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Healthcare Musings - December 2010 - Special Edition
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Time is Ticking: Make Marketing & Public Relations Count
By Jodi Amendola
December 20, 2010 - The tumult within the healthcare IT (HIT) space, driven to a deafening roar by impending meaningful use, ICD-10 and healthcare reform, has presented HIT vendors with tremendous communication challenges. Faced with fierce competition, rapid consolidation and new healthcare initiatives, it’s time to embrace integrated multi-channel marketing and public relations programs that deliver on the promise of expanded category leadership, market penetration and lead generation.
With HIMSS and other major HIT events right around the corner, now is the time to re-evaluate your tried-and-true communications strategies. New times call for new strategies…blended with old standbys, that is.
By combining traditional public relations with social media campaigns, online marketing and tradeshow presence, HIT companies can raise their visibility among target prospects, attract valuable partners and position key executives as industry experts, driving increased marketing awareness and sales.
While the newest genres of digital marketing and social media are quickly gaining in popularity, don’t underestimate the power of traditional PR, which is still one of the most cost-effective – and just plain effective -- ways to reach your target market. Under PR, the potential for content placement is limitless and the resulting third-party coverage carries industry credibility that advertising does not. And while market perception is often tough to capture, clients typically view a well-publicized HIT vendor as the “safe” choice. To achieve and maintain this critical level of market confidence, begin by implementing these foundational PR program elements:
- Put yourself in the editor’s shoes. Research the publication’s target audience, editorial calendar and article submission criteria. Pitch early – at least three months prior to the calendar topic of interest. Offer company executives as sources for articles. Ideally, provide end-users to showcase product offerings and success stories.
- Timing is (almost) everything. Send press releases only when you have “new” news. Editors don’t appreciate fluff. Schedule product launch activities to leverage key tradeshow opportunities and maximize media attention.
- Become an expert. Share the hard-earned wisdom of senior executives via bylined HIT articles, solidifying industry leadership status.
- Case studies. Nothing sells better than a third-party endorsement. Many HIT publications will accept end-user articles that highlight implementation challenges and triumphs, lessons learned and return on investment.
- Speaking engagements. Research deadlines for regional and national conference speaking opportunities up to a year in advance. If possible, co-present with an end-user, outlining obstacles faced and quantifiable benefits achieved.
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
The new kid on the block, social media has already reshaped the communications landscape. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are the only the tip of the digital iceberg. As an HIT visionary, it’s important to understand the value these platforms can deliver when integrated into an overall communications plan.
Twitter powers 140-character conversations within the viral Twitterworld. Use this real-time communication channel to broadcast links to blog postings, company announcements, events, and promotions to followers.
Additionally, it’s crucial to deliver value to followers by:
- Posting non-promotional, useful information such as analyst research, HIT industry news, etc.
- Retweeting (e.g. posting) others’ relevant news more often than issuing company tweets.
A corporate blog is an effective one-to-many communication vehicle for distributing corporate news, events and promotions, as well as late-breaking HIT industry news or other time-sensitive information. Blogs can also be used to stimulate buzz about key topics.
When used appropriately, blogs can offer a new level of transparency in outbound communications, strengthening customer relationships and brand loyalty. Key to developing reader relationships, the “voice” of the blog may adopt a personal tone, but should reflect the company’s culture and key messages.
By incorporating the blog(s) into the corporate website, companies will enhance search engine optimization (SEO) and Google PageRank thanks to the detailed content filled with key words and links. Videos posted to blogs will also drive high rankings, especially if the videos have good, relevant (metadata) titles and descriptions, and incorporate keywords within each video’s file name.
Finally, journalists pay attention when a company engages in the blogosphere. That awareness often translates into increased media coverage. Customers, investors and partners also view actively blogging companies as innovative market leaders.
Although direct (snail) mail may be used in some instances to reach healthcare decision-makers, direct email continues to replace paper communications. In fact, Forrester Research, Inc. stated in a 2009 study that email marketing in the United States would rise to $2 billion by 2014, an almost 11 percent compound annual growth rate.
The 2009 Forrester Research study also indicated that spending on ad-sponsored or ad-supported newsletters would double over the next five years as traditional print publishers face falling circulation and ad revenue. Understandably, companies are shifting to online advertising, which they obtain for half or a quarter of the print advertising fees while gaining an effective direct response/tracking mechanism.
Similar to print advertising, frequent online placements are vital to capturing audience mindshare. However, online advertisers have found that “frequency capping,” or restricting the number of times a viewer is shown a specific ad within a given period of time, helps optimize effectiveness. For example, click-through rates are generally highest on the first impression and plateaus at the fourth impression due to “ad blindness” after four to six impressions. A similar pattern is seen with conversion rates where the highest conversion (conversion to a sale) occurs on the first impression and then drops dramatically after four to six impressions. Thus, savvy companies often use frequency capping to ensure that after three views, a given user would no longer see a specific ad for 24 hours.
Be smart with tradeshow marketing dollars. There are several ways to sell and/or network with prospects without investing in expensive booths and extensive staffing:
- Co-locate in a partner booth.
- Host a reception for clients and prospects the day prior to the event or on an evening during the show.
- Leverage social media opportunities such as live tweets from the show even if the company’s show presence is minimal – or even virtual!
As you plan your 2011 marketing and public relations programs, keep the aforementioned strategies and tactics top of mind. It’s a brave new world in communications, but with careful planning and integration, companies will experience greater results than anytime in the past. Continuous client interaction, multi-channel communications and greater corporate transparency have the potential to move companies and their brands from abstract concepts to brands with a voice, a personality and “realness” to which clients can relate, forming powerful positive impressions and lifetime client loyalties.
About the Author
Jodi Amendola, CEO and co-founder of Amendola Communications, is an award-winning public relations and marketing communications expert with two decades of experience in counseling, implementing and overseeing strategic marketing and public relations programs for a diversified healthcare and technology client base. For the three consecutive years, Jodi's vision and industry acumen have led Amendola Communications to be honored as one of the information technology (IT) industry's five "Best-of-the-Best" small PR agencies by PRSourceCode's "Top Tech Communicators" study. Additionally, Jodi has been recognized year after year as a “Top PR Pro” for her personal contributions to the editorial community. In 2009, Jodi was named an elite Forty-Under-40 business leader by the Phoenix Business Journal. Jodi was also elected to the Board of X2 Health Network (X2HN), a not-for-profit, executive women's health network that shares competencies and resources to improve healthcare leadership, policy and delivery.
Jodi is a hands-on leader providing strategic direction and ongoing involvement in all phases of client public relations and marketing programs. She has placed client stories in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and top-tier trade journals in various market segments. She has led campaigns for industry giants and start-up companies including Eclipsys, Allscripts, Cisco, Intel, TriZetto, CliniComp, MEDSEEK, QuadraMed, Medicity, and multiple McKesson business units.
You can reach Jodi directly at email@example.com or 480-664-8412 ext. 11.
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