Core Exchange: Growing Into Healthcare

woman at desk smiling | Core Health

What do you share with a healthcare marketing specialist who is beginning their career?

In this episode of the Core Exchange, hear from a young professional growing into their career in healthcare. It’s an interesting perspective from a young professional.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.

  • Core Exchange | Growing Into Healthcare

Episode Transcript:

Stephanie: Welcome to The Core Exchange, a podcast for healthcare marketers produced by Core Health, a specialized marketing practice of core creative. My name is Stephanie Burton. I'm the director of healthcare marketing for Core Health and today I have the pleasure of being joined by Nate Hams, marketing specialist for a very large health system here in Milwaukee. Hi, Nate.

Nate: Hi. Thanks so much for having me today.

Stephanie: Absolutely. So one of the reasons that I wanted to have you here is because you represent a part of our industry, you're on the front end of your career. Most of the folks that we have come into this studio have been around the block, but I think that we don't give enough credit to the folks who are young healthcare marketers and that's certainly who you are and what you represent. So we're going to talk a little bit about what you've learned, but first I want to talk about your background because we met in a probably a more unusual way.

Nate: Yes.

Stephanie: Do you want to talk a little bit about how we know each other?

Nate: Yeah, absolutely. So I had the pleasure of having Stephanie as my public relations capstone professor when I was at Marquette University. That was a fantastic class. I think at that point in my life I was still trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do after graduation, but fortunately after graduation I worked for a little bit with a nonprofit, loved my time there, but then I had this opportunity come up with my current employer and I really could not just pass it up because they have a wonderful mission and at the end of the day, I love being part of an organization that serves others.

Stephanie: That's fantastic. Well, I'm glad that you enjoyed the class that you probably wouldn't have said the same thing right when you're in the thick of it, but thank you for saying that you had the pleasure of being in the class. So you haven't been at your current employer for your entire career. You kind of started somewhere else and you were looking for a new opportunity. The thing that's interesting for me in healthcare marketers, I asked myself this question too, most people don't start out their career and say, "I want to be a healthcare marketer." It's something that kind of presents itself to you or that you feel called to do. What attracted you to this job?

Nate: Yeah, absolutely. So at the nonprofit that I started with, I actually had a few associates or colleagues who had actually moved on to my current employer and they had just spoken so highly of it, of the way that they ran operations with the organization. I had just been reading up on the news and seeing how much they were serving within the community and so that really inspired me. And then when I was reading the description of my current position, which is a marketing specialist, it just felt like a natural fit. And so as someone who really strives to kind of make my career out of serving others, I was really attracted to the opportunity and thankfully was able to get the role.

Stephanie: That's fantastic. And this is something that we're hearing more and more and I don't mean to segment us by talking about your generation and my generation, but we're finding that people in your generation, I think it's safe to say you're on the back end of the millennials, correct?

Nate: Yes.

Stephanie: So are looking for a little more meaning and purpose. The one thing I didn't hear you say when you responded, and perhaps you're being diplomatic, but it was pay. I wanted a job that got me a corner office and paid me $500,000 a year. Now I'm sure pay was a consideration for you, but I thought it was interesting that you started with the mission was consistent with who you are and what you want to do.

Nate: I appreciate that. It definitely was a plus. I will say that was a nice facet of it was to be able to actually get an improve in pay. That definitely makes life a little bit easier.

Stephanie: Sure, sure. And has the promise of the mission of the organization, has that been something that's been realized? Do you see that being lived and breathed every day in the organization?

Nate: That's a fantastic question. I would definitely say yes and no depending on the days, because there are those days where you're just behind a computer for the entire eight hours of the day, nine hours and you really don't see the end product. But then there are certain instances where I get to interview with our providers and see them light up about a patient testimonial or a certain experience that they had with a patient and to know that you're part of that process to help, you know, share their story or be able to highlight their services so you can potentially attract more patients to come to your location or your clinic. That's what really fuels me with my current position.

