At this very moment, someone is probably chiseling a cork bulletin board off a cafeteria wall and replacing it with a new digital display screen. At corporations, universities, hospitals and manufacturing plants, old-school message boards with paper fliers and framed posters are being replaced, one after another, by flat panel displays and digital content.
“In a world that has become increasingly overwhelmed with the clutter of emails, texts, memos and social media, how can companies compete to effectively communicate with their associates?” said Dale McClintock, President of VitalSigns. “Digital signage has surfaced as an effective channel to slice through the clutter of computer screens, mobile devices and paper communications. Digital displays impact and influence employees in their workplace when and where you want to reach them.”
McClintock said larger digital sign networks rely on a central content server to remotely update clusters of digital displays which may be in separate buildings or even different cities. “Web-based digital display networks can be updated from anywhere and continuously monitor the health of each screen.”
OhioHealth, recognized by FORTUNE Magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” for 10 years in a row, uses a web-based network to manage over 120 screens in 18 locations across its system with messages targeted to 28,000 associates, physicians and volunteers. “We use our digital signage system, internally called ‘eBoards,’ to inform, engage and educate our audiences,” said Stacie Lawell, Director of Communications at OhioHealth. “eBoards play a key role in how we communicate need-to know information to all of our associates but specifically to our front-line, clinical staff who may not have access to or time to receive communications through traditional channels like email. We place our eBoards in areas with high associate traffic – walkways; near associate entrances and elevators; in the cafeterias – and develop messages and visuals that take no longer than 15 seconds to read.”
Lawell said messages range from HR updates, system-wide news, recognitions, events and policy changes. They also reinforce internal announcements with ‘surround sound’ when they want to create awareness or drive a call-to action such as “Be sure to get your flu shot” or “Sign up to run in the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon.”
The logistics of ensuring all equipment is functioning properly can be challenging, Lawell said, with so many screens spread out over many buildings. “In the past, coordinating new installs and repairs was a challenge, but that hasn’t been a concern since we’ve been working with VitalSigns. They remotely monitor our players for us to ensure they are connecting to the internet correctly and are working as they should.”
To provide for consistency in messaging across OhioHealth’s care sites and work locations, Communications Team members develop system-wide and site-specific messages and are responsible for uploading the content. Guidelines are in place to determine what messaging goes on the boards, how long messages are displayed, and that the visuals adhere to OhioHealth’s brand standards.
The digital signage landscape can be a confusing place with so many providers and systems available. “We looked at several companies when we made the decision to transition to a new internal digital solution,” Lawell said. “We had a connection with VitalSigns from the beginning. We knew that we would have an experienced, engaged and responsive partner – which is exactly what we were looking for.”
“Most importantly,” Lawell said, “they focus on what our team, the end user of the product, is experiencing and are open to feedback and suggestions on how to make the system work for us and fit our needs. They have been responsive and great to work with, especially since this was a unique project where they inherited a system that was already in place and helped us to improve upon it.”
What advice would OhioHealth give to another organization considering a multi-site digital signage network? Lawell provided four principles to ensure success: “First, align on the objectives of the digital signage network and identify how to measure its effectiveness. Then develop guidelines and best practices on what information your digital signage network will display – it can’t be the communications channel for everything. Ensure the messaging and visuals are timely and relevant to your audience, and most importantly, ensure the team members creating the content have a passion for telling a story in a visual way.”