Grassroots Efforts


Henry Ford Hospital 


Multi-media marketing, e-mail, experiential events and grassroots efforts





Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the flagship of the Henry Ford Health system, has been conducting preliminary land assessment and acquisition work required for a planned $500 million development adjacent to and south of its campus over the next 10 years.  The overall plan calls for an expanded medical campus combined with retail and new and renovated housing. The neighborhood in which they are planning is largely disinvested, but has an engaged business community along West Grand Boulevard and pockets of residents who are committed to the neighborhood.  In April 2010 news of its intent leaked prematurely to the media, drawing considerable interest and some pushback from some local faith-based leaders and residents. These community leaders expressed concerns regarding how transparent Henry Ford Hospital would be and how much input the community would have into the project.  

Henry Ford Hospital then engaged Berg Muirhead to conduct community outreach activities to assure that the community became involved in the ongoing planning efforts. Berg Muirhead initially conducted an assessment of the neighborhood to determine its unique social economic characteristics. Based on our findings and the neighborhood concerns, we developed a strategy of information dissemination that would establish an ongoing dialogue with the community and establish an ongoing relationship between Henry Ford and the community. 

Our strategy began with identifying more than 60 influencers in the 300-acre neighborhood site. The influencers included business associations and owners, community organizations, block clubs, individual residents and faith-based leadership.  We conducted one-on-one interviews with each of the influencers to inform them about the broad overview of Henry Ford Hospital’s expansion vision and to secure their feedback, questions and comments. At the completion of the interviews, Berg Muirhead created an information and metrics report for the hospital’s leadership to detail who we met with and their perceptions.  

We then used this information we gathered from the influencer/stakeholder meetings to create the structure for a neighborhood-wide community meeting.  We developed a strategy and run of show for the community meeting that would address potential “hot button” issues and make the community feel included in the process. To assure community residents were aware of the meeting, we used two invitation tactics: 1. we sent an invitation to every address in the project area to make sure every resident felt included, and 2. we asked the community advocates to invite their constituents to establish trust that this meeting was “endorsed” by a community leader. We also held the community meeting at a church in the neighborhood – a location where residents felt comfortable and that communicated that Henry Ford Hospital was coming to them, instead of summoning them to Henry Ford Hospital.

The first meeting exceeded Henry Ford Hospital’s expectations in terms of size and reception. The room overflowed with more than 100 community members.  Those who attended were generally interested and excited by the prospects for redevelopment and Henry Ford’s willingness to reach out to them. At the meeting, Berg Muirhead recorded who was there and administered a survey to retain information including their thoughts about Henry Ford Hospital, the project, the meeting and preferred modes of ongoing communication.  After the meeting, these metrics were compiled into a database for Henry Ford Hospital. 

The meeting was followed by the publication of a Henry Ford Hospital “Neighborhood Connections” newsletter. Berg Muirhead developed the concept for the newsletter, wrote the articles and consulted on the design to make it as visually appropriate for the audience.  The newsletter was a crucial last component – it was mailed to every resident and stakeholder in the community. This ensured that each member of the community, whether they attended meetings or not, had a basis of information about Henry Ford Hospital and the construction project.

Henry Ford Hospital also committed to holding regular meetings with the community. In October it had its second community meeting, which continued to yield a proactive and positive conversation.  

Berg Muirhead’s strategy and follow-through accomplished Henry Ford Hospital’s goals. We were able to assure the community of the hospital’s desire to include them in the process, inform the community on details of the project and establish a strategy and vehicle for ongoing communication with the community as the project moves forward.