Healthcare Branding: Strategies to Drive Performance

Healthcare Branding: Strategies to Drive Performance

Healthcare branding used to mean a new logo or fancy TV spot. Today, healthcare branding now means a measurable and clear reason consumers should trust, advocate and use your brand. Is your brand meeting the expectations of today’s healthcare consumers and standing apart from competitors and disrupters? Read on to learn best practices and key insights. 

Here’s my simple snapshot of the last two phases of healthcare branding, and where we are now.

Snapshot One: Late March 2020. A once in a generation pandemic has befallen the world. United States hospitals have canceled screenings and procedures to prepare for the onslaught of COVID-19 cases. Most health systems stopped marketing and branding. 

Except one: Northwell Health. The health system ran a campaign in late March 2020 called “Information is Healthy, Fear is Not.” The spots and ads were hopeful, determined, and promised the community Northwell Health would stand by them. 

It was exactly the message we needed to hear in the early days of COVID-19. Yet something odd happened. National media and business publications piled on the health system, all saying the same thing: It’s too early. Don’t be so cavalier. We don’t know what to expect with COVID-19. (In other words, “Slow down, cowboy.”)

In Snapshot One, the idea of sharing healthcare branding, at least to the masses, felt hollow, insincere. (Though, let the record show this writer thinks Northwell Health nailed it!) 

Snapshot Two: Early July, 2021. The vaccine roll-out was in full effect. It was a remarkable time of hope and optimism: with the vaccines, COVID-19 might recede to the background. Healthcare systems were busy supporting vaccine efforts and getting patients back in the hospital and clinic for care. 

At the time, we wrote that Engagement is the New Branding.” Patient-consumers wanted to hear from their physicians, hospitals, and care providers: a lot. People had questions. People were still in fear. And people, as we learned, were growing sicker as a result of missed screenings and check-ups. 

Branding, as you know, isn’t an ad, logo, or snazzy outdoor board. Branding is the experience patient-consumers have with your organization and the story they tell themselves about that experience. And in Snapshot Two, consumers wanted to have direct experiences with their healthcare providers. That was where the intersection of consumers and healthcare brands had the most “juice.”

Snapshot Three: Today. Where are we in this pandemic journey? Is the pandemic over? Well, technically, yes. COVID-19 has now become an endemic disease, for better or worse. I’ll let you decide how to timestamp this moment. But I think we can all agree: we are in a different place than we were in March 2020 or July 2021. So what’s the role of branding in healthcare today? 

HEALTHCARE IS AS CHALLENGING AS EVER

Is there an “easy” time to be in healthcare?

I’ve been in this industry for 25 years. I’ve not experienced a time when there wasn’t a crisis or series of challenge points keeping marketers, administrators, providers and clinical teams up at night.

Here’s a snapshot of what we’re currently dealing with (not comprehensive):

  • Recruitment and retention of healthcare workers
  • The rising cost of staffing salaries
  • Provider and caregiver burnout
  • Inflation
  • Sicker patient populations
  • Decline in overall consumer trust for all major industries and companies

A quick scan of these data points might cause you to wonder, “How does branding solve any of these challenges?” Brilliant question. And to answer that, my colleague, Joe Gunderson, Chief Creative Officer, and I hosted a Campfire webinar with three brilliant healthcare marketing leaders to share their perspectives on how branding can drive organization performance.

CAMPFIRE WEBINAR PANELISTS

HOW IS THE STATE OF HEALTHCARE IMPACTING THE ROLE OF HEALTHCARE BRANDING

  • Alan: People have more choices in their healthcare solutions. If your brand is generic, consumers won’t think of you. Disrupters like Amazon already have strong brands. It’s a big miss if healthcare organizations don’t invest in branding. Also, a strong brand attracts great talent, which all healthcare organizations are in need of right now. 
  • Vanessa: A big part of the current branding value proposition is attracting and retaining great employees. Healthcare organizations need to do everything to win over great talent, including having a strong brand.
  • Chrisie: I think of the Jackson 5 song: “I’ll Be there.” We want our brand to meet the moment for consumers and their needs. As needs change, our brand evolves to meet those needs. 
  • Our Take: Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world. Don’t let consumers lump your brand with government entities and other institutions they distrust. Maintain strong brand affinity, which begins with building trust.
2022 Trends Report

