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Marketing Rx: Hospital Messaging Done Right

Hospitals face a myriad of challenges these days – operational, financial, and strategic. Amid those challenges, it’s easy to lose sight of the persistent need for hospitals of any size to have a clear and powerful voice in their marketing.

Consumers of hospital services – patients, ultimately – have access to more information than ever before regarding their options and alternatives for care. Proactive choices are made more often than simple default relationships with the nearest or most familiar provider. To connect with these savvy consumers – and remain connected with them – hospitals need to be strategic, creative organizations with an eye on the long term.

While there are great variations in the size and scale of operations among hospitals, there are 6 essential features of a successful hospital marketing program for hospitals of any size.

Start with strategy.

It begins with a candid assessment of the hospital’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your position vis-à-vis both direct and indirect competitors is important. Then you identify the strongest points of differentiation. Can they be leveraged for impact? If not, what collection of distinct features can be packaged to create an identity that can serve as the basis for messaging over the long haul?

Grab your umbrella.

Establish a universal voice and graphic identity for the hospital (or hospital group) and make it part of every individual effort. This overall “umbrella” identity must be crystal clear and consistently expressed in every communication.

Divide and conquer.

Building off the principle above, successful hospital marketing programs differentiate their messaging for sub-specialties or divisions. Under the overall strategy developed for the hospital or system, strongly differentiated campaigns can be developed for orthopedics, cancer care, preventive medicine, wellness programs, and more. While each can have their own voice and persona, they must always include the identity and branding of the “umbrella” campaign for the overall organization.

Rip off the creative bandage.

Be willing to be bold and daring in your creative. It’s not risky when it’s grounded in solid strategy. Using the strategy as a north star, develop creative that’s distinct in tone and personality. Take a lighthearted approach if it fits. Or focus on dramatic results. Start by getting outside your comfort zone and pull back if necessary. The greatest risk is investing in a campaign that doesn’t break through or resonate with your audience.

Max your media.

By all means, tap into traditional platforms such as digital, print, and radio. But be willing to pursue less obvious options as well. Out-of-home ads, unusual special events, co-op advertising in novel settings (gyms, shopping carts, movie theaters), and vehicle-based branding (car/truck/bus wraps) are just some of the tools you should consider for your marketing toolbox.

Sweat the details.

This refers mostly to digital efforts but should be true for the back end of all aspects of the marketing plan. Refine your user experience to ensure that every encounter with the hospital – whether it’s patients or providers – is as seamless as possible, with clear resolution and follow-up to inquiries. It’s painful to think that heroic efforts put into strategy, creative, and execution are then undone by something as easy to fix as follow-ups and simple communication.

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