There’s a first question I ask every prospective client on an inquiry call. What would your ideal marketing output be if you had an unlimited budget and staff?
The answer is always revealing. It’s never what the prospect originally intended when we got on the call.
Planning your healthcare marketing for 2023 is complicated. While there are endless opportunities and tools to reach your audience, there are high hurdles and legitimate limitations.
Healthcare CMOs face just some of the following challenges in 2023 marketing planning:
Limited marketing budgets
High staff turnover
Staff who have little time to stay up to date on marketing tools and trends that change daily
Fast-paced, always-on marketing expectations
Explaining all of the above to the c-suite
Reasons 1-4 are why I end up on inquiry calls with hospital and healthcare CMOs in the first place. External contractors are a key part of today’s robust healthcare marketing communications teams. We’re able to fill in when staff are busy, burnt out or quitting. Ideally, we’re able to help healthcare marcom teams before staff get burnt out or quit.
As for explaining today’s marketing challenges and goals to the c-suite, it helps to know your ideal marketing output. This is why I ask what’s your dream team and ideal campaign.
Healthcare marketing forms of content
Let’s break down the major areas of healthcare content marketing in 2023 to easily explain content needs to stakeholders who aren’t marketing experts.
Digital and print copy for healthcare marketing
Copy and copywriting are terms that often are used interchangeably with content writing. However, it’s a different beast. Copywriting features an entirely different form of writing, purpose and process than content.
Copywriting is an essential first step for every new healthcare website or revision. It’s also key to every piece of print collateral that promotes your services.
Definition: According to Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers, “Copy is the words businesses and people use to sell something. And copywriting is salesmanship in print.” Wiebe coined the term “conversion copy.” Most copywriters today learned from Wiebe or someone who parrots her instruction.
Purpose: What makes copy so different from other forms of content is the purpose. Copy is intended to move your audience along the sales journey, through increasing stages of awareness to converting to patients.
Copy is not meant to be clever or creative. And it doesn’t come from the minds of anyone in your organization. Instead, copywriters rely on audience research to write copy. Copywriters will mine your audience and similar audiences of competitors to glean the exact words they use to define the benefits of your services. Once they have those direct quotes, copywriters will plug them into copywriting frameworks. “Add in the awesome,” as Wiebe would say, and voila! If you do this well, your audience should see your website, ad or print brochure and feel like you read their mind.
Copy addresses a specific audience, shows outcomes, offers proof and calls your viewer to action. Key to good copy is testing to see if you got it right.
Audience: Prospective patients or business partners
For years since marketing shifted to digital over print, blogs have been a pillar content format for healthcare marketing. Healthcare marketing teams created hundreds of blogs like “symptoms of a cold vs. flu” and “5 ways to a healthier heart.” These blogs depended heavily on the output of associations like the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Today’s blog topics are typically determined by SEO keywords around the service you offer, seasons, the news cycle and frequently asked questions. An SEO expert will then optimize the content to try to rank higher than your competitors.
Definition. According to Semrush, “Healthcare SEO (or medical SEO) is the practice of optimizing a healthcare facility’s online presence to get more attention and visits from search engine users.”
As SEO has evolved, so too have healthcare blogs. Today, blogs tend to focus on local SEO, competing to rank high for searches “near me.” Churning out a few helpful SEO blogs each month has become standard practice for healthcare marketing teams.
Purpose: SEO blogs help your organization rank locally and even nationally for the key areas of service you provide. They also serve as a bank of accurate and authoritative healthcare information your patients and prospective patients can use to answer frequently asked questions.
Blogs do more than just promote your services. In healthcare, blogs are a community service, helping everyone access accurate healthcare information. A 2019 survey from eligibility.com found that 89 percent of patients will google health symptoms before going to a doctor. That percent likely increased during the pandemic.
The pandemic showed the consequences of having an abundance of misinformation (not to mention disinformation) about our health online. Countering that dangerous content with compelling healthcare content from expert sources helps support healthier people and communities.
Audience: Current and prospective patients, anyone searching for accurate healthcare information.
