Building an Award-Winning Content Marketing Strategy

By Morgan Karas, Tag Strategies

 

A couple of months ago, Healthline crowned its Best Palliative Care Blogs of the Year. Much to our delight, we found that our incredible client Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care was featured as one of the best blogs.

Our delight was not in passing – it was with intent. In it, we found a bit of justification and reward for a decade of working with Crossroads to build its brand, establish itself as an industry influencer in the digital space and, of course, help strategize and execute this noteworthy blog.

We couldn’t have done it all alone. In fact, an integral part of this process was assembling an integrated marketing team of specialists in branding, public relations, social media and SEO to create a sophisticated content marketing strategy. Here’s how it went down. 

How it all started.

When Tag got involved with Crossroads in 2007, we were presented with a hospice stuck in what we lovingly refer to as the sea of sameness.

“Without distinction, there is no differentiation and without differentiation you have a sea of sameness,” said brand strategist and Tag President Michelle Taglialatela. “We were faced with the challenge of learning the ins and outs of Crossroads, what makes them stand out from the rest, and aligning that with their mission and vision to develop a strong and cohesive brand, both internally and externally.”

Since 2007, digital marketing has evolved tremendously. It’s enabled the Tag team, along with our incredibly talented partners, to grow Crossroads’ marketing efforts into a very sophisticated program.

“We are the architects of the brand, the marketing plan and its execution,” said Michelle. “We assembled a team of professionals capable of creating a program of this scale and composure. For earned media, we looped in our existing partner SPRYTE Communications.”

Public Relations: SPRYTE Communications

“Public relations and earned media were a brand-new spoke on the integrated marketing wheel for Crossroads when we got involved in 2007,” said Lisa Simon, CEO of SPRYTE. “Educating the client on earned media implementation and what type of information we needed to be successful with this program was crucial to getting it up and running.”

Since then, SPRYTE has contributed heavily with their special talent to writing for the healthcare professional audience, Crossroads’ primary referral source.

At this point in time, social wasn’t even on the radar screen of most marketers, but we knew it was something Crossroads needed to get involved in. For social media expertise, strategy and content development, we tapped into ChatterBlast Media in 2013.

Social Media: ChatterBlast Media

“We worked with Tag to develop the initial strategy for blog content and social engagement. We were even involved in picking Crossroads’ social guru to lead the internal charge” says Matthew Ray, creative director and co-founder of ChatterBlast. “When we started, there was no blog, no social, no digital engagement – so we had a clean slate. I think our biggest challenges were understanding a very complicated and nuanced industry, and then finding the right mix of content to populate the blog.”

That mix turned out to be a success balance of both internal and external thought leaders, as well as collaboration between multiple stakeholders.

“Crossroads continues to be a leader in hospice and palliative care, and they continue to be a leader digitally as well. 5 years ago, there was no blog – now they have one of the best blogs,” said Matthew of the evolution of Crossroads’ content marketing program. “We’ve taken risks with ideas, we have pushed comfort zones, and we have given people hope, compassion, and understanding when there was none of that on the web.  Oh, and I think we were the first organization EVER to use social advertising to market hospice care.”

That’s being ahead of the curve.

We very quickly learned that integrating SEO into our content development process would be necessary to help push Crossroads’ blog even further – and to get it in front of the right people. In comes Arc Intermedia, a digital marketing shop focusing on customer acquisition.

SEO: Arc Intermedia

“Our first task was to learn about Crossroads, understand the different audiences, understand the marketing and web presence as it stood and then devise an integrated plan that married a strong web presence with support from digital tactics such as SEO, SEM, display advertising and retargeting,” said David Sonn, president and director of strategy at Arc, of their start with Crossroads in 2014. “SEO should always have a strong influence on the organization of content, what type of content you’re developing and how it’s delivered to the consumer.”

It was important for the established team of people working on the Crossroads content to start weaving SEO into their writing and understanding its positive impact on the blog.

“We’ve been very involved with getting all teams on board and helping everyone understand the balance between what the user wants and what the search engine wants. That balance is the key to growing the blog’s reach organically,” says Patrick Coyne, SEO and social strategy manager at Arc. “Tighter collaboration between the different shops has really been the biggest evolvement for the Crossroads social program. If social or PR is doing something that could benefit from SEO, we want to be a part of it.”

