LIST: Biggest, most eye-opening take-aways from the annual conference

On October 4 and 5, I had the privilege to attend the Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations & Marketing (WHPRMS) annual conference at the prestigious Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake. Over 150 public relations and marketing professionals from hospitals, clinics and other health care communicators from all over Wisconsin came together to jam-pack their brains with new innovative strategies to market their organizations, product/service lines, physicians and retail services.

Biggest, most eye-catching take-aways from Annual ConferenceFor those of you who could not attend, I compiled a bulleted list of the biggest, most eye-opening (in my opinion) nuggets of information from all nine of the sessions in two days. I hope you enjoy.

Keynote speaker: Gary Mueller, executive VP and creative director, BVK, founder of Serve Marketing “The New Brand Reality: How Micro Campaigns are Changing the Way Brands Market Themselves”

  • Micro campaigns do not look like a traditional/conventional campaign. They range from a run-time of one day to a few weeks. They are highly targeted, provocative. They usually have a high social media value.
  • Why are micro campaigns successful? Because adults are just like kids. We need to think that way. We have short attention spans, we don’t wait to see an ad, we don’t like to be told what to do, we’re curious and we like to be entertained.
  • Gary says: “Don’t forget to reward your audience for their attention.” The best micro campaigns offer a guessing game, allowing the viewer or listener to fill in the blanks.
  • More keys to micro campaigns: think small; “narrower your audience the better change you have them to move to act.” Micro campaigns narrow it down for the viewer or target. For example, a Sioux Falls health system helped spearhead a micro campaign where they actually performed a digital rectal exam while they were hosting the 6pm news. The strategy: if you can show someone how quick and painless it is to get the exam, it would take away any of the stigma men have. Plus, it was a free spot, considered PR.
  • Behave less like a company and more like a person. If you want to inspire, you have to talk on their level. For example, Gary says to try out new campaigns on your kids and have them test out your ideas. Southwest Hospital did this and asked how they would run an ad to reach men to get a colonoscopy. It was one of the single most successful micro campaigns – 49% increase in screenings!
  • Warning for micro campaigns path: despite being so cool, they are time consuming. It takes a lot of PR time and not everything will be a home run. But Gary says playing it safe is the same as being invisible. Try it out and don’t let budget be an excuse.

Session speaker: Kim Fox, VP, Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc.Communications colonoscopy: Conducting an audit that won’t hurt a bit”

  • What is an audit: it’s a thorough, systematic report and snapshot in time of your communications performance in a specific time. What does it answer: your goals and if it’s working. Kim says we MUST do these when necessary because we don’t have the time, energy or resources to be wrong. We can’t afford it.
  • A communications audit should be conducted every three years. Also conduct an audit before you launch a big campaign and after – it’s a good survey tool. Such as a branding campaign, certificate of need campaign, merger or change in leadership.

  • Big take-away from Kim: Instead of being an order taker, we need to take charge and say “lets talk about your accomplishments – then work together.” Stop being an order taker TODAY!
  • Steps to a communications audit:
  1. Determine key areas to be audited and scope of audit. Decide to do the audit and then decide who is going to own the process. We always put out fires, so accomplishments don’t always get done. Make someone drive the audit.
  2. Choose research methods and your materials. Kim says this is the painful part. She advises to compile all of your stuff like your strategic plan, marketing plans, budget plans, financial plans, past surveys, advertising, all collateral, all fliers, newsletters – earned medias, even photos of your signage. Get your graphics branding books. Then, evaluate. It will be an eye-opening experience. And it can be embarrassing.
  3. Ask the right questions: Who are you trying to reach, are the messages consistent, are they different than competitors, do the messages ring true, are they in sync with your employees, does the media know us what we’re really about? Is what I’m doing making people think or act in a certain way?
  4. Actual audit begins in this step: Interview your internal stakeholders such as your employees. If your employees don’t agree, you have a HUGE problem. Talk to everyone – get deep. Go to housekeeping, nurses, accountants, and techs. How do they hear about stuff – good or bad? Ask them to state the 3 sentences they say when people ask them about their job or where they work.
  5. Survey your community; talk to your customers; step outside of yourself
  6. Then, after you do the audit, identify areas for improvement. Put together a plan: tackle no more than 5 things. Because you can only do so much really well. So much more effective than doing 20 things so-so.

