7 ideas for smart hospital marketing campaigns right now

Don Stanziano, chief marketing and communications officer with Geisinger in Danville, Pa., and Dave Feinberg, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer with Mount Sinai Health System in New York, shared guidance for hospital marketing campaigns at a time when the audience is likely fatigued, if not exhausted. 

Hospitals and health systems have several factors to consider as they develop their next campaign. For one: "It's hard to differentiate right now when everyone's making the same point, or delivering similar messaging, because we all want to be sensitive to the environment in which we're marketing today," said Mr. Stanziano. 

Organizations are also delivering their message to audiences likely feeling fatigue. There is also an emerging trend that Mr. Feinberg calls "compassion confusion," which occurs when consumers face a steady feed of messages that are related to health and healthcare. This makes it all the more challenging for hospitals' campaigns to stand out. 

"It seems like everybody's in healthcare now, so everybody's talking about the workers and they're thanking the workers — as though they're part of it — and we appreciate that," said Mr. Feinberg. "That's not a bad thing. But it kind of muddies the waters for those of us who actually have and are facing the challenges every day with staff, with support services, the whole range of things that we've had to do, which has just been extraordinary. I think there is compassion fatigue for sure, but there's also just fatigue."

As part of the Becker's Patient Experience + Marketing Virtual Forum, Mr. Stanziano and Mr. Feinberg shared the following advice for their colleagues' marketing campaigns right now: 

1. Speak to the needs of your audience. "If you really want to stand out in the marketplace, you have to understand the environment in which you're putting your message out there," said Mr. Stanziano. Reflect about what your audience is thinking about and share a relatable message with them. "Don't just push your message coldly," said Mr. Feinberg. 

2. Be real. It's time to be truthful, genuine and sensitive. "Now's not the time for loud," said Mr. Feinberg. "Now's not the time for cute. Now's not the time for slick. I think now's the time for straight-forward, real and honest." 

3. Keep it simple. In line with being real, Mr. Feinberg also encourages health systems to uphold simplicity in their marketing campaigns right now. "I think now's a good time to be simple, straight-forward, easy, and do not forget to provide clean and clear access," he said. "Are they going to be able to act on your message? Are the phones going to be answered?" 

4. Listen. "Given that anxiety is high, I wouldn't make assumptions about what consumers want," said Mr. Stanziano. "We all know this, but sometimes in the rush to get something out the door or to address a business need, we maybe aren't as attentive to getting research and data." Geisinger has undertaken formal surveying to better understand the mood of its community and audience.

5. Test your messaging and creatives. We're about to launch the second phase of a brand campaign that we launched pre-COVID that worked, actually, during the pandemic, so we're very proud of that, that it sort of met the moment and we didn't have to tweak it, because it really was about the customer and about the community. Geisinger is beginning the second phase of a brand campaign that initially launched pre-COVID-19. "We're doing much more testing of that creative than we did the first time around. I don't want to have a blind spot to a sensitivity that may be out there that we just weren't thinking about."

6. Avoid cliches. Both Mr. Stanziano and Mr. Feinberg pointed to words and expressions that they consider tired. "If I hear 'these are challenging times,' one more time," said Mr. Feinberg. 

"We're in the healthcare business, and the word 'care' is just so overused," said Mr. Stanziano. "We actually save lives. That's caring. We just need to tell those stories. We're advancing medicine. We're saving lives. We have people coming in every day, risking their lives to save other people's lives. That's the embodiment and personification of caring. We just need to show that."

7. Seize opportunities to extend your system's resources throughout the broader community. Geisinger's marketing department created resources for the system's clinics and hospitals on social distancing, masking and hand hygiene, among other topics related to COVID-19 safety. "We just made those available to the public. There was a blend of public health, education, and marketing coming together, because we have branded materials now throughout our communities, out in local schools, universities and local businesses," said Mr. Stanziano. 

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