Part 2: Interview With Jessica Levco: How Healthcare Systems Can Approach COVID-19 Content Marketing
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.
Healthcare Web Content: 4 Reasons To Take A More Casual Tone
How you communicate is just as important as what you communicate—especially in healthcare.
Voice and tone are so often overlooked during the content creation process for healthcare web content, but they are key in distinguishing your brand and truly impacting your target audiences.
Maybe that’s why poor health literacy is such a huge issue in this country. Only 12% of US adults have what is considered a proficient level of health literacy, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In some areas of the country, 1 out of 2 people have a basic or below basic ability to comprehend health information, reports a study from University of North Carolina. This means that half of the population in these areas can read an appointment reminder and figure out when their next trip to the doctor is.
But filling out consent forms and insurance paperwork—or even understanding a pamphlet about healthcare services once they’re at the appointment—is tough.
At CareContent, we are all about increasing health literacy. And as a team of content specialists for healthcare, we advocate for patient-focused content to take a more conversational tone. Here are 4 reasons why.
1. A Casual Tone Helps Patients Understand Complex Information Better
When web content is narrated in a way that sounds like someone is talking, it helps patients understand the information better. The same goes for avoiding wonky language and acronyms. Ditto for cutting out long strings of sentences. When you break the information up and make it digestible, it becomes easier to understand.
This is part of our health literacy mission. If we want people to understand their diagnosis, their treatment, and their medical team, we have to talk at a level that they are comfortable with.
We don’t want people to have to read our client’s content with a dictionary next to them. We don’t them to have to ask the doctor, “What does that word even mean?”
For me, this mission is personal.
My son was recently diagnosed with mild autism. Even getting to that diagnosis required a lot of appointments with pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental and occupational therapists, social workers, and a lot of other specialists who work in early childhood development.
One of the common complaints I’ve heard from other moms in this same position is that these specialists talk to parents like they’re talking to each other. Some of them spew out acronyms and terminology like you graduated with their credentials.
This is an issue for two reasons:
- It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Why should I have to stop and ask you to explain what you just explained? If they break the information down well to begin with, this doubling back wouldn’t be needed.
- It creates more anxiety. A lot of these medical jargon-y words seem scarier and more alien than what they actually mean.
Explaining healthcare information to patients is not the time for the medical expert to display their intelligence. We already know you’re smart. When information is presented to patients in a formal, clinical, wonky voice, that creates questions instead of answering them. And that’s a problem.
2. Conversational Healthcare Web Content Is Better For Search
In addition to helping people understand the information, taking a more conversational tone can also help with search results. This is especially true with the rise of voice search using virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, etc.
Today, nearly 1 in 4 people with an Android device speak their search query versus typing it.
Voice searchers don’t say, “pediatric autism specialist Chicago.” Instead, they say, “Where is the nearest pediatric autism specialist?” or “I need an autism specialist for my toddler.”
To ensure that the search engine robots crawl your content and connect it with something a voice searcher might say, your content needs to match how people talk.
3. Healthcare Web Content Needs To Create Empathy
The third reason to take a more conversational tone for healthcare web content is that it creates a more personal connection with people when, as they’re reading the content, they feel as if they are talking to someone—as if they can hear the nurse or doctor’s voice as they’re reading.
This is a great tactic for organizations that are trying to personalize their providers’ voices online. Wording the information the same way they’d explain it to their patients humanizes them.
This humanization goes hand-in-hand with the fact that most people who are looking for healthcare information online are often in need of empathy. They want to know that they are not alone, that their concerns are being heard, and that they can get help.
Taking a more conversational tone goes a long way toward providing that comfort and empathy patients and caregivers need.
4. Voice And Tone Can Set Your Healthcare Web Content Apart
Refining a conversational voice and tone is one of the most underestimated ways to distinguish a brand. Lots of companies seek to distinguish their brands using fonts, colors, and logos. And while these are all elements to consider, voice is often left out.
