I recently attended the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (or as the healthcare insiders affectionately refer to it: SHSMD – pron. shuss-med) 2015 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. I think it goes without saying that conferences of this magnitude (over 1,000 attendees, more than 70 concurrent sessions and 100 exhibitors) can be a bit difficult to summarize in any concise manner. That said, I picked up on several common themes that I think really encapsulate where healthcare Marketing, Strategy and Communications practices are headed.
Digital, digital, digital…
Who doesn’t know this, right? Life as we know it revolves around digital. As professionals, digital is no longer just a channel to be included on the distribution matrix. It needs to be the core of our thought process.
Digital is the new first impression for most companies. People see your online presence via social media or visit your website before ever entering the doors of your facility, so the need for a strong digital first impression is more important than ever before. Remember the days when your website was static content that rarely changed? Neither do I. Those days are (thankfully) long gone.
The name of the (digital) game today is engagement. And by engagement, that means talking about what the audience cares about; not simply pushing your own agenda. This kind of relationship building is never one and done. Like face to face relationships, customer relationship development requires a long term commitment. Show appreciation and be authentic, and be transparent with what you want. If there is an ask, make it clear.
Digital communication both requires and enables greater flexibility. Messages change and adapt with dizzying speed and the organizations that accept this new reality will have an advantage.
Data is king.
Data and analytics are no longer reserved exclusively for (ahem) “other” departments. The modern Communications/Marketing/Strategy practitioner needs to use data to plan, execute and demonstrate the value of any initiative. The tools are abundant and CRM is undoubtedly the cool kid on the block.
I’m no data geek, but even I understand that the science behind the art of communication should not be underestimated. Return on investment – a term once rarely uttered by any communication professional – is now part of the nomenclature and was discussed at length over the course of the conference.
The ability to reach people where they are in the digital space is a game changer. Big brother is big data and we experience this new reality every time we go online. Understanding the data tools for both planning and reporting a campaign is vital to win support from executives.
It’s time to knock the silos down.
Today’s Marketing/Communication/Strategy and even Operational departments need to cross pollinate. Job descriptions need to change in order to encourage collaboration. The free sharing of ideas, the explosion of new tools and comprehensive nature of great campaigns can only be achieved when everyone sits around one table with a clear understanding of the organization’s objectives.
Storytelling is a competency.
This recurring theme transcended just about every presentation and General Session during the conference and was, in fact, the theme of SHSMD’s Bridging Worlds for the Future of Healthcare. Storytelling is as old as time and it has tremendous power to advance a message.
Our employees and physicians can be our greatest assets when seeking and sharing stories. No one knows your organization better, and keeping them informed and engaged in the dialogue is step one.
That said, not all stories are created equal. Companies that cultivate authentic stories should focus less on telling customers how great they are, but instead illustrate for customers how great they can be through story. It can sometimes be more challenging to find them, but stories that are unique and offer some kind of twist to keep the audience interested/surprised/engaged make the greatest impact. You want to tell stories that people will remember.
Different is the new normal.
Whether approaching a new campaign, redesigning our systems of care, or customizing a message for five different audiences; we need to think differently about the approach we take and the ways that we measure success. We are writing the story of innovation with every new tool and tactic we employ.
This experimentation is made richer when we’re able to share, discuss and learn from one another. Perhaps this is the greatest value of a gathering like SHSMD 2015. Many thanks to the organizers for creating an informative and engaging conference.