COVID-19 has changed everything—including how health care brands connect with consumers. The service line and brand campaigns we planned at the beginning of the year now seem to be from a different era. Everything has pivoted, from the messaging and images we use, to the methods we employ to produce those campaigns—not to mention the speed at which we need to reach consumers.

How do we work around/with the creative constraints this pandemic has presented? How can we continue to create campaigns that contain the right messages for patients right now? How do we remain fluid and fast in this ever-changing new world in which we find ourselves?

Watch our Campfire Session, The Big Pivot: Creativity During COVID-19. Or read below for key takeaways from our webinar event!

Our 6/12/20 Campfire was hosted by Laurie, Deb, Stephen and myself. We were joined by Hailey Sault long-time client and friend, Marcia Bahr, Director of Marketing & Communications, at the Mankato Clinic.

The discussion included:

  • A review of the past three months in health care marketing
  • The whole new list of constraints COVID-19 has presented to the creative process, from brainstorming to producing
  • A look at a campaign to bring patients back to Mankato Clinic that will launch next week

Responding to the new world

Marcia Bahr shared a look back at what she, and probably many other health care marketers, have been dealing with for the past three months.

When the governor of Minnesota shut down the state, and elective procedures and surgeries were halted, Mankato Clinic patient visits dropped 70 percent. The clinic responded:

  • Telehealth was rolled out, physicians were trained on the platform and the clinic got the word out to the community about how to use telehealth.
  • Calls came in about whether or not urgent care was open and the clinic responded with messaging.
  • A respiratory clinic was established and the community was informed.
  • A testing tent went up and so did messaging around when, where and how to get tested.

When the governor opened Minnesota up again and patients were able to return to Mankato Clinic for elective procedures and surgeries, the clinic saw a lot of pent-up demand. Marcia reported that at first patients were slow to return to the clinic, but in the last few days as many as 1,400 patients per day had returned to care, exceeding the clinic’s goal for the re-opening, but putting it 20 percent below its 2020 projections.

Through it all, Marcia’s focus remained:

“How can we assure our community that we are here for them—not just us—but health care in general?”

Playing with a whole new list of constraints

Laurie, Deb and I discussed:

  • Bringing patients back to health care after asking them to remain home for so long means messaging with a whole new set of health care personas in mind. It involves talking about safety and protocols and trust. It also means re-examining your brand positioning, voice and tone to make sure it resonates right now.
  • Evolving strategies and adapting ad creative as messaging changes in real-time is becoming the “new normal” in health care marketing—and it’s happening as we are cut off from our usual way of brainstorming, concepting and creating campaigns.
  • In addition, what we create must be carefully planned to include safety and social distancing protocols, restricted budgets and the ability to work remotely with technology we may be learning on the fly. 
  • For now, the days of production crews filming in hospitals and clinics are gone, as is filming a patient story in someone’s home.

How we’re adapting

Deb and I shared particulars like:

  • Brainstorming remotely
  • Being creative when distractions (dogs and kids) pull you away
  • The challenge of using stock imagery 
  • The hidden beauty behind creative constraints


1. Trust must be established in order for patients to feel comfortable returning to health care.

2. Special care needs to be taken with words and tone—being ever-sensitive to how people are feeling right now.

3. Our old health care personas have evolved during COVID-19 and have new concerns we must address.

4. New ways of concepting and producing campaigns will push our creativity to its limits and many times result in a much better product. 

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. 

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