Stephanie: Fantastic. And for anyone who's listened to this podcast before, you know that there's a train that is outside our building and that is moving on through the Core Health station right now, so I apologize. Yeah, exactly. Always whenever you're about to get on the phone, the train pulls away or when you're recording a podcast.

Nate: I'm sure. That's how it goes.

Stephanie: It's a good time. So you talked about, some days you feel it, sometimes you don't. And that is true of any profession no matter what you're doing. I'm sure mother Teresa probably had some moments where she just wasn't feeling it day to day.

Nate: I need the spreadsheet Mother Theresa.

Stephanie: Right, right. Where's the specs sheet? How do you plug back in, if you are behind the computer for a few days and you just need to connect yourself to what's going on. How do you do that?

Nate: Yeah. And you know, I do feel like there are certain days where I come home and I really don't feel as engaged and that's just me being being honest. But I feel like there are certain reinvigorating things, whether it is a message from one of our leaders or I'm thankfully working more with video production and so I get to be on the hunt for any type of stories or search for any type of good news that's going on within the organization. And so it's nice and refreshing to be able to speak with, I recently talked with our director of quality and her daughter had a fantastic experience with our online care. And so just to hear that, to hear that, okay, well that's good that we have a positive story. This woman had a really great experience with our telecommunications, or tele-health I should say was fantastic. And so I always try to just find kind of like the silver lining, whether that's in a press release or a memo or any type of video that's distributed through an organization.

Stephanie: That's great. Getting that real time feedback, whether it's from the people who are above you or team members or people who are outside of the organization.

Nate: Absolutely.

Stephanie: That's fantastic. So I remember when I started to work for a health system many years ago and I sat down with my new boss at that time. It was overwhelming. There was a cast of thousands, in your case, there's a to cast of tens of thousands across the country. She told me, "There's a learning curve in this industry. Give it six months." And that was many years ago. It seems like that learning curve timeframe has increased even more. Would you agree with that? Disagree? what are your thoughts?

Nate: Yeah, I absolutely agree just because I feel like there are so many variables to healthcare marketing. You have just one, the sheer essence of marketing, so understanding just the principles that I feel like are ever changing within our field and then health care as well, which is always ever changing. So I feel like I know a lot more medical terms that I did-

Stephanie: Yes, and acronyms.

Nate: A year and a half ago and acronyms. Oh my gosh. I think I wrote an email today that had like four different acronyms talking about like in an electronic health record, so the HR and then talking about a platform we use called so RDC. I feel like I'm using all these platforms and so it's a lot of translating I feel like, but no learning really the variables within marketing and I'm understanding the newest trends within our industry and making sure we're staying on top of that because I feel like in healthcare we tend to be a little bit behind the curve.

Stephanie: We do.

Nate: At least we do from my perspective, but it's just learning how to kind of, I guess the way to put it would be coalescing the two or getting the two to kind of work in jointly together.

Stephanie: Great. Talk a little bit about your role. What do you do on a day to day basis?

Nate: Oh my gosh. So the perk of a nonprofit is I feel like it changes frequently so I get to help, for a while I was the brand police, which is never fun, but when you're going through a transition and I'm taking on a new brand, you definitely want to make sure that you're working towards that brand identity and people are appreciating it and getting excited about it because I do feel like that has an impact on the employee experience. I also work with provider promotions, so making sure that we're getting the word out there about our new docs who are starting with us. Also, just email campaigns. Sometimes they get to help out with social and making adjustments to the website. I'm definitely keeping busy for sure.

Stephanie: Yeah. What's the best part of your job?

Nate: Oh man. Personally, what I really enjoy, and this is going to sound very nerdy, but I love taking a really complex process and making it easier.

Stephanie: Isn't that what we're supposed to do as communicators? I mean truly that makes my heart sing because if we can make the complex simple, we've done our job.

