At SPRYTE Healthcare Communications Means Consumer PR

Hyper Local is So Credible and Rewarding

When you say healthcare communications agency in Philadelphia or New Jersey, the assumption is that you’re focused on pharmaceutical or life sciences companies.  We’ve met so many successful local niche consultants serving those industries at every stage of their business cycles.  And the increasingly visible publicly-traded global holding companies have also located their robust healthcare agency brands in Philadelphia in recent years to be closer to their clients.

Well, SPRYTE Communications specializes exclusively in healthcare too but we support healthcare providers.  Not in a business-to-business capacity.  Our strength is in consumer public relations.

Here’s an example of a campaign we conducted on behalf of Holy Redeemer Health System, a client since 2006, last week.

Holy Redeemer Opens 5th Outpatient Medical Center in Bucks County

When Holy Redeemer opened its fifth Bucks County outpatient medical center, consumer public relations was the only external communications function deployed.

The brand new 18,000 square foot ambulatory care center provides primary care, obstetrical and gynecological care, orthopedic care and rehabilitation services, professional counseling, physical therapy and radiology services.

The opening of Redeemer HealthCare at Richboro is of interest to individuals and businesses living in its vicinity for a variety of consumer and economic impact reasons.  That’s why there was wide pick up of our news release by local daily and weekly newspapers.

But the ambulatory care center’s opening was also of interest regionally where the highly competitive healthcare provider industry is widely covered.  John George, the Philadelphia Business Journal’s healthcare writer, conducted interviews with Holy Redeemer’s senior leaders and wrote the most comprehensive article about the System’s continued expansion in to new geographies in Bucks County.

Finally, Holy Redeemer’s expansion was also of interest to the trade media, with Becker’s covering it with three highly flattering “Insights.”

Many healthcare providers think that paid advertising is the only way to build their visibility in a local marketplace.  Of course, it certainly won’t hurt.  But think of the brand battles out there on billboards, radio and TV.  In Philadelphia, it seems the biggest advertisers are our many outstanding healthcare providers.

But don’t overlook the power of public relations and the credibility delivered by news media covering your healthcare provider brand in action.  Do you agree that the consumer earned media coverage of Holy Redeemer’s Richboro expansion is solid proof of its newsworthiness?

Remembering the “Social” Aspect of Social Media

How to Use Social Media to Build Meaningful Relationships with Patients

Social media has evolved into one of the most important ways businesses across all industries can connect with consumers, and the healthcare industry is no exception. In fact, one recent study showed that 57 percent of people choose their healthcare providers based on their social media presence – proving how integral social media is to the overall patient experience.

While most providers know how vital social media is to their success, many find themselves still struggling to truly engage with their followers. In an effort to prove their level of prestige and experience, they often focus too much of their content on clinical topics and forget about the human, “caring” side of healthcare.

So, how can healthcare organizations build meaningful relationships with their followers by bringing back the social part of social media? Below are a few tips to help healthcare providers tap into their emotional side and establish lasting connections with their patients.

 Showcase employees.

When selecting a doctor, patients tend to choose a physician who they feel they can trust and build a connection with. While most doctors don’t have time to get to know their patients during appointments, social media has created another way for them to become more of a familiar face outside of the office.

One example of this is client Holy Redeemer Health System’s recurring “Practitioner Spotlight” social media series. Back in July, we published a blog post about how we use this series to highlight a different physician each week by sharing a photo of the doctor and summary of his or her practice, experience and hobbies. This series still garners the most engagement from followers compared to the rest of Holy Redeemer’s posts, as it allows them get to know their doctors beyond what’s listed on the website.

Share patient-centered content.

Posting relatable content is one of the best ways a healthcare brand can engage with consumers – and there’s nothing more relatable than posts involving other patients. When a provider posts about its patients, it helps followers “see themselves” in the content and feel as if the organization understands who they are as a person.

Along with the Practitioner Spotlight series, content that showcases patients receives high levels of engagement on Holy Redeemer’s social media pages. From photos of an “Eagles pep rally” held in its maternity ward before last year’s Super Bowl to an article about a puppy parade visiting residents at one of its senior living facilities, sharing positive patient stories allows them to consistently resonate with followers in an emotional way.

Use a professional and empathetic voice.

