Author: Jimmy Warren

Is TikTok a Good Option for Healthcare Marketing?

Is TikTok a Good Option for Healthcare Marketing

You’ve seen the videos. Funny, dancing, lip-syncing, lots of kids—maybe your own or even your grandkids—just being cute and silly. TikTok is the shiny new thing. But should hospitals and healthcare organizations use the platform to hit marketing goals?

Short-form, user-generated TikTok videos, generally from 15 seconds to 3 minutes, engage users, particularly Gen-Z’ers, to show off their creativity. However, the video-sharing social media platform isn’t just for the young. It’s growing in popularity with older users tapping into their young-at-heart spontaneity. 

Launched in 2016, TikTok now has more than 1 billion users. The latest HubSpot Social Media Trends report declares it the #1 social media trend in 2022: “TikTok will take over social media, leaving other brands to adapt.”

Before trending on TikTok, slow down and consider the pros and cons. To go viral, a video should be fun, engaging and humorous—not typically synonymous with healthcare marketing. Also, ensure that you have bandwidth for another social channel that may minimally increase brand awareness.

What Is TikTok?

TikTok is the seventh largest social network, behind Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WeChat. It is app based and has been the most downloaded app for the past two years.

It is a US subsidiary of ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech giant. Chinese ownership and potential data breaches concern many businesses and the US government.

Aside from data security, TikTok critics complain about excessive screen time, suggestive content, negative comments and harmful challenges impacting children.

Michael Beckerman, a TikTok vice president, was among the tech giants recently grilled before a Senate Commerce subcommittee. Beckerman assured committee members that child safety tools are now in place to help parents manage screen time and monitor what young users see. But, he side-stepped data collection questions.

Who Is the Audience?

In the US, TikTok users are predominantly female (nearly 60 percent) and young with 60 percent between ages 16–24, the trendsetting Gen Z. But, the audience is aging up with Millennial and Gen X users, ages 25–44, making up another 26 percent.

TikTok’s growth parallels pandemic lockdown and quarantine when kids were bored with “nothing to do.” Then Mom has discovered the music video app. One of the fastest growing user segments is the 30-to-49-year-old female with children.

How Do You TikTok?

Step 1. Download the app and create an account.

Step 2. Or go to tiktok.com to view videos if you just want to check it out.

Step 3. Get creative.

Step 4. You can film something new or upload a video from your phone.

Step 5. Explore the video and audio editing tools; add a song, filters and effects.

Step 6. Finish up with privacy settings, hashtags and sharing the TikTok.

Step 7. Publish the video and share it on other social platforms.

Step 8. Wait for it to go viral!

Should TikTok Be Part of Healthcare Strategy?

Cleveland Clinic launched a TikTok channel in 2020 to spread public health message about COVID-19 and urge people to #MaskUp. Most of the videos are educational with interesting graphics and facts to engage viewers. There is a humorous video on how not to wear a face mask.

While Cleveland Clinic has done it right, other healthcare TikTok attempts may not be as successful. Dancing doctors, lip-syncing nurses in ICU hallways and messages that don’t align with the brand can cause quick backlash.

Define the strategy and set goals before moving forward with TikTok. Also, if you haven’t revised the company’s social media policy recently, consider employee use of the channel. Your organization can quickly lose credibility with unprofessional medical videos from employees.

Can You Use TikTok Effectively?

Changing consumer patterns demand changes in patient experience at every touchpoint. They want personalized content, faster service and better experiences.

Consider ways TikTok can be effective in the Age of the Consumer.

  • Educational content and tutorials. Consumers want short, fun, snack-able information. Break down robotic surgery, stroke symptoms, even basic procedures such as a colonoscopy.
  • Clear up misinformation.  Bust the myths of trending health misinformation.
  • Engage younger doctors to engage teens. Use physicians who are already active on social media to talk about dangers of vaping, STD risks and mental health concerns.
  • Wellness checks for women and men. Get creative with preventive health screenings for different age groups.
  • Challenges—Use TikTok challenges for New Year’s weight loss and fitness resolutions, or runs/walks and other fundraising activities.
  • Safety tips—Remind your audience how to avoid the ER with safety tips about frying turkeys, electric knives, fireworks and sunscreen. Address viral dangers such as the infamous milk crate challenge.
  • Resumes—#TikTokResumes gives you a new recruitment tool that allows users to post resumes and apply for jobs directly through the app; the highest conversion is the 25–34 age group.
  • Advertising—Run in-feed ads or create branded hashtags in TikTok for Business.