MOST EFFECTIVE BRAND TOUCHPOINTS ALONG THE PATIENT JOURNEY

  • Vanessa:  It’s the 1:1 experience between patient and provider/caregiver that is the most important and impactful brand touchpoint. 
  • Chrisie: It’s ironic, because the brand should be consistent and travel throughout each patient’s journey, yet we know each patient and experience is always unique. We want a brand that offers a lasting impression, at every step along the patient journey. 
  • Alan: The physical environment is absolutely essential to a great brand experience. It’s often hard in healthcare to replicate a consistent environmental experience, unlike chain restaurants, for example. But to the extent that we can improve the physical environment, we need to. Curb appeal and the patient experience in the facility matters greatly. 
  • Our Take: Seth Godin nailed the conundrum that marketers face: the elements that deliver the brand experience are often out of our direct control, like patient experience. Yet that doesn’t mean that marketing can’t point the way to what the desired brand experience should be for patient-consumers. In fact, a great healthcare brand becomes the gentle, constant reminder of what your organization’s vision, mission, values and benefit proposition is to all audiences. 

HOW IS DIGITAL IMPACTING HEALTHCARE BRANDING

  • Chrisie: I think of brand as a relationship with our audience: getting to know each other better. We’re using digital tools to help us deliver the right information at the right time, and personalized for our audiences. 
  • Alan: I think of digital as the “brand extender”: helping to extend and build the relationship with our audiences in new ways.
  • Vanessa: Digital tools allow us to ask our consumers how they want to hear from us: what is their preferred way of staying in touch. 
  • Our Take: The pandemic accelerated digital as the number one preferred medium for consumers to engage with brands. If your brand doesn’t “come alive” on digital screens, it won’t resonate with your audiences, who are increasingly digital-first in their content consumption habits. For more insights, check out our article on brand storytelling in the digital age.

HOW DO YOU ENGAGE INTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS TO CHAMPION BRANDING

  • Alan: Constant education with the C-Suite. They don’t think proactively about branding like marketers do, and often are reflexive in their thinking on brand strategy. Schedule check-ins and updates with C-Suite to share “The State of the Brand.”
  • Vanessa: Hardwire the “why” behind branding to address the hot-button issues that the C-Suite is focused on, like recruitment, retention and employee engagement.
  • Chrisie: One of the things I find that is so helpful is bringing all of my vendor partners together for a summit: to share our organization’s vision and goals for the coming year, and how we can all stack hands and collaborate. You’d be surprised at how much collaboration and symmetry forms when you bring your vendor teams together. 
  • Our Take: Those who graduate to the highest levels of organizations almost always are vision-driven: they want to know what’s coming. It’s why they are leaders. Share with your C-Suite a 30,000-foot view of the state of healthcare marketing and branding report. Discuss trends and implications. This way, your stakeholder audience can see the “bigger picture” and are more likely to appreciate your proactive, long-term approach to branding and marketing. 

ONE TIP OR INSIGHT TO CREATE A GREAT BRAND

  • Vanessa:  Make it easy for consumers to learn more, and provide helpful resources: healthcare is full of jargon and it’s our job as communicators to cut out the jargon.
  • Alan: Talk to people. Get a feeling for how your consumers truly think and feel. 
  • Chrisie: Remember, branding starts with us, but it’s not about us: it’s about the consumer.
  • Joe’s Take: Digital media has changed our paradigm on how rigid and fixed brand guidelines should be. Aim for flexible brand standards: brand standards that can “flex” in different digital environments and applications. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Think a strong brand is a nice-to-have but not necessary? Just remember: a brand is a shortcut to a decision. In this highly competitive healthcare environment, with disrupters and start-ups knocking on the door of traditional healthcare’s patient base, you want a brand that helps your consumers make better choices for their care experiences. 

