My employer for this co-op quarter is Mercy Health System. I am working as an intern in their marketing and public relations department. This marks my second time working in the marketing department of Mercy Health System. But, despite working in the same place and doing the same job as my previous co-op, my duties and projects are far different this time around. Previously, my work was on a smaller scale, common clerical work, copy writing, editing, etc. Now, I am involved in larger projects and am working with the Mercy marketing team at a very unique time for the company.
Mercy Health System is going through a massive change, it’s largest since it first became an integrated health system 27 years ago. Following Mercy’s absorption of Rockford Health System of Rockford, Illinois, the company is going through a full reinvention of both its internal and external business structure. The company’s name, logo, employment structure, and administration are all changing drastically following this merger. For both myself and the rest of the marketing department, this means a lot of work and a lot of new, pressing projects.
As a member of the marketing team, I am part of a over-arching goal to educate the public about just how Mercy is changing and what all those changes mean for them. This means introducing the thousands of people living in the range of the old Mercy to the new name and logo, and letting them all know just how they might be affected by the changes (if at all). We’re also tasked with answering all the public and press questions regarding the changes as well as the expansion that comes with the Rockford merger. This whole process is made more difficult by the fact that we have now changed our name and logo twice in the past 6 months, first from Mercy Health System to MercyRockford Health System, then back to Mercy Health System, and now we’re going into the name MercyHealth. All this leads to a lot of public confusion. And all of this isn’t even factoring in the confusion felt by the citizens of Rockford. They’re all still wondering what will happen to their healthcare with the change, which includes reducing the size of the current city hospital by almost 70% and transferring that loss in care to our under construction hospital. All the public education involved in this is taken on completely by the Mercy marketing department, all fourteen of us.
The old name and logo (above) and the new name and logo (below)
This means a lot more working with the press and directly with the public, answering questions, distributing new merchandise and booklets with our new name, logo, and Rockford hospital plans. Of all these duties, we spend the most time right now spreading the word about our new hospital, as it is meant to be the state-of-the-art face of the new MercyHealth, and the groundbreaking took place only a month prior to my co-op internship beginning (link). So a lot of this is still getting off the ground and there’s always new hospital updates and information to share with the press and public.
Of course, all of this new work is simply an addition to the previous duties, rather than a complete replacement of it. The marketing department still has to maintain the public relation traditions of the old Mercy while building hype and spreading information about the new Mercy. One of the biggest, longest-running traditions of the old Mercy is that of participation in the summer county fairs in the area. Mercy has had a tent in the local Rock County fair for decades and has spread to other fairs in recent years. Planning enough games, information stands, and public interactive activities for one week-long fair takes a long time, but now we’ve taken on that responsibility for half a dozen county fairs over the course of July and August. Along with attending the fairs and working in the tents, I have done a lot of work with both set up and take down for these events, as well as working extensively in the planning and promotion of them.
In short, there is a lot to do here. Some things I am already very used to, while other things are brand new to me. This allows me to both better the marketing skills I have already developed as well as learn new skills and perform better in a marketing environment. Whether its writing press releases, event planning, or reaching out to and educating the public, there’s always something important to be done. At the end of my first co-op quarter with Mercy, I left feeling like I knew a lot more about the basics of working in a marketing or public relations setting. Now, I am getting into the more advanced, hands-on side to working for public relations and am already feeling both more educated on the responsibilities of marketing work as well as more accomplished with the work that I am doing and the projects I am completing.