Practical Advice for Building a More Strategic Site
What steps should you take toward building a more strategic healthcare website? Listen in to Core Creative’s conversation with Chaka Jordan, Vice President of Marketing at Blessing Health System.
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.
Stephanie: Welcome to the Core Exchange, a podcast for healthcare marketers. My name is Stephanie Burton. I am the director of healthcare marketing for Core Creative, and today, I'm joined by Chaka Jordan, vice president of marketing and planning for Blessing Health System in Quincy, Illinois. Welcome, Chaka.
Chaka: Thank you.
Stephanie: It's a pleasure to have you here. And one thing we should have our listeners know is that your accent is not from Wisconsin or Illinois. You don't come from these parts. What parts do you come from?
Chaka: I am from North Carolina. And through the course of my career in healthcare, I'm now in Illinois.
Stephanie: Excellent. Tell us about your career in healthcare.
Chaka: Educationally, I was trained at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I got a degree in healthcare administration, undergraduate, and then immediately went into the workforce with Premier, it's a healthcare alliance, as a consultant. And I implemented clients on our decision support tools. Did that for a couple years and then after that, the last 18 years, I've actually been in health systems.
Stephanie: Wow, and you've worked for nonprofit health systems, for-profit health systems, academic medical centers. Your career has really run the gamut.
Chaka: It sure has. It sure has.
Stephanie: Excellent, excellent. I know when you joined Blessing Health System, you were going... Today, we're going to talk about websites overhauling a preexisting website.
Stephanie: And this was the challenge that you were faced with when you joined Blessing Health System.
Stephanie: We've got a website that's not really working for us.
Stephanie: We need to make sure that it does work for us.
Stephanie: And that is a monumental feat.
Chaka: It sure is.
Stephanie: When you come into a health system and this is one of the many challenges that's presented to you, where did you begin?
Chaka: I began actually on the strategy side, and I know people tend to jump to tactics of go ahead and create this new website.
Stephanie: Never, never.
Chaka: But actually, we took a step back and we immediately went into strategy mode, and we really wanted to listen to our stakeholders to know what it is they expect from a website from a health system, both internally and externally. So we also pulled together an internal team that we did, the digital team, and they helped guide our decision-making throughout the whole strategy process. But we did kind of a traditional strategic approach, where we gathered insights, both internally with our stakeholders as well as externally with consumers in our market.
Stephanie: Excellent. So you said the magic phrase, people want to jump straight to tactics. Did you run into challenges in the beginning where you said, "Hey, we've really got to back up and take a look at this strategically."
Chaka: I did. So, of course, the thing that you need when you are taking a strategic approach is patience.
Chaka: Because you can't just immediately jump into rebuilding a website.
Chaka: And so, I think that was the most challenging part of educating people that this phase is important because the insights that we gain will be valuable with how well our website is received because it shows that we've listened to our stakeholders and we've responded.
Chaka: By including that feedback in the way we build our website.
Stephanie: How are you able to gain that buy-in so that you could start with strategy?
Chaka: I think just dubbing it, this is a more strategic approach, and I think once they kind of understood that because it's not unlike any other strategic approaches that you go through We actually were also simultaneously going through a strategic approach of developing a brand strategy, and the process was very similar, where we had to gather insights from internal and external stakeholders. I think once I made that connection, people kind of understood the relevance and importance of it.
Stephanie: Fantastic. So you've got your team in place, you've been able to lay the groundwork for strategy. Then what?
Chaka: We kind of gathered all of our insights. Another important piece was we kind of graded our current site with competitors just so we could kind of know where we stood in the competitive space. And also, once we basically set forth what our strategy was for our digital overall and for our website, we were able to develop a list of requirements of things that we needed in our new website.
Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chaka: And that actually helped us with the next phase, which was choosing a vendor to help us with the rebuilding of our website.
Chaka: Because we already had these requirements, it actually helped them know what we were expecting and also for us to know if we were a good match for the companies or not.
Stephanie: Fantastic. What did the vendor selection process look? How many did you review and what made a good fit vendor versus a not so good fit vendor?
Chaka: Right. We did an official request for proposals, and we also had our list of requirements that we already had laid out through this whole strategy process that happened beforehand. And so, the vendors had to respond to our request for proposals and lay out all of the elements that we had in our RFP, so they had to answer every section that we wanted to know about their company.
Chaka: And so once we got all the proposals, we actually had five that we were looking at. And then, we narrowed it down to three companies that we decided to bring in for a formal presentation.
Stephanie: Great, great. And then, do you care to share who you selected?
Chaka: We selected a company by the name of [Centretek 00:06:04].
Stephanie: Great, great. They're doing a lot of work in the healthcare space now I know.
Stephanie: So tell me... so a whole bunch of magic happened.
Stephanie: And then, several months later, your new website launched.
Stephanie: How long was the process from beginning to end?
Chaka: Interestingly enough, because of that patience that people were asked to have on the front end of the strategy process, the patience was wearing thin by the time we got to-
Stephanie: You don't say.
Chaka: ... implementation phase. And so, what we were told by Centretek is a typical rebuilding process takes about a year. We were told that we had about eight months to get it done.