Like being the smartest healthcare marketer in the room? Sign up for Engage, our monthly email digest of articles, resources, and invitations to our next Campfire webinars.

2022 Trends Report

Marketing to Stressed Out Healthcare Consumers

Marketing to Stressed Out Healthcare Consumers

Are you more stressed out today than you were a year ago? Unfortunately, so are your healthcare consumers. For marketers, stressed consumers mean scattered journeys and meeting them where they are. But how? For our June Campfire webinar, we invited Hinge Health and Stericycle marketing leaders to share how they are navigating the new busy, stressed consumer dynamic to drive better marketing performance.

Americans have hit the stress ceiling, impacting marketers’ ability to engage consumers. 

The American Psychological Association reports that Americans have been experiencing the highest stress levels since the organization began fielding its Stress in America survey in 2007. 

Most likely, you’re nodding your head and thinking, “Yep, me too.”

Your healthcare consumers are stressed too. And that has significant implications for marketers and healthcare leaders. 

For our June 2022 Campfire webinar, we invited panelists Sarah Bennight from Stericycle and Maria Kellner from Hinge Health to share how they engage their busy, stressed patient, clinical, and provider audiences. 

Get to the Point

During the webinar, Sarah shared that patients are delaying care because they’re too busy attending to work and life demands. The same goes for B2B consumer audiences. They work long hours to compensate for understaffed departments and increased work demands. That means marketing messages need to cut to the chase. Be brief, direct, and precise with messages, value propositions, and calls to action. Otherwise, your consumers may tune out and move on to the next thing. 

On-Demand Content

Sarah also shared that B2B marketing trends are increasing in on-demand content versus real-time content, such as live webinars. Why is that? It may be due to B2B audiences managing additional work responsibilities as many departments are short-staffed. Sarah terms this strategy “After Hours Content,” meaning audiences consume information and resources outside traditional work hours. Consider upping your on-demand webinars to your portfolio, blog post articles, and podcast content.

Less Flash, More Substance

Maria noted that consumers are turning away from advertising that feels too flashy—a red flag to consumers that they are being “marketed to.” Instead, the marketing campaigns that are getting more engagement are campaigns that feel down to earth and resonate with the stressful realities that many consumers are facing these days.

2022 Trends Report

Scattered Consumer Journeys

We’ve written about patient and consumer journeys extensively at Hailey Sault. Sarah shared that today’s consumer journey looks more scattered: people are zig-zagging, pausing, or delaying purchasing decisions. Instead of expecting linear consumer journeys, plan your marketing campaigns around longer timeframe purchase decisions. In addition, create content that encourages consumers to restart their journeys when they get derailed by life and work demands. 

Make Healthcare Easier

Sarah noted that consumers are basing healthcare experiences on brands like Amazon, which have mastered the art of making purchases easy. What can marketers do? Maria encouraged marketers to meet their consumer audiences where they are, such as by providing more at-home healthcare delivery solutions. Also, collaborate with IT to simplify online user experiences, study your marketing analytics to identify stuck points on consumers’ purchase paths, and reduce the friction with online purchases and conversion points. 

In-Person Events Are Making a Comeback

Sarah noted a recent HITMC survey that shows in-person conferences are now considered the most effective marketing tactic among B2B buyers and marketers. We wrote about our experience at HMPS22 recently and validate this insight. After two years of working from home, it’s thrilling to be back in the room with people. Zoom is great, but it doesn’t match in-person conversations. 

Test, Learn, Adapt (and Repeat)

Maria noted that her fast-growing startup company embodies the philosophy of moving fast, trying new things, and applying those learnings. This formula has two keys to success: access to good-quality data to make informed decisions and leadership that embraces this philosophy. Sarah’s company, Stericycle, founded in 1989, is considered the leader in its category. You’d think Stericycle would play it safe as such a big company. Yet Sarah shared that the organization’s leadership embraces the belief that “We have to do it better.” That belief drives a philosophy of trying new things, learning and adapting. Sarah’s advice to her team is advice we can all benefit from: “Remember, it’s okay to fail.”