In addition to learning more about a provider, people often reach out on social media because they are worried about something related to their health. While it’s important for providers to show that they’re knowledgeable, it’s just as crucial to be empathetic when talking to their followers, as well. Patients look to practitioners as trusted resources when they aren’t feeling well, so using a professional and comforting voice will help them feel less hesitant about seeking care when they’re experiencing health issues.

Be as responsive as possible.

One of the most important, yet forgotten aspects of a brand’s social media pages is that they act as a way for consumers to have direct communication with the organization. If a business doesn’t respond to its messages or comments – especially negative ones – it can create the impression that it doesn’t truly care about its followers.

Whenever possible, aim to respond to any negative comments or messages within an hour of when it’s posted. Even if you don’t have the necessary information right away and have to give a “non-answer,” responding promptly will help patients believe that their concerns are heard and being taken seriously.

When used correctly, social media is one of the best ways for healthcare providers to connect and build relationships with their current and prospective patients outside of the doctor’s office.

Writing is the Common Denominator for Healthcare PR and Content

Don’t Forget You Blog to Generate Business!

When SPRYTE Communications was launched early last year, we also launched our Blog, SPRYTE Insights and we’ve been very disciplined about posting new content every Tuesday morning ever since.

The depth of our content bank is impressive.  SPRYTE Insights’ “editorial approach” is to delight healthcare communicators with practical information they can use in their everyday professional lives in the healthcare provider space.

Of course, those same healthcare communicators and their managers, investors and owners are also our prospects for business development.

We have to remind ourselves that a more focused sales and marketing platform was one reason we relaunched a general agency, Simon PR in to SPRYTE Communications, a healthcare specialist.

But the PR DNA that makes us outstanding at healthcare earned media and influencer engagement isn’t always our friend as we advance as content marketers.

And anything we dedicate time to for ourselves has to be a best example of our work as we try to win more healthcare digital and social business.

Here are some of the SPRYTE Insights’ shortcomings we’ve noticed as we plan to evolve and decide what to put on our Agency to do list moving forward.  Perhaps  other healthcare communications bloggers out there are also experiencing similar sentiments.

The Granular Shortcomings of Our Weekly Blogs

Visual Imagery: We will prep an incredibly compelling written piece and then illustrate it with poor imagery, totally undervaluing the need and opportunity for strong art.  As writers we’re enamored with words but to be successful in content we need strong words and visuals.

Headlines and Subheads can be so pedestrian.  Our blogs are often truly original and pithy to boot but then we’ll put pedestrian headlines on them that do nothing to invite readership or build our brand.  We can do better!

Embracing SPRYTE’s Brand Voice: The SPRYTE Insights blog is an owned media property of SPRYTE Communications.  As a relaunched agency, we have a highly articulated brand voice, well defined service lines and five known target healthcare industries: hospice, home care, hospitals & health systems, medical practices and social service agencies.  Our content needs to build our brand as it’s defined not as a make it up as we blog or as an individual soapbox for issues near and dear to the author.

Paying for It: The PR DNA typically doesn’t include a gene for paying for exposure.  We are so attuned to earning media that it’s extremely difficult for us to pay for it.  We aren’t natural boosters and we don’t really know how much to spend on boosting.  But just posting and not boosting SPRYTE Insights’ Blogs on SPRYTE’s LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter channels is a very big missed opportunity to reach more healthcare eyeballs, the ones that might hire us!

So now that we’ve identified where we need improvement, how will we advance as content marketers supporting the SPRYTE brand and what will we be doing differently or additionally?

How SPRYTE Insights will Evolve:

  • Archived SPRYTE Insights Blogs Will be Better Illustrated with Improved Imagery and Reposted.
  • A Healthcare Guest Blogger Program Will Debut. (Note:  We are accepting blogs written by proven healthcare communicators for consideration.)
  • Blog Archiving Under Our Five Target Healthcare Industries: Hospice, Home Care, Hospitals & Health Systems, Medical Practices and Social Service Agencies Will Be Added to the SPRYTE Insights Page on the SPRYTE Communications Web Site.
  • A SPRYTE Communications Branded Annual Blog Editorial Calendar Will be Designed and Deployed.
  • A Meaningful Plan and Budget for Social Media Boosting Will Be Established.

As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” While complimentary visual and creative skills are required, like public relations, content marketing is rooted in good writing.  SPRYTE is ready to up our game as we grow with our SPRYTE Insights Blog.

