Marketing Firm Tuscaloosa

Confident diverse female healthcare professionals speak at a health seminar

Meet New Patients with Event Marketing for Hospitals

The best-performing hospitals from a marketing standpoint are hospitals that are active parts of their communities. That doesn’t just mean donating to the local park and recreation league or hosting a fundraiser. It also means getting out into the community through event marketing.


Healthcare Marketing: A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words

Hospital Digital ImageToday’s culture is extremely visually oriented.  So hospital brands should have a visual story.

Today people are stimulated by visuals.  This is not to discredit or minimize great copywriting but our world has become visually oriented.  Practically everyone has a camera phone and most people are using them.  And sharing their photos.  It can certainly be seen in the rapid rise of photo-centric social platforms.  To prove the point, Facebook reached 100 million users in 4 years but it took Instagram only 10 days to attract 10 million users.

And science supports this premise.  Humans actually process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.  Our visual sensory abilities are powerful.

And we know visuals can affect us emotionally.  How many photographs have you seen that immediately elicits a strong emotional reaction?  Immediately.

So what is your hospital doing to tap into this image-obsessed culture?  Does you hospital have a visual story?  It would be advantageous for your hospital to communicate with your audience through imagery.  Consumers not only want to hear what your brand stands for but they also want to see it.

Social media provides the perfect medium to create and maintain a visual brand story for your hospital.  Writing for The Agency Post,  Megan O’Malley, an account planner at VMI states, “… it’s the thoughtful, sincere and consistent visual story dispersed socially that builds a relationship.”

There are three important factors to consider when creating a visual brand story for your hospital.

1.    Understand your brand

What makes your hospital unique?  And as O’Malley suggests, don’t ask: What does your hospital do?  But go deeper and ask: Why do you exist?  Why should the consumer care?  What is your higher purpose?  From this information you should be on tract to begin create the visual story of your hospital.

2.     Be consistent

Your hospital’s story is ever evolving and never-ending.  So should be your visual story.  You must be consistent in continually telling your story.  Gaps, holes and interruptions cause the consumer to lose interest and the continuity of the story.

3.     Do it well

You are writing a visual story about your hospital.  And just like a written story it should be done well.  You wouldn’t tolerate bad grammar poor sentence structure and sloppy writing if it were a written story.  Neither should you accept poor quality for your visual story.  It’s your hospital’s brand that you are portraying.  It should be done well.

Consumers are becoming more and more visually oriented.  Your hospital’s brand cannot reach it’s full potential without the use of visuals.  It’s not easy.  But there are huge payoffs for those hospitals that do it well.

Healthcare Marketing: Let’s HEAR it for the Brand!

rbsb2_07Just like brand visuals, audio can help recognize, identify, position and enhance a brand.

Imagine a swoosh.  What do you think of?  Nike, of course.  When you see the NBC peacock, does a sound come to mind?  It’s the three distinctive chimes that have been associated with NBC since the 1920s.   It’s almost impossible for anyone who has a television to hear those three notes without conjuring up the brand.  Which proves audio branding can be just as strong as a great visual.

Just like a strong established visual, sounds can also reach beyond the rational mind and tap into memories and emotions.  Audio branding uses sounds to create memories or positive memory triggers that help recall a specific brand in the mind of consumers.  As LeeBeth Cranmer, writing for SecondWind states,  “It’s not merely background music but a sound that represent the identity and values of a brand in a distinctive manner.

 McDonalds is another brand that effectively uses audio branding.  As soon as you hear that “I’m l Lovin It” audio you probably think about the golden arches.  United Airlines has used an adaptation of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for generations.  And who can hear the four Intel tones and not think of “Intel Inside?

The power of audio branding has been evident since the early days of radio when jingles were so prevalent.  As Cranmer continues,  “ in our modern age of advertising and marketing, audio branding is more important than ever due to the increased number of touch points available to promote your brand through sound.”

Because we live in an age of sound, there is a great opportunity to tap into a medium that can create strong memories and emotional connections with your brand.  Healthcare marketers should consider audio branding as a component of their marketing strategy.

