The New Healthcare Marketing Team: Hire a Content Strategist

This blog post is part of a series on The New Healthcare Marketing Team. In our first post, we explained why it’s time to stop building teams full of generalists. Now, we’re highlighting the specialists that healthcare organizations need to be effective on the web. This week, meet your new colleague: the content strategist. 

“Content strategy” should be as common in healthcare as buzzwords like “patient experience” and “the care continuum.” But most healthcare marketing professionals still get confused by the term.

The quick version: A content strategist plans how an organization’s branded content will be created, delivered, measured and managed.

Their goal is to stay on top of how your healthcare organization’s content meets the organization’s goals and the patient’s informational needs.

 Here are a 5 signs your healthcare organization needs a content strategist:

  1. You have an obese website with thousands of pages, and you have no idea if the content is any good or who’s in charge of it.
  2. Your web team functions like a fast food drive-thru: Someone wants a new web page, and your team says “Comin’ right up.”
  3. A million different logos and messages are being pushed out to the public—all from your healthcare organization.
  4. People are staying late and stressed out because of web marketing tasks.
  5. Your website does not have original content. So you’re doing things like using your press releases or health library as landing pages.

content strategist job

Why does healthcare need to focus on content strategy?

  1. Patients want to experience your organization before they make an appointment.
  2. People don’t like ugly, confusing websites. And they don’t give healthcare a pass just because you’re saving babies.
  3. Your website is your first chance to establish trust. Broken links and content from 1997 don’t live up to claims of being a “cutting edge” or “world-class organization.”

Jamey Shiels leads a content strategy team as the Vice President of eBusiness Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. Here are his thoughts on why content strategy was so important they developed an in-house team.

When did you make content strategy a full-time position?

We’ve had the content team for 2 years. Our team used to be small with a manager and a developer. We’d get content from other places, and we had agency partners for SEO and other things. But as we started to focus on UX (user experience), we realized how important content was as a strategy.

For all we were investing in SEO and branding, we needed to bring the content strategy in-house. So, we built a team specifically for content with two people and a manager, Leith Johnson, to lead those efforts.

What does your content strategy team do?

From an awareness and acquisition point, they look at what we say and how we position ourselves through our content.

For example, a lot of healthcare organizations publish content about specific diseases. But we decided that, instead of trying to compete with WebMD, we’d say, “For your health condition, here is the physician or team or hospital that’s best at treating it.” That’s where we focus our web content.

From a day–to-day standpoint, our team is responsible for the messaging on our websites and social media. They make sure those channels maintain the brand’s voice and design consistency, and they decide which content is good for a website versus Facebook versus Twitter.

They also do keyword analysis, UX design and wireframe work to make sure our websites are keyword rich with an easy user flow.

Web content can get out of hand very quickly. How does your content strategy team keep it under control?

Our content strategists have the power to say no.

With the manager as the point person, the team makes sure that their projects are aligned with our digital strategy and the organization’s business strategy. If they get a request that’s out of scope, they can say, “That’s a great idea, but no, we’re not doing that.”

The content strategy team’s manager is aware of Aurora Health Care’s business goals. I allow her to interact directly at the leadership level—with physician leads and directors. Being in meetings with stakeholders makes all the difference. It enhances her authority.

Also, the beauty of content strategy is that it’s part art, part science. In healthcare, we lead with the science. The data. We use keyword research and analytics to make decisions.

We analyze our pages to look at what’s resonating the most with people and which placement is working. Clinicians love that. Then, we close with the art of brand voice, perspective and design.

What skills and background experience were you looking for in a content strategist?

We looked for people from a content background—storytellers and writers who understand structure. They also had to have experience with UX design and the constantly evolving ballpark of SEO.

We tend to like hiring agency people because they are more accustomed to the speed at which we wanted to move. Plus, they have exposure to managing content for a variety of clients, like service companies or packaged goods brands.

Our current content strategy manager comes from a creative background—graphic and web design, which over time grew into UX and content strategy.

How did you find your content strategy team members?

I cheated. We hired her from the agency world. We contracted with her for a year on a redesign project. So when the position became open we said, “Here. Please, take it.”

Since there’s no degree for this, how can other healthcare marketing teams vet potential content strategists?

You want to make sure candidates can articulate their experience with content as a strategy.

  • Do they have experience redesigning websites? If they say yes, ask them to show you assets around information architecture and wireframes.
  • Ask them, “How would you tackle a website redesign for this service line.” If they immediately start talking about tactics, like what pages they would build, that’s not a good sign. If they say, “Here’s how I would approach the research,” or “I’d start with the business goals,” that’s good.

Is this where healthcare web marketing is headed—making content strategy and other web specialties a main focus?

Absolutely. We have to marry where healthcare is headed versus what consumers experience on the web. Take Amazon. The site is easy to use and they are pushing relevant content to me at the same time. That takes strategy, and content is what powers these sites.

In general, healthcare marketing is going to have to move toward specialists on two fronts: content and technology. If the team is just generalists, digital marketing is not going to be effective. Whether it’s staff or an agency partner, we have to get so much better than what we’re doing.

Not every healthcare organization has the resources (or the need) for a full-time content strategis. Check out CareContent’s content strategy services for your healthcare organization’s blog or brand journalism site.