 

Shine a Light on Your Docs

Social Media Can Help Humanize Your Front Line Physicians

According to the National Institutes of Health, patients only get to spend a median of 15.7 minutes in consultation with their doctor during an appointment. It’s hardly enough time to forge a relationship, or even get to know the doctor outside a purely clinical context.

But, hey, doctors are people too, and health organizations that spend a little time portraying them as such can create fans, inspire loyalty, generate valuable feedback and remove much of the intimidation in the doctor-patient relationship. And social media marketing is an easy way to do that.

Posts highlighting your physicians, and even nurses, nurse practitioners and other frontline clinical staff will put a face with a name, remove some of the mystery, and essentially humanize them among your followers. And they can give a morale boost to those you feature, particularly professionals who aren’t used to being in the spotlight.

George Clooney in a Lab Coat

Just ask Dr. Lorenz Iannarone, a surgeon whom SPRYTE highlighted for client Holy Redeemer Health System on Facebook in May…and who garnered 176 likes and 56 glowing comments from past and current patients. A largely unassuming man, Dr. Iannarone was praised for being compassionate, gentle and a good colleague, and one fan even called him “the George Clooney of medicine.”

Such testimonials don’t simply make a doctor feel good; recommendations from others (in person or online) are a key driver of medical decision making, so organic, heart-felt reviews can be powerful from a brand management point of view. They help deliver the implied message that your clinicians are kind, caring and patient-focused – whether or not they’re the second coming of Dr. Doug Ross.

It pays to schedule in recurring practitioner posts in your social media calendar. Holy Redeemer simply calls theirs “Practioner Spotlights” and they are posted weekly. Other organizations might call them “Featured Doctor,” “Featured Provider,” “Doctor Spotlight,” or something else. What you name it isn’t as important as the fact you’re doing it.

Inform, but Make it Personal

Practioner Spotlight, which appears Wednesdays, includes a summary of the doctor’s specialty, a sentence about where they earned their medical degree(s) or served their residency, and a sentence about their particular area of passion, if they have one. These posts often include a sentence on what the practitioner likes doing off the clock – a large ingredient toward humanizing them.

Of course, a good photo is mandatory. This should be a professional head shot or a good quality staged photo in a clinical setting. Be selective. A poor quality image or a shot of the doctor with a scowl or neutral expression won’t cut it. Make sure they’re flashing their pearly whites.

Here are some more tips for making your physicians part of your social content marketing program:

  • Brand your posts. You can frame your featured practitioner in your organization’s colors or other brand elements. Reserve this framing exclusively for your recurring spotlights. If the clinician is wearing a labcoat, make sure the logo is visible.
  • Highlight new docs. Welcome them publicly by putting them front and center in your social media, to introduce them to followers and patients.
  • Give shout outs when appropriate. Put the spotlight on a practitioner who has been recognized with an award or accreditation. You can use this tactic for personal accomplishments too, such as completing a marathon or being recognized for their off-hours charitable activities.
  • Make it easy for followers. Include the practioner’s office number or website and the name of their practice, if applicable, to facilitate appointments.
  • Be consistent. Whether you highlight someone weekly or bi-weekly, be sure to stick with it so it can build momentum, and followers expect to see it regularly. If you pick a day of the week, keep posting on that day.

Your doctors and other practitioners are the faces of your practice or system. Social media is a great way to part the curtain to let patients and other fans know who they are beyond the name on your website.

Declare Independence from the Mainstream Media

Owned Media Lets Health Organizations Talk Directly to Consumers, Brand Loyalists

As we celebrate Independence Day, it’s worth looking at a great way for healthcare organizations to declare their independence from earned media: owned media and citizen journalism.

While that “third-party endorsement” can be valuable, so too can controlling your own messages, and speaking directly to those who are already interested or invested in your organization, such as current and former patients and community partners. Social media is the most visible and most recent tool to reach these audiences, but others have existed for some time and are just as useful for engaging and strenghtening the relationship with those who’ve benefitted from your services or have expressed interest in them.

Owned media simply refers to forms of mass communication you produce, or can control. Beyond Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their ilk, owned media includes other forms of content marketing such as your very website, electronic newsletters, blogs, podcasts and online or print magazines.

Content is the Key

These tools, produced weekly, monthly or, more likely in the case of a magazine, quarterly or semi-annually, can help your practice or health system tell your best stories, share lifestyle tips and get out word of health screenings, blood drives, fundraisers and other events without going through media “gatekeepers.”