Chaka: And so, we were charged with a hefty task of expediting it when we knew that the typical timeline was around a year. We cut that short by four months. And so, we worked really hard to stay on that timeline.
Stephanie: Excellent. And you were able to pull it off?
Chaka: We were. We were.
Stephanie: Wow, congratulations. That's pretty impressive.
Chaka: Thank you.
Stephanie: We know that this is a huge undertaking. Content is a big... It's like the C-word, you know?
Chaka: Yes, yes.
Stephanie: Talk about content.
Stephanie: Tell us, was that your biggest challenge? Was the content or-
Chaka: I would say so.
Stephanie: Okay, okay.
Chaka: I definitely would say so.
Stephanie: And then, how did you rectify that? How were you able to get the content that you needed and the buy-in from everyone who needs to contribute to that?
Chaka: Well, we actually opted to get some help with our writing, our content, and we got another partner involved. Our website vendor at the time didn't necessarily specialize in content writing.
Chaka: So we actually opted to get another partner to help us with that. And so, we went with a company by the name of Aha Media.
Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chaka: And they helped us with all of our content.
Stephanie: Content development.
Chaka: It was like a simultaneous project of you had your content piece going at the same time as your website development piece.
Stephanie: Right, right, right. It takes a village and I think that that's probably something that's important for healthcare marketers to know, is that chances are you're not going to be able to do a website, soup to nuts, by yourself or with the department that you have on hand. Because your department had other priorities going on during this time as well.
Chaka: Exactly. And actually, we didn't even have a developer on my... Actually, we still don't. We don't have an IT developer on my team.
Chaka: So we rely on an external developer to help us with that.
Stephanie: Yes, absolutely. That's an important thing, you do not have to do it by yourself. There are organizations who specialize in this and can help you.
Chaka: That's right. That's right.
Stephanie: Tell me about... So you get to launch. You were able to do it in eight months.
Stephanie: Which is miracle. What were some of the key things, key lessons learned that you'd like to share with other healthcare marketers?
Chaka: I would say, number one, that clear expectation of a timeline is important because that put a lot of pressure on us, that we had to make sure we hit those timeline milestones in order to be able to launch in the eight months. That was the task that was given to us, so I would say making sure you have the clear expectations. And if there's any way you can be more realistic with your timeline, the better.
Chaka: It put a lot of stress on us [crosstalk 00:09:36] to make that timeline.
Stephanie: Sure, sure. What else?
Chaka: Let's see. I would say content-wise, the more you can engage your internal stakeholders that basically buy into the content because it's their space, the more you can engage them and get their input and buy-in, the better. Because there's nothing worse than going through writing content and then no one agrees with the information that you you've gone through the process of writing.
Stephanie: Sure, sure. And how did you do that on your end? How did you engage those key stakeholders?
Chaka: I have members on my team that work with our service lines, and so I basically charged them with being the direct person to work with. They'll service line leaders on each piece of content that we were planning for the sections of the website related to their services.
Stephanie: Fantastic, fantastic. And then, any other advice, words of wisdom from someone who's been there if you're rebuilding a website.
Chaka: I think, I'm still very pleased that we did have at least the patience to go through the strategic process of it. Because when I arrived at the health system, they were planning to rebuild a website, and it sounded like the vendor they were planning to go with was jumping straight into the tactic of rebuilding the website and they weren't going to go through that whole listening phase and making sure we were meeting the requirements of our stakeholders. So I think that is an important lesson that I learned through the process as well.
Stephanie: Great. And then, let's talk a little bit about life after launch. You launched the website. We know that websites are a constant work in progress.
Chaka: They are.
Stephanie: So you can't just set it and forget it. What did life after launch look like?
Chaka: Every year, we have a set of goals that we set for each of the pieces of my department. So our digital marketing function, which is where the website falls, we develop our goals annually. And part of those goals are the enhancements to our website.
Chaka: Because we don't really want to be in another situation where we have a website that's been live for 10 years that really no upgrades have occurred.
Chaka: And then, you've got this urgent situation and everyone is wanting a new website right now.
Chaka: So our process has been to update it all along and to set goals annually as to the things that we need to accomplish with the website, and so that's kind of the way we tackle it.
Stephanie: Fantastic. If you had to go through your entire process again, what would you have done differently?
Chaka: Let's see. That's a good question. I'm really satisfied with the methodology that we used and the approach that we used. I can't say that I have any real regrets on anything.
Stephanie: Great, great.
Chaka: Our strategy process actually took six months for us to get through that. So because we had... The patience was wearing thin after we went through that process. Perhaps, if we could have gone through that process a little quicker, we would have had more time to work on-
Chaka: ... building the website. So that may have been a lesson learned to see how we could have expedited the strategy process of it, if it was possible.
Stephanie: Right, but it's so important.
Chaka: It is.
Stephanie: That strategy.
Chaka: It is.
Chaka: It sure is.
Stephanie: Yeah, yeah. Excellent. Well, we can't thank you enough for sharing your words of wisdom on overhauling a website, a health system website. They're like none other.
Stephanie: So thank you for joining us here on the Core Exchange. Visit corecreative.health for more insights and information to help you do your job better. Thank you, Chaka Jordan.
Chaka: Thank you.