If you decide that TikTok can effectively increase awareness and relevance of your healthcare brand, engage your audience by:

  • Showing a different side of organization;
  • Experimenting;
  • Adding humor.

Maximize Digital Marketing Goals with LinkedIn Strategy

maximize digital marketing goals with linkedin strategy. Use linkedin for healthcare marketing

LinkedIn launched in 2003, the same year as MySpace (remember that one). Since then, it has remained committed to being a platform for engaging professionals in actions relevant to their business goals.

Initially viewed more as an online CV forum for networking, the social media site has evolved. For healthcare marketing, LinkedIn can be a valuable platform for:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Building brand and thought leadership
  3. Communicating information

However, having LinkedIn pages for your hospital, the CEO or other C-suite executives does not mean that it’s part of your marketing strategy.

“‘Build it, and they will come’ only works in the movies. Social media is a ‘Build it, nurture it, engage them and they may come and stay.’” — Seth Godin, author, public speaker, entrepreneur.

In order to get the most of out LinkedIn, execute it as part of your digital strategy. Update, publish and review analytics—just as you do for all digital tactics. 

If you haven’t checked out your LinkedIn business or personal page lately, now is a good time to do so. It includes a portfolio of marketing solutions, as well as free courses and certifications, including step-by-step guidelines to running ad campaigns and developing marketing strategy.

One of the newest features is the organic Articles for Pages, which allows for long-form articles. However, it is not intended for promoting brands as much as extending the brand by engaging in conversation on timely and trending news topics.

Recruit With Purpose

After more than a year of sheltering in place and working remotely, employees are ready for something new. Microsoft Work Trend  reveals that 41 percent of workers are considering leaving their positions in what is being called the “Great Resignation.”

As you know, healthcare recruitment involves more than posting “We’re hiring.” Job seekers now prioritize passion and purpose over competitive salaries, flexible hours and 401k benefits. They want to love what they’re doing.

For successful recruitment campaigns, LinkedIn suggests showcasing company culture; community involvement; and celebrating employees and giving them a platform to tell their stories. Consider your brand reputation—customers or prospective employees don’t want to do business with companies that treat employees badly.

Build Brand and Thought Leadership

Having a platform to discuss industry trends, share reports or research and present new perspectives on timely topics present your leaders—CEOs, medical directors, physicians and nurses—as resources for credible healthcare information.

Humanize articles even if subjects are scientific. As with all social media content, keep it conversational. Remember, you’re talking with the audience, not at them.

Monitor analytics to know your connections, what topics they’re talking about and start conversations with them. Remember that other brand leaders are also coming here to make business decisions.

Inform Your Audience

Longer form content allows you to connect with audiences in a more personal and authentic way, while being informational.

Let your audience know what’s going on within your organization by sharing such information as:

  • Company announcements
  • Awards
  • Program updates
  • New service line launches
  • Community education
  • Employee stories

Follow LinkedIn Best Practices

The more active you are and the more frequently you update profiles, the more frequently your information shows up in newsfeeds and notifications of your followers.

Here are a few basic practices for maximizing success on the social network:

  • Be Visible. Set accounts to “Public” in the settings and privacy section. You want as many followers and connections as possible on LinkedIn.
  • Be Professional. This is a forum for business professionals, so use professional headshots with neutral backgrounds for profile images.
  • Upload Background Photos. Since the profile page serves as an online business card, upload a background image that relates to your experience or business. It could even be a graphic with your name and title or your business logo.
  • Include Relevant Experience. For individuals, include work experience and highlight career accomplishments and successes that relate to connections you want to make and the field in which you want to be a thought leader.
  • Summarize Yourself. Create a brief, personal summary that highlights your skills and expertise. This becomes your elevator pitch.
  • Seek Recommendations. Third-party endorsements lend credibility to your profile. Whenever you complete a successful project or receive an award, ask for a recommendation.

As the leading community for professionals to engage with each other and influence business decisions, a solid LinkedIn strategy can maximize digital marketing goals.

Keep the Message Simple

keep the message simple for healthcare marketing

From Marketing Hospitals to Vaccines, Keep the Message Simple

In 1960, the US Navy introduced a design principle that stated most systems work best when kept simple rather than made complicated. Known by the acronym KISS, it translates to “keep it simple, stupid.”

After more than a year of mixed and missed messages on nearly everything involving the pandemic to the failure of Texas’ power grid, simple messages across all platforms prove best. Otherwise, straightforward communication becomes crisis communication.

