Originally posted on Health Brand Group's blog.

As Obamacare opens the door for greater consumer empowerment in healthcare, providers of all shapes and sizes must take notice and evolve to proactively grow awareness and truly engage the next wave of healthcare consumers.

To date, providers (and the healthcare industry in general) have been slow to adopt the brand and marketing strategies already in play by Fortune 500 companies in other industries. These leading organizations realize that having a brand isn’t a luxury—it’s the foundation for everything you do.

When you operationalize your brand throughout your organization, it can empower your employees, your growth and your consumers.

However, while there is more opportunity than ever for healthcare providers to create impactful brands, we must also recognize that “brand” is simply one of several priorities competing for the attention of provider leadership within this new normal of healthcare.

The following are 3 consumer branding trends that healthcare providers can capitalize and activate in 2014.

Leading with Story.

Today, you need a brand that enables relationships with all of the people important to you: your employees, your donors and investors, your patients and their communities, etc. Think about that word—relationships—it connotes a two-way, dual engagement…a state of being connected.

Messaging = the old way of communicating TO people.

Storytelling = the new, emotional way of communicating WITH people by making them a part of your story.

Humans have been building relationships and connecting with one another through storytelling since, well, since there were humans. You need to humanize your story by making it personal and emotional, and by understanding who you are trying to reach and connect with.

Make 2014 the year when your organization shifts from marketing TO people to connecting WITH people, and lead this shift with storytelling.

Creating Brand Ownership Across Your Organization.

It is important to realize that your brand does not live within the boundaries of your marketing department. As such, cultivating your brand should be viewed as a strategic business initiative. Your brand should be driven by your organization’s vision and aligned with your internal culture; it should be a natural, authentic extension of the interactions among your employees and between your staff and your patients.

Create brand ambassadors from the inside out by engaging your employees. Communicating and connecting your staff with your purpose and your vision will improve employee engagement and translate directly to patient satisfaction and preference.

Becoming More Human-Centered.

Remember, your patients and employees are in fact humans. Each and every person that comes into contact with your organization is looking for a meaningful experience.

If your vision and story are inspiring, understandable and accessible—meaning you operationalize them through every touch point of your organization—then your patients, employees and the communities you serve will be able to connect with and experience your brand in an emotional way.