But just because you can control the content and the messages doesn’t mean you can put out just anything. Self-promotion, in small doses, is expected, but to get readers coming back and to create true fans, your owned media needs mostly to deliver content that is useful or educational, entertaining, compelling, or inspirational. Generally, the same techniques for gaining earned media apply to owned media: tell great stories, or provide something readers can’t get anywhere else. This applies to both print and online publications.

The stories you share, whether they are profiles of physicians and other staff, expert advice from your physicians, healthy recipes or the launch of new equipment or a new service (and how a patient has benefitted), can humanize your organization, send the message that it’s on the cutting-edge, or validate it as a source of valuable information, three key components of building loyalty.

Once you’ve established your format and have a consistent flow of content to feed it, you can repurpose those stories for other platforms, primarily your social media channels. Each post should link back to the mother publication or website to gain more eyeballs and more subscribers.

Citizen Journalism

Then there’s citizen journalism, a happy development that has only become more prevalent in recent years. Effectively complementing earned media, citizen journalism provides an opportunity to place your news, event, or other story online at third-party websites, with little or no filtering by editors.

These can include hyper-local websites like Patch.com, which has several thousand editions sprinkled in towns and DMAs across the country, and Tapinto.net, which is developing franchises at a rapid pace in the Northeast. Once you’ve registered, both sites allow you to submit content in the form of news releases, articles and event listings. Typically anything that’s not obviously objectionable and doesn’t violate site rules will see sunshine. Some online news sources will even let you post in multiple neighboring editions, or do it automatically for you.

Online calendars, either stand-alone like Eventful.com, or on traditional media websites (e.g. “6ABC Community Calendar”) are also a valuable way to promote the healthcare events, fundraisers and expos your organization might host or sponsor. Most, of course, give you the option to promote your event for a fee.

Personnel announcements, a frequent occurrence for health systems and practices, may also be submitted via online form to some publications like city business magazines, but more of them are now charging for placement, including your write-up and submitted photograph. However these can also be submitted as articles at the above mentioned hyperlocal sites.

The concept of media has expanded significantly over the past decade or so, and consumers have come to trust news they find online or in their mailbox from a growing variety of sources. By taking advantage of these new avenues, we can truly declare independence from media gatekeepers. Happy Independence Day!

Your Content Marketing Should Advertise For You

Emotional Appeals, Useful Information Will Help Build Loyalty

There are many avenues to turning consumers into patients, but one of the best is to connect with them through your digital content marketing program. Reaching them on the platforms they frequent, and providing both useful information and content that resonates emotionally can support your organization’s business strategy while building loyalty. Simply put, creating content that does your advertising for you is smart brand strategy.

A recent NESHCO (New England Society for Healthcare Communications) webinar, presented by digital strategists with S/P/M Marketing & Communications, peeled back the layers of a successful content marketing campaign. Like everything else when it comes to crafting a marketing campaign, research, planning and honing your strategy are vital first steps.

Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing

Before launching your content marketing activities, devise your strategy. It was noted that content strategy is based on your research-driven internal communications foundation, and represents your vision and mission. Content marketing, on the other hand, is focused on external communications, should drive consumer engagement, and puts a premium on measurement and analytics. Out of your strategy will come a long-term plan that aligns with your business goals, and  better understanding of what kinds of content will work best for the organization.

Important questions to answer include:

  • What are our goals?
  • Who makes up our target audience?
  • Where to they like to get their content?

Don’t worry about being on all or even most of the the big social media channels; identify those where your audiences are and which will work the best for achieving your goals, and focus on them.

 Content “Buckets” and Mapping the Consumer Journey

It’s helpful during planning to create three or more “buckets” in which to put content. Typically, these would include:

  • Utility – Useful/actionable information that makes life better or easier, presented in an easily digestible way, including factoids and infographics.
  • Emotion – Content that triggers an emotional response.
  • Entertainment – Content that entertains in a clever, humorous or attention-grabbing way.

Under each bucket you’ll ultimately come up with content topics, and, under them, what the presenters called “content franchises.” A content franchise is a series of like-themed posts that prove successful, like patient stories, testimonials, or “expert tips.”

The strategic use of your content franchises will help you shepherd your audience from passive consumers to brand advocates. This consumer journey comprises Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Loyalty, and finally Advocacy.