Hospital and healthcare subjects can be tedious, particularly when filled with scientific and medical terminology. That makes it even more important to keep messages simple, honest and candid. The average person may fail to comprehend a “zoonotic spillover– animal-to-human pathogen transfer.” But most understand, “A new deadly virus is infecting thousands and spreading rapidly. We need to take precautions now.”

You don’t have to look any further than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a playbook of what not to do with messaging. The old adage about “clear as mud” comes to mind with the CDC’s latest guideline changes. Leaving your audience with more questions than answers doesn’t follow the KISS principle.

Whether marketing your newest diagnostic technology or relaxed guidelines for hospital visitors, keep the message simple across all channels.

Avoid the #EpicFail.

When delivering messages, keep the three “Rs” in mind:

  • Relationship
  • Relevance
  • Read the room

The most important relationship in your marketing funnel is the patient. The messages you deliver to stakeholders are key to building strong connections. A good rule of thumb to follow when developing a message is to make sure it’s simple enough that both your mother (or grandmother) and adolescent child understand it. Follow through on those messages, from media pitches to patient promises. Otherwise, you may end up on Twitter as #epicfail.

Being the lifeline for the health of your community requires that you deliver relevant messages. While things are returning to normal, most people still need reassurance that it’s safe to come into the hospital or see their doctor. Continue to reassure them, along with the announcement about the opening of a new clinic.

By reading the room and empathizing with stakeholders, particularly at this tenuous moment, brands forge strong bonds with a simple message. Compare Krispy Kreme offering free donuts to vaccinated customers with proof of vaccination to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) warning customers to “unplug fancy appliances to conserve power” when millions throughout the state had no heat. Who read the room?

Express empathy in the message.

As we’ve noted before, after more than a year of the pandemic, people want to be seen and heard.

Speaking to audiences with compassion and addressing their needs starts first by getting outside your box. Listen carefully and put yourself in someone else’s shoes to truly understand what they are saying. Developing empathetic messages starts internally. When employees feel marginalized, a culture of distrust likely spreads to external audiences as well.

Keep the message consistent.

Among the many takeaways from 2020 is that medicine and science are fluid. Likewise, messages may change over time. However, try to confirm as many facts as possible before pushing out a message, whether it’s a statement to the media or a new tagline. Keep your message consistent to maintain brand credibility.

With the CDC’s murky guidelines, the agency basically passed the buck onto the general public to do the right thing. Yet, an Axios poll shows that most of us trust our family and close friends. Beyond that, only 38% of the respondents say they trust anyone outside their circle.

Inconsistency leaves your audience with more questions than answers, so they may turn to alternative and unreliable sources for guidance. Interestingly, about two-thirds of the anti-vaccination content on social media sites comes from only 12 different sources.

From February 1–March 16, 2021, content from these anti-vaxxers, who range from politicians to a former body builder, was shared or posted more than 800,000 times on Facebook and Twitter. Their messages remained consistent, while government agencies and mainstream medical professionals struggled to discredit it because their own messages were often inconsistent and disjointed.

To keep your ship afloat and sailing smoothly, even through rough waters, remember to “keep it simple, stupid.”

Cut Through the Noise to Deliver Your Message

cut through the noise to deliver your message with healthcare marketing
Patients are exposed to thousands of messages every day. Your hospital can stand out above the noise with these four healthcare marketing strategies.

Channels and platforms for delivering your healthcare marketing messages seem almost limitless. However, the challenge comes in trying to cut through the noise of the millions of other messages competing for your target audience’s attention.

Digital marketing experts estimate that the average American is exposed to some 4,000 to 10,000 messages each day.

Yet, the average adult supposedly has an attention span of eight seconds—less than that of a goldfish. The goldfish stat may just be a myth, but it seems the more information available, the less people pay attention.

According to the American Academy of Arts and Science, from 2003 to 2018, the average amount of time Americans spent reading for personal interest per day fell to less than 16 minutes per day

So, how do you cut through the noise to grab the attention of your audience?

Disrupt the Disruptions

A couple of months ago, Amazon Care announced plans to roll out app-based healthcare services nationwide and hinted at launching in-home testing services. Around the same time, Walmart Health unveiled its own expansion of digital services. Then Apple jumped in with new features for its HealthKit app to make exchanging information easier between patient and doctor.

For the average healthcare system, trying to compete against such headlines could be daunting. The best strategy is don’t try to compete. Let the juggernauts have their own competing moments—remember the attention span theory. Announce your expansion and new services to an audience with whom you have a connection at a time when they aren’t distracted.

