As health care audiences search for a calm, reassuring voice in the storm of COVID information, they are increasingly going online to find dependable, trusted sources of information. And as they do, connection needs to be the mainstay for health care brands. 

A consumer sentiment poll Hailey Sault conducted a few months ago revealed that 93 percent of health care consumers want regular information about COVID from their hospital, health system or physician. 

Our poll also found that health care consumers felt their local provider was one of the most trusted sources of information about COVID.

Watch our Campfire Session, Bringing Doctors into the Digital Marketing Landscape. Or read below for key takeaways from our webinar event!

On 08/07/20, Mike, Stephen and I happily welcomed back one of our Campfire favorites—friend, client and three-peat guest—Katie Johnson, VP, Marketing & Communications for Lake Region Healthcare.

We took on the topic of digital connection, especially for rural hospitals. Our discussion touched on:

  • digital marketing in the COVID era
  • the use of traditional and digital media mixes
  • the political pressure in small markets to use traditional media
  • digital strategies for rural markets
  • how dashboard reporting can empower marketers
  • some Instagram strategies 

Jumping into digital with both feet

It’s no secret that I admire Katie and the job she does. She is innovative, thoughtful and resourceful. And, as this COVID crisis became a reality, she embraced an aggressive content plan to provide the information her community needed.

She also rallied her physicians and providers to create videos to share with the community that answered all types of questions about COVID and provided ways to cope during the crisis.

“We had a commitment early on to be where people were talking about COVID and to positively contribute to those conversations. Very fortunately, we have an engaged group of providers who’ve been part of our incident command structure from the beginning. They provided us with credible voices to lend to the conversations and that has made all the difference.”

Because of her actions at the beginning of the crisis, her community continues to embrace the hospital’s efforts and its physicians and providers. Those same physicians and providers figure prominently in a new campaign we shared with viewers at the end of the Campfire session.

See what's working

Traditional and digital: The politics of media in a small community

Two years ago when we started working together, Lake Region Healthcare was making a shift to becoming a more data driven organization. As a result, it was reevaluating its media spend. Katie explained:

“We were very heavily invested in traditional media at the time. Doing a little bit in digital, but not a lot and realizing that we were probably missing some audiences, for one, and number two, missing out on the data that comes along with utilizing digital channels.” 

Katie experienced pushback from stakeholders with the shift away from a more traditional media mix to a more digital mix. Many felt their patients weren’t on social media and that if they themselves weren’t seeing a campaign on more traditional media, it didn’t exist. In answer to that she gently informed them:

“I can’t think of a single service line, honestly, that at least a portion of the target market isn’t online someplace. Maybe they’re not on Facebook. Maybe they’re not on Instagram. But they’re reading, researching, listening to music.”

We also discussed the cost of omission from traditional media in a small market and what that may say to audiences and stakeholders. We talked about the need to sometimes make that investment in traditional media even if the return on investment can’t be measured in dollars and patient acquisition numbers.

Personas, Dashboards and Empowerment

We discussed how empowering the use of human centered personas are, especially in combination with dashboard reporting, and how they give us the ability to: 

  • understand our target audiences 
  • find them where they are 
  • connect with them
  • inspire them to take action 
  • collect data on how our campaigns are working
  • report to stakeholders on our successes

Katie told us:

“It gives you that real life data, but it humanizes it. It’s not just numbers and graphs and charts. It’s a person that you can relate to—what they’re thinking, how they behave, where they’re spending their time. Humanizing that data in a way people can relate to it is definitely great ammunition in showing why and how we need to invest in digital channels.”

She also said:

“Dashboard reporting has been invaluable from the perspective of always being at the ready to answer anybody’s questions—from the CEO, to the doctor, to the board member—about what we’re doing and how it’s performing. It also allows us to make better decisions and be more nimble.”

“Numbers don’t lie. We are accountable to them and we act based on them. Dashboards are both empowering and they lend credibility to myself and the marketing department in general.” 

There was so much more we covered: 

I encourage you to watch the session to view: 

  • our latest campaign effort with Katie 
  • see dashboard reporting in action
  • learn what we have planned for Instagram in the coming months


1. Human connection is key.

2. More people than ever are online. Data Hub–curated research reveals that 50 percent of Americans report they are online more now than before the pandemic. 

3. Health care audiences are looking to local, trusted sources of information.

4. Digital channels are the place to make solid connections.

5. Human centered personas and dashboard reporting are effective and empowering.

We’re in this together

As we think about this time we’re in, now more than ever, we need ideas, insights, and community. We hope our Campfire Sessions are providing the conversations you are craving about the issues and opportunities facing your health care organization and its leaders. 

Make sure to sign up below to receive invitations to future Campfire Sessions and links to past Campfire Session recaps.

Mankato Recovery Campaign info