MedCity Influencers

How healthcare practice marketers can maximize PR, social media tools to attract new patients

In 2017 there’s a lot that healthcare marketers can do to reach a wider audience, connect with patients, and drive traffic.

Public relations for physician practices and other healthcare organizations is no longer just press releases and traditional media interviews. Modern PR includes posting content on social media, a company’s website and more. It may seem challenging to reach new patients and interact online given all the regulations the healthcare industry faces. Yet, it’s not impossible. In fact, in 2017 there’s a lot that healthcare marketers can do to reach a wider audience, connect with patients, and drive traffic and impressions.

Here’s what you need to know to about healthcare PR in 2017 and how to make it work for you.

It’s time to harness influencers

Businesses have been using influencer marketing for years to reach broader audiences and drive brand impressions and authority. A 2014 Influencer Marketing Benchmarks Report from Burst Media found that it even provides significant ROI: On average, marketers made $6.85 in earned media value for every $1 of paid media, as reported by AdWeek.

Within the same study, participants used the three following influencer-marketing tools:

  • Sponsored blog posts
  • Social syndication and branded content distribution
  • Influencers and influential content

The goal is to use these tools and tactics to expand your reach within influencer networks on social media, blogs, and paid media. The first step, however, is determining who your ideal patient or audience is — that will dictate who your influencers are.

For example, a brain surgeon may be highly influential in the neurosurgery world, but in pediatric medicine, he’s likely not well known.

Use tools like BuzzSumo, FollowerWonk and Klout to make the process of finding your influencers easier and faster. Next, start a list that includes the influencer’s name, area of influence, opportunity (sponsored blog post, syndicated content) along with relevant links, such as their website and social media channels.

Now all that’s left is to reach out, develop a partnership, and do the work. Be sure to track metrics to see which influencers are more effective for your goals, whether you want to drive traffic or new patient sign ups.

You can say a lot on social media—and should

Social media can be a scary place for practice marketers unused to the medium and who are wary of violating regulations. However, it’s a place you need to be considering that social media and community management are the strongest drivers of growth in the digital and social arena, according to 55.3 percent of digital agency leaders polled.

The key is to know how to use social media most effectively. The following ideas are a great place to start.

Communicate your “why”

Authenticity is everything in our world of nonstop advertizing. Use social media to communicate the “why” of your practice and the various people within it. Feature one doctor a month with an image-based post that includes a quote about their “why.”

Pair this with a blog post, which can be shared as well. After being indexed by Google, it will start ranking in search, giving new patients another way of finding your website when searching online.

Make your office relatable 

A trip to a doctor’s office can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people, whether they suffer from anxiety or are worried about a health issue. Make it feel more comfortable by taking your social media followers “behind the scenes”. Share photos of doctors talking with one another in the office or co-workers having fun at an office event. You can even share videos of funny things happening around the office.

Note: To be compliant with HIPPA, avoid posting photos or videos of someone who has not consented to be in it; this goes for people in the background as well.

Share both the risks and benefits 

When promoting a specific type of drug or product, the FDA requires that you share equally about the risks and benefits. That doesn’t mean you can highlight the benefits in large font and push the risks to the bottom of your post in smaller font; the FDA evaluates the entire social post, according to the report What FDA Regulations Mean for Healthcare PR Professionals:

The FDA considers not only words or statements, but also designs and images, format, and placement and size of the text. So while individual statements may be accurate and not misleading, you must consider the impact of the piece as a whole before determining whether it meets this FDA standard.

Patient stories

 A PWC survey found 29 percent of people are looking at other patients’ experiences with their disease on social media. Use this to your advantage by sharing interesting stories about patients with unique health experiences (with their permission). This is an opportunity to show that your business can handle a variety of health concerns while educating and attracting patients. Always have the patient sign a waiver in cases like this, so you have proof of their consent.

The need for content

Content is a broad word that refers to assets of all kind, including:

  • Text-based (i.e., blog posts, eBooks, white papers, articles)
  • Photos
  • Graphics
  • Videos
  • Online tools, such as a BMI calculator or arthritis symptoms quiz.

Harnessing this content to drive engagement, traffic and search engine optimization is critical in 2017. Not only is it a valuable asset for influencer marketing, but it’s also a general marketing tool that can be used to reach a wide range of goals. These goals should be at the forefront of the creation process to ensure you get the most from your efforts.

For example, if your goal is to drive more new patient sign ups, you may create a piece of content that would be most appealing to your target patient. If your goal is to drive backlinks, the content may matter less than the format; engaging graphics, for example, tend to drive more links than a regular blog post.

Once the content is created, it’s time to distribute, whether that’s through a paid ad, your influencer network, or organic social posting.

Here’s an example:

A pediatric healthcare office has a goal of adding 10 new patients in the next six months. To do so, they have to reach their target audience, which isn’t kids, but their parents. In this case, it creates a downloadable checklist of important doctor appointment dates from birth to age 10, which parents can use as a reference.

The office “gates” the download —those interested have to provide contact details such as name and email to get it. Finally, they create a highly targeted Facebook ad to drive clicks to this content. The office then follows up with anyone who downloaded the content to find out if they’re interested in setting up an initial appointment.

Despite regulations, the healthcare industry has a lot of opportunities to take advantage of modern PR in 2017. Use these ideas to jumpstart your efforts, and slowly you’ll figure out what works best for your audience and practice.

Photo: Getty Images, monique28

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