Marianne Aiello

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Social Media Suggestions for Hospitals

111773023Here are 5 excellent suggestions offered by Marianne Aiello in an article for HealthcareLeaders Media.  It’s republished in its entirety.

In 2013 the new millennium officially became a teenager. And like all teenagers, it is seriously addicted to social media. Really, mom and dad should consider limiting its data plan.

Hospitals, however, are still playing catch up in the social media space. There are plenty of excuses, from staffing problems to technical ditziness.  But none is acceptable anymore. MySpace, the granddaddy of social media, was created ten years ago. It’s time the healthcare industry got with it.

 An infographic by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group highlights just where hospitals stand in the social space. Only 26% use social media. No, that is not a typo—just one-quarter of hospitals in the US use any type of social media. Of those,

  • 84% are on Facebook
  • 64% are on Twitter
  • 46% are on YouTube
  • 12% blog

So that’s where we stand. Now let’s look at healthcare consumers.

About one-third of consumers use social sites for health-related matters. And these patients are sharing their experiences, with 44% of respondents saying they were likely or very likely to share a positive experience they had with a hospital.

More notably, 40% said they were likely or very likely to share a negative experience they had with a hospital.

So like it or not, patients are talking about your organization on social media sites. It’s a hospital marketer’s duty to be there to listen, share successes, and respond to complaints. Let’s take a tip from the newly pimple-faced millennium and get social.

Here are five resolutions all hospital marketers should make for the coming year.

1.    Tell powerful patient stories.

Perhaps the greatest value of social media is the ability to quickly and easily connect with patients. From there, it’s up to the marketer to make this connection meaningful.

Often, the best way to accomplish this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories. Luckily for us, these stories already exist out there. We just have to find them. 

To do this, track any keyword or hashtag that relates to your organization. A third party platform such as HootSuite can facilitate this. If you don’t find much, start soliciting  patient stories.

From there, you can share them on Facebook, re-tweet them on Twitter, or write up a blog post, which you can then link to on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases, YouTube may be the best storytelling medium. 

There are countless ways to share positive patient experiences through social media. And the more often you do it, the easier the process will become.

2.    Do something innovative.

Another benefit of social media campaigns versus traditional marketing campaigns is that you can afford to take more risks. 

If a marketing campaign bombs, you’ve wasted money on print materials and advertising space. But, in most cases, if a social media campaign misses the mark you’re only real cost is the time it took to execute it. 

Besides, in social media taking a risk can pay off big.

Here are some ideas to get your gears turning:

  • Live-tweet a surgery to highlight a service line
  • Experiment with fundraising through Facebook
  • Set up a weekly doc Q&A time on Twitter
  • Use social media to attract new physicians and staff
  • Ask a patient to live-tweet a “day in the life” at your organization

Get creative and see what sticks. As a bonus, local press love to cover innovative hospital social marketing efforts.

3.    Take a hard look at risk management. 

Of course, using social media to promote your organization has its risks. As much as people enjoy sharing positive feedback online, they seem to enjoy sharing negative feedback even more. It’s the nature of the beast. But this is absolutely not a reason to avoid social media altogether.

Like I said before, social media is about 10 years old. Most people using social media aren’t new. Therefore, most people using social media know that the anonymity users have on some sites turn people into hate-filled harping conspiracy theorists. 

You can just tell when a commenter has taken a couple crazy pills. Most internet users put everything they read online through a filter and, for marketers, this acts as a barrier of sorts. 

That said, there are some steps you should take to mitigate your social media risk. Make sure that you have a comprehensive social media policy for employees and that the policy is up to date. 

Employees should sign a document stating that they understand they are not to post any patient information or any negative comments about the organization. 

I’m amazed at how often I see a high school classmate post on Facebook about how much they hate their nursing job and mentioning the hospital by name. 

It’s also important to make sure all providers understand where the boundary lies when communicating with patients on social media. While you’re at it, ask physicians if they have a public Twitter account or blog where they postulate about anything healthcare related. 

Doctors  represent your organization, so it’s critical to know what they’re putting out there. Social media savvy docs can also be great allies when formulating a new campaign

4.    Keep an eye on your peers.

The healthcare industry as a whole is behind the curve, but many hospitals are true social media standouts. Keep an eye on these organizations to see how they launch campaigns, respond to criticism, and deal with employees. 

The Mayo Clinic tops the list of social media trailblazers and provides helpful information to other organizations through its Center for Social Media.

 UPMC is also a top organization to go to for social media tips, especially it’s well maintained Facebook page.

