In the world of healthcare marketing, we go through phases where certain genres of marketing, specific techniques, and strategies take on a faddish quality. Right now, two areas getting a lot of attention are content marketing and brand journalism. Social media had that same impact years ago when it first came on the scene. Within the industry, there was a lot of focus on social media adoption by hospitals and health systems; although honestly, few were concerned about using social media tools strategically. The initial buzz was more about getting on the bandwagon—with not enough attention given to strategy and supporting the organization’s objectives. Today, we run the risk of making that same mistake with content marketing.
Don’t get me wrong, content marketing is an amazing way to connect consumers with a healthcare brand. From my perspective, the most important thing we can deliver through content marketing is value; and that’s something that is often missing from marketing and advertising. I worry that hospitals and health systems will simply re-imagine content marketing as another way to push out more information about their programs, physicians, and technologies. That kind of program, built around inwardly focused messaging, would be a strategic error. Generally speaking, consumers don’t care about your brand, your physicians, or your technology. What they care about is what you can do for them. How can you improve their quality of life? If you’re going to develop content of value to the end user, you need to answer the so what question: “What’s in it for me?” Think of the consumers with “so what” stamped on their foreheads as they interact with your content. In short, the messaging can’t be all about you; it needs to be all about your target audience and their needs. Great content strikes a chord with the reader, viewer, or listener because it has relevance.
Content marketing needs to be strategic, just like any other element of your overall marketing program. You need to know what strategic objectives you are trying to accomplish, and then develop content that supports those objectives. And speaking of audiences, a strong content marketing program begins with a clear definition of your target audiences. Before you start producing content for a specific audience, get to know that group. Conduct focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and review existing qualitative and quantitative research. That analysis will give you a strategic foundation upon which to build your content marketing program. It is worth noting that only 21.2% of the healthcare organizations using content marketing report having a documented content strategy. (Source: “2017 State of Healthcare Marketing,” Healthcare Insight/True North Custom, 2017)
It’s also important that the content is delivered in a compelling fashion. Think of varying the ways in which your organization delivers it messages. By alternating between the written narrative, video, infographics, memes, blog posts, and podcasts (just a few examples), you can shake things up and find vehicles that work for different individuals with varying information consumption habits. Remember that these are human beings you’re seeking to engage, so make the communication as human and relatable as possible.
Finally, you will want to monitor your content marketing initiative to see what works and what doesn’t, and then make changes to increase the effectiveness of the program. Through trial and error, you will identify the strategic approach that works best with your target audience(s). It should be evident that an effective content marketing program doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience and has to be nurtured. But in the end, all of that hard work, strategic focus, tracking analytics, and attention to detail may potentially pay big dividends for your organization.