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Part 2: Interview With Jessica Levco: How Healthcare Systems Can Approach COVID-19 Content Marketing

Jessica Levco
Jessica Levco

Jessica Levco — healthcare journalist and content marketer — and I recently chatted about how important it is for healthcare marketing teams to communicate COVID-19 information as effectively as possible. This is part two of our discussion, but you can check out Part 1 here if you missed it.

Kadesha: What are you seeing resonate well with the users of health system websites? What are they clicking on, what are they commenting on, what are they sharing?

Jessica: People are really appreciating information that is easy to read, not overwhelming, and not scary. People want to know about visitor updates and guidelines. People want to know what the hospital is doing to prepare.

Here’s another example — Michigan Medicine. What I like about their website is that they have really straightforward news. It’s a bunch of press releases that say what’s happening, and they keep it pretty updated.

We all have those blogs that we’ve talked about from Cleveland Healthy to IU, which apply to patients. But at a time like this, it’s also nice to just have real, hard facts, such as this is how many people we’ve treated, and this is what we’re going to do.

Kadesha: I’ve seen some hospitals shy away from that. Some hospitals are comfortable publishing how many people have tested positive, how many people they’ve treated, how many of their providers have also tested positive. You also have some hospitals, where if they’re not putting it out there, their local news is.

Should hospitals be comfortable publishing those numbers?

Jessica: That’s a good question, and I think you could really go either way. You don’t want to hide — you don’t want to say that this isn’t happening. And people will eventually find out the numbers. If you don’t share the news, somebody else will.

As a hospital marketer, it’s a great opportunity for you to say, “This is exactly what is happening, and here’s what’s going on”. At a time like this, people are really hungry for facts and clear information.

Hospitals had a great reputation as being a source of news going into COVID-19. Now more than ever, they should highlight that even more.

Kadesha: I think you’re right, and I sincerely hope hospitals and health systems look at this as more than just a crisis but also an opportunity to really be a resource for their service area and their audiences.

We don’t want to seem opportunistic and use this as a time to shine. That shouldn’t be the motivation. But I think there’s definitely a hunger now more than ever for people to hear from their hospital. This is not just an attempt to put out something that people will only share — they actually will read it and engage with it. They’re waiting on it. Give your service area the information and insight that they want to hear specifically from you.

Jessica: Yes, and if your hospital CEO is already on Twitter, now would be a great time to start ghostwriting some tweets. I know now a lot of hospitals are doing town halls and they’re taping those, especially for their remote employees. This might be a great opportunity to start taping some of your town halls. It wouldn’t have to be the whole thing but maybe just determine that for the first 10 minutes of this town hall, we’re going to make this for the public.

Kadesha: Any other tips for health systems and hospitals that are looking to use content marketing to educate their audiences about this?

Jessica: Since they aren’t doing elective surgeries, now would be a great time to do any kind of highlights you can on your telehealth services. Maybe if you write a blog about stress levels, you put at the end, “We know this is a difficult time. If you need somebody to talk to, click here.”

It’s also really important for marketers to start tracking how many visits they’re getting through telehealth and through their content marketing efforts. In terms of any kind of cuts marketing departments might have to face, they can prove, because of this content, we’ve booked 15 new appointments through telehealth.

There are also a lot of people who have scheduled their bariatric surgeries, joint replacements — you don’t want to forget about those people or make them feel like since COVID-19 happened, I’m not going to get the surgery I wanted. It would be very depressing if you were a patient who was preparing to have this kind of surgery and then you don’t hear anything from the hospital. Nobody calls you, you can’t call them because the lines are too busy, and you’re just left waiting where you don’t know what to do. It would be really nice if you could do any kind of outreach to those patients.

Eventually, things will come to a new normal, and patients will still need their surgeries. You want to let them know that you are still thinking of them and you haven’t forgotten.

Kadesha: I also wanted to touch on some of the cuts, the furloughs, and all of these other ways that hospitals are trying to contain costs — understandably so. Have any of the hospitals and health systems that you’re in contact with had marketing cuts happen?

Jessica: As far as I know, everyone I know is still okay.

Kadesha: Wow, that’s excellent. We’ve definitely had clients have spending freezes and be requested to take pay cuts. I’m really amazed at how they’re still staying motivated — you still see them pushing out new content despite all that.

Jessica: It’s heartbreaking when the marketing department gets cut. Even though digital marketing teams are not on the frontlines giving actual care, they are on the frontlines of giving information.

Kadesha: And I think this is another opportunity to prove that value. This is your time to say, as the marketing team, we can keep the call volume down if we’re able to communicate properly. They can really show how they can be supporters of those front line workers and not add more of a burden to the system.

Jessica: Now is the time more than ever to literally track everything you’re doing and send it into somebody every week. Say, “Here’s what the marketing team is doing, and here are our numbers.” When cuts happen, I always feel like it’s marketing and communications teams, but you kind of have to toot your own horn and say, “If you cut us, this is what you’re going to lose.”

When cuts or furloughs happen, you don’t want to burn out your employees who are left behind. You’ve got to figure out ways to keep the workload manageable. It really is not fair if somebody gets cut, and the person who is left behind has two times the work. I think there would have to be some real talks with somebody in C-suite saying, “If this is going to happen, we won’t have X, Y, and Z.”

Kadesha: Exactly. It sounds like that’s a conversation, then, about priorities. If we’re going to cut the team, then we also need to cut the work volume. That means prioritizing what is the most important and what is the most effective. 

And you’re absolutely right — if you’re tracking, you can answer that question easily. If you’re not, then you really need to look at what the most effective way is that you can serve the community and serve the healthcare system right now. Test it, see if it works, and if not, stop doing it. Like seriously, if your healthcare marketing team launched a podcast or e-newsletter in the last month, but it’s not getting any traffic, either tweak it or retire it.  I think there’s definitely a habit in marketing teams of keeping things going that aren’t effective, but we don’t have the bandwidth or the time for that anymore. 

Jessica: No, those days are over. So many days we used to know are over. 

Kadesha: So many, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this changes things. I do think it’s going to be more positive changes than anything. 

Jessica: Yeah, I agree. I think healthcare marketing will be different — in a good way. 

If you’re looking to improve your COVID-19-related content marketing, we can help.