Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Primary Care Marketing Opportunity


A not so funny thing is happening during the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders across the country. People have stopped going to see their primary care doctor. And that my friends is not a good thing.

While caution is understandable, the resulting action is not.

It has never been more important to address medical issues and concerns before they become more severe problems from lack of attention and treatment. The pandemic does not mean that physicians are not practicing medicine and have shut down their practices. What it does mean is they are taking prudent precautions in scheduling patients and implementing the CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Anecdotally, I am hearing that medical practices are down anywhere from 50 – 70 percent of their regular patient volumes. I can understand surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other specialty physicians hurting, but primary care should not be.

The new normal if there is such a thing.

And that, in a nutshell, is the marketing leadership opportunity that hospitals and health systems have in their communities. To return people to the doctor, their primary care doctor to address neglected health conditions and concerns that arose or were ongoing during the COVID-19 pandemic isolation.

Last week's blog, "What is Your COVID-19 Mid-Pandemic Marketing Plan? https://bit.ly/2XNOwoI" discussed the idea that it was time to consider your mid-pandemic marketing strategy and plan.  How you begin to position and market your organization today will, in large part, determine the success or failure of your organization in the new normal.

This week is adding Primary Care marketing to the marketing mix. A back to basics strategy.  Drive the patients and community back to primary care, pull the primary care doctors to the hospitals for diagnostic, outpatient, and inpatient services.  

A break from the past.

Primary care marketing is not about a return to the big building, happy smiling patients, and family marketing of the past. It's not about all the medical services, high-tech equipment the hospital has. It's about the ability of the hospital to lead the community post-pandemic, address new or ongoing health conditions, and engage in quite a different level with the community and primary care physicians.


Hospital and health system marketing going forward.

It's not sexy or exciting, but it is the leadership from the hospital that the patient and community need.  It is what your doctor needs. Primary care feeds the specialties and the hospital.  A back to basics strategy that continues the engagement momentum you established during the pandemic.

Individuals need to begin to focus once again on their healthcare that was neglected whether it was from fear or uncertainty over these past several weeks. Show them the way back.

The hospital leading the community back to quality, affordable healthcare starts now.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What is Your COVID-19 Mid-Pandemic Marketing Plan?


As the COVID-19 pandemic looks like it could be reaching a midpoint with the apparent beginnings of a slowdown of the infection rate and hospitalizations, it is time to consider your mid-pandemic marketing strategy and plan. Consideration of the topic is especially important if you have “hunkered down” cut budget, staff and disappeared entirely from the marketplace.

The time to start to come out from your business isolation is now. Not two or three months from now. How you begin to position and market your organization today will, in large part, determine the success or failure of your organization in the new normal.

Your markets and critical influencers have short memories.

While you stayed in contact with your existing clients, your prospects have forgotten who you are. By going silent and not developing and executing helpful, information-based resources for them strategy during the pandemic, your prospect will be turning to those that were present. The top of mind still plays an important role. These companies that stayed in the game and found a way to be a leader and resource are the winners in the new normal. All others can take a back seat.

Now that you are behind the eight ball, here are several steps to take immediately. 

1.       Revisit your value proposition. There is a new “normal” in the markets, and markets are no longer what they were. Though your mission may still be the same, the pandemic has been life and business changing. You can talk all you want about being a valued and trusted partner, but when the going got tough, you disappeared. 

2.       Complete your transformation to digital marketing and communications. 

3.       Up your game and the content on your LinkedIn company page and corporate website to engage. Add value all the time, every time to the content. 

4.       Look for new areas of business. Many prospects and even some clients are not going to make it. Markets will consolidate, companies close, merge and be acquired. The bottom line is your market will shrink even more than previously.  

5.       Lay the groundwork to rebuild the trust of your employees. Furloughs and layoffs are hard, but if senior management did not take any pay cuts and “favored” employees kept their jobs while others left, trouble behind, trouble ahead.  Optics are everything when trying to recover. Rebuilding trust and culture is job one internally. 

6.       Focus on engagement and be humble. In other words, lose the attitude in sales, process, and perceived self-importance. Lose the opinions in management. Lose the beliefs and inflated concepts of self-importance and the size of the company, or your perceived herculean efforts to save the company. You abandoned your prospects by going silent. There is a loss of trust and belief in what you will be selling.  

7.       Prepare to execute a consistent and value-added presence in the market. That means updating or creating a new short and executable marketing plan.  

8.       Get ready to cut your pricing. You will have to sacrifice some margin to regain lost ground in the new market. Fewer prospects in your markets mean more significant pressure on pricing. You may not like it, but it is what it is.

A new day and opportunity are present. Reengage now, or the last one out the door turns the lights off.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Is the Golden Age of Patient and Community Engagement at Hand?


