Awards Awards Competitions Judging Award Competitions

Lessons from Judging Healthcare Marketing Award Competitions

This week I served on the judging panels of three award competitions: Wego Health Awards, the Pelican Awards (Louisiana) and the Maggie Awards (Mississippi). It was an awesome experience that allowed me to review some really great work. In the case of the Wego Health Awards, I got to learn about some amazing and inspiring patient leaders and advocates!

Over the years, I’ve judged dozens of healthcare marketing award competitions. Every time I review award entries, I learn something new or I’m reminded of something important. I definitely recommend serving as a judge – it will make you a better and more thoughtful marketer. You will benefit from the experience.

Competitions that require the hospital to demonstrate the success of the campaign by providing results in the form of a case study are the most interesting to judge. Often the case studies fail before they even get started. Typically, the organization is asked first to list the objectives of the campaign. That’s where it all comes unglued. It is not uncommon at all to find healthcare organizations listing objectives like:

  • “We wanted to promote oncology services.”
  • “The chief of cardiology asked us to develop a billboard campaign.”
  • “Heart disease is a serious problem in the United States so we decided to do this campaign.”
  • “We recently won this award and our CEO wanted us to run some ads.”
  • “We want to build brand awareness with Millenials.”

My response is: “Why?” Why do you want to promote oncology services? What problem are you trying to solve? What challenges are you responding to? And why do you want to build brand awareness with millennials? What is behind that decision? Give me the why!

Throughout the entries, there is a total lack of specificity. Marketing fails if there’s no specificity.

  • Clearly define the objectives! Why are you doing this? What are you trying to accomplish? What strategic business objectives are you trying to address? What do you want the outcome to be? (Increase in patient volume, reverse a negative trend like outmigration, grow brand preference, increase physician referrals for a specific service line or procedure, etc.)
  • What strategic information and data are supporting this decision? The decision should be grounded in data somewhere.
  • What will success look like? How will you measure success? Do you need to build in specific measures that do not currently exist? We need specifics.
  • Who is the target audience? What does their customer journey look like? More importantly, what does their life look like? What is the best way to reach them? How do they like to consumer information? And, why should they care about what it is you’re trying to market? How is it meaningful and relevant? That’s the big “so what” question.
  • What kind of research have you done, or can you do, to learn more about the audience you’re trying to influence or engage?
  • How do you plan to involve the target audience in the development of the campaign? Will you do creative testing? Consumer intercepts? Focus groups?
  • How did insights from your research impact your choices of communication channels for the initiative? How do they fit within the life of the target audience?

You get the idea. Most case studies I read contain none of that specificity.

By serving on these judging panels, I am constantly reminded about the risk of taking shortcuts and the importance of building that solid strategic foundation. I also get to see some really cool work. It’s also a great resume building activity that you can add to your LinkedIn profile. So what are you waiting for?



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