Public relations, paid advertising, SEO, owned media (including your website), boosted content and word of mouth all play a role in this evolution, but valuable content is the throughline cutting across all of the phases. Compelling testimonials, for example, can move someone from consideration to decision. Powerful patient success stories can build loyalty, as people want content that validates their decision.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind for a successful content marketing campaign:

  • Repurposing a single piece of content for various digital assets can extend its shelf life, but planning for that upfront is key, so you don’t have to retrofit.
  • Use editorial calendars to plan content well in advance.
  • Determine your “voice” (conversational, authoritative, friendly, etc.) and stick with it. Consistency in voice, tone, and style across all your content is very important.
  • Make sure your website is optimized for mobile. Mobile users surpassed desktop users two years ago.
  • Incorporate SEO in your content strategy. Content will impact your SEO, and vice versa.
  • Authentic imagery works better for building connections than stock art.
  • When using video, keep it short (under 90 seconds), and showcase emotion or a service that differentiates your organization.

Creating a content marketing campaign requires legwork up front, and ongoing diligence to ensure your messages support your business goals and are being received. But the payoff both in patient converts and your organization’s reputation is well worth it.

Build Loyalty with Peer-to-Peer Healthcare Communities

User-Generated Content Helps Patients Thrive

Every hospital and healthcare delivery system wants to build a deep connection with patients, families, and the community. But sometimes far more powerful connections can be formed when the organization takes a step back and allows those audiences to connect with each other with user-generated content.

Cultivating an online community of patients, who share a common condition, disease, or experience, can be an effective way to build loyalty to your organization while delivering helpful information to the group, according to a recent webinar by the New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCO). And the best part is you’re empowering group members to create that content.

 

User-Generated Content is Highly Prized

If you’re considering setting up an online community, the first and overriding question to ask is “What’s in it for them?” Typically, members who join a group, such as one devoted to a specific disease, are seeking:

  • Treatment information – Who’s doing a clinical trial?
  • Practical information – Topics that may not be gleaned easily from clinical experts, such as quality–of-life issues (e.g. “How do I travel cross country for a wedding with my condition?”)
  • Emotional support – camaraderie with others affected by the same thing, like bladder cancer, or cirrhosis.
  • Loyalty – the warmth of the group that gets people coming back because they feel like they’re part of something.

These communities live and die on user-generated content. They should be places of peer-to-peer communication. This is not the forum to promote the health system, provide tips from your physicians, or post an “Ask the Expert” column.

After all, “everyone is an expert in their own condition,” noted John Novack, who oversees the million-member Inspire health and wellness social network. And these de facto experts frequently want to share their knowledge and experiences with others. If members of the group are exchanging information and it’s seamless, they will feel like the community is their own, and that’s good. It can be scary, Novack said, because you’re not controlling the content, but you can be the guiding light.

That means identifying active contributors, and leveraging them (if they want to be leveraged) into community “champions.” These members may already be blogging, speaking, creating videos on YouTube or serving on patient advisory councils.

To build champions, said Colleen Young, community director for Mayo Clinic Connect, “watch their activity and behavior online, and nurture it. Think about rewards – you can never say thank you enough, and there are many ways to thank people.” She adds that simply being given the opportunity to contribute user-generated content can be meaningful “compensation” for those with a voice they want to have heard.

 

Building Connections, Removing Barriers

Here are some more tips from the experts for building a community of user-generated content:

  • Encourage commenting. Every page should allow comments. This will foster engagement, and those asking a question one day will be the same ones answering that question the next.
  • Reduce barriers to get people to engage. Make sure the registration process is easy, and connecting with others is simple. Think of the population you want to attract, and see if there are barriers specific to those members.
  • Consider featuring “boutique” pages or blogs within the community. Think of these as specialty shops within a shopping mall, where visitors can get information specific to them.
  • Moderate, but resist interfering. The Mayo Clinic has a staff of five monitors for Connect, to ensure everyone is respectful and following the rules. Intercede only when necessary, such as when someone starts giving hard-and-fast “thou shalts” or dispensing medical advice that’s not grounded in their own experience.
  • Learn from your community. Not only can members learn from each other, your clinical staff can learn from them. Young recalled how a nursing team monitoring the Mayo community gained a better understanding of what it’s like to be in an epileptic unit, awaiting a seizure. The direct feedback of patients is a great way to see what it’s like on the other side of the gurney.
  • Don’t expect overnight success. When you see a successful community, it looks easy, but the upfront work is hard. You have to nurture it, and this will take time and effort.
  • You don’t have to recreate the wheel. There are online communities like Connect, or Inspire, that you can partner with. If you’re thinking about creating a community, do the research first…you may find an existing community you can hitch your wagon to.