This might seem like an inappropriate example for a healthcare setting, but, for instance, take the website Thug Kitchen [Warning: If you click this link, don’t be offended]. Thug Kitchen started as a recipe website that has grown into a vegan cooking empire with three bestselling cookbooks.
The recipes are good, but it’s their intrepid voice and tone that made them culinary stars: Their recipes are full of cuss words.
I remember looking up a recipe for homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving one year, and their recipe popped up first in my search. The first line: “Put the f***ing can opener down.” I laughed the whole time as I went through this recipe.
Other companies like MailChimp and BuzzFeed have risen to become leaders in their market because of the way they say things.
These may not be healthcare brands, but those of us creating healthcare web content can borrow this principle. Using a conversational voice and tone makes your content memorable. And that, in turn, makes your organization memorable.
Are you ready for your healthcare web content to have a voice and tone makeover? Contact us to get started.
4 Healthcare Websites That Don’t Exist Yet … But Really Should
Digital marketing in healthcare is all about thinking outside the box. In fact, sometimes that box—or website—doesn’t even exist yet. Instead, all that exists is a blank space, waiting for its niche to be filled.
From helping hypochondriacs to assisting aspiring doctors, here are 4 healthcare websites that don’t exist yet … but really should.
1. The Healthy Hypochondriac
Being self-aware about your health is good. Knowing your body’s warning signals can alert you that it’s time to get checked out and treated by a medical professional.
Hypochondriacs take that self-awareness to a whole new level. We all know that one person who thinks that the smallest dull pain in his pinky toe must surely mean he’s dying. After all, he Googled it, so that one-in-a-million worst-case scenario must be true. There’s simply no way it’s just an ingrown toenail, right?
But what if there was a healthcare website that encouraged hypochondriacs to step away from the search bar and turn to the professionals instead? That’s where The Healthy Hypochondriac comes in.
This site would allow visitors to list their symptoms. Then, instead of providing them with a long list of results that vary in severity (and likelihood), from “you’ve stubbed your toe and it’s a little bruised” to “you’re definitely dying,” it would display the following message:
Only a qualified medical professional can diagnose your ailment with any degree of certainty. Not sure where the nearest provider is? Here is a list of medical specialists in your area.
The list that follows this message would include contact information for local providers, rather than a prescription for panic.
2. Dude, It’s Time For A Checkup
The problem with the stereotype that men hate going to the doctor—and thus will avoid doing so at all costs—is that it has become a self-perpetuating problem. Guys know they’re expected to want to avoid the doctor, and so they act accordingly, lest they be accused of being unmanly.
One way to stop the spread of this stereotype would be to instead spread the message that “real men know it’s okay to go to the doctor.” How?
Dude, It’s Time For A Checkup would feature multimedia messages from men whose successes span the cultural gamut—athletes, musicians, actors, scientists, entrepreneurs, and more—all sharing why they go to the doctor.
Messages can be targeted by specialty or condition—everything from the importance of having an annual physical to knowing your risk for prostate cancer.
Plus, there’s also the potential for a female-oriented spinoff: Girl, It’s Time To Get A Checkup.
3. Is This Health Info Legit?
Is This Health Info Legit? would be a myth-busting, fact-checking site—sort of like Snopes—but aimed solely at healthcare-related topics.
However, this site would take the mission of encouraging health literacy a step further. Sure, it would provide reliable information on the latest healthcare fads and news—and provide warnings about any misinformation that is making the rounds online.
But the site would also have a section dedicated to helping visitors make their own decisions about healthcare websites’ trustworthiness. How? By encouraging them to question an article’s sources and claims—and reminding them that their doctor can always help them separate fact from fiction.
4. There’s A Doc For That
Not all healthcare websites are aimed at patients. There’s A Doc For That is designed for the aspiring medical professional.
The goal? To educate future nurses, physicians, and other care providers about the wide range of medical specialties out there. The site would feature videos of doctors, nurses, and others giving the real scoop on what it’s like to work in their professions: the ups, the downs, and everything in between.
The site would also provide partnering opportunities for different professional organizations representing the different specialties.