Take Care of Yourself

Your consumers are stressed, and you’re probably feeling your version of stress these days, too. So we ended our discussion by sharing what we’re doing to de-stress. Maria’s advice is not to forget you’re a person outside your job: maintain hobbies and stress-relieving activities. Sarah’s advice is to take time each day to find joy and encourage your team members to take time off—and BE off. 

As healthcare marketers, we might not be the ones directly impacting patient care, but knowing our organizations are making a difference helps keep us aligned with purpose. Maria shared that she often views her company’s patient testimonials to give her a shot in the arm when the stress mounts. 

I advise avoiding looking at your phone for as long as possible each morning. Get centered, get grounded, remind yourself of what’s most important to do and get done, and then check your phone. The day’s fires will still be there for you to put out: but at least you’ll be centered and remember what matters most. 

2022 Trends Report

Is Healthcare Branding Making a Comeback?

Is Healthcare Branding Making a Comeback?

Leading health systems are investing in branding campaigns and strategies in record numbers to reengage populations and create new dimensions of loyalty and engagement. But after the steep decline of trust and loyalty during the pandemic, is a shiny new brand campaign enough? 

I keep reading in the healthcare trade press stories of health systems launching new branding campaigns. Melanie Blackman, strategy editor at HealthLeaders, has written extensively of late about brands like Sanford Health, Henry Ford Health, and Northside Hospital launching new healthcare branding initiatives. We’re seeing the same uptick in branding engagements  at Hailey Sault: renaming, rebranding, repositioning, and even reimagining the role of brand in social media are just a few of the projects that our team has been devoted to in recent months. 

Which makes me wonder: is healthcare branding making a comeback?   

Then again, I’m reminded of what hip hop icon LL Cool J once proclaimed: “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.”

During the height of the pandemic, we wrote that Engagement Is the New Healthcare Branding.” Based on our analysis of what consumers wanted from  hospitals and physicians, consumers were leaning into content and communications that helped them navigate their fears and concerns about COVID. At the same time, healthcare organizations were tasked with bringing people back into the hospital and clinic for care. Slick and overly-produced brand campaigns felt tone-deaf at a time when the sense of urgency was to provide clear and open lines of communication with patients who craved news and information they could trust to navigate their health and wellness. 

Engaging patients in real time was the very best way to communicate the brand: by embodying the brand values that health systems desire to be known for. That’s still true today, but there’s been a shift in our industry and among our peers and contemporaries: the realization that the pandemic made brittle the trust relationship between patients and their providers. 

Patient role graphKlein & Partners’ 2022 National Consumer Omnibus Study

At HMPS22, Rob Klein of Klein & Partners shared excerpts from his “Omnibus” study, tracking sentiment among healthcare consumers across the country. Rob shared that trust has declined for all healthcare organizations, including perennial “favorites” like children’s hospitals and physicians. According to Klein, when a brand slips below an 8 out of 10 in the trust index score, the brand is in trouble. No healthcare organization type scored higher than 7.44. 

So is the influx of healthcare branding campaigns an indication that healthcare is in deep doo-doo? 

Maybe so. After all, seasoned communicators know that if the target audience is leaning back, you communicate in ways to invite the audience to lean back in. 

But there’s more to the branding comeback story and why health systems are investing in brand message and brand storytelling.

While consumers have lowered their overall trust in healthcare brands as a whole, those same consumers are making more of the decision of where they seek care than ever before.

Klein & partners' 2022 Omnibus Study graph 2Klein & Partners’ 2022 National Consumer Omnibus Study

In the same presentation, Klein presented data that suggests consumers are making more of their healthcare decision-making independent of physicians. 

2022 Trends Report

According to the study, 40% of patients are choosing healthcare solutions by themselves: without counsel of their physicians. 

If you’ve been in healthcare marketing for longer than 30 minutes, that statistic should shock you.