And audio branding is not limited to music or musical tones.  It could be a distinctive voice, a sound effect or a particular way of saying a tagline.  We spend great amount of effort and money working on the visual identity of our healthcare brand.  Strong consideration should be given to creating that audio identity as well.  To make sure your brand is not just seen but also heard.



Healthcare Marketing: 10 Time Savers for Social Media

Social media is a time suck!  But there are ways to be more efficient and minimize the distraction.

One of the major issues about social media for healthcare marketers is the time it requires.  Social media may be comparatively inexpensive but it requires a major investment of time to do it well.  And what healthcare marketer has time?

But Corey Eridon posted on HubSpot ways to make social media more efficient.  Things to do to keep the demands of social media from paralyzing you.  Here’s a summary of some of the suggestions he posted.

1) Compose your updates in advance. It’s time to update your social media posts…Facebook and Twitter.  Do you click around trying to find content to power those updates?  If you do, you will spend an inordinate amount of time researching and posting.  It’s better to bookmark information as you stumble across it.  Or if you need to do research, do it in advance and bookmark the information.

Use a social media publishing schedule– an Excel template (or something similar) that lets you input all of your social media status updates for each social network, organized by the date and time you’d like to publish them.

You can set aside an hour and input all of your social media updates for the following work week. That way you’re not left scrambling to find enough compelling content for all of the social networks you need to manage.

2) Maintain a content repository. To craft a week’s worth of social media updates you should use a content repository. Here’s what it looks like:

Basically, this is the place that you can keep all the content you’d like to promote and resurface in social media — because the more content you create, the harder it will be for you to keep track of all of it. So put in your ebooks, your blog posts, your infographics, everything you will want to re-promote at a later date in social media. Then you’ll be able to jump over to this tab and quickly find content to promote! Just be sure to include an expiration date so you don’t accidentally promote something that has already taken place.  And you will be less likely to let things fall between the cracks.

No more pulling content out of thin air, marketers!

3) Use a collaborative tool to share your schedule. Social media content can come from more than just you! Take the burden off of yourself and make your social media presence richer by including other people in crafting social updates. You can share the days and times when you’ll be publishing updates and it makes it easy for everyone to see what slots are available for promotion. You can even block off certain slots as “Reserved” for your own updates to ensure the content you need to promote doesn’t get swallowed up by other people’s updates.

Just make sure you communicate three notes about this collaborative approach to social media content creation: Establish a deadline for  content for the following week; communicate that the spreadsheet is first come, first serve; and make it clear that the social media manager has authority to veto updates that aren’t appropriate or not consisitent with the brand.

4) Schedule your updates to auto-publish. With content ready, use automation to make your life easier.

Now, not every social network makes it easy to auto-publish, so you’ll have to do some manual updating (on LinkedIn, for example). But you can still automate a good chunk of your publishing using a tool like HootSuite.

5) Set up social media monitoring. While creating your content in advance is a serious boon to productivity, healthcare marketers should still be leaving room for timely updates, too. What if a news story breaks? Or someone covers your company in their publication? Or someone publishes an excellent blog post you’d like to share with your network? That real-time content is critical, and you can set up monitoring to ensure you see it coming through. Use Google Alerts to keep up to date on information you can use.

6) Establish your company’s social media policy. If you know exactly what you should and should not do on social media, it becomes much more natural to create content and respond to fans and followers. If your company has a social media policy that details exactly what you should and should not say in social media and the tone you want your company to convey, it’s way easier to quickly create content and interact with your fans … because that kind of detail and forethought gives your company an actual personality. It’s much easier to be social when you have a personality.

7) Leverage networks’ admin features. Sometimes, more hands are better than one… Sometimes.

It can get a little scary for marketing managers, though, when too many people are involved in social media marketing. Specifically, if they all have administrative access to the accounts. Because while you know the nooks and crannies of each network, not everyone is as knowledgeable as you. So how do you leverage the help of your fellow co-workers without having them have a free-for-all?

