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Share patient stories to target audiences across media channels

Posted Sep 20 2012 10:18am

by Tadd M. Pullin

In my previous Hospital Impact blog post , I touched on the importance of viewing a marketer's work as a practice. With the velocity of audience migration to new technology, distribution channels and social media platforms, no one is an expert right now. The field of new potential related to targeting and segmenting audiences is nothing short of phenomenal.

Traditional advertising approaches still have their place, but to innovate, I feel the role of in-house media and marketing professionals has never been more critical--to plant roots in an organization, to know its brand, to live amidst its strengths and opportunities for improvement makes all the difference.

Like practicing medicine, nursing or any other field where new information and research emerges on an ingoing basis, healthcare marketing is indeed a practice that's earning greater interest and respect.

This notion of marketing as a practice is especially important when considering social media and the web. A specific and recent example comes to mind that illustrates how patient stories can provide synergistic opportunities.

One of our patients suffered from a condition that prevented him from being able to eat without severe nausea. His normal weight was 160 pounds and because of his condition, his weight deteriorated to only 105 pounds. A unique procedure offered at The Nebraska Medical Center provided him with electrical stimulation inside his abdominal wall preventing the negative symptoms and finally allowing him to eat.

This patient's experience drew the attention of the local television news media, which was initiated and coordinated by our media relations experts. These experts also produce and manage our growing library of YouTube videos, which creates opportunities to link and amplify the impact between traditional news media coverage and emerging social media channels.

A link to the news coverage of this patient's story was posted on our Facebook page, along with a YouTube video that our team had produced months earlier featuring the surgeon with helpful information on the procedure. The synergy between these three media distribution channels resulted in a spike in Facebook shares and likes, growth in views of the referenced YouTube video that had not been seen prior and numerous direct patient inquiries for more information or physician referral from as far as Arizona, Texas and California.

The patient's condition is somewhat rare and the number of people who receive the treatment he did is relatively low, so traditional mass media marketing to promote awareness in this case would be cost prohibitive. One could easily argue that despite the cost, mass media advertising alone could never achieve this sort of audience targeting.

With more 1,500 people on Facebook seeing this post--who found it to be relevant--the viral marketing impact can be observed and measured. For example, one of the individuals who visited this Facebook post shared it with the Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatments, Inc., an organization with a very targeted and relevant connection to the content of our communication. This led to even greater interest among a targeted audience.

By featuring this and other compelling human interest stories in the news media and extending the stories' reach to social media audiences, our internal media experts are able to target the message and help prospective patients and their loved ones find treatment they're seeking. In the case of this patient's story, among the thread of the various posts made on our Facebook page, a person indicated that upon reading it, they were on the phone calling the surgeon's office at that moment to make an appointment and expressed appreciation for learning about this new treatment opportunity.

Patients and their advocates are increasingly taking matters into their own hands as they make important healthcare decisions, especially when searching for second opinions or in circumstances where care for themselves or loved ones requires highly-specialized experts. A comprehensive and synergistic media strategy can help to ensure that awareness of an organization's services meets patients and their families in the most intuitive and proactive way possible.

The Nebraska Medical Center's Internet presence can be found in a number of locations. On YouTube, search "Nebraska Medical Center" or go directly to the YouTube Channel . It also is posted to the hospital's website , Facebook page , Google+ and Twitter feed .

Tadd M. Pullin is the vice president of marketing, planning and network operations at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. He can be reached at

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