Physicians have always been recognized as the gatekeepers to healthcare encounters. Yet according to the data, more and more consumers are navigating their healthcare journeys without physicians guiding them. The implication being: if 40% of consumers are making healthcare decisions on their own, then healthcare organizations have a rare opportunity to engage with consumers and influence their decision-making like never before. Cue up the branding campaigns.

But that still doesn’t explain fully the increase in health system branding campaigns. 

The complete answer to the rising popularity of healthcare branding campaigns may have less to do with consumer audiences and more to do with a different kind of highly valuable audience: talented healthcare workers.

The Great Resignation hit healthcare as hard as any industry. Headlines like 1 in 5 Health Care Workers Have Quit Their Jobs During the Pandemic have created a new crisis on the heels of the pandemic. As healthcare executives scramble to recruit and retain great talent, the role of the health system’s brand has taken on a whole new meaning and value proposition. 

That’s why we have written that Healthcare Marketers Should Return to Purpose to Achieve Strategic Goals.” Physicians, nurses, frontline staff and other healthcare employees are understandably burned out. The seismic changes that have disrupted our industry can’t be overstated. In a time of uncertainty, health systems have the opportunity—and the obligation—to communicate and reinforce their purpose, mission and values to employees as well as consumers. These are “stabilizing” virtues. After all, a sense of purpose is an essential driver of satisfaction and meaning in a human’s life—not to mention a leading attribute of resilience.  

As Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP writes:

Research shows that a strong sense of ‘locus of control,’ i.e., an inner ‘can-do’ perspective, is a recognized trait of highly resilient people. (1) It is not that these resilient people don’t recognize the obstacle, it is that they do several things simultaneously including recognizing challenges, maintaining an attitude of realistic optimism and problem solving without fear of failure.

There are many challenges facing healthcare that marketers cannot solve on their own. But what we can do as marketing communications professionals is to share messages that resonate with audiences so that those audiences can make informed decisions: such as where to go for care or where to invest their livelihoods and careers. 

Branding campaigns are no panacea, but great branding and authentic messaging—using the universal impact of artful storytelling—are tools to encourage audiences to lean in, and to act. 

The ultimate power of great branding is the chance to touch hearts. Because when we make heart-based connections, we have the opportunity to invite action. Whether that action is to schedule a physician appointment, finally address a health concern, contact an employer for a job, or to simply be reminded of our own mission and purpose—and to lean in to the hard, but vital work necessary to help those in need. 

2022 Trends Report

Healthcare Marketers: Do You Have a Disruption Mindset?

Healthcare Marketers: Do You Have a Disruption Mindset?

Well, it’s official. The Great Healthcare Disruption is here. 

And depending on who you are (and perhaps what organization you’re with), you’re feeling either:

  1. Nervously excited
  2. Nervously worried

Healthcare has, until just about the day before yesterday, meant hospitals, doctors in white lab coats, and patients waiting and waiting and waiting. But marketing prophets like Rob Klein kept warning us, “Retail is learning healthcare faster than healthcare can learn retail.” Industry scholars like James Gardner have been tracking Amazon, WalMart, CVS and other “non-healthcare” brands and their moves into healthcare, and, like a modern-day Paul Revere, also warned of massive disruption. 

What’s the big deal, you might ask? Those brands are only peeling off primary care and urgent care patients: small dollars to a big hospital.  

That might be true: for now. 

But those aren’t the only disrupters to the conventional healthcare paradigm.

Study these brands and you’ll start to see a bigger picture forming: a picture in which the traditional hospital is uprooted and replaced with something far different, and far from healthcare as we knew it:

Many hospital administrators are admitting that the future is looking very, very uncertain. Consider this headline from a recent HealthLeaders article: Scripps Retiring CFO Says New Thinking Is Needed For An Uncertain Future. 

Are you nervously excited? Or are you nervously worried? Hold that thought. There’s more disruption to speak of before you answer that question. 

After returning from HMPS last week, it’s clear to me: The Great Disruption is here. 