Each team is focused on the continuing growth of this very sophisticated model of content marketing. There a lot of moving parts and areas of expertise that continue to drive the evolution of Crossroads’ award-winning blog.

“We know content is king. We expect to continue to generate great story ideas and deliver upon them with outstanding content to maintain an award-winning blog for Crossroads,” said Lisa of the SPRYTE team.

“We are always talking about how we can begin to address the needs of different audiences,” says Matthew of ChatterBlast. “We want our content to evolve so that it engages our current audience, and also speaks to those who don’t know they need Crossroads’ help yet. I really love this team and organization and think that the Crossroads experience is an important story to tell.”

“The goal is to continue to evolve and keep providing exceptional content for healthcare professionals and consumers,” says Michelle of the Tag team.

Patrick of Arc agrees – “We always want to develop the best possible content that we know people want to read in a time of need. Always keeping an eye on what people expect from Crossroads and delivering on that expectation is what helps to keep our content exceptional.”

Podcasting for Healthcare

Honing in on Dedicated Consumers

As healthcare communicators we are always looking for new and creative ways to get our messages out to our desired audiences.

One of the fastest-growing mediums in recent years has been podcasting. The 2017 Infinite Dial Study by Edison Research and Triton Digital found that 40 percent of all Americans age 12+ have listened to a podcast at some point. That’s up from only 13 percent 10 years ago. And 24 percent listened to one within the past month.

In addition, podcast listeners are active consumers. Edison Research reports that of all audio sources, listeners spend 30% of their listening time on podcasts, compared to 21% on AM/FM radio and 23% on owned music.

According to the Pew Research Center, one of the largest podcasting hosting services, Libsyn, reported 3.3 billion requests for downloads in 2015 (most recent year available). That was up from 2.6 billion in 2014, 1.9 billion in 2013 and 1.6 billion in 2012.

Why is podcasting so popular?

One reason is that people are busy. They just don’t have time to sit and pay attention to the vast flood of media information and entertainment that is coming at them.

Podcasts are a practical and convenient means for multitasking individuals to keep up-to-date with information that is most important to them. And they don’t take much effort. Podcast listeners can plug into their latest episodes anywhere they please – while sitting on the commuter train or bus, working out at the gym (treadmill and healthcare podcast – perfect together?), or doing chores at home.

The continuing popularity of mobile devices and satellite radio (the “connected car”) are helping to spur the growth of the podcast market, as more and more consumers are able to access their favorite podcasts via smartphone, tablet or other portable device.

The introduction of smart speakers such as Apple’s HomePod, Amazon Echo and Google Home products is another positive development for evolving communications platforms that empower consumers to create their own media mix.

New Outreach for Healthcare Communicators

From the healthcare communicators’ standpoint, this suggests an attractive opportunity – to have a captive audience for (typically) 30 to 45 minutes so that your unfiltered, uncensored healthcare message can be heard. It’s a unique chance to develop the kind of personal relationship and engagement that blogs, Facebook and Twitter can’t match.

Done well, your podcasting platform can help position your doctors, nurses or other healthcare professionals as authorities while at the same time driving traffic back to your website. (Every podcast directory provides a link back to your website, thus you can channel listeners there at the conclusion of each podcast.).

One more consideration is that, because of this more intimate level of engagement, podcast listeners tend to be more intent listeners. Midroll, a podcast advertising network, reports that 63% of its listeners purchased a product or service after hearing it advertised on a podcast. It isn’t far-fetched to think that an already pre-qualified listener (one who has made the choice to download your podcast) might be predisposed to visit your hospital or practice to sign-up for a procedure, service, or healthcare event that your podcast has covered in interesting detail.

Metrics Still Evolving

Earlier this year, Nielsen, the prominent media measurement company, announced that it was working with several key clients in testing a platform for podcasting metrics. Currently, the key measurement involves tabulating how many users download specific podcasts from a hosting platform such as Libsyn or iTunes. Nielsen is reportedly looking for ways to gain a better understanding about the time users spend listening and being engaged, as well as individual listener demographics. Nielsen says it hopes to launch its podcast metrics platform toward the end of 2017.

For healthcare communicators, this is offered as the “why” you should consider podcasting. In a future SPRYTE Insights Blog we’ll discuss the “how” you should go about setting up a podcasting program.