Healthcare marketing isn’t easy. (But you already knew that, didn’t you?) New Affordable Care Act stipulations, HIPAA laws, and increasing government involvement have regulatory committees tightening their grip on all forms of outbound communication.
This means that while marketing departments and compliance professionals have always butted heads, the new state of healthcare has created an unyielding stalemate between the two departments. But there is a cure.
Though Healthcare Marketing isn't easy, reaching your audience through content marketing has never been easier. According to Pew Research, about 72 percent of internet users searched online for health information within the past year. Additionally, Healthcare is the second most-searched-for service online. With so many people seeking expert healthcare information, and so many channels and platforms at your fingertips, converting prospects into champions for your organization online is highly possible. So long as you’re marketing by the rules, of course.
In other words, when marketing and compliance learn to join forces, healthcare providers can revolutionize their brands and become a leader in the industry.
To successfully market the organization’s brand and earn a positive reputation within the healthcare marketplace, healthcare marketers need to understand these four truths:
1) There is No “Quick Fix”
I know you were hoping you’d leave this blog post with an easy, straightforward roadmap to achieving dozens of gratifying comments and glowing reviews overnight, but that’s not going to happen.
Just as you couldn’t win a marathon the day after ankle surgery, when it comes to achieving content marketing success, you have to learn to walk before you can master the run. That means starting with the basics: building a foundation of great content.
Owned content, or the content your organization develops for the channels and platforms you create and maintain, is where you need to start. Also, this is where un-siloing your marketing and regulatory departments is especially important. Marketing professionals must be well-versed in compliance, while regulatory specialists must grasp the importance of growing a healthy and consistent content strategy.
Successful owned content paves the way for earned content, such as editorial coverage, and shared content, like those highly coveted online reviews.
2) Disaster Avoidance Requires Cooperation
If a retail company posts inaccurate information, they look careless and may lose a few customers. If a healthcare provider posts inaccurate information, the FDA could slap down hefty fines and put all marketing on ice for months. In an industry where credibility is everything, healthcare providers can’t afford to make mistakes. (Which, of course, is why regulatory and legal teams exist in the first place.)
From inception, compliance professionals need to be involved in the content strategy. If you’re working with an agency to develop your content, make sure it’s one that really gets the breadth, nuances and, most importantly, the risks of healthcare marketing.
From website copy to blog posts, properly targeted owned content will shape your brand’s reputation. Every marketer knows it takes great care to craft the right message, but, for healthcare providers, the stakes are higher than for any other industry.
3) Garnering Positive Reviews Requires a Healthy Content Strategy
Why do some healthcare providers rake in heaps of social media accolades and five-star reviews while others amass little more than an occasional Facebook “like” or, worse, nothing but negative reviews?
It’s not just about the level of care and expertise these physicians, clinics and hospitals offer their patients —although that’s obviously one of the most important factors. It’s also because the organizations succeeding in generating a buzz online have become a trusted industry leader and resource of valuable information. They create content that connects people with solutions to their problems and insight into their concerns.
Achieving a positive, robust and highly influential reputation online is the result of a carefully executed strategy. As I mentioned before, the owned media you create — the web copy, blog posts and library of guides, eBooks and other helpful resources, will lead the way to shared media — the online reviews, complimentary tweets and other consumer-generated praise.
Plus, when regulatory teams and marketing teams work together, organizations can rest assured less-than-enthusiastic reviews will be addressed responsibly. Given that 92 percent of consumers worldwide admit to trusting earned media above all other forms of advertising, keeping your strategy airtight is key to driving revenue through content.
4) Fear is One of the Biggest Threats to Creativity
The biggest mistake you can make in healthcare marketing is trivializing the risks of failing to follow compliance. The second biggest mistake you can make is to allow your marketing efforts to be paralyzed by fear. Yes, the FDA means business. And yes, it will shut the whole thing down if you cross the line. But, that doesn’t mean you should allow fear of regulatory retribution to stop you from organically growing your reputation, trustworthiness and credibility online.
So, how do you ensure your content follows the rules but still engages your personas?
Hold compliance briefings. As the digital landscape evolves, the Joint Commission is releasing updated rules and regulations for accredited organizations. And, as compliance changes, legal teams should hold meetings to keep marketers in the loop.
Develop a review process. After your marketing department has completed a 20-page eBook, its not the first time your organization’s regulatory committee should be hearing about the project. By developing a process that includes regulatory teams early in content development, marketing departments can avoid gridlock later down the line.
Create internal guidelines. In addition to FDA regulations, healthcare providers should have their own internal living reference document including guidelines for social media and content.
So, What’s Next?
Getting started in content marketing can seem an arduous task for any organization, but it seems especially challenging in an industry with so many critical eyes watching your every move. That doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and silence all endeavors.
By working closely with regulation and legal teams to develop creative and compliant owned content, and building a foundation that promotes shared content, healthcare providers can successfully, and safely, engage with prospects and patients.
Originally published Mar 18, 2015 2:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017