Make use of the admin features on social networks. On Facebook, for example, you can now assign specific roles for users that limit their ability to do things like create posts, respond as the brand in comments, or create ads:

LinkedIn and Google+ let you assign admin roles, too, but you’re out of luck with Twitter. So either keep your brand’s Twitter login credentials under wraps, or give some serious training to anyone you give those credentials to!

8) Pre-schedule your checkins throughout the day. Even with a monitoring tool set up, you’ll have to check in to each of your social networks throughout the day to respond to comments and interact with fans and followers. Some marketers feel like they need to respond to everyone on social media immediately. While immediacy is great, your network also understands that you aren’t glued to your computer screen at all times. It’s alright (and important for your productivity if you don’t have an employee dedicated only to social media monitoring) to set aside specific times during the day for social media monitoring.

10) Use tools to create visual content. You know you should be creating visual content to share on social media, but you’re not a graphic designer. What do you do? Leverage some of the visual content creation tools that make the task easy. If you have a Smartphone, you should have no trouble finding apps that make you look like a visual content creation genius. There is, of course, the much-loved Instagram to take your photos from blah to beautiful. And there’s a new favorite of many marketers, Over , that lets you overlay text over photos for that kind of content that will get you seriously high engagement.

10) Eliminate the clutter in your analytics. Social media is one of those channels that marketers have simultaneously too much data to analyze, and not enough. Don’t get bogged down in the abundance of data! Spend less time looking at the fluffy metrics that really mean nothing to your overall marketing success, and just focus on a few core metrics.

Utilize these time saving techniques to relieve the burden of social media and to improve efficiency.  It will make social media more effective, less of a time suck and it will give you more control over the process.  Don’t let social media control you.  Instead, you control it.


Healthcare Marketing: 10 New Social Media Tips

Social media is not easy.  It’s not like traditional media.  It’s requires a new way of thinking.

Mashable interviewed OMD Word’s U.S. Director, Colin Sutton who offered his top 10 social media tips for brands.  Those tips are summarized here.

1.    Don’t Be An Island

Traditional and digital media should be coordinated into an integrated campaign.  If you are planning a social media campaign that’s not connected to the rest of your communications, marketing and media plans, then rethink it.

2.    It’s A Brave New World – Accept It

Don’t treat social media like traditional campaigns.  Social networks connect you with customers across multiple devices and media through two-way communications.

 3.    Listen Up  – And Not Just At The End Of the Campaign

What you hear is important.  It should impact planning, and execution.  It should dictate your marketing moves.

4.    Connect The Dots To Win

Content is king and media is amplification.  Make sure everyone is on the same page and working together.

5.    Goals Can Unite And Ignite Your Efforts

Identify the most desired social actions.  Agree on the goals and determine how you are going to measure them.

 6.    Benchmark Relentless

If there are past campaigns use the data to set benchmarks.  If it’s the first campaign compare against similar campaigns by competitors.

7.    Long-Term Value Is Paramount

Meaningful experiences drive long-term relationships and build advocacy.

8.    Understand All of the Social Channels You Are Targeting

Understand how each channel works and how customers live and breathe there.

 9.    Optimize Ruthlessly and Intelligently 

Collect data, understand it and optimize it.

10.    Think About Eyes, Minds and Wallet When You Are Evaluating Success

Success is more than the value of earned media.   It’s also about perception.  Consider the consumer’s minds and hearts when measuring perception.

Most healthcare marketers are still trying to learn how best to use social media, if at all.   With few exceptions, most don’t have a vast amount of social experience.  But we can minimize our mistakes and maximize our effectiveness by learning from others who have more experience.  That’s why these tips can be very valuable to healthcare marketers.

Healthcare Marketing: Google Buys Into Newspaper Advertising

Google buys a newspaper ad to show why newspaper ads don’t work

In a most interesting irony, Google bought an ad in the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper to advertise its search-advertising business, which is in direct competition with newspaper advertising.  The point was to show that newspaper advertising doesn’t work.  Well if that’s true, why make your point in a newspaper ad?

