Hospitals

The Mass. healthcare market is “ferocious.” Here’s one hospital’s chief marketer’s strategy

Margaret Coughlin doesn’t believe in the phrase “content is king.” Rather, content is queen, and context is king, she likes to say. In marketing, content must be put into a strategy, Coughlin told the crowd Wednesday at the Content Marketing World Health Summit in Cleveland. For most of her career, Coughlin’s focused on brand strategy […]

Margaret Coughlin doesn’t believe in the phrase “content is king.”

Rather, content is queen, and context is king, she likes to say. In marketing, content must be put into a strategy, Coughlin told the crowd Wednesday at the Content Marketing World Health Summit in Cleveland.

For most of her career, Coughlin’s focused on brand strategy and marketing for consumer goods and services, and as the chief marketing and communications officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, she’s spent the last year and a half building the hospital’s patient volume, reputation and brand in what she called the competitive, “ferocious and insane” healthcare market in Massachusetts. These days, the hospital is seeing competition from other health systems and also from retail clinics, which are popular in the state and will grow in pediatrics, she predicted.

One of her initial challenges at the hospital was creating a consistency of brand. “We had 800,000 Facebook followers and yet we had researchers and doctors who were created their own pages,” she said. In addition to dealing with some of this delinquent content, Coughlin’s team focused on a centralized content planning strategy with the goal of growing loyalty to the hospital through “approachable content that resonates with functional and emotional drivers,” she said.

Given that parents’ healthcare decisions no longer follow the traditional purchase funnel path, following instead more of a non-linear decision journey, it was important to make sure the hospital was making an impact at each point of that journey – from initial consideration to evaluation to moment of purchase and post-purchase. That meant the team needed to understand what sources parent use to make their hospital selection and what factors impact their decision, and then create great content that could be reused across various media types to reach parents at every stage of their decision.

One example of that is the hospital’s “Until Every Child is Well” campaign, meant to spread the word about the its dedication to medicine and research. It conveyed a single message across many media platforms by using the hospital’s website content on its microsite – and the other way around – and distributing that content through social channels. Visitors could also support the campaign by downloading a song on iTunes, or uploading a “support badge” to their Facebook page.

But there are still plenty of challenges for team, which Coughlin said needs more agile communication enabled by the right technology and better content management resources. “There is so much garbage out there that consumers are relying on to make decisions,” Coughlin said. “Our content has to be the most transparent, the most trusted. It’s got to be completely straight.”

It’s got a good start on that with the help of Dr. Claire McCarthy, a primary care physician who writes blog posts for the hospital’s blog. The key is that those posts are syndicated in key publications like Boston.com and Huffington Post and shared through all of Boston Children’s social media outlets.

That’s a great segue into another one of Coughlin’s favorite catchphrases. “Nurture the long tail,” she said at the conclusion of her presentation. “Use (content) again and again.”

[Photo by @juntajoe]