The COVID-19 pandemic has created a situation where hospitals, health systems and other providers have had to communicate transparently with meaningful content delivered on multiple digital and traditional platforms with patients and the community they serve.

I am not in any way making light of the public health crisis taking far too many lives and pushing the hospital care system in the United States to the brink of collapse. A breakdown, it seems that is as much financial as it is in providing the necessary medical care.

Quite the contrary.

Today's post is thinking about moving forward and what that means for the patient and community.

Expectations have been set as an unintended consequence, on how patients and communities expect to be interacted with, how they are communicated with, the meaningful and engaging content, and how that experience should look and feel.  

There will be no "back to the future" and resuming the old ways of marketing and communicating.

Healthcare providers were slowly adapting to meaningful engagement, communication, and experience management on their terms, not the patient's or community's terms. Now, however, the pandemic has forced these same providers to engage and manage the experience and expectations. The frailty of the hospital care system has been exposed for all to see, with the shortcomings of the hospital care system well documented across the country daily. 

These conditions have required an open, honest, and transparent communication strategy that is forcing healthcare providers to address the concerns of patients and the community.

In the process, hospitals once again started reclaiming their past position of leadership in their community. Doctors and nurses are seen as heroes in the fight to save lives. That is until a physician or nurse is terminated for speaking out, which has happened. I don't know what the leadership of this hospital was thinking, but you will never win the public relations optics on that one. Never. Ever.

On to the future.

Meaningful engagement and managing the experience is the future role of marketing and how you communicate with patients and the community.  The genie is out of the bottle now, and there is no turning back to old ways. Healthcare is now becoming a comprehensive partnership between the patient, hospital, and community.

Six engagement concepts for the world of post-pandemic health care communications and engagement.

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered so that they can interact with you anyway they want when they want too. 

2.  Marketing communication will be content, not programmatic driven. Messaging needs to be relevant to the audiences at the time it's required that is personalized, customized, and considers the cultural heritage and influences of the patient and community.

3. Maintaining a sense of community.  Get into the inner circle of the audience and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. 

4. Keep learning and evolving in your understanding of whom one is speaking too. The concept is a back-to-basics CRM understanding the gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture, etc.  One cannot engage unless there is intimate knowledge about them, their needs, and how to tailor the information they need to engage them.

5. Continue the use of digital communication platforms.  We live in a world of technology, and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With social media, smartphones, web, text messaging, mobile messaging, etc., the patient and community have accepted the invitation of the hospital and other providers to engage them and engage them all the time.

6. Time it right and add value.  If your health messaging is not resonating with the print or community when they receive it, then one has lost them. Communicate relevant messages before healthcare decisions are made.  

Welcome to the future post-pandemic where the patient and community are engaged and part of the care system, not a bystander waiting for something to happen.

Stay safe. 

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Opinions expressed are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Leveraging Free Social Media Platforms During the COVID-19 Crisis for Communication.


Hospitals, health systems, doctors, other providers, and vendors are faced with severe financial constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic response. Furloughs and layoffs are becoming a regular occurrence of non-essential staff as resources are redeployed within the hospital or the vendor attempting to cut costs to stem the bleeding as markets and sales grind to a silent halt. 


Often, marketing budgets and personnel are reduced to a bare minimum as marketing expenses cut flow directly to the bottom line.

However, to stop marketing, communications, and public relations entirely is a strategic and tactical mistake, especially for vendors that they may not recover. The answer then, is a shift to the heavy use of digital and free social media platforms and channels, in an integrated fashion. It will also accelerate your shift to digital.

Going silent.

Going silent in the market is not an option for anyone.  It is a strategic and tactical mistake that places an organization behind the eight-ball playing catch up in the community, and market when the COVID-19 health crisis ends. And it will end.

If you’re not finding a way to stay connected and messaging out to your audiences during this time, you are dropping from their radar. It doesn’t mean being opportunistic, which is a death knell. People will remember that and not fondly. It’s about staying connected through any means available, providing information that will help them through the crisis. That is how you will be remembered- helpful, knowledgeable, credible, and trustworthy. The trick then is how to accomplish staying in front of the community or business audience without resources.

That brings us to leveraging free social media platforms.

With the multitude of platforms and channels available, stick to social media channels in use by the vast majority- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, 4Square/Swarm, and Google Hangouts, and blogging.

For example, Instagram, and Facebook have live stream capability for video and engaging though the chats Q&A. Tumblr has a live Q&A function, and Twitter can be used to chats and with hashtags creating a Twitter stream for participative Q&A. Google Hangouts can be used for creating a virtual digital community and live interactions between individuals companies and groups.  Use the LinkedIn company page to promo the events. Provide links to the events and platforms: post summaries and relevant content for the activities.

Guide to the available platforms.

