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The Marketing World Has Moved On. Has Your Hospital Moved On With It?

February 26, 2015
Converged Media, Digital Marketing, Healthcare Marketing

“I want to deliver truly integrated traditional and digital campaigns for our healthcare clients.” I think I first spoke these words in 2011. My team knew what I meant. Or, more accurately, they knew what I didn’t want anymore: traditional campaigns that, once fully baked, would have a few digital add-ons like banner ads (animated!) and perhaps a landing page. 

As the CEO of a growing hospital marketing agency, I had become pretty good at understanding what our clients needed—today and in the future. And my head and heart agreed: Sometime soon our clients will need partners who don’t operate in silos, but can powerfully leverage all parts of the media landscape to push patients, physicians and donors through the sales funnel, from awareness to advocacy.

I know a lot of you reading this are visual people so here’s a quick illustration of our integrated (a.k.a. converged) media model. As you can see, it includes paid media (i.e. TV, billboards), owned media (i.e. hospital website, social media channels) and earned media (i.e. content that is published about your health system that you don’t pay for).

Converged Media Illustration
Source: Altimeter

When we present this to clients and prospects, most say, “That’s great, we need to do that. Let’s move forward.” 

Jason Brown and Grandma Rosie
(Above) The Author and Grandma Rosie. My inheritance? A fine set of poker skills.

But, of course, the story doesn’t end there. What happens next is key (and I would bet my inheritance from my late Grandma Rosie it’s happening in healthcare organizations around the country): a phone call from the VP of Marketing.

“Jason, we’re really excited about the campaign your team presented…the strategy, the creative. So is our CEO. We’d like to get started on the TV, billboards, print, maybe some of the banner ads. I know we really need to do a lot more in the digital space and I loved your team’s ideas, but…”

There it was. The one word that pretty much negates everything good that comes before it.

“But, our CEO…he just doesn’t get it,” she confides.

“I’m happy to talk to him with you,” I say, hoping to actually be of service.

“Perhaps. I’ll look at his schedule.”

Okay, so this guy runs a 20,000-person organization. I know his schedule probably isn’t too flexible.

“For now, we can start with those deliverables and then hit the digital in the next phase,” she says.

I’ve had this conversation on several occasions. Over the course of several weeks and months, I’ve been able to sell through and implement a converged media model with several health systems. But it’s harder than it should be. A lot harder. More painful. And much more expensive.

Which begs the question: Why? If nearly half of all patients begin their selection of a physician or a healthcare provider online (check it out, it’s true), why would a hospital resist the necessary digital programs that should be synthesized with their traditional marketing campaigns?

It’s not like we’re breaking new ground here.

This is essentially the model used by every major brand in the country to drive brand/sales: Apple, Nike, ESPN, McDonald’s…you get the idea.

Our Vice President, Jessica Schmidt, is writing a blog post about the new McDonald’s campaign. If you haven’t seen it, it’s brilliant. I don’t want to steal her thunder, but it’s a classic example of how hospitals should do their marketing. It’s what we do every day at my shop: Inspire through mass media, more deeply engage and convert through digital.

It’s a formula that takes a lot of work. But it’s the work worth doing.
Perhaps it’s time we roll up our sleeves as an industry and get to it.

To make this journey a little easier for your organization, here’s what I’ve learned working with some of the sharpest hospital marketers in the country:

Five Real-World Tips To Implementing A Converged Media Model

  1. Go to a conference and listen to Cleveland Clinic speak about how they engage physicians and consumers through their micro-sites and blogs. It’s a case study on industry best practices and will provide you with the ammunition to say, “This is how Cleveland Clinic does it, and these are the results they’ve had.”
  2. Go outside our industry for case studies. Pull your CEO’s favorite campaign and unpack the strategy behind that campaign for her. Conclude your discussion with, “Let’s do this same thing for our hospital.” I’ll bet it’s strategic, integrated and impactful.
  3. Capture the imagination. I once sold a digital project by showing a picture of our agency’s new drone to a health system’s CMO. Then I showed him the pictures it could take. Then I suggested we use this inside his hospitals to do a fly through of the facility and that he could fly it himself. I think he approved the project just to get a chance to play with this cool new gadget. Do you think he would have been as excited about hearing me pontificate on his website’s lack of interactivity?
  4. Take your time. Transforming your marketing department—from the inside out—into one capable of executing at a high level across the traditional and digital landscape takes time, persistence and patience. I run a pretty nimble organization and it took us four years to get where we are today—and we haven’t crossed the finish line yet. Set one-year, two-year and three-year goals. Break them into quarters, or smaller pieces, and it won’t be overwhelming.
  5. Understand the consequences of inaction. If you don’t do it, the next person in your job will. How patients, physicians, donors, employees, our families and friends consume information has changed forever. They watch TV on their iPads. They fast-forward commercials. They text while they drive. Their phones are a bodily appendage. As marketers, we simply have to connect with them where they live — with the right message, at the right time, in the right place. It’s a daunting job. To do it, we need to master a much larger universe of media options. But the payoff is tremendous. For us, and the organizations we serve.

Jason Brown

Jason is CEO & Chief Strategy Officer of Brown Parker & DeMarinis (BPD), an internationally-recognized advertising agency that is on a mission to make health systems and hospitals the most beloved brands in the world. A pioneer in hospital marketing, BPD works with clients to unlock the power of their Purpose inside and outside their organizations, resulting in highly engaged employees and physicians and dramatically higher brand preference and service-line volumes.

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