Deliver to Right Place at Right Time

It all started with a donut. When Krispy Kreme offered a free glazed donut for anyone showing their vaccination card, who would have imagined the incentives to vax that followed? Free orders of fries. Pop-up clinics at bars giving shots-for-shots. Sweepstakes for air fares, cruises and Super Bowl tickets. In Louisiana, you can enter the Shot-at-a-Million lottery for cash or college scholarships.

With trust in science, government, the media and even trust in friends and neighbors in partially vaccinated communities being tested, we turn to imagination and incentives to get people to vaccinate against COVID-19.

Why limit thinking outside the box strategy only to COVID-19? Deliver healthcare and wellness solutions to people where they live, work and play. For example, during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September, rather than a static media campaign consider marketing to men where they are likely gather. Consider setting up weekend clinics for PSA tests at golf clubs or sporting goods stores.

Serve Snack-size Bites

Eight-second attention span; 10,000 daily messages; 16 minutes reading time. Use those numbers to guide your marketing plan. Keep all content short and consumable in snack-size bites.

A popular healthcare newsletter recently posted “Today’s Vaccine Project Newsletter is 2,079 words and will take you seven minutes to read.” Despite the topic, most people now consider these disclaimers before clicking onto the article.

Based on users, Facebook and Instagram remain the most popular social media platforms.  However, Twitter may have most influenced how people consume media. Even though it has increased the character limit to 280 characters, tweets getting the most engagement still tend to be between 71 and 100 characters.

Listen to Your Audience

For years, healthcare marketers have used the marketing funnel to direct messages to key audiences where they are in the journey from top of the funnel awareness to bottom of the funnel action. However, 2020 turned the funnel upside down.

No longer can you assume that consumers follow the path from top to bottom. The fluidity of the pandemic dictated communicating with audiences in a more timely manner. You don’t want to lose momentum. Changing consumer patterns demand changes in patient experience

Strong Crisis Response Is Critical During Cyberattacks

Having strong cyber security in healthcare is important in today's digital world. Be prepared for cyber security threats and data breaches with a crisis response plan.

COVID-19 challenged healthcare brands in 2020. Now there is an increased need for a strong crisis response due to a rising number of cyberattacks and data breaches that can hold your hospital hostage. While IT departments typically manage cyber security in healthcare, marketing teams must be able to communicate with patients about cyberattacks and data privacy.

Healthcare systems are increasingly targets of cybercriminals. In 2020, nearly two healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records occurred each day. On average, resolving such a breach costs more than $8.5 million.

The costs of ransomware payments, restoring data and resuming operations are just part of the financial hit. Regaining patient trust comes at a higher cost, especially if names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and medical information are posted online.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, nearly 70 percent of survey respondents say they are “concerned” about hackers and cyberattacks, while more than half of those report being “fearful.” A slightly lower number is concerned about contracting COVID-19.

While the same survey indicates a slight decline for healthcare sectors, overall trust remains at 66 percent.

Almost everything about the healthcare journey seems to pose security risks now—drive-by and pop-up testing sites; vaccination clinics in convention centers, churches, and parking lots; and increased risks with remote patient monitoring.

Add in the battle with misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines. Compounding those worries, a recent World Health Organization warning reveals that counterfeit or compromised vaccines and forged vaccination certificates are readily available on the dark web.

So, how do we protect our patient’s trust in us as guardians of their health and confidential medical information?

Play nice with the IT department.

You’ve been in meetings where the IT team looks at the marketing team like you’re aliens! How can you not understand what they’re saying? Probably because it’s a completely foreign language!

As healthcare moves from controlled environments, the need to strengthen cybersecurity measures within healthcare with clear communication increases. This requires collaborating with IT to develop a strong crisis plan in case of a breach.

While IT prioritizes healthcare cyber security by working to ensure confidentiality and integrity of patient data, the marketing team needs to tell those patients about what you’re doing to protect their privacy.

Ramping up security can also include communication to hospital staff about such cautionary measures as:

  • Protecting patient information on computer screens:
    • Carefully monitoring printers to safeguard patient data;
    • Securing laptops or other remote work devices with patient records;
    • Protecting log-ins and passwords, ie. do not keep on random Post-it notes.

Make a crisis response plan. Test it. Tweak it.

Remember instructions on shampoo bottles to “wash, rinse, repeat?” That rings true when creating a strong crisis response plan. Most healthcare facilities were unprepared for the coronavirus crisis. One director of a hospice care service remarked that shortly before the pandemic, her team drafted crisis plans for every imaginable scenario. The one they turned to when the pandemic hit was created as a joke—what to do in case of a “zombie apocalypse.”

