Are Patient testimonials losing power?

If done well, patient testimonials can work. But more often than not, they’re ineffective and leave consumers feeling fooled.

Part of the problem is that the entire healthcare segment from rural hospitals and nursing homes to free-standing specialty facilities and billion-dollar pharmaceuticals try to use testimonials to make their pitch. Take a look at your recent Sunday newspaper or a couple hours of TV advertising to see just how popular this method continues to be.

I happen to like testimonials for certain aspects, but the message needs to be specific and persuasive instead of being filled with empty blanket statements about the organization or a physician.  Too many times I’ve seen ads where I can tell the hospital struggled to find the “right” testimonial. But when the story comes across as genuine and heartfelt, it absolutely can improve your facility’s image and overall brand scores.

The key is to let the patient explain in his or her own words why he or she is willing to talk publicly about something as personal as health care. Capturing what truly made their experience remarkable is vital to the campaign’s success.

Nearly all of the consumer research I’ve analyzed over the years shows that healthcare consumers are greatly influenced by their friends and neighbors. And although they might be generally skeptical of advertising, the right testimonial can influence their behavior.

Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Skip the voiceover. There’s a time and a place to use a professional voice to deliver your message, but don’t weaken your testimonials.  Part of the reason testimonials work is that they’re real – so let your patients explain in their own words and their own voice why they would recommend your doctor or hospital.
  • Maximize its use. As long as you have the tape rolling – OK, so it’s probably a memory card these days – go ahead and think of other uses for this story.  Perhaps it’s a full-length interview that you post on YouTube and link to from Facebook and your own website. Maybe you pull a clip and make it part of a montage that you use as a tribute on Doctor’s Day or during Nurses’ Week.
  • The more the merrier. You’ve already made the decision to set up lights, hire a videographer and invest in creating a commercial. Think about other future uses for video testimonials.  You might as well try to get as many patients from as many service areas as possible to take part.

Here’s my point: with the right storytellers, testimonial advertising can be influential and bring out a hospital’s true differentiators. Done poorly, however, it’s no more convincing than another new technology or award ad.

By Mike Milligan, WHPRMS district rep and president of Legato Marketing & Communications

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