The more traditional models of earned, owned and paid media for health care marketers are falling by the wayside—especially now, in an age of well-informed consumers seeking out rich amounts of information to help them make health care decisions. Today, when eyeballs on cell phones and tablets are trumping desktop PCs and televisions, health care marketers are still trying to figure out the best ways to stay relevant in an industry that’s heavily regulated.
“When you’re talking about a regulated industry, it gets very difficult to move into new channels and into new media because of the risks and because of the uncertainties,” says Rebecca Lieb, industry analyst at Altimeter Group. “This is an issue that goes beyond paid, owned and earned media. There is that pressure to go to where the audience is, and the audience is clearly in digital channels, particularly for purchases, products and services that involve a high degree of consideration and education. If you look at Google statistics in health care, symptoms and diseases are [some] of the most searched topics on the Web.”
While health care marketers may have once relied upon placing a print ad in a magazine, playing a video about their practice on the television in their waiting room or having their savvy PR rep pitch a story about a new medical technology, landing them a sweet spot on page four of the local newspaper, those strategies by themselves were good until the digital revolution took full effect.
These days, earned media is a blog post from a New York Times journalist about a surprising medical breakthrough, and owned media is a Pinterest board using a series of photo essays to explain cosmetic medical procedures offered. Paid media is a sponsored tweet introducing a new treatment for arthritis.
Some organizations, including the Rochester Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, have truly embraced the new social versions of earned, owned and paid media. The Mayo Clinic even developed its own health care-focused social media center, the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCCSM). It also has the most popular medical provider channel on YouTube, more than 485,000 “likes” on Facebook, more than 677,000 followers on Twitter, a news blog, a podcast blog and Sharing Mayo Clinic, a blog that enables patients and employees to tell their Mayo Clinic stories. In addition to tools for its employees and patients, Mayo Clinic also offers a Social Media Residency training program for health care marketers wanting to get a better handle on social media strategy and its applications in health care. Topics range from Twitter chats to how to start and manage a blog.
“With 1.1 billion people on Facebook regularly, with hundreds of millions on Twitter, there are all sorts of conversations about health care, about health care organizations and just about health-related topics that are happening already and it is incumbent upon people who represent health care organizations and work in health care to be part of those online conversations,” says Lee Aase, director of the MCCSM. “There is huge opportunity for good to come out of that.”
But with privacy concerns such a hot-button issue, why should health care marketers migrate over to these digital channels now? The quick answer is because consumers and potential new patients are already in that space. “If you have good policies in place—good training for your employees—there isn’t any reason why there would be significant HIPPA privacy concerns,” Aase says. “There are certainly some risks of being involved, but the bigger risk is not being involved, in which case there are real implications of the absence of medical providers from these conversations.”
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