Crisis communication plans are fluid documents to revisit every few months in collaboration with department heads throughout the hospital. Due to the growing number of cyberattacks, several free resources are now available including:

Set expectations for open, transparent crisis communication.

Breaches of patient records increased more than 180 percent in the second half of 2020. Most of those resulted from hacking, not misplaced computers or flash drives.

As any hospital can be a target of cyber threats, you want a strong response in place if it happens. As others work behind the scenes, the marketing department should position the CEO to communicate openly and as transparently as possible.

Keeping responses brief, simple and to the point is critical to maintaining trust. Ransomware attacks are likely to interrupt hospital operations, sometimes prompting closed ERs and cancelled surgeries. Tell the public. Don’t leave them wondering.

Treat bad news as extra media coverage for protecting the public.

The American Hospital Association warns that cyberattacks are not “white collar crimes, but threat-to-life crimes” and advises hospitals to remain vigilant against cybercriminals. A lack of cyber security in healthcare poses a serious threat to your facility and patients.

If a breach occurs, immediately respond to the crisis by sharing with the media the steps you’re taking to protect patients. Regard it as an opportunity to remind people how to safeguard their own data. Update them on phishing schemes or fraud alerts, especially relating to health information.

The entire community is at risk to cyber crimes. Even if you can’t share specifics about the attack, direct responses to reassure your patients that their protecting their health remains your priority.

5 Digital Connections for Hospitals

Over the past year, we’ve learned that to reach our audiences, we need to connect with them digitally 24/7–365. Making digital connections for hospitals, however, requires constant learning mode, as the digital landscape changes from one day to the next.

Two people reaching out and connecting through digital means

In this new digital norm, consumers get information, products and services when, where and how they want. It requires flexible and agile marketing tactics to reach your audience and generate demand.

For instance, TikTok might not have connected with your audience a year ago. But with video growing exponentially during a year of remote work and quarantines, it’s no longer just a platform for pre-teens. A number of major brands now integrate TikTok into their digital marketing strategy.

To maximize customer reach, digital strategies should include all the PESO media areas—paid, earned, shared and owned. Our past advice has looked at the digital ad spend. But first, consider these 5 digital connections to reach your audience:

1. Digital Connections for Hospitals Should Include Video

Recent reports predict that the average person will spend 100 minutes each day watching online videos in 2021. So, we know where audiences are part of the day.

Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or the website, include video in the marketing strategy. Today’s video collection can be less “produced” than previous broadcast video. But to capture quality video that boosts the brand:

  • Invest in a good digital camera for still and video
  • Invest in a tripod, basic lighting equipment and a neutral backdrop
  • Always outline or script content
  • Keep content concise and simple

Digital connections for hospitals utilizing video should be kept short. Humans have an average attention span of eight seconds—one second less than a goldfish! As a rule of thumb, limit social media videos to less than two minutes and about 45 seconds for Twitter and TikTok. To increase audience retention, add a “subscribe” CTA to the end of YouTube videos

2. Make Strong Social Connections

When you think you’ve identified the best social media channel for your audience, it will probably change. There are new algorithms, new features from the big three—Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—and shifts in audience preferences to consider.

Despite changes, the key to solid strategy remains quality content. In 2021, your audience wants engaging, transparent and empathetic content. Nearly 4 million people worldwide are active on social media. Besides keeping up with family and friends, they’re also looking for trusted sources of health and wellness information.

Not all social media channels yield great results for the brand. For example, the trending new Clubhouse invitation-only, audio-only app causes concern for HIPAA compliance. But set up profiles and test new options for digital connections with your hospital’s audience such as:

  • Short inspirational videos on Instagram Reels and Stories
  • Facebook Live educational Q&As with doctors and nurses
  • LinkedIn content positioning CEOs as thought leaders
  • Pinterest boards with recipes, fitness plans and wellness information

3. Optimize to Reach Your Audience

SEO is crucial for connecting with digital users. Increasing organic search rankings—primarily with Google—is ongoing and long term.

Reaching the audience requires knowing the topics they’re searching and how to best serve content that answers their questions. Anyone crafting content has to also be a SEO expert. Otherwise, the content doesn’t reach the intended audience.

Consumers want informative rich content from healthcare providers that helps them stay healthy. Also, remember to optimize your Google My Business listing as local SEO is increasingly important to reach people searching “Near Me.”

Numerous SEO platforms offer useful tips and even free training for content creators. Search “SEO platforms” to find these options.

4. Blogs and Podcasts Can be Effective Digital Connections for Hospitals

Considering you’re reading this blog, it seems to be a good digital channel for reaching our audience. However, blog popularity declined worldwide over the past few years while the popularity of podcasts rose.

