Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Digital Stories- the Missing Hospital Marketing Opportunity?

You may be missing an opportunity to tell the hospital brand story by not leveraging digital stories.

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay


In “Time spent per day with digital media vs. traditional media in the U.S. 2011—2020”, June 17, 2020, Statista found that individuals spend, on average, 7.5 hours per day looking at digital media. That is a lot of time per day spent looking at a screen- be it a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. Facebook revealed that over 1 billion users per day use stories. On Instagram, users spend between 24- and 32-minutes watching stories. Marketing Land found from brands using stories, that between 15 to 25 percent of Instagram story viewers will swipe up when links are provided.

I realize that these stats are related to CPG brands. My intent here isn’t to say that the hospital needs to market like a consumer-oriented company but to point out the opportunity of digital vs. traditional media.  

The hospital has an engagement problem.

When you consider the amount of time a patient spends on viewing digital media, it will make sense to shift a large percentage of resources from traditional marketing activities. The digital engagement opportunity is to tell the story of the hospital to the patient or potential patient on their terms on their digital platform of choice. You can’t promote the hospital story as well with traditional media.

Additionally, the need is critical for the hospital to lead the community out of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic with credible, accurate information to dispel the dangerous and misleading COVID-19 information in the community.

What is a story?

Stories are the storytelling of the hospital brand on social media. You can use video, photos, text, emoticons, and tags to create both long-form and short-form content. They are uploaded from a mobile device, only visible on mobile devices, recorded in vertical format, and usually expire in 24-hours. Though, YouTube stories will last for seven days. The stories themselves are a series of slides. Think PowerPoint but without the overloaded text and content on each slide. The story section of a social media app is in the prime position at the top of the screen, with a circular image displayed in line with a colored circle surrounding the story.

A word of caution. Each app will have its story features such as Geo-filters, GIFs, and time limits. One size does not fit all, so you need to understand the pros and cons of each social media platform. If not already, you may want to consider marketing automation tools for stories that you can use for creating and posting.

The stories will shift automatically from one vertical screen to another when viewing the story and then, at the conclusion, move to the next story to be displayed. The user can, at any time, swipe left to leave the story and move on to the next. Between stories, one usually finds brand advertising with instructions for viewers to swipe up to learn more.

What social media platforms should the hospital use?

Image by PixelKult from Pixabay

To get started, if you are not already, I would recommend the most popular story features on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and WhatsApp. Bonus, since Facebook owns Instagram, the story you create on Instagram can be shared to Facebook and Messenger.

Eight best practices to make your stories stand out. 

1.       Keep it upright. A vertical orientation is a key to an engaging story. Look at the real estate of the window you have to work with and go from there. 

2.       Start and end with your brand messaging. You can use your logo, brand-relevant hashtags, slogans, and other relevant hashtags. If you are going to have a call to action, place that in the second to last slide.

3.       Use high-quality creative elements. How your story looks and feels will make or break it—no clip art. Use images, video, typography, placement, and messaging with thoughtfulness. Remember, you’re telling a story, it needs to be interesting. 

4.       Create a contrast between your slides. Breaking up the narrative can hold your audience’s attention and keep them engaged—the easiest way to create contrast between sides. 

5.       Build and Maintain Momentum. Stories are immersive, interactive, and quick. Snappy visual content keeps people engaged. The key here is speed to meet the user’s expectations, not yours. 

6.       Don’t spam with stickers. It is easy to get carried away, adding stickers thinking it will liven the slides up. Stickers can drive engagement and interest, especially if they are interactive. Use too many stickers, and the user will move along. 

7.       Create a strong call to action. Don’t be shy about driving further engagement with a strong call to action. The propose here is interaction to drive engagement with the hospital brand. Provide a link for the viewer to engage further. 

8.       Test and test some more. There is no perfect formula for creating stories. It would be best if you generate ideas, create updates, test them, analyze the data, and improve.

