Content Marketing: Where Does It Fit in Your Strategy?

Randall Gerber, CEO, The Gerber Group

Content Marketing is a powerful tool – but it is not a silver bullet for healthcare systems.  Content Marketing is certainly the buzzword of the day among all marketers, not only healthcare people.

It’s reminiscent of several years ago, when “Social Media” was the new silver bullet for hospitals and health systems.  Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram, than…   Each was to be the “most powerful tool” available to health marketers.  And they are powerful.  But no hospital or health systems marketing can stand alone on its social media or Content Marketing. 

A meaningful healthcare marketing program will cover a range of the following media channels:

·   EARNED MEDIA.  Often called Public Relations, I prefer “earned” because it takes considerable work to develop stories that print and electronic media will find interesting enough to cover as “news.”  For many years, this was the primary channel through which hospitals gained public attention.  (But that was before healthcare became competitive.)

·   PAID MEDIA.  When private and government insurers paid hospitals largely on a per treatment, scan or procedure, health systems turned to print, outdoor, radio and TV with paid ads promoting their newest, best, and brightest.

·   OWNED MEDIA. Hospitals have been operating their own media channels for a long time

o   Hospitals have been pushing out newsletters and branded magazines for years.  They’re generally a mix of promotional articles, patient testimonials and some health tips.

The proliferation of “new media” has turned healthcare systems into editors and publishers.  Creating content for new media channels in an effort to pull people into our content, rather than pushing it out to interrupt their reading and TV viewing.

o   In the 1990s, web sites became part of the owned media mix – starting as electronic promotional brochures, growing with new sections and interactive capabilities – but still largely promotional.

o   In the 21st century, the power of the Internet grew and Social Media was born. Many healthcare marketers are still struggling with what the best material is to post to 1) gain “likes”, 2) increase “followers, 3) build constituencies and 4) maybe, just maybe, grow revenue.

o   Online advertising started with billboard ads and moved onto Pay-Per-Click.

o   As consumers turned to web search engines, Search Engine Optimization interest grew.

o    Most recently, Content Marketing as a philosophy and a tool appeared.


Comparing Channels.

With earned media, healthcare systems are largely at the XXXX of editors. PR Professionals have been arguing for a century about whether and how to measure earned media – column inches, column inches compared to ad space charges, airtime…and so on.

Paid media often requires significant cash outlays to pay for design, product and multiple exposures. Experts say 5 exposures are needed until the consumer “get the whole message.” 

Some paid media are struggling to capture an audience. Local radio, for one. Newspaper readership is dwindling. 

Paid media is often difficult to measure.  Do we really believe 250,000 cars drove past that billboard?  And sure, the local newspaper has 50,000 subscribers.  But how many saw my article – or just flipped past it to the obituaries (since most print readers are older and like to follow the obits.)

Owned media enables a hospital to craft the messages anyway they want.  That only leaves the problem of attracting people to see the message. It’s a significant problem – but not without a solution.

Using SEO, online PPC ads, and generously offering useful health information, Content Marketing presents a powerful tool to be helpful and build credibility among possible patients.

If it’s not part of your overall marketing strategy, it should be.

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