If you talk to people the way advertising talks to people, they’d punch you in the face ~Hugh MacLeodon Marketing Speak.
Healthcare brands have typically arrived late to the content marketing bash. That’s why they’re not always sure how to participate in social media conversations. The first stumble happens when they attempt to engage before identifying their audience’s content needs and thus end up with a conversation that is irrelevant right from the start.
Here are six elements of engagement (defined in theRazorfish Liminal Report**) to help healthcare brands understand their audiences’ content needs:
Consumers say that “feeling valued” or appreciated is the most effective way for organizations to engage with them. The problem for healthcare brands is their one-sided approach to both offline and online interactions, which are designed to promote the brand rather than show a sincere desire to help.
Healthcare brands can change this perception by:
- Showing empathy by creating content that solves patient-consumer problems.
- Listening to consumer complaints and frustrations about healthcare and providing answers even when questions are not specifically about your brand. Here’s a great example – Healthcare Napkins by Dan Roam
- Adding a personal touch to conversations. e.g. telling stories that patient-consumers can identify with, inviting customers to share their own experiences etc.
- Making your website welcoming to first-time visitors. e.g. add a section that asks “New Here?” and then link it to a page that answers questions about your brand, team, and services.
Most patients experience long wait times at doctor’s offices and hospital lobbies. The message sent is that healthcare brands do not respect their customers’ time, and unfortunately this reputation permeates to online interactions as well.
Medical offices that offer online registration or other forms so that patients (and their families) spend less time in the waiting room reflect efficiency and respect and in turn earn their patients’ support. e.g. CHADIS is a web-based screening and diagnostic system, which my kids’ pediatric office uses and saves me a ton of time at every appointment.
Brands can display brand efficiency in their content by:
- Responding promptly to customer comments, inquiries, and questions both off and online.
- Having a website that expedites the registration process for office visits.
- Creating mobile-friendly content so that patients can check directions or register on-the-go.
- Eliminating cumbersome steps, duplicate information requirements, and any information that might cause user friction e.g. social security number.
Patients want to know that their information will be kept private, that their doctor will deliver accurate advice, and that their engagements will be handled discreetly, and honestly. Additionally they don’t want to be ‘sold to’ but rather to be helped with their pressing problems.
Healthcare brands can reflect trustworthiness in their content by:
- Reducing the number of ads on their websites.
- Showcasing customer success stories of recovery and restoration.
- Giving away plenty of free, useful content such as health-tips, nutrition advice, information about contradicting drugs, and fitness routines.
- When something goes wrong take the opportunity to apologize publicly (if appropriate) through social networks or blog.
Patients trust their doctors when the same experiences that they’ve come to know and trust are repeated and reinforced. These experiences include everything from attitude to policy and behavior.
With healthcare brands trust is the most significant element of engagement so that when consistency is broken then trust is jeopardized as well. e.g. An OB/GYN practice that brands itself as ‘women taking care of women’ should never introduce male personnel into its ranks or risk violating the trusted relationship it enjoys with its clients.
The important thing to remember with consistent messaging is to ensure that whatever you communicate in word, print, or digital does not clash with the actual customer experience.
Patient-consumers live in their own little ‘egosystem’ where the only thing that matters is their problem and how you can solve it. Any kind of content that deviates from that point is irrelevant. Hence ‘mass marketing’ or any generic attempts to spark engagement will likely fall flat.
Healthcare brands can inject relevance into their content by:
Providing content that is highly targeted to patient-consumers, and designed to make an emotional connection and subsequent click to action. e.g. This billboard by the US government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality targeted men who ignore doctor visits for preventative conditions – the ad ran through Men’s Health Week (June 13 – 19) and on Father’s Day (June 20).
While control is not a major element with healthcare audiences, the idea is that patients (and healthcare consumers) want to retain control of the conversation by agreeing to receive your content (e.g. opting-in to newsletters), deciding the frequency of content, and knowing that they can opt-out whenever they want. However, if they trust your brand then control ceases to be an issue.
(**It is worth mentioning that while the Liminal report is industry-agnostic, it is just as relevant to healthcare although some elements of engagement are more pertinent than others. e.g. trust)
The purpose of any brand message is to touch people personally so as to induce an action. When healthcare brands focus too much on their mission and not as much on the patient-consumer they risk creating a message that falls on deaf ears. It is important that healthcare brands understand the consumption needs of their audience before any attempts at engagement are made.
Over to you: Which of these 6 elements have you (knowingly or unknowingly) used to increase engagement with your readers?
***This article was first published on Radian 6 blog on September 5th 2012.