South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday September 17, 2019
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December 2008 - Volume 5 - Issue 6

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Tips of the Trade in a Challenging Market

Current economic crisis, health insurance - or lack of it, Medicare and Medicaid reforms, nursing shortages, physician relations, stiff competition among healthcare organizations, decline in grant funding and costly technological advances have put all health institutions in the same boat. How does a hospital system survive and thrive? In marketing communications, it is necessary to be resourceful and creative when strategizing each budget season.

It is extremely important to first of all know and understand the strategic plan of the organization. What are the short and long term goals and what are your key products and service that need to grow and why? Ask the tough questions and always stay focused on the goals. Challenge operations. Make sure that before spending money on marketing communications that operations can handle the volume that may come with marketing. Will patients really receive the service promised by a campaign? Are there enough doctors or staff to accommodate a growth in service? Marketing Communications can bring patients to the hospital, but it is up to the operations side to create the atmosphere to keep them there and keep them coming back. It is critical to stay in touch and respect the position of the front line personnel, doctors and nurses, etc.

What makes an organization stand out from the others? Creativity, innovation, communications and appropriate visibility are essential. Last year, Broward Health became a new brand. We recognized the need to promote our strength as a system. So we changed our name in the public eye from the North Broward Hospital District to Broward Health. This took years of planning, strategy and focus groups. We developed a multi-faceted campaign to launch our new name and followed it up with consistent, complimentary image campaigns that based on outcomes and metrics have been extremely successful to Broward Health. The renaming was the first of several strategic campaigns to build brand awareness and enhance image. Changing our name brought new life to our organization and invaluable recognition to the public. We continually set metrics with each campaign and follow through with producing and analyzing results and market activity.

All hospitals have less money to market and communicate. So it is essential to use all tools available to build a successful campaign. Each campaign is thoroughly planned to involve, advertising, web strategy, media relations, physician relations, community relations, government relations, referral phone line, sponsorships, fund development (when necessary) and internal communications. By using all of these areas and including regional plans at each hospital, we are able to build an integrated campaign and save dollars. It is critical to develop the plans to eliminate competition between facilities and instead build referrals between them. A major element in making this all happen is having a professional yet fun team. Having a great team to work with makes what we do that much easier!

Broward Health also developed savvy web-based marketing initiatives including the launch of a new and improved website that is interactive and resourceful. It has sub-sites to uniquely promote key product lines. It is also important to stay current on web trends and new and unique marketing ideas. The Internet is a wonderful tool with amazing resources for marketing.

Healthcare marketing communications departments are faced with staff downsizing (internally, within the media and vendors) and dwindling budgets. Staying focused with constant changes and multiple demands is critical. Involve your stakeholders, especially your physicians and employees, in all marketing communications efforts. Get their input and use them as your sales force to get your messages out. They are in the front lines making the first and most important impression on the patients, families and the community. Successful marketing communications in a competitive market comes down to using all resources within your reach as well as making sure you are on top of strategy, operations and market trends and above be creative.

Sara Howley, Vice President of Marketing Communications, Broward Health, can be reached at showley@browardhealth.org or (954) 355-5613 or visit browardhealth.org.
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