At the end of the day, that random direct mail postcard I just received from a hospital was traditional and quaint, but have little, if any, engagement value. I, like others, are digital natives. It is time the hospital became a digital native as well.

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, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Four Basic Questions in Are You Ready for Hospital Price Transparency?

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay


The CMS final rules on hospital price transparency require hospitals to offer downloadable standard charges and negotiated rates with shoppable services on their website by January 2021. The CMS mandate adds a new layer of financial complexity to hospitals. As patients potentially comparisons shop, patients could choose less expensive providers creating additional revenue shortfall for the hospital, on top of the already precarious state of hospital finances caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

But getting ready for January 2021 requires that four additional questions be asked and answered. You can't wait until January to react. By reacting, I do not mean adding the documents to your website. I am discussing preparations in responding, too, and being proactive in the marketplace.

Putting up the documents on the website is simple once the internal deliberations are resolved. Now comes the hospital's marketing strategy and tactical execution- internally and externally.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Here are the four basic questions for a successful launch for engaging the patient and community with pricing information. 

1.       Marketing Plan - How are you positioning the hospital and the newly available price and shoppable services information in the market, i.e., what is the detailed marketing plan? 

2.       Engagement Plan - What are your key engagement messages, and how will you engage patients and the community, and what channels- digital, social, and traditional will be used to provide the key messages? 

3.       Experience Plan - What is the training program and Q&As that have been developed that you are using to equip the employees who will most likely face questions from patients and the community regarding your prices and shoppable services? 

4.       Crisis Communications Plan - What are the talking points you will use to defend higher prices in services than your competitors? Or, what are your talking points when you decide to raise your lower prices to those higher prices of a competitor?

These four questions are not an afterthought, but a should foster a much-needed critical strategy discussion and tactical marketing execution in the new age of price transparency that is about to begin.  The market can't be left to luck, and a "we'll deal with this if any questions come up" strategy.  Pricing and shoppable services information will now be an essential part of the marketing, patient engagement, and experience strategy plans.

Image by Lennert Kraak from Pixabay


The power to make choices in medical care is moving from the hospital to the patient with price transparency. How you respond proactively in brand positioning, marketing communications, experience, and engagement will determine success or losing utilization and revenue.

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, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

HAVE YOU COMPLETED A HOSPITAL MARKETING DEPARTMENT AUDIT?

Seriously, when was the last time an audit of the hospital marketing department was completed?

Image by Mohamed Hassin from Pixabay

I ask this question as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has changed everything in healthcare for the hospital. When I say everything, my focus is on top-down from financial planning to business strategy, operations, and care.

Given that is the case, then why wouldn’t the hospital or health system audit the marketing department to ensure that the messages, brand and positioning strategies, tactics, execution, results, and marketing department structure, reporting relationships, and personnel are still relevant?

It’s an important question.

With hospital care upended due to the pandemic, it forced patients to become connected digitally, and in finding alternative, more convenient sources of care, i.e., telemedicine, for example, means it’s a new day for hospital marketing. 

Image by Enign Akyurt from Pixabay

Patients are not returning in droves for care for a variety of reasons, one of which is the loss of health insurance due to job loss. Merely putting a beautiful picture of a nurse with a facemask, a couple of copy lines about safety, and then throwing in the kitchen sink isn’t working.

Early on in pandemic hot spots, hospitals and health systems were forced to engage the patient and community at an unprecedented level. By establishing a new standard of communication, engagement, and experience, out of necessity, a new expectation on the part of the patient and community was established. The same level of patient and community engagement, experience, should be continuing. But what I see except for a few exceptions, is an old pre-pandemic marketing strategy, messaging, and channel use.

Hence the need for a full marketing audit.

Now I am not attempting to get anyone fired. Still, considering the titanic shifts in the hospital care market in such a short period, new approaches, strategies, messages, and channel presence are needed to rebuild patient and community trust. And, until confidence is restored, utilization will not increase for any provider hospital or physician.