It isn’t an either/or option. Both blogs and podcasts can be effective digital connections for hospitals, drive traffic and elevate the brand. However, blog content requires more than just good writing skills and subject knowledge. As mentioned above, it also requires SEO to rise in search results.

Many healthcare marketers choose both channels to reach audiences. Both are particularly effective for humanizing communication and sharing trustworthy healthcare information. Both also offer opportunities to engage providers in content.

5. AI Connects to the Future of Healthcare

With a growing demand for artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, 90% of hospital executives report in a recent survey to having an AI strategy in place. Consumers drive that demand by turning more frequently to AI for healthcare needs—from wearing digital health monitors to asking Siri about vaccine side effects.

Whether it’s a new chatbot on the website or an automated diagnostic tool, let audiences know what AI innovations are available to enhance their patient experience.

Also, consistently update information across all digital platforms. Accurate information is critical for voice-activated AI assistants when someone asks “Siri” or “Alexa.”

While digital media may add more hours to healthcare marketers’ days, it keeps us better connected to our audiences and able to respond quickly to their needs.

Patient Experience: Now’s the Time to Improve

Patient experience text on patient paper with stethoscope

For years, we’ve talked about improving patient experience and patient-centric care. Now it’s time to walk the talk. Patients want information about their health and wellness, not industry awards, consumer surveys or scores.

Once they walk through your “front door,” whether virtually or in person, all attention should be on the patient experience.

In 2004, Fred Lee left his role as a hospital executive to train as a Disney cast member. His experience led him to write, “If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently.” The book still receives accolades for pointing out how healthcare entities can learn from Mickey Mouse.

“Service should be changed to experience. We are not at a patient’s bedside to provide a service. We are there to provide a compassionate healing experience so the body can mend itself,” wrote Lee, who passed away in 2017.

He pointed out that patients expect quality care; that’s basic. But, they judge the experience by how they are treated as a person. As marketers, we need to think like imagineers to help make the patient experience remarkable from first to last impressions.

What are you doing for patient experience?

After more than a year of a global pandemic, brand loyalty depends on effective, clear and smart communication. The human connection begins online. Look at everything you are doing and offering in the digital space, from telehealth visits and virtual events to tools for managing payments. Schedule content around innovations for patients.

Include video on all channels and consider featuring frontline employees such as with a valet attendant talking about free parking or a volunteer from the information desk updating visitor policies. Patients want to feel safe and cared for at every touchpoint.

Patient safety is part of the patient experience

Now more than ever, health and safety are top of mind. Yet, reports indicate that about 36 percent of non-elderly adults and 29 percent of children delayed care over the past year because of COVID-19 concerns.

Whether for preventive screenings or routine care to manage chronic illnesses, the priority is to reconnect with those patients. That begins with reassuring them that all possible precautions are being taken to keep them safe. Safety is definitely part of the patient experience.

Include messages about the importance of not overlooking routine care or ignoring symptoms. Don’t wait until October to start a breast care awareness campaign. Consistent mammogram screening reminders throughout the year can save lives.

How should patients prepare for tests and screenings?

Patients grow anxious over the unknown. Help to ease their tension with open and frequent communication about what to expect—from registration to discharge.

Follow the “The Rule of 7” marketing adage—seven interactions needed for a consumer to connect with a brand. Use all of your available channels to communicate information about procedures that could impact the patient experience.

Who can patients trust?

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an epidemic of misinformation and erosion of trust, particularly in the US. To make the situation even worse, ads recently showed up from more than 4,000 brands—including some of this country’s largest healthcare organizations—on websites with false COVID-19 information.

Position your healthcare brand as the community’s trusted authority. Health topics still dominate the news cycle, so pitch your doctors, nurses and patient stories to media outlets. Position medical directors on morning news shows to provide vaccination updates. An interview with a pediatric nurse can help reassure parents and children about returning to the classroom. Include patient testimonials on content calendars.

Do your values align with those of your patients?

A recent Consumer Index Report shares that 65 percent of consumers are more likely to support a brand that cares about the same social issues they do. Part of the consumer experience is seeing action from your brand in the community.

It’s not time for platitudes, but it is a time to tell a good story. Share photos on social media of the CEO shoveling snow. Doctors blogging about their own COVID-19 journeys can humanize your brand. Hospital employees handing out water at a free test site shows how you relate to your consumers.

Now is the time to listen and reimagine how to create a remarkable patient experience.

Building Trust in the Vaccine

While more than 16 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given nationwide in just over a month, there’s still a long way to go toward building trust in the vaccine and delivering 150 million doses in 100 days.

