Why optimized marketing and brand operations are more vital than ever for healthcare systems

Why optimized marketing and brand operations are more vital than ever for healthcare systems



“The team has produced so much work in the last four months—that’s a couple of years’ worth of campaigns and efforts that got processed in four months.”

This perspective was provided by Providence’s SVP and CMO Jigar Shah during a recent Modern Healthcare webinar and it really tells the story: As COVID-19 has morphed from a sprint to a marathon, healthcare marketers need to do be able to do more with less. This crisis has created a new long-term normal for healthcare organizations, and they need to build new capabilities to enable sustainable results.

That was a key takeaway from this discussion led by BrandActive partner Philip Guiliano along with Jigar Shah; Amanda Todorovich, Senior Director, Content, Cleveland Clinic; and Nick Ragone, Executive VP and CMO at Ascension. During this webinar, these leaders discussed how healthcare systems are evolving their marketing and brand strategies, including:

  • The impact and opportunity of the rise of trust in healthcare systems
  • Ways they are looking at their internal brand and marketing operations to streamline processes moving forward
  • How they are changing their marketing spend in the short- and long-term in response to the pandemic

Here are some other learnings from this hour-long session.

This is marketing and brand’s moment to shine

Nick Rangone of Ascension noted that this is a watershed moment for healthcare brand marketers and that fact is underscored by the rise of trust in healthcare. The newest Edelman Trust Barometer reports that trust in healthcare has hit an all-time high this year—with hospitals and health systems earning the top spot.

Nick went on to say: “This is our moment to help shine, because we’re storytellers. We tell stories, and we’ve never had a more extraordinary story to tell. Our caregivers are becoming heroes. They’re part of the fabric of their communities. They’re selfless. We’ve seen the images over and over. I think it’s a privilege to be able to tell that story, and we’re using all the channels at our disposal to do that.”

In a time of mixed messages, consumers are looking to healthcare systems and their professionals for guidance on how to deal with the virus as they are seen as the reliable source of information on the virus.

How to approach communications from your health system to the public

The panelists are using a variety of methods to communicate their message to consumer audiences. Common themes are compassion for the general public and appreciation for caregivers.

Amanda Todorovich of Cleveland Clinic said: “We’re really trying to be as empathetic as we can be to the general population. This has been a complete emotional rollercoaster for people. And so, we’re putting out content not just about coming in for care, although that’s obviously an important part of it. It’s also about just surviving this and dealing with the mental health issues that come with it and the boredom that comes with it.”

Nick Rangone reports that Ascension is relying heavily on traditional media including TV, radio and billboards to communicate that “healthcare heroes work here.”

Jigar Shah reports that Providence St. Joseph has partnered with five other west coast health systems on COVID-19 public communications campaigns in a bid to minimize confusion through consistent messaging.

Getting out centralized messages that are regionally applicable

The webinar panelists—all who work for large systems—agreed that system-wide communications were best managed by a central team to produce messaging in a timely and agile way. These central teams ensure consistent messaging across the entire system in order to avoid fragmented or contradictory messaging.

But oftentimes health systems physically cover a vast geography which are in different stages of the pandemic. So how did these marketing leaders manage communications in a way that made sense amidst outbreaks in California but lulls in Idaho?

Jigar Shah emphasized the need to overlay a regional perspective, stating: “We have to make sure that the rapid response team that we put up isn’t just sending out ‘one and done’ messages across all the communities we serve. It’s contextualized, it’s personalized, it’s aligned with the state protocols and governors’ guidance, because otherwise it creates a cognitive dissonance.”

How to find the money needed to fund marketing investments – despite changes in budgets

Given the surging demands on healthcare marketing departments, what is going on with their budgets? Despite having to do more than ever, many marketers will be operating with fewer resources. In a poll taken during the webinar, 47% of the attendees indicated they would have less budget moving into 2021.

(Note: Based on 150 participants in the live webinar).

Despite marketing’s vital role in getting patients back through the door and directly impacting their system’s financial recovery, panelists acknowledged that budgets are very tight. Accordingly, the efficiency of brand and marketing operations is high on their list of their concerns. Panelists discussed the changes healthcare systems can begin making today to maximize speed to market, brand consistency, and resource efficiency. It’s a way to “find the money” during this difficult and critical time in healthcare.

Audience polling also underscored a focus on streamlining operations, with “Current use, ROI, quality and consistency of branded assets” (31%) and “Freeing up marketing resources to focus on strategic actions” (29%) being seen as the areas which would benefit most from a streamlined approach.

While marketers know that they could be working more efficiently every day, quite often, they aren’t sure where to begin or how to find the time to initiate change.

BrandActive helps healthcare marketing and brand operational leaders optimize their team’s everyday activities—from brand governance, marketing processes/workflow design and technology to vendor and agency rosters, procurement management, and more. We provide a data-driven assessment of the current state of operations to identify which areas of potential improvement will deliver the highest impact. These findings are then translated into a roadmap on how to implement a more efficient operational model, including a detailed plan on how to execute with internal resources, or where needed, with help from our experts. The result is repeatable, sustainable improvements in brand and marketing operations that deliver savings year after year as well as an improved patient experience.

How do your company’s marketing and brand operations measure up

Now more than ever, marketers are expected to do more with less. Efficient brand and marketing operations are essential to achieving this mandate. Download a cheat sheet of the five characteristics of an effective brand and marketing operations function.

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To hear the full panel discussion, listen to the webinar here.