The nature of working to improve or save lives means that healthcare stories are abundant at most organizations. These stories should be a key component of a healthcare content marketing strategy.
Definition. At the heart of every healthcare profile article is a success story. There are two sources of healthcare profile content: patient stories and staff stories. A robust marketing strategy will include both. The process for telling the two sides is similar, but the purpose is entirely different.
Purpose. When it comes to patient profiles, the main goal is to help prospective patients and their families feel less alone. Health problems can be scary and isolating. Seeing someone face similar challenges and find relief is powerful. These stories showcase your services and quality of care in a memorable way that matters to prospective patients.
Staff profiles tend to boost internal morale and attract new staff. This form of content serves to showcase your team members’ dedication, expertise and day-to-day work.
Audience: Current and prospective patients for patient profiles. Current and prospective staff or staff profiles.
Healthcare Thought Leadership
Thought leadership in healthcare is becoming increasingly common, especially since the pandemic. It’s a key way to build trust in an era where trust is increasingly rare.
The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation in 2021 commissioned NORC to conduct surveys of trust in the U.S. healthcare system.
Key findings included the following:
Trust in clinicians is greater than in the healthcare system as a whole
Physician trust decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic; rebuilding trust is needed
Building trust among patients and prospective patients is not only good for your healthcare business, it’s integral to a healthy society. This makes thought leadership a key component for your marketing strategy and an important contribution to healthy communities.
Definition. Thought leadership is a combination of sharing vision and actual success in achieving that vision. HIMSS explains thought leadership in healthcare like this: “The basic premise of thought leadership is that big ideas can make brands a big or bigger deal to their buyers.”
Thought leadership can include case studies, research and data storytelling.
Purpose: In healthcare, where subject matter experts are plentiful, thought leadership is a powerful form of content marketing. Thought leadership helps your healthcare organization be recognized as an authority in your field. Thought leadership shows that you are aware of relevant trends and advancing research in your field. It adds value around a specific area of research or service without any marketing spin. It elevates patients’ trust, builds loyalty and educates them at the same time.
Audience: Prospective patients, prospective staff (physicians and healthcare leaders) and business partners.
Healthcare Press Releases
Press releases are a stalwart form of content for healthcare marketing communication. A small hospital will send out 2-4 press releases a month to local news sources. A large hospital network will send out a few each week.
Definition: A press release is a short, compelling news item written by a public relations professional and sent to targeted members of the media. A PR professional builds relationships with local and even national news to advocate for their clients’ news items. Having the right PR professional in place is often more important than the news item itself.
Purpose: Press releases help your healthcare organization build awareness among an audience you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. It’s the oldest form of “borrowing other people’s audiences.”
Building a relationship with the local press can lead to more publicity. Once you prove helpful, reporters who need a quote on a healthcare topic will reach out to your organization’s subject matter experts.
Audience: Prospective patients and community members who aren’t already seeing your content.
Brand Journalism in Healthcare
Brand journalism is a newer form of content in the healthcare marcoms department, but it’s becoming increasingly popular. Large healthcare organizations with deeper pockets are using brand journalism for some of the following goals:
Share powerful stories
Showcase thought leadership
Definition: According to rockcontent.com, “Brand journalism consists of a brand using its own media to publish stories about itself and engage readers. It’s pretty much like a company thinking of itself as a newspaper.”
Purpose: Overall, brand journalism is helping healthcare organizations stand out among peers. Why wait for the press to pick up a particular story when your team can write it instead?
Plus, the shrinking job marketing in journalism means there are many talented journalists available to write powerful stories for your organization.
Brand journalism stands in the gray area between marketing and actual journalism. The articles tell the story of your brand in a neutral way. They tend to take a story-first approach and can be supported by sidebars that promote services or answer frequently asked questions.
While marketing is more sales focused by helping your audience come to a decision to reach a specific outcome, brand journalism is focused on connecting with your audience and creating a favorable impression.
Audience: Current and prospective patients, staff, donors and community members.
Together, these forms of content marketing and copywriting can help healthcare organizations reach and help more people.
Let's talk if you need support achieving your content marketing goals.