Tower Crane with TRUST Word to represent the topic of building trust in the vaccine

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer shows a decline in trust of institutions, from the government to the media. Based on these results, healthcare marketers are tasked with finding common ground to offset a general lack of trust.

However, for the 20th consecutive year, Gallup Poll lists nurses, doctors and pharmacists among the country’s most trusted professionals.

So use those trusted messengers—nurses, doctors and pharmacists—to build trust, address concerns and overcome challenges of marketing the vaccine.

1. Clear up myths about the vaccine.

Misinformation—from conspiracy theories about vaccines being used to implant microchips to beliefs that the shots cause infertility—can outweigh actual facts. Position providers to debunk myths. The CDC website and numerous leading healthcare organizations address many falsehoods, which can be shared on digital channels and in other collateral.

2. Address safety concerns to build trust.

Since people are concerned over the rapid development and side effects of the vaccines, work with local pharmacists to address these issues. In doing so, continually reach out to local media and offer health experts to speak risks and safety concerns.

3. Manage the public’s expectations.

Decline of public trust about the novel coronavirus is due in part to a lack of transparency and conflicting information from government agencies. With this in mind, don’t sugarcoat information. Informing your public means including adverse reactions of COVID-19 vaccinations along with its benefits.

4. Persuade the hesitant.

To gain the public’s trust, you first need internal buy-in, and not all of your doctors and nurses may be recommending vaccines. Privately address their concerns.

Testimonials from healthcare and other frontline workers, as well as COVID-19 patients, can connect emotionally with others. Human stories rather than data may persuade someone who is on the fence to get the vaccine. Consider sharing four real-life “Because of This” PSAs released earlier this month in your marketing efforts. Each shares the message “Science can make this possible. Only you can make it real.” The videos direct viewers to SciencePossible.com

5. Build trust across communities.

While Blacks and Hispanics have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, those same communities say they are less likely to get the vaccine. Numbers are trending up, but healthcare officials still need to engage trusted leaders to fight against misinformation. For instance, sports figures, local media celebrities and religious leaders can help spread the word. Also, make information accessible for people who don’t have computers or don’t speak English.

In addition, include young people of all races in your communication strategy. One tactic is to engage influencers. Be careful, however, when partnering with outside groups or influencers that their values align with your organization’s.

6. Direct people to vaccination sites.

Use all available media channels and community resources to inform people when, where and how to get the vaccine. Convenience, along with clear, transparent and consistent communication are necessary to successfully vaccinate the public.

In conclusion, we cannot afford a failure to communicate when public acceptance of the vaccine is critical. We want to regain our patients’ trust that their health and wellbeing are paramount.

Address Emotional Wellness in 2021 Marketing

Woman in yoga pose and the year 2021

In addition to physical wellness, it’s important that we also address emotional wellness in our 2021 marketing. Even with a vaccination on the horizon, the pandemic is not over. People are and will continue to be anxious and dealing with depression and loneliness.

The emotional side effects of the pandemic are very real. A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study published in late summer showed that internet searches for information about anxiety increased 11 percent from March 13 to May 9.

Promote Mental Health Resources

Now is a good time to promote resources, programs and services that your healthcare organization offers to combat depression and anxiety, particularly for adolescents and the elderly who are among those hardest hit emotionally by nearly a year of isolation and social disruption.

Reach outside your organization to include other community resources that may be available. Use digital media channels or even add a section to your website that specifically addresses isolation, loneliness and depression. Include online events, webinars and links to other helpful websites, such as https://aarpcommunityconnections.org for seniors.

Utilize Hospital Staff to Address Topics Related to Emotional Wellness

With elective surgeries and doctor visits still down, engage your medical community to address topics that benefit mental and emotional health. The pandemic has taken a toll on all ages. Consider having members of your fitness, nutrition or rehabilitation teams lead virtual classes and activities to encourage people to:

  • Be social
  • Engage the brain
  • Manage stress
  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy
  • Practice mindful meditation
  • Get a good night’s sleep

Add any online music events in the community to the list of resources. A study from the Archives of General Psychiatry, which included data from nearly 19,000 people, indicates that 43 percent of those with major depression also suffer from chronic pain. Research also shows that music therapy can help decrease chronic pain, reduce the feeling of loneliness and alter a person’s mood. Think the Isley Brothers singing “Shout!” It’s hard not to jump up, dance and wave your arms in the air when that plays!

