7 questions for new ReviveHealth CEO Joanne Thornton

The Nashville-based exec talks creative work pre- and mid-pandemic, agency challenges and transitioning

7 questions for new ReviveHealth CEO Joanne Thornton

Like fellow Nashville resident Taylor Swift, Joanne Thornton appears to have successfully pivoted.

Swift shifted from country to pop. Joanne Thornton helped her healthcare marketing and communications agency, ReviveHealth, adjust from helping hospitals with day-to-day marketing to focusing on COVID-19.

Now Thornton is taking over as CEO of ReviveHealth, which she cofounded in 2009. The company was acquired by Weber Shandwick in 2016; it now has offices in four cities and 140 employees.

PRWeek spoke with Thornton about the company’s experience during the pandemic, its challenges and successes and what she predicts for the company. 

Are there Revive campaigns that you are particularly proud of?
The one that rises to the top this year is the work we have done for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Shift campaign, which is really focused on nurses. It’s a multifaceted campaign. There are podcasts. We are working on a season two docuseries. There is a full digital and social component.

Not only is it incredibly beautiful, the artwork and creative on it is just remarkable, but its intentionality of focusing on nurses and really providing insight to their real lives has been eye opening and meaningful.

How much has your work changed from pre-pandemic to now?
Of course, COVID has hit hospitals and health systems incredibly hard, particularly with the cancelation of elective surgeries and that sort of thing, so our work shifted in talking with them about how to get through that period and what it meant on the other side. We went from doing full marketing campaigns for brands and brand expressions to putting all of that on pause and focusing primarily on COVID. 

What do you think will happen to those brands and brand expressions? Do you think your work for the next year or so will continue to focus on COVID?
No, I don’t think so. There will be some of it, for sure. I think we certainly felt like we were on the other side of it, and then the Delta surge came along. Our clients also recognize that there is value in the work that they are doing, particularly in marketing around their brands. 

What we are experiencing now is a revisiting of what those marketing plans and campaigns are going to look like.

Can you give me an example of a revisiting of those marketing campaigns?
I really think the big focus is going to be on health and wellness, so from a hospital and health system’s perspective, how do you balance this awakening with people as a result of COVID with your specific service lines of getting people to focus on taking care of themselves? I think there is an interesting dynamic there.  

Do you think the focus in healthcare marketing is going to be on social media? Or what do you envision as far as mediums?
Healthcare has been behind other industries, particularly as it relates to digital, social, the use of data to segment and target their audiences.

COVID accelerated some of the progress that we were already seeing in healthcare, for example in telehealth, out of necessity.

Coming out on the other side of COVID, the acceleration that we have seen in the healthcare industry I hope would continue.

What are some of the goals you have now that you are CEO? 
Number one is shepherding the evolution of our brand, to expand our footprint even further with companies who are leading the way in health. Number two, in this hybrid environment, it’s about making sure that what I think is an extraordinary culture and a best place to work translates to a hybrid environment. 

The other thing I am really focused on is advancing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. We have been very intentional about advancing DEI in every part of our business, recognizing that — it’s a little cliché to say, but it’s absolutely true – that this is a marathon and not a sprint and that the work in this space is never finished. 

What do you see as the biggest challenges for your company?
For sure transitioning to the hybrid environment. It’s just different. We have done really well in it, but partially you feel like you did really well because everybody felt like this was temporary, but now that it’s going to be more of a permanent reality, we just have to make sure that we have the right attitudes in place, that we don’t actually all have to be in the same room to really collaborate well.

Recruitment and retaining our remarkable talent is absolutely going to be a challenge. 

CNBC said that 55% of the workforce is looking for a new job. That’s pretty crazy. I don’t think there is a company that is going to be immune from that, so for me it’s focusing on how we keep our really great people and how do we make sure that Revive is a top employment brand and a best place to work.  

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