hospital pr

Healthcare Marketing: PR No Longer the Ugly Stepsister

PR and publicity are important tactics in creating positive “buzz” for a hospital’s brand.  

154218007PR has always been an important tool of every healthcare marketing department.  But there has been a major shift in the healthcare industry that includes the resurrection of public relations.  Many ad budgets have been cut.  Less is being spent on traditional media.  But in many cases more is being spent in PR and publicity.

Generally, PR has been the poor, ugly stepsister to the advertising function.  PR was just a way to keep the hospital’s name in the newspaper and for hospitals to pat themselves on the back for their community involvement.  PR was considered free and regularly not much more than an afterthought in the marketing plan.  It was an add-on to an advertising campaign or something done to keep the management team and board happy.

But today, many hospitals are placing much more emphasis on PR.  In addition to moving some of the budget from traditional media to new media, event marketing, social media and mobile marketing PR and publicity is playing an increasing important role in the marketing department’s strategy and efforts.   With a shift toward customer-generated media, PR becomes more critical to the hospital’s marketing efforts.

“PR plays into the whole ‘buzz Marketing’ trend”, stated Tony Mikes of Second Wind.  “PR is very much about brand awareness, so we can certainly accord some of the credit for PR’s emergence from the shadows to the rise of branding as a critical marketing tactic.”   Creating “buzz” and keeping the hospital’s name in the news and on the lips of influencers and consumers are extremely important.  As marketing becomes more consumer-driven and consumer- controlled, PR and publicity can play an even bigger role and sometimes more effective role than advertising in enhancing the brand in the minds of the consumers.

PR and publicity are also important for place-based media efforts.  Pre-promotion of staged events creates attendance and media coverage while post-promotion extends the chatter.

PR should no longer be an afterthought, but an “automatic.”   PR and publicity can boost the hospital’s brand organically and authentically.  Complimenting and enhancing all the other marketing activities.

Marketing Your Hospital: Regaining Trust after Negative Publicity

Hospital Band Aid

When a hospital is cited for negligence, as one teaching institution recently was for repeated wrong side surgeries, what can be done to regain the community’s trust?

Even problems like long waits in the ER, lack of cleanliness in patient rooms or overcrowded conditions in the Labor and Delivery area, can cause a hospital to lose consumer confidence.

It is a tough, uphill battle for any business after they lose consumers’ trust. And for a hospital this is even more treacherous.  Just one family member or close friend having a bad experience or receiving inadequate care can do a lifetime of damage for a hospital in the minds of all those connected to that one patient.

There is no quick fix as rebuilding a hospital’s reputation “takes time, effort and a lot of grunt work” according to Stuart Foster, a marketing consultant in the Boston area. His steps to regaining the trust are:

  • Admit you are fallible
  • Ask for feedback. How you take this advice and act on it is critical
  • Don’t reinvent yourself. Focus on what is wrong and fix that
  • Troubleshoot: What allowed this to happen and how can it be prevented
  • Be consistent:  Hold tight with what you know you can do

In addition, respond in the same medium in which the complaint was initially made public. Negative tweets about your hospital? Unfavorable posts on Facebook? Respond in the same medium to the same audience. Apologize for the experience, offer to assist, give contact info and get the conversation off line. This shows all who were made privy to the publicity that your hospital does care and wants to make the situation better. Thus you get back on the road to your hospital’s own recovery.