Marketing Plans for Hospitals

Ideas are the lifeblood of what we do. Particularly, smart healthcare marketing ideas that work. My colleagues and I have come across some great ones in the last few months at conferences, in blog posts, on social media and via healthcare trades. Problem is, where are all these ideas when you need a little inspiration? Maybe tucked in the back of your head, on some Delicious posts, RSS, bookmarked pages, saved emails, Twitter favorites or a good-old-fashioned, printed-out tickler file. Maybe a little too spread out to be a good resource.

So, here are a few of our recent favorites jam-packed into one post for easy access. From the South Carolina Hospital Association Conference in June 2010 featuring University of Maryland Medical Center’s Ed Bennett and Reed Smith, a consultant for St. David’s HealthCare in Texas (Full recap here and following #smrev) Tell people where they can connect with you on social media every chance you get. Beyond your website, include social media icons in print ads, online banner ads and TV spots – plus direct mail, collateral, health education sessions, registration, discharge, etc.

Develop custom tabs on Facebook for service lines, news, your Twitter feed, etc. UMMC features good web content on an active Ask the Expert tab. Or kill two birds with one stone like Children’s Hospital Boston, which has a Connect tab of links to all its Facebook pages, Twitter feed, YouTube channels, eBooks and more. Consider setting up profiles on user-generated sites such as Yelp, Foursquare and Gowalla so patients and families can integrate your organization in their social media outreach. Imagine them sharing “baby’s on the way” or “headed to emergency surgery”!

(Not so sure? Foursquare just hit 1 million check-ins per day. ) Use Facebook as another outlet to discover powerful patient stories. They often start with one unsolicited comment from a reader. Facebook walls also are good place for employees to see the impact they make in people’s lives. Share examples of what consumers saying about your hospital online, as well as through traditional feedback channels. Remember that beyond connecting, Facebook is good (and cheap) for target advertising. See one hospital’s experiment and results here.

Non-profit hospitals can set up a free call to action to embed on YouTube videos. That could give a big boost to Foundation efforts. To encourage more views on YouTube, include a full explanation with keywords on every video post. Does your organization have its own Wikipedia page? Or hi-res pics on Flickr for the media? Embed e-newsletters and podcasts on YouTube & Podbean for exposure beyond Facebook or Twitter. Ask which social media channels your audiences are using – on exit surveys, class registrations, consumer research, etc – to best target your efforts (and help prove value if needed).

During registration for any event, have staff ask if your spouse would be interested in any topics (and draw them in). Some hospitals are having success offering couples screening packages, especially about cardiac and stroke. During employee orientation, talk about appropriate social media and web use. Outline your hospital’s social media policy in detail. Search Twitter and other social media sites for people asking for physician recommendations and kindly suggest the hospital physician referral services.

(Twitter just surpassed Yahoo & Bing as the fastest growing search engine. ) Lead a social media workshop for board, senior team, top hospital ambassadors and any doubters. From the Georgia Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations conference, May 2010. (Full recap here and following #gshmpr) If you haven’t already, look into a mobile platform for your website. Usually these are completely different sites and maintained separately from the main site. At a minimum, make sure ER & urgent care info is on your mobile platform. Most people search on their way.

Explore greater mobile connectivity with additional options. –E-community has a pregnancy text message program (great for hospitals promoting women’s services). — Northshore Long Island Jewish Hospital has the mobile option to share your location while en route. — Beth Israel Deaconess and Scott White Healthcare have multiple iPhone apps. Some have Blackberry apps due to high physician adoption. Be sure to check which browsers access your mobile site the most. (You may see mostly iPhone and Blackberry but Droid and iPad numbers are rising quickly.

) Other great ideas Orlando Health launched an integrated campaign called “Family Is” and asked patients to submit photos, videos, and statements of what family means to them – via Facebook. The “Family Is e-Scrapbook” has received hundreds of responses so far. The No. 1 Element of an Effective Hospital Fan Page is a custom Facebook URL. Then, direct audiences to your URL. Put it in all marketing like your main site. Think “find us on” or “follow me on” sound self-centered, not patient-centered? Create your own “talk to us” on Twitter badge.

Create employee webisodes for consumer outreach, employee relations and recruiting. Peer-recommended staffers can tell what they love about the hospital. Post across social media channels, then put all videos on a loop to show during career fairs. Randolph Hospital hosted an event at its cancer center featuring five laptops for staff to show unfamiliar patients how to get on social media – to connect with friends and the hospital. In June, the Mayo Clinic launched The Mayo Effect, an ambitious internal communication effort with a twist.

Each face-to-face meeting that leaders conducted opened with an edgy “You-Tube-style” video, followed by a presentation by the CEO (filled with stories rather than lots of PowerPoint) and an open discussion with him. Mayo made these meetings and discussions available to all employees through different media. The CEO also pointed employees to a refreshed website and new blog as the main resources for the details of the plan. Within the first few weeks, 22,000 employees logged on to the website. Of course, this list is just a start. Add your own, and let’s build a great healthcare idea resource.

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