The Internet has created an ability for more people to gather more information about diseases than ever before. Patient-to-patient networking is emerging as a valuable resource. If your healthcare organization is poised to facilitate this, and create a community in which people want to connect and share experiences, wonderful things can happen.

11 Ways to Maximize Your Earned Media on Social

You Scored a Great Hit, Now Comes the Easy Part

Congratulations, you’ve earned a great TV story, newspaper article or bylined thought leader piece in a trade publication! Now what?

Share that success via social media marketing! By doing so you can:

  • Get more eyeballs on the story, thus expanding the audience for your organization’s messages;
  • Further enhance your physicians’ expert reputations in the eyes of patients, consumers and journalists following you on social media;
  • Keep internal audiences, including administrators, star doctors, partners and off-site staff, in the loop on the great work your public relations department is doing;
  • Improve SEO, as the online version of the article (frequently containing a link to your organization) gets shared;
  • Build relationships with reporters by sharing their work (something they’re often judged on);
  • Highlight your agency’s work for prospective new clients.

Social media marketing of client hits is part of SPRYTE’s DNA, and should be part of yours too. And it should go beyond just a link, or a canned “Share This” from the original website. This is your opportunity to hype the story with advance notice if possible, short accompanying text, and even behind-the-scenes photos from the event or interview.

Make the Most of Your Success through Social Media Marketing

Here are some more tips for marketing your results online:

Share the clip promptly, preferably within 24 hours of its appearance. Sometimes links go stale as articles are removed, and some publications put their content behind a paywall after a certain amount of time.

Don’t include the entire text of the story in your post; an introductory sentence or two, along with a link to the original site where the story appeared, is sufficient, will respect copyright, and is preferable for SEO purposes.

Break up the story into short snippets of information, to share in the days after it originally runs, especially if it contains useful tips. Be sure to include the link to the full article each time.

Use one or two relevant hashtags, along with handles for the organization, physician, reporter and any third parties involved in the story.

Highlight the story’s presentation if desired (for example, if it appeared front page, above the fold), by including a photograph or snip with the media outlet’s logo, along with the article link.

Encourage your staff to like and/or share the post on their personal social media channels (and do the same on yours).

Be mindful of paywalls. If the article isn’t free on the original website, you can still quote from it or include an image of the headline and first paragraph or two without stepping on toes, under the Fair Use Doctrine. Don’t include the entire article without written permission of the publisher.

Keep it professional. Linkedin isn’t the place for breathless excitement and exclamation points. Highlight a useful business or communications angle for your description if possible, to make it relevant for that audience.

Pay attention to photos. Facebook will grab a default image from the linked page, and you can no longer change this. If there’s no photo, or you don’t like the default, remove the link, add your own photo (you must do this step first), then paste the article URL in the text box after the blurb. The photo will appear under the post, and the URL will remain in the text box.

Punt if necessary. Not every story is available online, particularly TV or radio clips. If there’s no link, get creative. Use a screen grab or the outlet’s logo, or attach a photo you took at the interview to accompany your post.

Say thank you. It’s never a bad idea to enthusiastically thank the reporter or media outlet for doing the story in the text accompanying the link. This can strengthen the relationship. Just include handles, so they can find it – and hopefully share or re-tweet it.

You likely worked hard and put in significant time to secure that great earned media hit, but leveraging it with social media marketing is under your complete control. Making this part of your standard practice will extend the life of the clip and let others know about your great work!

Podcasting: Is it a Good Fit?

Practical Considerations for Healthcare Podcasters

A few months ago, we touched on the broad topic of Podcasting for Healthcare – and why it’s one of the fastest growing sectors of marketing.

As they say, it’s not rocket science. Getting involved is relatively inexpensive (compared to TV advertising, anyway). It’s a great way to reach a targeted audience. Furthermore, your targets probably are more open to listening to the message you’re presenting. After all, they’ve taken the positive action to sign on to your podcast, and they can listen to it at their leisure. Thus you’ll have a friendly, captive audience while your podcast is running.

But is it right for you? There’s no easy answer – especially for healthcare organizations who face any number of competing challenges within their annual budget considerations.