Lauren Indvik posted the ad on after it was tweeted by reporter Steve Ladurantaye with the caption, “An ad for Google ads in today’s Globe demonstrates the value of print ads, yes?”

The ad asks, “You know who needs a haircut?  People searching for a haircut.”  And then adds, “Maybe that’s why ads on Google work.”

What an ingenious marketing approach!  Reach newspaper readers to convince them newspaper advertising doesn’t work.  But if Google really thinks newspaper advertising doesn’t work why waste money trying to make their point there?  And even more amusing, they included a promotional offer in the ad.

So what does this have to do with hospital advertising?  Not much really.  It’s just ironic and funny.  And proves that sometimes as hard as marketers try to make a point, their strategies end up making the opposite point altogether.  Sometimes unintended consequences can doom even the most creative and unique ideas.


Healthcare Marketing: Social Media is NOT a Numbers Game

Social media success is not how many “likes” you have but rather how many relationships you have.

Hospital marketers measure success for their social media efforts in several different ways. The easiest, and probably most often used, method is how many likes you have.  It’s quantity.  And why not, when attempting to show success it’s easy to point to the number of likes your site has.  In fact, it can look pretty impressive in a performance review.

But does that really measure true success?  Sure, it’s providing exposure to your brand.  And sure it shows some level of affinity to your hospital and it’s services.  So it certainly has value.  Quantity is important.

But perhaps more important is quality.  What is the quality of relationships with those social media friends?  Is it just a bunch of contacts who are casual friends with whom you have a passing and shallow relationship?  Or is it people with whom you have a real, meaningful relationship?  People with whom you have regular contact and you share information and there is value in the friendship?

I would suggest the true measure of success is the latter.  Not necessarily how many friends you have on social networks but the quality of those relationships.  It’s better to have 200 highly engaged followers on Twitter who interact and share your information than 2000 who hardly even notice your tweets.  And it’s much better to have 500 Facebook friends who are engaged, regularly posting and interacting than to have 5000 that just skim over random, and meaningless posts from your marketing department.

Maybe the numbers won’t be as impressive but engaged relationships are worth more than casual friends or followers. 

But this kind of success, like any true friendship, requires time and work. It requires going deep.  It means taking the time and effort to provide meaningful interaction.  It’s not about selling yourself but rather about making yourself available and committing the time to demonstrate how important the relationship is to you.  It means understanding your friends and their needs and providing the information, advice and help they want and need. It means investing in the relationship.

Building fewer but deeper relationships may not look as impressive as a large quantity of followers or likes, but it can mean a much higher ROI to your social media efforts.


Healthcare Marketing: Eight Rules for Crisis Management

Healthcare Marketers Can Learn Valuable Lessons from the Penn State Scandal.

Every organization fears it. A crisis of public confidence and perception.   Hopefully as a healthcare marketer, you won’t be faced with a major one.  But most likely, sometime in your career you will.  Maybe more than once.  And during a crisis is no time to be learning on the fly.  It’s much better to first learn from others and then you will be prepared if and when your crisis comes.

Anne Hancock Toomey and Joe Tye wrote an article for Hospital and Health Networks titled “Cardinal Rules for Crisis Response” and examined how Penn State handled their recent crisis.  Though I’m hesitant to criticize how anyone handles a crisis, because it’s so much easier to do so from a rear view mirror than in the middle of the crisis.  Afterwards you can examine results and reactions, which are not available when the crisis is occurring.   But one can certainly look at what happened and why it happened so the same mistakes aren’t repeated.  Based on that hindsight Toomey and Tye offer eight extremely important rules to follow when a crisis occurs.  Here are those rules with abbreviated comments for each:

  • Develop a crisis communication plan. Any organization can fall victim to a public relations crisis, often without warning. Those who have prepared for the possibility and have developed a communication plan beforehand can emerge with an enhanced reputation for integrity.
  • Know when to apologize. The practice of apologizing for medical errors was pioneered by the Lexington VA Medical Center in Kentucky 20 years ago and since has been demonstrated to prevent PR problems and, actually, to reduce malpractice costs. Sincerely apologizing to and, when appropriate, compensating an aggrieved party can save a world of unwanted trouble, expense and exposure.
  • Stay true to your values. Every organization should have a set of values that guide behavior and decision-making. The commitment to integrity should be a guiding beacon at all times — never more so than in a time of crisis.
  • Tell it first. A wait-and-see approach will almost always keep you in a reactive mode. Reluctance to speak first can destroy trust you’ve worked hard to build with the stakeholders who matter to you.
  • Tell it all. Convincing yourself that you can keep a problem secret is dangerous and naive.
  • Tell it yourself. People trust other people, not a faceless institution. Your doctors, employees and patients want to hear from you. Not from a lawyer. Not from a PR person. Not from a nameless statement. In times of crisis, they want to hear from the leaders responsible for addressing the issue
  • Get others to tell it. Internal stakeholders — physicians, employees and even patients — can be strong advocates for an organization if they are informed, inspired and asked to help.
  • Communication doesn’t stop when the crisis has passed. A reputation can be destroyed in one day, but it takes years to rebuild, if it can be salvaged at all. Communication — internally and externally — should be ongoing following a crisis.

A crisis is never good.  But the future of an organization is often not determined by the crisis but by how it’s managed.  If handled properly, a crisis can even enhance a brand.  But for that to be possible, healthcare marketers must learn from the mistakes and successes of others and be prepared.  To do so would be very wise indeed.

Anne Hancock Toomey is a partner with Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock Inc., a health care public affairs firm with offices in Nashville and Chicago. Joe Tye, M.H.A., M.B.A., is the CEO of Values Coach Inc., a health care consulting and training firm in Solon, Iowa. He is also a member of Speakers Express.

Hospital Marketing: 7 Common Social Media Mistakes…And How To Fix Them

As healthcare marketers delve into social media, we have all kinds of fears and hesitancies.  To be more effective learn not to make these common mistakes.

Heidi Cohen, principal of Riverside Marketing Strategies posted the following blog on Smart Blog.  It’s a very good read:

Marketers are afraid of making social media mistakes. Even worse, they’re concerned their social media faux pas will balloon into a public relations nightmare. Get over it! In today’s always-on, connected world, issues can arise whether you’re participating in social media or not. So be a part of the conversation and engage, because when you have a problem, it’s too late to build your base. (And of course make sure that you have a PR crisis plan ready!)

Here are seven common social media mistakes marketers make and how to fix them.

1.    Fail to show respect for others on social media.

Take a lesson from the Godfather. Social media runs on old-fashioned good manners. Just because you work for a large company doesn’t mean that social media participants will automatically listen to you. Remember they’re thinking WII-FM (What’s in it for me?). Further, just enticing them with a special offer may not cause them to stay longer than necessary to make the purchase.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Listen to what your customers and the public are saying on social media platforms and respond where appropriate. To this end, it’s helpful to use social media monitoring products and to have customer service representatives prepared to respond via these channels.

2.    Use sanitized corporate-speak on social media platforms.

Social media requires a human presence. The absence of anything sounding remotely human, such as in one-way, one-to-many message broadcasting, hurts your organization. It means you’re only talking about your company and products. This me, me, me syndrome is how marketers miss the boat on social media.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Before pushing out your business-focused messages, listen to the conversation and realize it’s multi-directional, including many-to-many at the same time. Inwardly focused messages about your organization tend not to be where the interest and power are on social media platforms. Instead actively participate. The bottom line is you need to be and sound human! Consider what you can do for others.

3.    Shout buy, buy, buy on social media platforms.

This is akin to being a fast-talking sleazy salesman. While causing prospects to run in the opposite direction, it shows you don’t understand how social media platforms work. Instead, it’s important to pay-it-forward on social media platforms.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Change your tenor on social media networks. You can have one deal-of-the-day special where you push out a one-day-only offer the way Woot and Target do. (Check out Target’s site  on Twitter.) But the rest of your social media participation should contain at least 10 messages about others including your customers to every one message about your organization. To this end, it’s useful to create an editorial calendar of content you plan to share on various social media platforms.