Session speaker: Ben Dillon, eHealth Evangelist, Geonetric and Anne Bogen, digital services director, Dean Clinic “Mobile Success: How Dean embraced mobile and reaped rewards”

  • Dean Clinic recognized the rapid growth of mobile use and determined created mobile applications for MyChart and its main website.
  • focuses on the following functions for its applications: full provider directory, full location directory, link to MyChart, individual insurance quoting options and other information.
  • Dean was the first to launch the iPhone application for MyChart through EPIC Systems. The main goal was to drive overall awareness, drive downloads of the app as well as generate sign-ups for MyChart, create a sense of pride.
  • Results of the application launch: 2,803 patients signed up for the application in the first month. Dean now has 5,665 active app users. 10,000+ new sign ups for MyChart in general. Dean (unexpectedly) has 36.9% of active patient panel using MyChart.
  • Dean sees more tablet mobile users versus phone visits to their website. Therefore, their teams are now focusing on responsive design and mobile.

Session speaker: Becky Swanson, divisional director, marketing communications, Sacred Heart Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital; Mike Scholtz, associate creative director, H.T. Klatzky & Associates “Unscripted: Using the documentary filmmaking approach to breathe truth and life into your brand story”

  • Prepare your questions ahead of time. It’s about shaking the narrative. Ask questions like: How would you describe, tell me how you feel. … But don’t be a slave to your prepared questions. Mike says the questions are as close to scripting as you can get. It needs to be free flowing and it needs to be genuine.
  • Mike says “Do be a dummy.” He came to realize that asking the dumbest questions get the best answers. Such as: “Why did you deserve to get cancer?” “Why did you get cancer?”
  • Let your subject do the talking. Don’t be afraid to let them tell it in their own words. “Oh and um.” Leave those verbal ticks in the story. Mike says that can really help the viewer know it’s real and not a script.
  • Ask for the nickel tour: ask them to give you a tour of the place they are in. Have them tell you of why they like to work there or their favorite part of the department or place they live. It also puts them at ease.
  • Shoot as much b-roll as you can. A classic example is a doctor and child playing with a stethoscope. Mike says you always need more film. “If you do corral someone – such as a physician and her patient, amuse her and ask her about health tips.” You can get different videos out of something you never even thought you could get. One video can get you a commercial, 2-3 health videos and a doctor intro video.
  • Don’t skimp on the budget: figure out where you can target your money to give you the biggest bang for your buck.
  • To what end? How do you measure ROI and results: national research association as survey à asked for preference for care in the community. Looked at market share – dropped and only a slight 11% market share increase. It shows us that we connected with people, were top of mind and created a return! Surgical oncology campaign.

Session speaker: Daniel Listi, FACHE, AVP, growth and sales, Valley Baptist Health System “The collaboration if health care marketing and physician relations”

  • Cost reduction and efficiency is key in our current and future environment. Senior leaders must set clear goals and engage the organization as a whole to reaching established milestones. Physician alignment is critical.
  • Marketing needs to be tied directly to operations; with ROI guiding future budgeting, not past spending. Campaigns should be tied to regular leadership meetings to create marketing awareness system-wide.
  • Physician versus consumer focus; a collaboration of health care marketing and physician relations. Tie the spend to the initiatives. Create an on-boarding plan to share with new physicians with focus on community awareness and physician relations building. Hire a physician liaison to round with physicians to assist in building referral patterns and increased volumes. They are also critical in learning and understanding where the operational barriers are. (Marketing never looses volume, operations does)
  • Marketing should focus on growth and sales, although not all volume is good volume. Hospital-based initiatives should take into account the contribution margin (level of investment) in the right payor mix.