And if you’re looking for Twitter inspiration, check out Brigham and Women’s account. They tweet a variety of posts on anything from health topics to hospital rankings to volunteer opportunities.

5.    Track everything.

None of this counts if you can’t view the statistics that tell you which efforts are working, which fell flat, which are tapering off, and which have found a second life. Keep count of your followers and likes, of how many people clicked your links, of how long visitors stayed on that blog post. 

This information will help you better tailor future social campaigns and give you solid numbers to report to your superiors.

With these five resolutions, hospital marketers should be able to commit to having a strong presence in the social media world now and for years to come—or at least until the millennium gets its braces off.

 

            

     

Healthcare Marketing: In Defense of Hospital Ad Spending

Healthcare marketers should stand up and defend the value of hospital advertising.  We should not be timid or hesitant.

80407780Healthcare advertising has always been the target of criticism.  In the past few months there has been a new wave of criticism.  As healthcare reform is being discussed and debated there are some who claim reform should include a ban on advertising.  We strongly disagree!

Recently in HealthLeaders Media,  Marianne Aiello offered a defense of hospital advertising.  Although her arguments are not exhaustive, she makes a strong case in favor of hospital advertising and outlines the central principles and beliefs that support her defense. The majority of her article is reprinted here

Hospital advertising has long been an easy target, from both internal and external critics. It seems that whenever it’s time for a healthcare organization to tighten its belt, the marketing team and its budget takes the biggest hit.

And yet, the media and general public decry the fact that a hospital needs to promote itself at all.

It’s funny—for being professionals geared around boosting their organizations’ brands, hospital marketers are hard pressed to enhance their own reputations.

Every once in a while—this month, for example—a slew of media criticisms are published in short succession, reporting on the thousands or millions of dollars hospitals spend on advertising while failing to mention the percentage of the total organizational budget that it accounts for.

Normally, we grin and bear it and move on. Not this time.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently published an article dissecting its competitive healthcare market. While the reporting is balanced, it starts with a markedly negative tone by quoting Sidney Wolfe, director of the non-profit consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen.

“Hospitals seem to be spending money left and right trying to get more patients,” he said. “Absent significant costs controls, there’s nothing to stop them. It’s siphoning money away from healthcare. Advertising shouldn’t be confused with taking care of patients or improving patient care.”

I think we can all agree that his last sentence isn’t worth addressing. But in this column I will explain why, in the vast majority of hospitals, advertising and marketing spending is necessary, effective, and does not take away from quality of care.

Ads as patient education

I’ve spoken to hundreds of hospital marketers over the years. Ask any one of them the most important aspect of their marketing strategy, and each one will point to patient education.

Without targeted advertising, a patient may not know he or she can receive cancer treatment closer to home, or that his or her community medical center is holding a lecture series on diabetes management, or that his or her primary care provider now uses an online patient portal.

Marketing and advertising is “core to our mission to educate the public,” Missouri Hospital Association spokesman David Dillon told the Post-Dispatch. And I think you’ll find that most hospitals and health systems include patient education in their organization’s mission as well. It’s difficult to care for the community if they don’t know who you are, what you stand for, and the services you provide.

St. Louis University Hospital spokesperson Laura Keller told the paper that hospitals advertise for noble reasons as well as realistic ones.

“I don’t think it ever hurts to remind someone that there are lots of choices that you have if you’re dealing with a major health issue,” she says. “We need to educate the patient, and there are good messages there. On the business side, people need to understand that without money we cannot support our mission.”

The business case

The hospital advertising critics always seem to forget about the business side. Aside from staying true to their mission, hospitals need to advertise to maintain or enhance revenue flow. Even non-profit hospitals need to market to insured patients and promote high-grossing service lines so that they are able to continue to care for the uninsured.

And while some larger health systems spend what seems like large amounts of money on advertising, on average, the hospital marketing budget accounts for a tiny portion of the overall organizational budget.

“While we do spend money on marketing and advertising, far less than a penny of every dollar of our expenses goes to that and we try to be prudent in those expenses,” Bob Porter, chief strategy officer for the non-profit SSM Healthcare-St. Louis said. “For us, healthcare is a social good, not a commodity.”

Healthcare Marketing: 4 Strategies for Improving Patient Experience

Marketing must take the lead in patient experience.

Marianne Aiello recently wrote an article for Health Leaders Media about how to improve patient experience.  Aiello makes some excellent points.  The article is republished here in its entirety.

