More hospitals and health systems are having a Eureka! moment about content. They’re realizing that they have tons of stories and information to share, and they don’t have to wait for other media outlets to recognize that.
Hospitals and health systems can become their own media outlets. That’s brand journalism.
Brand journalism is presenting narrative content on a specific topic, but using your own experts as the source. If done well, it’s a win-win. You give people content they want and promote your brand at the same time.
If your hospital or health system is considering brand journalism as a digital marketing tactic, here are 11 questions to ask yourself first:
What are your healthcare organization’s intended purposes for the brand journalism site?
Have your team rank these in order of importance.
Your organization wants to share stories about your patients, employees, innovations, events, and the impact of your services.
Industry Example: Microsoft Stories is the brand journalism site by and about Microsoft—their great people, their great products, and their great ideas.
Your organization wants to promotes its services, philosophy, and expertise, prompting the site’s visitors to take a next step.
Industry Example: Red Bull’s main website and its brand journalism site, The Red Bulletin, are a buffet of stories and images about guys pushing their physical abilities to the bleeding edge. But their goal is clear: They want you to start drinking Red Bull. Then, go flip off a building or something.
Your organization wants to share news about medical research, medical procedures, and healthcare trends, even if the news does not directly pertain to your healthcare organization.
Industry Example: Adobe’s CMO.com site shares information about all things marketing. The content may or may not feature Adobe products, or it may be curated from another site.
Your organization wants to be an educational resource for explanations that pull back the curtain, opinions that counter popular beliefs, and do-this-not-that advice to help people make informed healthcare decisions.
Industry Example: smallbeats, a site from Children’s Hospital & Medical Center of Omaha, offers content for families whose children have serious heart conditions. These families are often thrown into a world of complex medical terms, high-stakes surgeries, and emotional turmoil. They turn to the site for information and encouragement.
Many healthcare organizations believe that in order to have broad appeal, they should avoid defining a target audience. Or they define their audience as “anyone interested in healthcare.”
We always urge our clients to consider targeting an audience. In each of the blue-ribbon brand journalism examples mentioned above, the site has a clear persona:
- Microsoft Stories are for people with an advanced interest in gadgets and the future of technology.
- Red Bull’s sites are for those young weekend warrior types who end up in your ED.
- Adobe’s CMO.com is for marketing execs who need to stay abreast of digital trends.
- smallbeats is for families whose lives have been uprooted because of their child’s heart condition.
If you try to target everyone, you risk reaching no one. It’s actually better to start with a target audience, then expand as your traffic increases. And there is a way to have broad appeal while still focusing on a particular audience, like people living with a chronic condition, or concept, like clearing up healthcare misinformation.
Here are 4 additional questions about the target audience:
What are the demographics of the audience you want to reach?
(Sex, age, health insurance status, education level, income level, marital and family status, race/ethnicity, employment status)
What are the psychographics of the audience you want to reach?
(Values, beliefs, interests, priorities, lifestyle, personality traits, etc.)
How will the content tap the audience’s interests and still meet your strategic goals?
This looks at your resources for connecting with this audience. Maybe your healthcare organization hosts support groups and events for the target audience.
Will your target audience also include your staff members and clinicians?
If so, how will your content include them?
This is the hard part—pulling together the skills and processes that will make your brand journalism site an online destination without being a burnout nightmare.
Which in-house staff will work on the site?
- Content strategist to ensure that the content is aligned with your organization’s strategic goals, intended purposes, and other web marketing initiatives
- Managing editor to project manage deadlines, generate and assign content ideas, and create/maintain the content calendar
- Journalists to generate ideas, research information, interview clinicians, and create the content or repurpose already created content
- Content manager to load content into the content management system and ensure that it is published on time, without error, and renders properly on all devices
- Graphic designers to apply visual design to content that’s consistent with branding, e.g., infographics, slideshows, graphics for social media
- Videographer to create and edit video or audio content
- UX designer to design the site interface for usability
- Community manager to develop and maintain a tactical plan for promotion, monitor and respond to comments 24/7, ensure that the content follows best practices for social media, and conduct social listening for content ideas
- Analytics specialist to track whether content is meeting goals and which content gets the most engagement, conduct A/B tests, and draft regular analytics dashboards
How will you feature your staff and physicians?
Some options include:
- Your content includes interviewing and quoting a staff member or physician in each post.
- The clinicians will have ghostwritten bylines and author bios. If this is your choice, who will write and edit the first drafts?
- Your marketing team will write the content, have bylines, and get author bios.
- Use a general staff byline, such as “Written by: Premier Hospital Team.”
- You won’t have bylines.
How often would you like to post?
Unlike a blog that can feature new content once or twice a week, brand journalism is about creating a dependence on your site’s content. That means you have to publish new content at least daily.
- Start at daily with plans to increase
- Twice daily
- Start twice daily with plans to increase
- Start with more than twice daily
Which content formats could you envision the site featuring regularly?
Obviously, feature articles will be included, but consider other formats for variety:
- Audio interview with clinician
- User-generated content
Even though journalism is a long-term investment of time, resources, and expertise, initial traction is possible.
Here are 2 more questions to define success in the first few months after launching:
Which wins are the most important indicators of initial success?
- Getting picked up by other media
- Traffic from search engines
- Going viral
- Steadily increasing traffic
- Engagement, e.g. likes, shares, retweets
- Conversations, i.e. people asking follow-up questions on social media or commenting back to the author
- Conversions, i.e. patients requesting appointments, signing up for events, giving an email in exchange for downloading a patient guide
What would happen to your digital marketing efforts if you did NOT launch a brand journalism site?
To answer this, think about your healthcare organization’s current image in its service area and what your competitors are doing. Think about what your healthcare organization wants to become, and how brand journalism can make that happen.