Why Podcasting?

As part of a recent webinar offered by New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCO), Hartford HealthCare social media specialist Carol Vassar noted that the audience for podcast listeners – which continues to grow by 21% to 24% per year – is probably within health marketers’ sweet spot.

Most podcast listeners are within the 18 to 54 age range (the audience leans slightly male). In addition, the typical listener is affluent, well-educated and is increasingly likely to prefer ad-free or ad-light experiences.

Setting Goals

To determine if podcasting is a god fit, as in any marketing effort, it’s essential to establish clear goals. What is it you want to accomplish by developing a podcasting initiative? In addition, you need to have a clear vision of what success will look like.

There are a number of additional questions you need to ask yourself before embarking on a podcasting adventure. How well does the idea of podcasting mesh with your overall marketing strategy? If you’re heavy into content creation and digital marketing, podcasting could be a perfect fit.

Content is Still King

As earned media specialists, we at SPRYTE are very partial to content marketing. What is the story you are trying to tell? In any kind of communication designed to persuade – whether it’s to get a sale, get a vote, earn a positive opinion – the most effective communication will be that which tells the most convincing and relatable story. If you’re already creating great content for other pieces of your marketing effort, such as for newsletters (digital or print) and social media, you’ve already got a head start in creating an effective podcasting platform.

The more clearly you can delineate who your target audiences are, the better you will be able to adapt your content to best match their needs and interests. Who is it you are trying to reach?  Young or soon-to-be-mothers? Weekend warriors? People dealing with cancer or heart disease? Individuals experiencing issues related to behavioral health?

Depending on who you are trying to reach, you will want to craft your message so that it resonates. (For example, for a hospital, your planned podcast may feature an interview with a medical specialist discussing a new treatment or service offering, or a hot healthcare news topic.) Wonderful patient success stories (made suitably anonymous) almost always fill the bill when it comes to assuring a great audience response. (A dose of media training for on-air talent is also recommended.)

The Podcast Team

No doubt you will want to include an experienced writer who can help you outline or script out what will be said during the podcast. Keep in mind that writing for the ear is different from writing for the reader. It’s shorter. And sharper.

You should also make sure to have a host who has interviewing experience and is able to get your expert to discuss important information in a listener-friendly way. (Radio experience is usually a good fit.)

It’s also important to have a good graphic designer on your team to ensure that covers and advertising are professional-looking and attractive when they are presented on iTunes, Stitcher or another potential distributor.

Finally, you’ll need dependable experts to assist you in audio production and technical support. Taking raw audio and getting it into a format that’s presentable takes a special production talent. Technical aspects such as timing segments appropriately, selecting music (if desired) and getting the product ready for an RSS or XML Feed to the listener’s podcaster all take very specialized creative skills.

Getting Started – The Technical Basics

Generally speaking, creating a podcasting initiative is relatively inexpensive. (But not free.) In addition to a hosting service, which will likely run about $20 a month, the basic equipment you will need to produce your own podcast includes a microphone, headphones, and recording and editing equipment.

Both Carol Vassar (NESHCO webinar) and a recent Wall Street Journal review singled out Blue Yeti as a high quality microphone brand ideal for podcasting. It can plug directly into your computer’s USB. Cost-wise it runs around $130.

High quality headphones are essential so that you can monitor various levels while you’re recording. Sony’s studio-quality MDR-7506 headphones ($99-$130) are an option again recommended by both Vassar and the WSJ. Vassar also recommends the AKG K2450 ($70) and the Audio Technica ATHM20X ($50) as cost-efficient alternatives. Avoid buying headphones where the microphone is attached. It might work well for telephone call centers, but not for radio or podcasts.

As for editing software, there are several good options available. Apple’s GarageBand is one free option that is user-friendly and also compatible with iTunes. Audacity® is free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing. Audacity is available for Windows®, Mac®, GNU/Linux® and other operating systems. Finally, Hindenburg is another low-cost editing software made specifically for radio and podcast users that’s easy to use and provides a lot of powerful editing and mixing features.

Those are the basics you will need to get started. Naturally costs will increase if you opt for more creative services such as professional voiceovers, music licensing fees or professional editing services.

As we’ve seen from the recent spate of mergers, acquisitions, affiliations and IPOs, the healthcare marketplace is only getting more competitive.  For healthcare communicators trying to get an edge, podcasting may be a viable and affordable avenue to consider.