Session speaker: Justin Rodriguez, director of CRM, Vanguard Health Systems “Fundamentals of CRM”

  • Relationship building is going to be a big part of this CRM (customer relationship management) mix. To build relationships, we must understand and align our audiences and facilities.
  • Stop the black holes – or lost opportunities. Technology is a tool, not a hand. Think about what are you trying to do? Justin says to stop “doing” for people, start strategizing. So how is CRM developed in a strategy? We are no longer taskmasters – we need to be leaders, get the list developed. We should ask ourselves often: WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO DO?
  • Hospital marketers now need to think of themselves as profit generators.
  • Casinos do a great job with CRM: they entice their high rollers. They take Equifax data – other credit companies, they track gambling habits – where you eat, spend time and then spend money on targeting those behaviors.
  • Barnes and Noble is another example of successful CRM because they offer member benefits. Every time you purchase a book they keep you in their system based on your buying pattern. Then, they recommend books.
  • Justin says CRM can be “kind of creepy.” Mainly because it feels like the marketer is actually in the mind of the audience. Example of CRM gone bad: Target sent an email to potential moms – used CRM to target people based of their buying process – color of rugs she looked at, bought blankets, baby powder, and even cleaning products. It backfired – people found out that they were profiling. Horrible way to connect. Do not point out problems or issues.
  • Understand your customer audience. Who are you talking to? One marketing piece cannot to do the job. Always cross-market with other ways to advertise.
  • CRM needs to be a culture fit and an extension of your marketing department.
  • CRM process and group needs to be owned by marketing – not information systems, data people or other departments. They don’t understand the patient decision experience.

Session speaker: Mike Milligan, president, Legato Marketing & Communications, Jaime Collins, director, Southwest Health Center, Platteville “Big ideas for small hospitals”

  • Small hospitals need to distinguish themselves through marketing. Small hospitals have to “out-creative” larger hospitals with larger budgets.
  • Think outside-the-box to connect with the consumers and get them to respond to a call to action. Demonstrate big results with marketing and advertising creative ideas.
  • Develop a sound marketing strategy using three steps: 1) planning and prioritization, 2) creative process and 3) evaluation.
  • Differentiate yourself, instead of trying to keep up with other hospitals.
  • Remain focused on your strategy; don’t let the competition drive it.

Session speaker: Chris Bevolo, president, Think Interval “Turn your marketing upside down”

  • We need to change how we market our hospital brands with “radical ideas.” (See below)
  • We need to stop pimping ourselves. Such as promoting the chest pounding idea that we are the best. Like: board certified, we care, awards and rankings, quality outcomes, cutting-edge technology, new and improved facilities.
  • Example: Chris asked the audience to name a few brands for refrigerators. That was easy to do but when asked what companies had the best financial gain, best technology, etc., we don’t know. Same with health care: the average patient is not in the market for health care, so they don’t care about your new da Vinci or award.
  • 25% of people at any given time are looking for health care services and 75% are not. Consumers pay attention to what is relevant to them because there are too many other messages competing for their attention. Only 3% of all the messages we see are actually absorbed.
  • Our biggest challenge in health care marketing is that the average consumer isn’t thinking about us or shopping for us until they need us.
  • Banish the billboard! Advertising should be a means to an end, not an end to itself. Chris says to think engagement over awareness, connect today for when they need you tomorrow, make appropriate calls to action, actionable conversations are best and know about CRM. Websites should be the center of your advertising. Consumers always go online for health information – they need to be interactive, mobile and search available.
  • Don’t listen to your customers. Seems silly when you think about it but Chris says buyers are liars. For example, studies show that if you ask people what channel they watch most on TV, they will say PBS – but in reality, 60% of those people are watching WWF.
  • Chris says focus group to find out what your customers need and want is flawed. They are “notoriously unreliable” because we’re basing marketing decisions on misleading consumer research.
  • Redefine your big idea: We focus too much on taglines and slogans when we should be focusing on the complexity of the idea and think beyond the tagline.

This post was researched and written by Trish Skram, media/public relations specialist at Mercy Health System. Feel free to connect with Trish Skram on her Facebook page at Trish Skram “PR Gal” or on LinkedIn.

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