Tony Mikes

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.

Healthcare Marketing: Keep Your Ads Simple

Advertising creative is changing and becoming much more simple and clean.  It’s the product of a consumer driven marketplace.  

Before the 1960’s, creative consisted of pages filled with type and graphics. Dark, serif-faced ads with little white space.  Along came the 60’s and all that changed.  Ads became simple, clean, with little copy and lots of white space.  The “Think Small” ad for Volkswagen was a perfect example of such.  And the change was basically art-driven.  The German-based Bauhaus design movement affected advertising like it did art, architecture, interior design and graphic design ad led to simple and clean characteristics.

The 80’s and 90’s brought more complex ads, with more copy and certainly more graphics.  But now we are reverting back to the simple clean look of the 60’s.  But this time it’s not art-driven.  It’s consumer driven.  Tony Mikes of Second Wind wrote concerning this shift in his “Consider This” blog.  He points out that back in the 60’s marketers controlled the process of marketing. Consumers believed whatever the marketer said, especially when backed up with clever creative to reinforce the message.

But today, marketers don’t control the process.  Consumers do. Consumers are knowledgeable, have access and can state their opinions and thoughts on any of numerous social networking sites. Peer-to-peer reality is an important part of the marketing process.  Consumers depend on comments, ratings and feedback from other consumers to make purchase decisions.

And this has influenced advertising.  Now instead of lots of graphics and lots of copy, the emphasis is on honesty and clarity.  Ads are simple and clean.  No need trying to overwhelm the consumer. It’s more about communicating a simple but pertinent benefit in a very personal approach.  Engaging the consumer in a very attractive but simple manner.

Perfect examples are the ads for iPod and iPhone. Extremely simple and direct.  Just communicating a benefit and lifestyle.  And two other classic examples that use simple clean approaches are the iPad and it’s older competitor, Kindle.  Little or no copy. Very visual but incredibly clean with engaging music. It’s all about honesty and simplicity.

So as we engage in healthcare marketing, the creative should be about transparency and honesty and simplicity.  Astute media buying, cost containment and strategic planning will remain important.  But ideas, creative execution, clear copy points and perhaps most importantly truth and honesty will reign supreme. And they should.


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