What most provider communications are lacking

Three consumer messaging best practices to immediately improve your provider communications

Unlike traditional marketing, advertising & PR, provider communications seems to be an area where healthcare organizations vary dramatically in their approach. Some organizations invest heavily in ongoing digital dialogues with their providers, while others rely on a few key individuals who have developed personal relationships over years, and still others neglect this critical volume-driving channel completely.

No matter which situation an organization finds themselves in, there is room for improvement.

As marketers, the effort we pour into understanding the details of our “consumer” audience’s thoughts, feelings and actions relative to our brand or organization is often circumvented completely when approaching provider communications.

Organizations revert to what they have always done, or develop communications with an implied understanding of what will work for this complex audience. Outlined below are three consumer messaging best practices that should be applied when creating provider communications, but are so often overlooked:

Focus on benefits, not just features

In the world of consumer messaging, it is well known that our audiences care far more about “why” they should select a product or service than “what” that product or service offers them - even if they don’t realize it. This is not a matter of debate, but rather a matter of psychology and biology. As humans, we are wired to make decisions based on our emotions; or how we “feel” about something. Once we have made our decision, we then rationalize the decision we have already made subconsciously by back-filling with rational, supporting facts.

While it is natural to want to separate providers from a typical “consumer” audience, the fact remains that they are human, and they make decisions the same way the rest of us do. That is not to discount the fact that they may require MORE information about features to back-fill their decision-making, but “why” our message benefits them uniquely is something that needs to be highlighted and prioritized in all communications. The “What’s in it for me?” mentality is real.

Below are two fabricated examples of email subject lines directed to employed physicians. See if you can spot the difference between the version which highlights “benefits” and the version that focuses on “features”:

Example 1: Live Patient Journey Updates Now Available in Epic

Example 2: Stay Informed of Your Patient’s Progress Through the New Journey Tracker in Epic

Ensuring your providers understand “Why” your communication is important and why it benefits them needs to be priority no. 1 when developing content for this audience.

Segment your audience, and understand the unique wants / needs of each sub-group

As marketers, we are obsessed with understanding the intricacies of our target audience(s). We know that by understanding their thoughts, feelings and actions intimately, we will be able to create messaging that resonates with them on a personal & emotional level. We also understand that no one message will perfectly address the concerns of the vastly different people that comprise our audience.

So why do provider communications so often combine all providers into one group? The wants & needs of a primary care provider will overlap in some instances with specialists, but more often than not, each audience will have a slew of unique wants/needs that remain unaddressed.

Just as with consumers, to optimize provider communications, we must first define our overall target audience and the sub-audiences that exist within. Once defined, we can begin to map out the wants/needs of each sub-audience to see where there is overlap and where unique audience wants/needs are being omitted.

Ultimately, this may increase the total amount of communications pieces your team creates, but it should also decrease the amount of extraneous communications your providers (your audience) are exposed to - making each communication they receive more meaningful (and more likely to actually be read and acted upon).

Consistency & recognizability is critical

Within the recent past, most healthcare systems/organizations will have engaged in some form of brand or market research - seeking to understand the level of recognition, affinity, loyalty and advocacy that they have built among their consumer base. To move a consumer from being unaware of your existence to becoming your advocate requires consistent, recognizable exposure to effective messaging (along with positive personal experiences and other factors).

Consistency can be achieved through the cadence in which communications are delivered (e.g., “I know that I will get an ortho update from leadership each quarter). And it can be strengthened by the development of a consistent look & feel for these distinct messages. Repeated exposure to a visually and tonally consistent set of communications forms a connection in the mind that creates larger associations for our audience when they see or read something that triggers the recognition.

For example, if I were to say, “Golden Arches,” almost everyone would instinctively recognize the connection to McDonalds. Or if I said, “Gecko,” many would immediately think of Geico. Critics may argue that these brands spend millions of dollars each year to create this connection in the minds of consumers, and that they could never spend that much - which is true. However, the principal strategy behind it is attainable at almost any budget level. Strategic consistency in messaging look & feel, delivery cadence and brand association are critical to the long-term success of any provider communications effort.

However, don’t underestimate the value of “surprising and delighting” your audience with unexpected “thank you” messages, gifts or events. They are still human and we all love a good surprise!

Do you need help with healthcare marketing communications strategies? Contact us.


Mickey Wildt is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.

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