It was my first large in-person conference since the pandemic started. I felt the nervous energy in the air. A great deal of that nervous energy came from the simple fact that most of us have not been in rooms full of people in years. It’s going to take awhile for it to feel normal again. 

Stephen on airplane

Attendees shared with me that being in-person again, after all this time, took getting used to. I posted a photo of myself on Facebook flying without a mask—a novelty after all these years of indoor mask mandates. I love Cynthia Manley’s comment: 

“It’s weird. I met someone new at the recent AAMC GiA meeting and she extended her hand. I hesitated a beat and thought, sh*t, we’re doing this now.”

The novelty of being together in-person contributed to the nervous energy. But it wasn’t bad energy. As Judy Neiman shared with me, people were excited to be together again, after all this time. I agree. 

And that time together led to really interesting conversations. Especially the conversations about disruption. That disruption isn’t just about retail brands coming into the healthcare arena. 

If it were only that simple. 

Think about the disruption involving:

  • Burned out workforces
  • Escalating labor costs
  • Inflation
  • Supply chain

Or how about these “lovely” disrupters:

  • Virtual care as a consumer mandate
  • Mental health crisis
  • Skyrocketing rates of drug overdoses
  • Inequities in healthcare (which has always been there but suddenly—thankfully—being given the attention it deserves)

Not to mention “COVID Brain,” a term Rob Klein coined to describe how challenging many people say it is to think, process information, and to concentrate. (Ask Rob to share the stats: what his research shows of how challenged millennials are these days is disturbing.)

2022 Trends Report

There’s Another Healthcare Disrupter in the Air

At HMPS, I had brilliant conversations with so many people about the need to not go back to “how we did it before.” In the early days of COVID, hospitals set up virtual care programs almost overnight: a feat that would not have been possible without the pandemic crisis. We also quickly learned we could work just about anywhere. Offices are nice, but not essential for marketers and communicators. 

Many of the people I spoke with at HMPS were leaning into disruption: things were broken before COVID-19. It just took the disease to reveal how broken so much of our healthcare system is. 

The appeal I heard over and over again was that we can’t return to how things were before. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “We can’t return to the good old days, there have just been days.”

For many of my colleagues and contemporaries in healthcare marketing, the shared sentiment is that it’s time to be clear on our purpose: as organizations, and as individuals, and to ask fundamental questions:

What is the role of a hospital moving forward?

Why can’t we figure out the ROI in helping people stay healthy and out of the hospital?

Are we working on the right problems?

During the conference, I joined Chris Boyer on a taping of an episode of his touch point podcast with Vanessa Hill, Ahava Leibtag, and JK Lloyd. We discussed the state of healthcare marketing, but also got into a spirited discussion about many of these disrupter topics. (I highly recommend checking out the episode.) 

Touchpoint podcast picture

As marketers and communicators, I think we’re acutely aware of the human condition: which is, in essence, to seek comfort. After the 2+ tumultuous years we’ve experienced, it’s normal, natural, and sane to want to take a break from the big, gnarly challenges we’ve faced professionally and personally. I find myself saying often, “Can I take my foot off the gas for a minute?”

But then there’s that annoying “disruption” element in the air: coming from retail, the healthcare worker shortage,  healthcare startups, consumers, and the economy. And that makes the nervousness palpable. 

It’s Time for a Disruptive Mindset

As it turns out, John F. Kennedy was incorrect. The word “Crisis” in Chinese is not, as he suggested, composed of two characters: Danger and Opportunity. But there’s something valuable in this notion, even if incorrect. 

Disruption means a change to the status quo. And if the status quo isn’t delivering all that healthcare could be, then it opens the door to reimagining. 

And that reimagining often begins with asking really good questions. 

Like the one Tanya Andreadis, Chief Marketing & Vice President Patient Engagement Officer at Penn Medicine asked during a panel session at HMPS. 

The question posed to her was innocuous. Someone wanted to know how to innovate online physician directories. As CMO of a leading health system known for cutting-edge digital strategies, Tanya would know as well as anyone how to finesse physician directories.