For younger people and particularly adolescents whose worlds revolve around their social lives, anxiety levels have doubled during the pandemic. The stress of school—whether virtual or in person—worries about getting into college, job insecurity and financial stress within the family may be manifesting as anxiety attacks, weight loss, stomach aches and other signs of depression.

Use Your Media Contacts to Educate the Community About Emotional Wellness

Marketing departments can utilize media contacts to book clinical staff on morning shows, radio interviews and podcasts or to write guest blogs and op-ed pieces about warning signs parents can watch for and ways to deal with their children’s depression.

Another way to address emotional health and wellness in 2021 healthcare marketing is to push messages on social media and engage with local schools to share those messages. Go where young people live—on their mobile devices checking their Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat accounts.

At this point, almost everyone has been affected by COVID-19 and we are emotionally and physically drained. It is important that we keep emotional wellness part of the message as we ramp up marketing in 2021.

Healthcare Marketing During a Pandemic: Shift Your Strategy Back to the Basics

There’s no magic vaccine yet. The dreaded third wave of COVID-19 is upon us. Nurses continue to be in short supply. An epidemic of stress compounds the stress of the pandemic—both with long-term consequences. Healthcare marketing during a pandemic is uncharted territory for all of us and requires a different, yet more basic approach.

To be effective at healthcare marketing during a pandemic, start by shifting your strategy back to the basics in order to regain patients’ trust that their health and wellbeing are paramount.

Throw last year’s strategy out the window. In this new normal, communicate openly, authoritatively and compassionately. We’re in a new brand world where accolades and tone-deaf messages fail to inspire safety, trust and credibility. As a result, people want facts about prevention, symptoms, testing and treatment.

Lettered blocks spelling out New Normal with EW replacing the OR in the word normal to emphasize healthcare marketing during a pandemic is the new normal
In this new normal, communicate openly, authoritatively and compassionately.

The Pandemic Has Changed Patient and Consumer Behavior

We have talked about digital transformation in healthcare for years. One of the few positives swept in by COVID-19 has been the significant change in consumer behavior. As people stayed away from hospitals and doctors’ offices over fears of contracting the virus, the industry began implementing telehealth options.

Now that it’s here, it’s not likely to go away. Providers who want to stay ahead of the competition—particularly retail providers—and remain relevant to their consumers need to act quickly and decisively to implement telehealth platforms.

Whether you’re offering tele-visits, digital monitoring on mobile apps or touch-free triage, market the technology. Drive consumers online to make appointments, update medical records, check vitals and talk with their providers. Patients want to feel safe and cared for at every touchpoint.

Make sure instructions to patients are clear. Test and retest the steps to ensure that everything works as intended.

Your website remains the front door for patients. Continually update information about:

  • Safety procedures
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Procedures for in-person and virtual visits
  • Accommodations for elective and non-elective procedures
  • General COVID-19 information

Be Mindful of Both Physical and Mental Health

The pandemic’s far-reaching disruption of our physical and financial health has dramatically impacted our mental health.

The American Psychological Association recently released a survey that shows 78 percent—or 8-in-10 Americans—label coronavirus as a significant source of stress in their lives. Another study reveals respondents labeling their mood swings as 50 percent anxiety, 32 percent sadness, 27 percent fear, 25 percent anger and experiencing joy only 10 percent of the time.

Prominently feature mental health resources, including those offered outside your system, in service line marketing. Patients want to know where and how to seek care. The ability to cut through the noise and provide them with information and options is essential to fostering brand trust.

Tell Your Healthcare Facility’s Story

Number fatigue and politicizing COVID-19 have worn us down.

Now is a good time to renew the basic tenet of public relations—tell a good story. Leverage stories of hope from your patients and front-line heroes across all channels—social content, videos and media pitches.

Focus on the Facts in Your Healthcare Marketing

The American public has grown weary and leery of conflicting information about the coronavirus.

While we await the arrival of a vaccine, develop your strategy for delivering the vaccine to your community. The public may have lost confidence in national healthcare leaders, but they yearn for fact-based guidance and assurance that someone is watching out for their wellbeing.

Plan Your Marketing for the Long Term

To stay ahead of the competition and remain relevant to consumers, what you do now to meet consumer demand can mitigate some of the uncertainty about long-term financial viability.

Earlier this year, we stated that, “Email is where it’s at.” We stand by that statement. With work from home, virtual school and a need for connection, consumers of all ages continuously check emails.

We’ve long advocated for meeting the consumer where they are. For now, healthcare marketing during a pandemic should focus efforts online—through emails, optimization, social media and, to a lesser extent, banner ads.

As we remain remote and socially distanced, virtual interaction is the best interpersonal platform for telling our story.