Hospital Advertising Evolves:
Achieving Results in an Ever-Changing Industry
Curiously, the early history of hospitals and the early forms of advertising in society are both several thousand years old. Think—plus or minus—3,000 to 2,500 BC.
Admittedly, both have evolved significantly over the millennia along somewhat similar tracks. Contemporary advertising and modern healthcare have, in the past few years alone, been rocketed to unprecedented levels of effectiveness by medical science and social technology.
While we can all be pleased with these benefits and growth, it’s also curious that hospitals and advertising are, in many respects, still struggling to become acquainted as comfortable and compatible forces in society.
Not so long ago, the essential messaging of advertising for a hospital was low-key, name-recognition maintenance in the community. That’s seldom the case today. Often lacking the experience and know-how of an aggressive retail business, some facilities still struggle to know what works best and to optimize their Return on Investment (ROI) in a vastly different, more demanding and ever-changing environment.
Advertising messages, target audiences, social media tools and measured results are relatively new challenges for hospitals, where the principal day-to-day issues include:
- Accountable Care Act – At every stop on the spectrum, the nation’s healthcare system continues to reinvent itself… almost on a daily basis.
- Empowered Consumers – The pervasive growth of the Internet and other media advances in society has given rise to patients and prospective patients who are better informed and more actively engaged in their healthcare decisions.
- Patient Experience and Patient-Centered Care – The transition away from a provider-dominated system increasingly presents satisfaction scores, business transparency and user ratings… some of which are closely tied to compensation.
- Competitive Landscape – Individual hospitals and health systems are challenged to capture and maintain market share. Some hospitals are engaged in aggressive advertising “battles” among competing institutions, provider practices and in-store retail clinics.
- Allocation of Scarce Resources – Administrators and hospital advertising executives are constantly challenged to “do more” (wring greater success from) the same resources. Many hospitals have committed large budgets to their advertising plans. At the same time, the demands on these resources—for promoting service lines, attracting new patients, supporting off-site facilities and providers and maintaining brand awareness—continue to increase.
How hospitals can achieve better advertising results…
Above and beyond the well-known fundamentals of institutional advertising, many hospitals continue to climb the learning curve. An effective, results-driven advertising plan will leverage these important considerations:
- Traditional media advertising plays well with digital media – To listen to industry buzz, it’s tempting to think that traditional media—print, direct mail, television, etc.—has been eradicated by the youthful and online options such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, websites, content generation and the wildly popular forms of social media. In fact, one solution is rarely the answer. A well-tuned advertising plan will integrate the strengths of both traditional and digital media.
- Follow your target audience(s) – The changes in healthcare are tightly connected to how the consumer (patient) is changing, where and how they find medical information, and their provider- and hospital-selection process. To be effective, hospital advertising must adopt flexibility, adapting to changing habits, dynamic lifestyles and new attitudes of the intended audience groups. Media selection is part of “fishing where the fish are.”
- Step away from your comfort zone – Marketing-savvy hospital executives are often open-minded and willing to test new advertising territory. Institutions (such as hospitals), however, are often more deeply entrenched in familiar ways and thus are less flexible about moving out of their comfort zone. What’s more, it can be difficult to build consensus among a population of physicians, staff members and thought leaders.
Patient groups are not strangers to change, new ideas and new means of communication. And, to keep pace with them, growth (and the success of new advertising ideas) requires a willingness to test and apply concepts, even when they are outside of well-worn comfort zones.
- Medicine is a profession, but healthcare is a business – There is no stronger evidence of success than proven, quantifiable results. Navigating the dynamics of near-constant change, winning support throughout the organization and achieving positive cultural changes are the products of carefully documented Return on Investment (ROI). Specific, business-oriented results are the measure of success in hospital advertising.
By definition, advertising is the professional and compelling application of targeted campaigns that effectively market your brand and achieve specific, measurable goals.
For related reading see
• Our Hospital Marketing Page.
• An article on Qualities of Exceptional Hospital Marketing Consultants