But Tanya answered the question with a question. She asked the audience, “Do we even need physician directories anymore?” Tanya went on to talk about how difficult it is to maintain directories while more and more consumers are finding doctors from different online sources. She brilliantly questioned the basic need of a technology that has been the albatross around the necks of countless marcomm departments. 

It was such a simple response from her, but it was telling of the state of disrupters: and the benefits of a disruptive mindset. Isn’t it time we look at what we’re doing and ask if it’s of value? What is the higher purpose and meaning of our work? Should we keep doing things because, quite frankly, we’re on autopilot?

In an age of disruption, it’s time to invite disruptive thinking. Tanya’s question is as good as any to get the reimagining started. 

There are brilliant minds in healthcare marketing who are searching for the next breakthrough and are agents of positive change. I’m blessed to know many. If you know somebody like that, share this article and start a conversation. That’s how all great change begins. 

Shameless plug

Stephen_Matt_Britt

Our team at Hailey Sault had a blast at HMPS and we’re excited to participate next year in Austin, TX. Planning to go? Come see us at the booth or say hello in the hallway. We’re always up for a great conversation. 

2022 Trends Report

Digital Storytelling for Healthcare Brands

Digital Storytelling for Healthcare Brands

In 2022, the average person is predicted to spend 100 minutes per day watching videos.

So as a healthcare marketer, all you need to do is beam out video content to engage and convert prospects into patients and clients, right?

Um, no.

After all, there are 4.6 billion pieces of digital content produced every day. 

So how do you compete for attention and engagement in a cluttered online space?

With digital storytelling: using the fundamentals of storytelling to engage and entice consumers with your digital marketing assets.

Your consumers have felt isolated and alone during the pandemic. Storytelling is the oldest and most effective way to convey truth, meaning and cultivate emotion. 

Your consumers love stories, by the way. 92% of consumers want brands to make their ads feel like stories. 

With one caveat: your consumers want to be at the heart of those stories. After all, they are the hero of your consumer journeys. 

What motivates your consumers these days? What are their wants and needs? What keeps them up at night? What healthcare action have they put off doing that your brand—with digital storytelling—can nudge them into taking the next step?

Throughout the pandemic, our team at Hailey Sault has been creating digital storytelling experiences to get consumers to:

  • Return for annual medical exams and routine check-ups
  • Book appointments with orthopedic surgeons to address sore joints
  • Seek help for eating disorders
  • Address the risk factors for stroke
  • Donate to health foundations
  • Visit specialists to address underlying health needs

Following are a few examples of digital storytelling from our clients.

Dancing shoes text

A tongue-in-cheek way to encourage people to consult an orthopedic surgeon

Social posts on phones

Sample Instagram Stories that leverage digital storytelling to motivate consumers to engage in healthcare solutions

2022 Trends Report

Social ad on phone and image alone

A light-hearted solution to encourage patients to return for care

Two phones with social ads

An example of inviting people to donate to support a health foundation

Creative Storyboard

An example of aspirational digital storytelling

Carousel social ad on phone

Digital storytelling can nudge people to address underlying health needs

The Digital Storytelling Continuum

Whether you are marketing to B2C or B2B consumers, five core principles apply for effective digital storytelling:

  1. Consumer Action
  2. Digital Medium
  3. Digital Platform
  4. Messaging Tone
  5. Visual Strategy

Storytelling Continuum list

  • Consumer Action: at the end of the story, what action do you want your consumers to take?
  • Digital Medium: how does the medium inform your storytelling experience?
  • Digital Platform: similarly, how does the platform inform how your audience is engaging in digital storytelling experiences?
  • Messaging Tone: what is the right tone for your message and storytelling experience?
  • Visual Strategy: how do you want to leverage visual opportunities to enhance the storytelling experience?

