Adapting to the “New Normal” for Healthcare Marketing

These are uncertain and unusual times; it’s been essential to adapt to fast changing events and pivot on a dime. In a matter of 5 months we have seen the economic and emotional havoc that has resulted from lockdowns and social distancing which has ground some industries to a halt. As a creative agency we have needed to advise our clients on how to adapt their marketing and design strategy to accommodate the current pandemic. With so much uncertainty marketing managers have been reluctant to commit to initiatives and many projects in the pipeline have been suspended or retracted. Healthcare has been the exception; this industry has needed to be the leaders when it comes to innovative marketing to inform and support the community while bracing themselves for a public health crisis and influx if it arises. So how does the healthcare industry shift and adapt its focus and budget to align with the current pandemic?

Although each healthcare practice and organisation is unique and has its own set of individual challenges and objectives, there are a number of areas that tend to apply to all. There is also a general mix that healthcare engages in when it comes to marketing which is generally covered by; digital marketing, branding, traditional forms of advertising, PR and events. In this article I want to focus on branding and having a strong and consistent voice in the community as this is one area that companies really need to double down on throughout this period.

When it comes to branding as a marketing channel for healthcare it’s important to flag that branding is very much influenced by patient experience, and the services which are provided to the community. In this way healthcare branding is so much more than a logo and your communication material. In these times it’s important to reinforce your positioning and mission as a supportive and caring institution that is both informative and responsive within the community, this needs to be reflected in both your marketing efforts but also in real tangible ways through your service. Now more than ever it’s important not to freeze and remain silent but to have a strong voice and communicate clearly so the public understands what is going on and what they need to do to stay safe and to be informed. By having a strong clear voice that cuts above the fray and panic you will be able to align your branding with your mission and positioning.

This is a time to ensure your branding and messaging reflect and are sensitive to the current times. Is your messaging empathetic? Are you positioned as an authority and leader in your field so that the public feel a sense of trust, safety and loyalty? This may be the time your positioning statement and messaging needs rethinking to better position yourself in the current atmosphere? Once you have asked yourself these questions and addressed them you will have the blueprint to create a strong brand and positioning. Then there needs to be a strategy to ensure this is rolled out to all quality touchpoints in a cohesive and consistent way.

Remember this messaging also needs to be reflected in your service. For example if your position and brand communicates that you value your clients and that you care but you leave your patients in the waiting room for hours without proper support or communication then there is a disconnect in what you are saying to what you are providing as a service. Absolutely every single stakeholder of your practice or organisation needs to be on board with your mission and brand positioning and all need to “walk the talk” so to speak. In the end it’s the people that make up an organisation that are the real life tangible expressions of your brand, so take the time to educate and inform your staff about your brand identity, mission statement and core values so that they can authentically express them in their day to day. In this way they will become authentic ambassadors of the brand.

So, once you have focussed on quality patient care as an extension of your brand messaging then of course there is the brand identity and messaging that needs to be expressed visually across all your marketing channels. A brand identity is made up of all the brand assets including logo, fonts, colour palette, correct use of imagery and photography, tone and voice of messaging etc. In the past healthcare hasn’t needed to put much thought into their public image or reach, this has changed and more than ever having a strong brand identity is vital. It’s vital that all channels need to work together seamlessly. If there are a number of parties that will be creating different pieces of collateral then a style guide that outlines all the do’s and is essential to ensure the brand doesn’t go off track and get watered down by different parties interpreting the brand differently.

If done well your brand identity should be much more than an eye-catching logo and good-looking communication material – although this will help. A strong brand will be able to effectively and instantly communicate your key messaging and what your organisation stands for and create a strong and enduring connection with the public. Effective branding is the cornerstone in ensuring you can well position yourself throughout this crisis and more so you will be able to use this time as an opportunity to build your reputation and presence as a leader in the healthcare field.