Crisis Communication Post-Pandemic Plan

10 Tips for Healthcare Marketers Immersed in this Pandemic

Right now, my team and I are in the trenches dealing with this pandemic. This list of marketing tips comes from what we’re seeing as hospitals and health systems struggle to keep up with the demands placed upon them. I want to give a shoutout to my friend Ahava Leibtag who hosted a great webinar earlier this week: “Healthcare Communication During Coronavirus.” Her no-nonsense approach to content marketing during the pandemic affirmed many of my opinions. Needless to say, I think she’s brilliant! After sitting in on her webinar, I returned to this blog post with a renewed sense of purpose.

  1. Pause all non-COVID-19 related advertising and content marketing. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve learned not to take anything for granted.
  2. Believe it or not, it is okay for your Development Office or Foundation to be reaching out to donors. I’ve seen several organizations do this in a very tasteful and appropriate manner. Messaging: “So many people and organizations have reached out asking how they can help. We are so grateful for your support and willingness to help. Please rest assured that you can help, and make a genuine difference to our patients and their caregivers in the challenging times ahead…” An email to donors at this time is perfectly appropriate.
  3. Update your social media channels daily! I just did a review of hospital and health system Facebook pages and I was astounded by the number of pages that hadn’t been updated in a week or two. Whatever you are sharing on your COVID-19 Resource Update page you can be sharing on Facebook. Many people will go to your Facebook page first. Your constituents are hungry for information – particularly information that is relevant to their community – and a neglected Facebook page sends all the wrong messages at a time like this.
  4. When possible, keep your information for the public simple and clear. Use bullets. Provide bite-sized pieces of information. Don’t bury important messages in paragraphs of text.
  5. Use human speak rather than medical speak when communicating with the public and your employees. In general, be human in your tone rather than matter of fact (straight forward, unemotional). These are tense times and a little humanity will go a long way. It’s okay to recognize in your messaging that people are feeling anxious and uneasy. We look at data every day regarding the number of new cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths by state. We need to remember that these numbers represent human beings. We should also take the time to explain complicated terminology. Don’t assume the language we use every day means anything to our constituents. We call this “translating English into English.”
  6. Celebrate your employees publicly! Without a doubt, they are kicking butt right now. So celebrate them through social media posts and any other means at your disposal. Please don’t forget to celebrate all your employees, not just doctors and nurses. The people in food services, patient transportation, and environmental services all deserve a shoutout. Many of them are fearful in light of this pandemic and continue to come to work despite their fears. Others are afraid of losing their jobs as hospital services are scaled back with the elimination of non-emergent and elective procedures due to COVID-19.
  7. One internal marketing opportunity is to quickly develop a campaign that educates employees about the conservation and appropriate use of PPEs. Many employees use PPEs inappropriately and unnecessarily out of fear and a lack of good information. They need to know when PPEs are required and when they are not. A poster campaign inside the hospital could make a real difference. We’re doing this for clients and modeling it after patient safety and hand hygiene campaigns we’ve created in the past.
  8. Have key employees create brief video diary entries using their cell phones. You can ask them to address specific issues that need to be addressed through your communications. They could talk about how inspiring their colleagues are; their fear of running out of PPEs (its okay to be real); the very real need for local companies to donate PPEs; how important it is that people practice social distancing; etc. Then you can take those brief diary entries and edit them together into compelling compilation videos. They will be authentic, credible, and raw. Importantly, they will feature your people! They are the heroes.
  9. Don’t use scary graphics when you create content about your organization’s response to COVID-19. My friend Ahava Leibtag made this point in a webinar I attended yesterday. She was right on the mark! People are already stressed out and anxious. Instead of using the same old images of coronavirus molecules, consider more positive and human images that speak to healthcare without being frightening.
  10. This may seem impossible but begin planning for your post-pandemic marketing.There will be pent up demand in your market and your organization will need the patient volume and associated revenue to help salvage the year. I’ve seen numbers that point to the potential for hospitals to lose around one-fourth of their projected annual revenue during this crisis. Taking a month or two to ramp up could be costly. Now is the time to challenge your team members and your agency to begin looking forward. If you had campaigns or initiatives in development before this crisis hit, try to keep them moving forward so they’ll be ready to launch when we’re on the downward slope of this event. Once this is over, you will want to pivot quickly to launch marketing that brings patients back to your hospital and clinics. Ideally, you’ll have it lined up and ready to go.

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