The hospital or health system has a fiduciary responsibility to understand if their marketing department and the personal are operating at peak efficiency and effectiveness. It needs to be known if the marketing plans, go to market strategies, and messages are appropriate, responsive and generating a return.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Another compelling reason for the audit is that the patient and community experience has changed. How has the marketing operation altered to reflect the new patient experience, and to manage? Has the marketing operation responded to the digitally connected patient, and has the marketing plan with timely execution changed to reflect the new engagement realities?

What is the content creation plan and production schedule? Is the hospital or health system using social media effectively to engage? Are the topics, and content created for patient and community consumption relevant in the new marketplace? What is the promotional schedule for distributing content regularly for digital channels and social media?  How are you measuring the outcome of marketing, and not the activity of marketing?

Running print advertisements may make everyone to the hospital feel good, but ads are the easy way out. Newspaper circulation and readership continues to decline.  How have resources shifted away from print to digital and social media?

There are many other reasons for undertaking a marketing audit, but now is a prime time opportunity for ensuring that the hospital and health system marketing is in sync with the marketplace, patient, and community, as well as being proactive and responsive, not reactive.

Take advantage of the marketing audit opportunity now as you right the financial and operational ship of the hospital and health system for the new realities of health care.

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, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

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

Monday, August 3, 2020

HOSPITAL QUALITY AWARD SEASON IS HERE. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN DURING A PANDEMIC?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The hospital quality award season is underway as various organizations and magazines with their black-box analytics, tagging hospitals, and health systems, as the best or tops in (insert category here).

I am not making light of the accomplishment as quality awards are essential at some level for the consumer information.  But, we are in a pandemic, and that changes the nature of the patient and community interaction. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic adds a new layer of complexity, leading to a critical question.

How is the hospital and health system positioning the quality award contextually around the pandemic?

The question is asked in all seriousness due to seeing a plethora of award advertisements that are pre-pandemic. There is no context or content on the value and meaning of the award. Why, in that case, should the patient and community care? 

Is this wow, look at us? Or, maybe a checkbox for senior management, the Board of Directors, and physicians in what they consider being good marketing?

A little cognitive dissonance for the patient and community?

But beyond the apparent campaigning, what I fail to see is how health systems or hospital awardees are communicating in any meaningful way what those quality awards mean to the community. As I have written in the past, what is the value of that information to the patient? An excellent representation of the actual award and saying are in the top 5 percent nationally in (insert disease here) leaves it kind of lacking, especially when other hospitals you compete against are making the same claim.

Wasted Opportunity

The campaigning I see in its current form treats the patient and community with little respect.  It also reinforces what the healthcare industry has been crying about that healthcare is more complicated than a 5-star rating.  An inadvertent consequence,  you are creating the simple 5-star rating system yourself by how you are all campaigning the quality award.   

It's not about value, not to you but the patient. Instead of taking the opportunity to make the award meaningful with value and context to the patient, hospitals and health systems take the easy way out and puff out their chest to say look at me.

Leveraging the Opportunity

The patient and community are hungry for information.  And patients are networked today more so than at any other time in the history of healthcare. The future will only make it more so.  So why not get ahead of the curve and start building your ads and marketing communications pieces more value-driven and providing healthcare solutions to the consumer?

Explain what that award means to the consumer.  Define the value. Show how it separates you from all the others during the pandemic. Communicate how it reinforces your brand and brand promise. Use the award to create trust. Define the award experience in the patient's terms. Just don't throw it out there and say we are in the top 5 percent or whatever.  That is not meaningful to anyone.  In an age of quality and price transparency, those ads sorely fail.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

I am a patient. I am concerned about catching COVID-19 in your hospital. I can't visit anyone I know in your hospital. I have no context what the quality award means except getting a "trust us" feeling from the advertisement.

That is not good enough. It wasn't in the past. It isn't now either.

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, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

Signup for the e-newsletter, Healthcare Marketing Daily and have the latest healthcare marketing and business news for providers and vendors delivered right to your mailbox on a daily. Add your email address in the signup on the sidebar.

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