For instance, medical associations could tout the benefits of membership in their organizations, hospitals could show off their cutting-edge research opportunities to draw in new talent, and nonprofits could recruit new providers to join them in their work.
Does your healthcare organization have an idea for a website that’s just begging to be created? Contact CareContent to find out how to turn that idea into a reality.
5 Reasons Why Your Healthcare Website Needs Effective Landing Pages
The moment a visitor arrives at your healthcare organization’s website, you’ve got her full attention—but you could lose it very quickly if you don’t provide what she’s looking for. Plus, she’s probably doing several other tasks while perusing your site. You don’t have much time, and you only get one first impression.
Unfortunately, when most healthcare organizations are revamping their websites, they focus on the homepage.
Instead, the focus should be on landing pages. Your homepage should only be a map to take the visitor to a strong landing page.
Here are the 5 reasons your healthcare website needs effective landing pages:
1. To Answer The Patients’ Questions
Press releases. Awards announcements. Letters from the CEO. These are just some of the ways that hospitals squander landing pages to talk about themselves instead of helping the patient.
When someone lands on your healthcare organization’s site from a Google search, she’s looking for something. She may be searching for information about her own condition, her child’s disease, or her spouse’s upcoming procedure.
The page where she lands should be all about the patient. Not your hospital. Your content should inform, instruct, and encourage your reader.
2. To Combat Sketchy Health Info
Clarifying bogus health info builds your hospital’s credibility. If you don’t do it, someone else will.
Approach your landing page as your way to fight all of the misinformation floating on the web. Each time your landing page answers the question effectively, that is one less time another page with sketchy information has a chance.
Alternatively, each time your landing page—for whatever reason—doesn’t do the job, you are decreasing the chances of that person ever returning to your site.
3. To Get Into The Details
Just as your homepage provides general information, an effective landing page gets specific. A patient is looking for in-depth information regarding their condition and how you can help them with it.
Unfortunately, many hospitals slap up health library content on their landing pages, instead of taking the time to explain a condition or procedure to the patient in their own words. That’s also a missed opportunity to highlight your healthcare organization’s unique approach.
Narrate through everything you would want to know if you were in your patient’s position. If you can’t put yourself in the patient’s position, interview one to get more insight.
Also read: 7 Steps To Test Your Healthcare Blog or Microsite
An effective landing page will leave your reader feeling empowered and informed enough to make the right choices.
4. To Get Engagement
While the reader may walk away feeling educated, you can bet that this reader will have more questions down the road. The design of your landing page has to direct them to your CTA—call to action.
Assuming your content is just what the reader was looking for, ask for something in return—like visiting a related blog post, signing up for your e-newsletter, or downloading your patient guide on the topic.
5. To Be Found In Search Engines
Search engines love landing pages. “Landing pages are kind of like cars—make sure they’re tuned-up properly, and you’ll likely get better performance and savings out of them down the road,” according to the Google Webmaster blog.
Search optimization means designing and coding your page so that people can find it through a Google search.
Remember that Google also wants people to continue using its search engine, so they need to be satisfied. Google designed its search algorithm with this in mind. Prominently featured sites will be those that have strong landing pages that provide what people are searching for.
Healthcare infographics: 6 Tips for Doing Them Right
Aren’t infographics just wonderful? It’s nice to see that more healthcare organizations are using them to educate patients and promote their services. But are you doing it correctly? Here are 6 tips to keep in mind.
End the meeting if your healthcare website vendor says this…
As hospitals and physician groups catch up to current expectations for their websites, many are being duped by web design firms. Let’s pull back the curtain on how some website vendors get one over on healthcare clients.
6 Ways to Include Physicians in Healthcare Blogs
Chasing down physicians to help with web content it tough and time consuming. If you’re trying to get out by 5, follow these six steps.
5 Tips For Writing Healthcare Blog Posts…By 5 O'clock
It’s almost 5. If you don’t get started writing that content now, you’ll be staying late. Here are 5 tips to crank it out.