The guide to your right illustrates how several social media platforms can be integrated and utilized in a coordinated fashion to connect and stay connected with your audiences.  It is all free as well,  given that you have made progress to digital marketing, communications, and pubic relations. If not, then it requires staff or consulting expertise to get up and running. Now that being said, you will still need the marketing and communications team to run the events, create the content, prep the speakers, and answer questions, so there is some cost involved.


Your choice, stay connected or go silent at your own risk.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, email me at Michael at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Opinions expressed are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What Does the Future Hold for Hospital Marketing, Public Relations, and Communications?


The COVID-19 pandemic has upended everyone's way of life. At a time like this, it is understandable that the ability to focus on the near-term future, when hospitals are strained past the breaking point, may seem an oxymoron.  But focus we must, with at least some consideration as to the role of marketing, communications, and public relations in hospitals and health systems will be as we come out of the public health crisis.

An essential consideration because health care delivery has fundamentally changed, driven in part by world-changing external events. Some may say that the changes we see today in healthcare delivery were already in process, just accelerated as a forced change at that. Now, how hospitals and health systems communicate with patients, and the communities served has changed as well.

There is no going back to the way we practiced marketing, communications, and public relations in the hospital.  Ever.

How should we look at hospital marketing, communications, and public relations going forward?

Eight thoughts for consideration and discussion. 

1.       Marketing leadership returns to the senior management table. This one is obvious and is more of a "back to the future" scenario. There was a time when hospitals employed a Vice President of Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations reporting to the CEO. Changes in hospital management structure, reporting, and governance drove much of the difference. What was lacking in these changes was a clear vision and understanding of the role of marketing. Losing the marketing seat at the senior management table removed a voice that could represent a different view and voice in deliberations. 

2.       Marketing strategy and tactics become more critical and focused. Marketing will move from we do everything in excellent facilities, with high-technology and convenient locations to building brand messages. Being replaced with value delivered, price transparency,  patient and consumer engagement, and be highly integrated into the operational, financial, and strategic plan of the hospital and health system. 

3.       Managing the patient experience. With over 147 different touchpoints in the patient experience in the hospital, management of the total patient experience across the vast continuum of care should move to the marketing department. Bits and pieces of the experience are touched by marketing here and there usually in response to a complaint. But the management of the patient experience should be a proactive effort, not a reactive response to it breaking.  If one considers the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the patient experience, and its impact on people, there will be an emotional undertow for a very long time. 

4.       Demand management. The care system is evolving far more rapidly than expected due to the public health crisis. Health care delivery is now more of a distributive network out of necessity. Demand is moving to sites that are more appropriate, convenient, and accessible with fewer health risks that are present in a hospital. Marketing's role is to understand the health system as a distributive network with the technologies available for remote or virtual care and move service demand to the most appropriate and least costly setting. 

5.       Communicating, engaging, maintaining, and growing the relationship with the connected patient and community. Using all available means to communicate with society and patients, new expectations of openness, meaningful content, and transparency between hospitals and communities won't be going away any time soon. Out of necessity, hospital communications are becoming entirely digital and omnichannel to reach the vastest number of people. If the hospital can do this in a time of crisis, then the strategy and tactics of marketing moving forward need to remain omnichannel, highly coordinated, relevant, timely, informative, and purposeful. 

6.       Understanding and using social media as the new mainstream media for public relations. Social media platforms have evolved for better or for worse into the new mainstream media #NMM. Twitter and other platforms now drive the news cycle. Reporters post their stories on Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, for example, before they ever hit the website or print editions. Reporters who previously loathed the ICYMT in an email, now use the acronym to accompany their story posts and reposts. Action and reaction drive the news cycle. Everyone is a reporter without the benefit of an editor or having to fact check. "If it's on the Internet and social media, then it must be true." Statements that have gone from being a standard joke to the new standard of acceptability as accurate without verification. 

7.       Marketing as the champion of change in the organization. Who better in an organization than for marketing to manage the healthcare organizations transformation from an inward-focused it's all about me, to an outward-focused market and consumer-driven organization?   Open to much debate, this is probably the most controversial look at the expanding role of marketing.  Focusing on and meeting the needs of the customer is the most critical trait and a hallmark of successful companies. One patient to the hospital. One hospital to the patient. 

8.       Becoming a Revenue Marketer and Having Revenue Accountability. Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) is necessary for anything marketing accomplishes, traditionally, socially, or online. Marketers in healthcare organizations need to become revenue producers, not resource consumers that show little value beyond; it looks beautiful.  Marketing should have P&L as well as an SG&A accountability for many of the products and services offered by a healthcare organization.

Eight thoughts on the future role of marketing, communications, and public relations in the hospital for your consideration and discussion. Maybe the opinions are not that profound but ideas nevertheless that will have a profound impact on the hospitals going forward post-pandemic.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Opinions expressed are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.