What does health care marketing and communications look and feel like as: 

  • Governors begin to ease up on stay at home orders in their states?
  • Emergency rooms and ICUs become less crowded?
  • Health systems begin the process of putting protocols in place to expand access, reintroduce service lines and open up to more elective procedures? 

Watch our Campfire Session on Your Post-Pandemic Marketing Strategy. Or read below for key takeaways from our webinar event!

On 5/1/20 three health care marketing leaders from across the country joined Mike and Stephen to discuss: 

  • Communications strategies during the COVID crisis. 
  • Strategies they are putting in place as access expands.
  • What post-COVID planning looks like.  

Guest panelists included: 

  • Annette Calteaux, director of marketing at Winona Health, a health system based in Winona, Minnesota. 
  • Lisa McCluskey, MBA, vice president, marketing communications at CHI Memorial Health Care System in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 
  • Kelly Meigs, MBA, vice president of marketing strategy and planning for Tanner Health System, providing care across west Georgia and east Alabama.

Here is a summary of this session:

With Georgia in the news for being one of the first states to open restrictions, Tennessee lifting restrictions, and Minnesota facing two additional weeks of stay at home orders, the discussion began with a “State of Your State” review. Each panelist shared the number of cases they’ve seen so far, the number of deaths experienced, the stabilization of cases in their systems and testing in their respective states or systems.

Our panel discussed: 

  • The establishment of their command centers, its role in daily meaningful communications to staff, as well as the public, and the role the command center will take moving forward.
  • The data being used to determine the procedures and protocols that will be put in place to protect providers and patients as access to in-office care is restored.
  • Triaging patients through a central call line and using telehealth paired with in-office access for care needs.

Patient fear:

People are afraid to use the ED. They are putting off seeking care until they are sicker. They are also putting off seeking care because they may have lost their job and their health insurance. Lisa McCluskey said that her ED has seen a 40 percent increase in STEMI in the past few weeks. Many cases are due to people not taking medications because they can no longer afford them.

Interestingly, there is a fear of the actual COVID test among patients. Many have seen what can be a painful process on the news. When those seeking higher risk elective procedures were told that they would have to be tested, many elected to wait. 

Provider/Colleague fear:

Some staff are eager to see patients again, while other staff are worried about their safety, the safety of their families and the safety of their patients. The need to prepare staff so that they feel confident about reopening and the cadence of reopening was discussed.

Need for scripting messages:

The importance of scripting messages for staff and preparing physicians (with scripted messaging) to talk to their patients about safety and protocols was discussed.

Biggest challenges

As our panelists’ systems transition from talking about staying home to “we’re still here” messages and then into opening up more service lines, they talked about facing these challenges:

  • Making sure timing is correct
  • Making sure backlogs of patients have been served and access is available for new patients
  • Making sure everyone in the system is on the same page
  • Remaining fluid
  • Listening to what patients and the community are saying
  • Engaging in meaningful ways with patients and helping them get through this new normal


1. Careful messaging must be practiced in all COVID communications. Scripting is critical and our internal and external audiences’ fears and concerns must be thoughtfully addressed.

2. Right time messaging is key.

3. As we move through the crisis period of this pandemic into a new normal, we must transition from a constant stream of communication with staff and our communities to an intentional and consistent mode of communicating. 

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 weekly 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.