Whose brain do you pick for empathy, inspiration and insight into the industry you work in? At Hailey Sault, we have the privilege of working with some really smart healthcare marketing VPs, directors and managers. Together, we have navigated so much: competitive challenges, changes in leadership and business goals, adjustments in budgets and staff, health plan disruptions, new trends in consumer behavior and preferences—you name it. Amid all the challenges and changes, including the ever-growing arsenal of technological marketing tools, we’ve had some resounding successes.
That’s why we asked for a peek inside the world of a few of these stalwart professionals:
- Becky Swanson, former Division Director in Marketing Communications at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
- Kris Olson, Vice President of Physician & Professional Services for Essentia Health
- Jessica Minor, Marketing Manager at St. Croix Regional Medical Center
Hear what three leaders with 70+ years of combined healthcare marketing experience have to say about the past, present and future of our industry.
What brought you to healthcare marketing at the beginning of your career?
Becky Swanson: Happenstance. But once I was in healthcare marketing, I knew it was where I wanted to stay. Connecting people to the care and services they need for a better life is an exciting and humbling experience.
Kris Olson: I was working in an ad agency in central Minnesota with a hospital client. I loved that what we were doing could be life changing for the people we reached.
Jessica Minor: I always enjoyed health care and wanted to be a part of a system that helped people at their most vulnerable or happiest moments. I started in staff education but was working closely with the marketing and public relations department. The more I worked with them, the more I realized that this is where I belong and where I wanted to really push my career.
What has changed the most since those earlier days?
Becky Swanson: The biggest changes have been the payer system and physician alignment. This has changed our primary audience. Another impact has been the internet and the sophistication of our patients and potential patients.
Kris Olson: Access to information is completely different. The consumer is much more educated due to social media, websites, etc. In some ways it is harder to navigate the myths out there and in other ways it is easier as you can pinpoint your market.
Jessica Minor: More clinics, more service lines, more media outlets—more, more, more! In all honesty, it has gone from us telling the patient what they need, to us listening to the patient’s needs. We now look at a patient as a consumer. We are no longer marketing just doctors, but service lines to a specific audience. It’s very targeted versus the mass marketing.
What has changed for the better?
Becky Swanson: Definitely the amount of information our patients and potential patients can access on the internet. People are better informed about prices, procedures and the options available to them.
Kris Olson: Savvy consumers. Social media allows patients to voice their opinions, and we can actually hear it. That scares some folks, but now we can react in a very concise way.
Jessica Minor: Now we are always assessing what’s best for the patient and marketing to that, developing strategies around that. We’re helping create the experience.
What has changed that’s tougher to navigate?
Becky Swanson: Hospitals have to do more with less. The paperwork burden alone is staggering. In these times of cutting the fat, marketing can be seen as a ‘nice to have’ service instead of an essential part of the business model. I have always said we were the canary in the mineshaft: eliminating marketing is an early indicator that a hospital or system is in trouble.
Kris Olson: All the misinformation out there.
Jessica Minor: With all the forms of new media and old, selecting the right format for the right audience can be hard to navigate.
What is your prediction for healthcare marketing in the future?
Becky Swanson: Technology is allowing us to become more and more focused on the audiences relevant to our message. This will continue.
Kris Olson: People are going to get what they need, when and where they need it. It is going to evolve quickly and we as marketers are going to have to run to keep up with technology and the digital world we live in.
Jessica Minor: I expect technology to continue to grow and continue to play a larger part in how health care is delivered and how consumers are engaging with the providers—especially in rural areas where it may not be as prevalent.
What is your hope for the role of healthcare marketing going forward?
Becky Swanson: I hope that with the ability to target and reach people with our products and services, we don’t get too tied up in the data. We always need to inject a portion of common sense, gut feeling or whatever you want to call it, to attend to the unpredictable nature of human beings—especially human beings in a health crisis. All the predictive models in the world can miss what people might do when faced with life and death decisions. Let’s not forget we serve real people who often come to us at the lowest point in their lives. We need to remember that when we are crafting communications to reach people where they are—physically, mentally and emotionally.
Kris Olson: To be nimble, to be smart, to give folks what’s needed and required to take care of them at any point, in any place. Challenging? Yes, but very cool when we can pull it off.
Jessica Minor: That the strategies we are helping build and create will continue to put patients first. Because that is why we are here and why we got into this business.
A heartfelt “thank you” to Becky, Kris and Jessica for sharing their experience and wisdom!
Hear what patients think about the state of health, and healthcare, in the U.S. today.