4.    Build a social media following for one campaign.

Without understanding the ongoing nature of social media, marketers may build a social media base for one campaign without thinking about how to keep these participants engaged. I call this the LeBron James approach to social media. Basketball player LeBron James built lots of interest around which team he was going to join in July 2010. Instead of providing fans and followers with reasons to support his decision, he seriously made them angry.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Start by understanding the relationship nature of social media. Getting engagement for a one-time promotion translates to customers taking your deal and leaving. Use your promotion to build long-term relationships with your prospects. Create a plan for ongoing engagement and marketing to maximize your investment in the acquisition campaign.

5.    Forget to incorporate your brand into your social media engagement.

Organizations work hard to create and grow their brand. Branding should be integrated into every aspect of your social media interactions including your pages, interactions and content. It’s deeper than the colors you use or slapping your logo onto your avatar.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Examine your brand’s DNA and determine how you’ll translate the salient elements to social media interactions. Remember social media runs on content. Think in terms of your organization’s stories.

6.    Employ a college student who knows Facebook.

While it’s enticing to hire an inexpensive intern to handle your social media communications, it overlooks the importance, experience and maturity required of understanding your brand, organization and the public. Understand social media participants take exchanges seriously. Therefore, shouldn’t your organization put its best foot forward?

Actionable social media marketing fix: To this end, show that your firm is serious about social media by having permanent employees who know your organization, brand(s) and product(s) run your social media efforts. Create a set of social media guidelines and provide social media training for your employees so they understand how to represent your organization and what to do as private citizens.

7.    Are you opaque in your social media dealings?

Social media requires a level of transparency. This doesn’t mean you need to divulge your competitive advantage or financial statement. Your target market and social media participants want to know where you stand and what you’re up to.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Don’t just lurk on social media platforms. Create a profile that represents your organization and discloses your point of view. Ensure that your representatives are trained in social media and understand your business so that they can be transparent in their dealings without telling corporate secrets.

Face it: You’re going to make mistakes on social media. It’s an evolving platform and, while there are pathways to help you develop an effective marketing plan, none of them is guaranteed to have no problems. What’s more important is that you’re prepared to respond in today’s 24/7 world and how you handle your engagement.


Healthcare Marketing: Facebook More Addictive Than Alcohol and Tobacco?

Research has shown it’s harder to resist the urge to check social media sites like Facebook and Twitter than the urge to drink or smoke.

Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business conducted research on 205 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 over 14 days to determine the desires they felt throughout the day and how strong those urges were. Emil Protalinski reported the results on

Despite their addictive properties, alcohol, tobacco and coffee prompted much lower levels of desire than the desire to check social media sites.   Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Wilhelm Hofman surmises that the desire for social media is so much harder to resist because of its high availability and because it feels like it doesn’t cost much to participate.  Cigarettes and alcohol costs more (monetarily) but the frequent use of social media, although it feels like it’s free, steals an abundance of time from a person.

The research also indicated that throughout the day willpower decreases.  Resisting a particular urge frequently or recently increases the chance of giving in the next time.  This is because our constant efforts to resist temptation sap our willpower, which make cravings even stronger.

It’s interesting to note the urge for social media took a back seat to the urge for sex and sleep, which were the two strongest desires.  But the urge to keep on top of social media networks was harder to resist than either sex or sleep.

That might explain these statistics:

  • Facebook accounts for 1 in every 5 pageviews
  • Facebook has over 845 million users
  • Facebook accounts for 1 in every 7 online minutes
  • Facebook to pass 1 billion users in August 2012

For healthcare marketers, the research just reinforces the strength and power of social media.  It is so pervasive within our culture.  People are accessing social media networks and apparently can’t resist the urge to do so.  As marketers, we need to have a presence there and engage in the socialization. Creating and building relationships.