DIGITAL STORYTELLING IN ACTION

  1. Make the consumer the hero of the story, not your brand.
  2. Leverage video—the powerhouse of storytelling—in your online vehicles for a compelling digital storytelling experience.
  3. Go beyond expected advertising vehicles for digital storytelling. Explore all the touchpoints of your consumer engagement strategies. Each touchpoint has the potential for a storytelling experience—with your consumers as the hero of those stories, of course.

You know your consumers are online. What do they want and need to hear from you? Better yet: how do they want to feel? Use digital storytelling to create human connection, lift spirits, and align your brand with their wants and needs.

2022 Trends Report

Why Healthcare Marketers Should Return to Purpose to Drive Strategic Goals

Why Healthcare Marketers Should Return to Purpose to Drive Strategic Goals

Watch the 2022 Healthcare Marketing Trends Replay Video

What a couple of years we’ve had!

A pandemic. 

Social unrest and a racial reckoning.

Political divisiveness.

Oh, and a massive upheaval of the healthcare workforce.

Healthcare organizations are seeking a return to stability. 

And that desired stability is rooted in your organization’s guiding principles, mission, and purpose. 

After all, it’s why your staff and providers were first called to their work. 

To help.

To heal.

Even if you’re in marketing, communications, or strategy, you, too, were called to help and heal in your way. It’s why you chose healthcare over other industries. Because you wanted to do mission-driven work.

That’s why to return to stability means returning to your organization’s purpose:

Why does your organization exist? 

What is the change you seek to make, for your patients, customers, and community?

The answer to those questions becomes the rallying cry for unification: a vision that your employees, providers, patients, and customers can agree upon, and take action.

Isn’t it time your staff returned to purpose? To recalibrate their focus and perspective? 

The last two years have scrambled our brains. Living in a pandemic is no easy feat. We’ve made sacrifices. We’ve all known people who have been seriously ill or died due to COVID-19, or have felt the effects of virtual schooling and lockdowns.

It’s time to regroup and return to purpose.

As a healthcare marketer, your gift is communication and storytelling. It’s time to help your organization to heal. Leverage your gifts and help your organization move forward in unity.

2022 Trends Report

Three Steps to Helping Your Organization Return to Purpose

Step 1: Healing

Address the mental, physical and emotional toll the pandemic, and caring for patients, has had on your staff. 

Step 2: Reinspire

Reclaim your organization’s purpose, champion the patient care in your organization, and celebrate teamwork. 

Step 3: Cast Vision

Renew the commitment to your organization’s vision and key initiatives that will support better health for everyone your organization serves.

Masked healthcare worker

 In the early days of the pandemic, your front-line healthcare workers were heroes. They represented safety and protection against the novel virus. 

But as time marched on, those same healthcare workers became burned out. Seeing so many people hurt by COVID-19, and working around the clock, without any relief in sight, impacted them. They went from heroes to victims of the pandemic: if not impacted by the disease, then certainly impacted by the never-ending need to care for others. 

Grief masked healthcare worker

 Marketing can’t provide the necessary emotional and mental health support so many healthcare workers need. But marketing can help communicate the purpose and vision of the organization, and how healthcare workers are instruments of that purpose and vision.

 And why they matter. 

 At Hailey Sault, in addition to our performance marketing campaigns, we’ve also been developing branded stories and messages for our healthcare clients to help their internal audiences return to purpose. 

 Reminding them they are still heroes, even if the media has moved on to the next story.

 Reminding them why they matter and the lives they impact.

 Reminding them of the vision of where the organization is going, and why their contributions are helping to achieve that vision: day by day, patient to patient.

 RETURN TO PURPOSE: IN ACTION 

  • Recommit to brand storytelling. Share your brand purpose as a tool to bridge the divide, and move your audiences beyond the last tumultuous two years.
  • Retain your best talent by reminding them of why they got into healthcare to begin with, and why your organization is poised to help achieve their personal purpose.
  • Create campaigns that cast your brand’s vision for better days.

 We’ve all endured dark days and fears that tomorrow won’t be any better. It’s time to shine a light on what hope and enduring optimism can do for lifting spirits. It’s the only way human beings have made things better: by believing in better.

2022 Trends Report