Nate: Exactly. And I just love coming in and asking the questions of like, "Okay, so I realize that we've always done this, but why?" And so, "Have we ever thought to incorporate this or try it this way?" And what I love is then seeing those aha moments with your colleagues and then thinking, "Oh my gosh, I never thought about like that." And so just think making things more efficient because I think the unfortunate truth of working in a nonprofit is you tend to be a little bit limited when it comes to bandwidth and how many people you have in your team and so learning how you can still appease a full market in the state while also or within the limits that your team has.

Stephanie: Yeah. Great. What's been the biggest surprise as you have transitioned into the healthcare marketer role?

Nate: This is semi-serious, but I think the amount of requests for billboards.

Stephanie: Let's talk about that because it is 2019, it is almost 2020 folks and this continues. Some people think that we're using this a little more tongue in cheek at conferences, this is real.

Nate: It's very real.

Stephanie: This is real.

Nate: So I'll give it the fact that there are impressions that comes with out of home. Having billboards, you are going to get those impressions, but I have a hard time believing that you're going to give any conversions from it. I personally have never been so swayed by a billboard that I'm like, "You know what, I'm going to check out that website." And so I tend to try to make the argument more for digital. I just think that in today's age, it's more important to be thinking about what's the patient experience when you go to the website. How easy can I find the service? Really catering towards a patient cause I really believe that they want convenience and a choice.

Stephanie: Yep. Absolutely. Yeah, it's interesting and it's interesting the parts of the organization that those billboard requests come from. We do believe that there is a place for outdoor, particularly when it comes to brand and reinforcing your brand message, that top of mind awareness is still very important in healthcare marketing, but from conversion standpoint, you're absolutely correct. And fortunately I think we're seeing that in the industry. Healthcare marketers are definitely learning, have learned in many cases that we've got to shift our budgets away from out of home and into those digital channels where our patients are. It's a tough pill for some people to swallow.

Nate: I think it's just because healthcare is so intricate and how the operations function because you have clinic managers who definitely want to keep the providers happy and if a provider is unfortunately not seeing an immediate something that's going to like hit you in the face like a billboard or like, why am I not seeing a story about myself in the newspaper. And so I don't think it's as immediate, it's not deemed good marketing. But I think we can, in today's world, beg to differ based on what technology we have.

Stephanie: Absolutely. If it's not as immediate. And that's something that's difficult I think. I've learned this with people who are very seasoned in their careers, that they come from outside of healthcare into healthcare and maybe from consumer packaged goods for example and they expect that if you advertise, they will come. And the healthcare buying cycle is much longer and we've found that it's 18 to 24 months really in order to make a true impression on an audience. So that's not to say that if someone has knee pain, they can't search for you and then get in a week later and see an orthopedic surgeon, but the healthcare buying cycle takes time. And it's frustrating for a lot of people. And it's frustrating for marketers who have to educate the folks that are in our organizations, "Hey, trust us, it takes a little bit of time. We'll get there."

Nate: Exactly. And I feel like healthcare is such a fascinating thing that it's typically not something that I feel like most people proactively research. I feel like it's always more of a reactive thing. Like, "Oh man, this happened, now I need to go see a doctor." Whereas like I'm never really typically, unless it's like a very extreme situation, I'm never really going to practically think about like, "Okay, who is within my insurance? Where am I going to go? What kind of doctor do I want to see?" And I wonder if that's more of a generational thing if my generation tends to be more reactive in healthcare rather than "I need to do research on which provider I want to see."

Stephanie: Right. Yeah. And there's some research about that as well. I think in the past we were told who we were going to see and there weren't choices. So manage care here it comes rolling in, in the early eighties. So our profession is relatively new in that respect too. Anything else you'd like to say?

Nate: Just thank you so much for having me today. I really appreciate you asking to get my perspective. It's felt like a fast couple of years that I've been working in healthcare marketing, but it's awesome to be able to be at this point and feel like I can actually share some tidbits.

Stephanie: Yeah, absolutely. Nate Hams, marketing specialist with a large health system here in Milwaukee. Thanks for joining us on the Core Exchange.

Nate: Thank you.


Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Health.

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