domination.” And she looked at him and said, “I don’t have budget for that. I seriously don’t have budget to be able to support you in that but I will do whatever I possibly can to help you do that.”

So, fast forward several years, she ended up having her mom see him as a patient. And then she got to see how he worked on the other side. And as she watched him worked and she saw how his clinic operated and she thought back to different experiences that she had had with him and that phrase, “Total world domination.” She started to see that what was happening was exactly what Simon Sinek talked about in that book.

When you have clear sense of purpose and you surround yourself with other people who are bought into that purpose, but bring different strengths to the table to be able to lift that purpose up. You’re going to achieve a greater sense of success. And she was able to see that in a way that she hadn’t been able to see when she worked with him because she was internal only. That and the fact, she hadn’t read the book yet at that point. So, she didn’t know what she didn’t know at that timeframe.

But watching how that all came together and knowing some of the things that she knew about the background of how he works and the fact that his staff retention in that particular clinic is very high, that when his physicians that worked in his department would leave our academic medical center and go to another one, they went for positions that were higher up. It was not a lateral move. They went for promotions. His employee retention was high; his patient satisfaction scores were some of the highest in the organization.

All of those things factor in to the fact that he was very clear on his purpose, very clear on his why within the department, the people that he hired and brought in were recruited because he had residents and fellows working through there as well. They were all bought in on that same mission. They understood it, and as a result, the patient was very well taken care of, the family was very well taken care of. And it just all merged and melded together really, really well.

And it was exciting to see and as a result of that, she built that process into branding work that she does with clients. She makes sure that they understand what their purpose is and really understand how it impacts those around them and who they bring onboard. So that’s one book that was very influential for her.

The other book is Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days by Joey Coleman. She interviewed him for her show as well. Fabulous book and she has started incorporating his eight pillars of customer experience into the work that she does with clients as well.

But she thinks the quote from him in that book that really stands out to her is his definition of that, “Customer service is reactive and customer experience is proactive.” And she had never really thought of that different definition until she read his book. And now she looks at it and she thinks that all the time, like, how can you proactively run something off at the pass so that you don’t get into a position of having to serve them, but that you are creating the experience for them that they didn’t know they even wanted.

She loves his book and she heard an interview with him recently that he is working on a book that is geared towards recruitment of employees so that you bring in employees, that you create that experience around recruitment and hiring in the same way, because those hundred days are so critical as a new hire, just as much as what they are critical with a new relationship with a client or a customer.

Me: Very true. And I mean, I think recruitment is very important to business as well. It’s just as important as the customers or clients that you’re serving, because the people who are serving your customers have to have the right attitude, they have to be aligned with, as you said, a vision and a core values and a cultural beliefs. And it’s not just about what you have on paper or what you have on your website in terms of what you believe or what you think you should be doing. But it’s also in the behaviours; the actions that come out, what are they doing? Their response time, how accommodating are they, how solution oriented are they, an issue comes up on and it’s a serious problem, do they take it as serious and do they deal with it as critically as how the customer’s perceiving it as critical? All of those I think fall into recruitment, because if you get people who don’t really value those things, it’s going to be manifested in their behaviour.

Amy agreed and shared that you can’t see her, but she was sitting there shaking her head through everything that Yanique said. And the way that you get that is by understanding what as a brand do you stand for? What will you accept? What do you want people to think of you? And the only way that you can create that idea in their mind is to live it as your brand, prescribe it.

She thinks one of the things that businesses tend to fall down on when they hire people is they don’t train for their brand. They hire someone and they maybe don’t even give them an on boarding, let alone any kind of training, but if you would take a couple hours and just walk through, “Here’s what our brand stands for. Here’s what’s important to us. Here are our expectations as it relates to experience. I expect you to answer the phone this way, I expect these things.”

If you have a brick and mortar store, here’s what I want you to do in terms of how you greet somebody, give them the autonomy but in order to give them autonomy, they have to know what the boundaries of that autonomy is.

Amy shared that they went out for supper last Saturday night and went to a place that they go to frequently. First time that they’d been at their restaurant since all of the pandemic and the reopening and they sat on their patio. They ordered food, they waited, they waited, they waited, they waited, which was very uncommon for this restaurant for them to ever wait as long as what they did. Well, come to find out they thought they had wanted it to go. So, they packaged it up as a to go order and had it sitting on a counter ready for them to pick up.

They were eating on their patio, so when they finally realized this, they got them their food right away. They were very apologetic and the onsite manager that came out and talked to them, he said, “We’re really sorry. Can we give you a gift card to make this up to you?” Now, somebody had to train him to know that it was okay for him to offer that. That’s part of their brand expectations, it’s part of the experience that they want, the ideal experience that they want their customers to have did not go as it was supposed to.

So, now how do we go into that service recovery mode? What can we give them? How can we make this right so that they will come back to us? And he did that but you have to train that and you can’t just expect somebody to know that on day one, that they have the ability to be able to do that. Or maybe it’s certain people have the ability to do that and so they need to escalate it.

Maybe the person who took their order didn’t have the authority to be able to give them the gift card but the manager who is working that night did. Fine, escalate it up, make sure that it gets to the manager, he comes and talks to them but it brought the whole experience full circle. It did start off as an experience and ended up having to go into that service or recovery mode and they walked out feeling better about what happened. They understood, they’re like, “It’s okay, the food is still good. We’re not going to hold it against you, we’ll still be back.”

What Amy is Really Excited About

Amy shared that one thing that she is working on that she is getting more excited about, as she’s doing a little bit more, she’s kind of in the mode of doing some customer discovery of creating a marketing mastermind that she will start offering. And so she has been reaching out to different people who she thinks would be kind of within the ideal target audience of what she’s looking for and asking them some questions and seeing, “Is this a service that you need? What would it look like for you? What would need to be part of it in order for it to be valuable?”

So she’s doing her own due diligence and doing what she tells her clients to do when they’re looking at creating a new service. Talk to the people who you want to offer this to and find out what they really need. Just because you think, you need it. It may not mean that they need it. Their pain point might not be great enough yet for it to be necessary for them. So, that’s one thing she’s excited.

The other thing is, just this gradual reopening of back into whatever our normal is going to be is exciting. But it’s also been really nice because she has been able to spend more time with her daughter. She has a 13 year old. So, they’ve been able to spend a little bit more quality time together than what they have had. When she’s busy with all kinds of activity, school activities and such. So, that’s exciting as well.

Find Amy Online

  • Amy shared listeners can find her at –


Podcast – The Pursuit of Purpose with Amy Austin

Twitter – @AmyMAustinMktg

LinkedIn – @amymaustin

Quote or Saying that Amy Uses in Times of Adversity or Challenge

When asked about a quote or saying that helps her to refocus, Amy shared that the one that she come back to the most is Simon Sinek, is that, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Me: So, people don’t buy what you do, but they buy why you do it. And it really goes back to what you were stating earlier about understanding your purpose, understanding your why. What problem are you actually solving, if you can get clear on all of that and in training staff on that, and recruit according to that, then you would definitely have a business that’s geared towards success.

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