Picture this. One day while watching TV you see an engaging hospital commercial, depicting smiling providers who whisk a patient through the continuum of care. The end of the spot directs you to a website, which has a fresh design and smartly describes the organization’s many service lines and resources.

A few weeks down the line you need to schedule an elective procedure, and, based on your positive memories of the ad and website, you choose this hospital. But upon arrival, the parking lot is confusing. When you finally stumble across the waiting room, the desk worker passes you some forms to fill out without raising his head. Your procedure goes well, but afterward it’s unclear how to schedule a follow-up.

Unfortunately, scenarios like this one happen all too often at well-meaning hospitals. Often the problem lies in the marketing department’s detachment from operations, which—like it or not—controls the patient experience.

For the marketing chief to be considered a key leader within the hospital hierarchy, marketers must bridge this gap and take full responsibility for the patient experience.

1. Align promise with experience.

The positive hospital ad/negative hospital experience described above showcases the hypothetical organization’s inability to align its brand promise with its brand experience.

“No longer can healthcare organizations be a lot better in their ads than they are in reality,” Gary Adamson, chief experience officer of Starizon told the April issue of Healthcare Marketing Advisor. “There is too much consumer information and power for that approach to be viable any longer. The marketing department must become responsible for the melding of the promise and the experience into a powerful and fully differentiated brand.”

In order to merge the promise and the experience into a differentiated brand, Adamson suggests thinking of the two as overlapping circles. It is ultimately the marketing department’s duty to not only make the area of intersection larger, but to eventually create concentric circles.

To do this, marketers must integrate operations and communications.

“By working with cross-functional teams, marketers can help organizations keep a finger on their patients’ pulse and develop communication materials that heal and strengthen relationships,” Tom DeSanto, principal, Tom DeSanto Strategy and Communications, told HMA. “It’s like multispecialty care for the patient experience.”

2. Start with first point of contact.

Naturally, aligning the brand promise with its experience is a daunting task. A good way to start is to focus on the patient’s first physical point of contact with your organization. The patient’s perception of your parking lot, lobby, and front-line desk staff make a lasting impression on their overall experience. This is why many organizations choose to employ valets and greeters; to construct warm, spacious entryways; and to extensively train staff in customer service.

“Marketers should consider all of the variables that will impact the patients’ and their families’ or visitors’ impression of the building and the people inside,” Shari Short, research director and strategist for Aloysius Butler & Clark, told HMA. “For example, if the parking lot feels unsafe or if the elevators are broken or too slow, consumers note these factors as part of their experience.”

Once the patient enters the treatment phase of their visit, clinical care takes precedence. But there is always room to craft a positive patient experience.

“For many healthcare workers, the patient experience is about clinical health outcomes, but for the healthcare consumer, it is about the levels of comfort and customer satisfaction that determine whether it is a positive patient experience,” Short says. “Marketers need to be present and involved in designing the patient experience from parking, to driving away after discharge, to keep the voice of the healthcare consumer in the conversation.”

3. Improve staff communication.

Staff attitudes, from disengaged desk workers to pressed-for-time caregivers, has a profound impact on the patient experience. The first step toward correcting any unsavory behaviors is education. Many staff may not realize that the way they are acting has such an impact on the patient’s satisfaction and perception of their care.

You can “inspire frontline patient care staff through simple, ongoing quality and satisfaction communications that praise their efforts and challenge them to improve,” DeSanto said. Also, “develop simple training and motivational materials to help improve performance in areas that have low satisfaction ratings.”

Furthermore, it’s important to report individual successes and overall progress in improving the patient experience to staff members, as well as patients and the hospital community.

4. Improve the patient experience.

Providing patients with friendly, uncomplicated, and practical information about what to expect from their hospital stay will help the patients feel more at ease even before they step foot in your facility.

This virtual or paper first point of contact can be just as important in making a positive impression as the physical first point of contact.

It’s also important to “examine and improve all aspects of communications with patients from initial contact with the physician referral line through episodes of care to interactions around insurance and billing,” DeStanto says.

Much like how the patient experience can begin before the patient enters the hospital grounds, it can continue long after the patient leaves.

In order to stay competitive in today’s healthcare environment, marketers must be responsible for much more than advertising and public relations. Not only must marketers communicate the brand, they must create and sustain the brand.

“If marketing is ever to evolve into the important strategic discipline in healthcare that it is in other industries, then the marketing department must take the lead role in orchestrating the patient experience,” Adamson says.

“For those marketers who choose not to leap across this chasm with excitement, however, they will be dooming themselves and the departments they lead to more of the same frustration that has been vocalized since the advent of healthcare marketing.”