Creating an advertising campaign for an ER isn’t necessarily brain surgery (thank goodness), but it’s not to be taken lightly either. Along with the PCP and OB/Gyn, your ER/urgent care is as important an entry point into your healthcare system as there is. One walk-in ER patient could become a heavy user of your system for years.
But creating an ER campaign isn’t always the simplest of undertakings. And given what’s at stake, your campaign will need to be more than just effective and engaging – it’s a must that it is well thought out, properly positioned and well supported by your entire healthcare system.
Before you get started, here are a few key points worth considering.
What is your research telling you?
Conducting research up-front can answer some very important questions about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. You’re probably already doing the basics: research to help you discover what your competition is communicating, who your target audience is and how that audience perceives you.
But research can answer additional questions as well. So, while you may discover what differentiates you from the competition, is that distinction compelling to your audience? How does your unique selling proposition measure up against the current medical needs in your community?
For example, assume you’ve decided to build an ER campaign positioned around cardiac care. Take a look at the CDC’s most recent map depicting heart disease death rates.
If your system is in Mississippi or Alabama, that’s probably a smart move. But what if you’re located in Minneapolis, a city you’ll frequently find atop the American College of Sports Medicine’s list of the healthiest cities in the U.S.? Perhaps an orthopaedic-focused campaign targeting weekend warriors is more appropriate for your market.
You should also look beyond the basic surveys and focus groups on the front end of a campaign. Are you conducting exit and follow-up interviews with discharged patients? Have you audited social media to better understand the conversation around your brand? Are you conducting post-research analysis to help you refine your message? In the end, as always, the better the insight, the better the creative will be.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Patient experience is part of marketing. The cleverest of print ads or the most emotional and inspirational television commercials can’t overcome a poor ER experience. Patients need to receive unparalleled care on their very first visit to your ER. As a key entry point into your entire healthcare system, that first visit’s impact on potential revenue is significant.
Beyond the immediate treatment, there are often follow-up tests, future office visits, referrals to specialists and more.
A great experience leads to brand loyalty, thereby increasing the lifetime value of that patient.
A brand loyalist can become a brand evangelist and create exponential value for you via word of mouth.
Conversely, a negative patient experience on that first trip to the ER can negate all of these benefits.
Select a position you can credibly own, or a successful ad campaign might make you fail.
Say you’ve decided to build your ER campaign around “speed.” Even if the research supports that positioning, you have to make sure your operations can fulfill the promises in your advertising. What if your message really connects and the campaign increases ER traffic by 25%? Can your staff handle the increased patient load? If not, your campaign can wind up working against rather than for you. Instead of gaining credibility, you’ll lose it.
Of course, owning a position doesn’t stop there. Even if you’re ready for a patient surge operationally speaking, it’s up to you as a marketer to ensure your internal audience is ready to communicate and “live” that position.
Every time staff meets patient, that’s a communications touchpoint. Your staff must be aware of and educated about your message and be prepared to communicate it consistently and without variance from employee to employee and health facility to health facility. If patients come through your doors and ask about your new state-of-the-art emergency services, your employees need to be able to effectively communicate the benefits and value of those services.
For instance, when one of our clients, a large regional health system, merged with another, they spent six full months communicating to internal audiences to make sure their positioning – focused on an involved, informed and empowered patient – was understood and embraced by all employees. Only then could they ensure they credibly owned that position in their market. You should approach internal communications behind the scenes of your ER campaign with the same tenacity to make sure your employees do the same.
Have you built an ER or urgent care campaign that was memorable, effective and delivered results? Give us a shout; we’d love to hear about it.
This article was originally published on June 2, 2015, and has since been updated.