Marketing and PR Strategies for Hospitals
By Ikyatha Yerasala
Marketing and PR strategies employed by hospitals vary according to different aspects. Ikyatha Yerasala explores the subject
There’s no denying the significance of marketing and PR strategies for hospitals when it comes to contributing to reaching out to potential customers. And now with the massive surge in social media and digital marketing, the face of hospital marketing has changed drastically over the last decade. According to a Pew Research Center Report, 72% of internet users said they looked online for health information within the past year. This led to physicians, medical practitioners and hospitals getting online to make their presence felt.
Healthcare practitioners from across the country share their marketing and PR strategies that are currently working for them and resulting in increase in profits. Mr. Dinesh Madhavan – Director – Healthcare Services, HCG Enterprises Ltd, says, “Taking the fight against cancer is a challenge for patients who are going through a life limiting and changing situation, to ensure that they can take the fight against and win, they look up to individuals and institutions that inspire them with the following— hope, belief, trust, survive or win to lead a qualitative life of dignity. The strategy used by us is to ensure that these 4 aspects are narrated by our own cancer survivors or winners, simply pegged through a testimonial route.”
Often, the size and scale of the hospital, the area in which it is located and the market influences the marketing and PR strategies which will be adopted. Prasenjit Ghosh, VP-Sales and Marketing, Columbia Asia Hospitals, says, “Each of the hospitals are at a different stage of the product life cycle. We have hospitals in very different markets and hence one strategy does not work for all. In the hospitals, most of the walk-ins are from a 5km radius and hence we have out-reach plans for each of our hospitals. For our clinical programs, the specialty mix in each of the hospitals are different, it is based on the requirement of the market; for example, OBG, Pediatrics, Diabetes and General Surgery are the common specialties across all hospitals. To promote these specialties, we have the Columbia Venus, Columbia Kids, Columbia Diabetes and IDLCC program. In markets where we see demand of knee replacements or sports medicine, we have invested in these programs. Our hospitals are based in clusters for e.g in Bangalore we have 5 hospitals which helps us to bring in economies of scale in terms of both equipment’s and resources E.g. Yeshwanthpur Hospital has a well-developed Transplant and Neurosurgery program and other units can refer patients to this unit.”
As for their corporate out-reach, Columbia Asia organizes engagement program to strengthen & build relationship with large corporations and drive visibility amongst employees for brand, doctors, services. They also have tailor-made programs for the corporate sector. E.g Many of the companies battle with non-communicable diseases like diabetes, stress, obesity, cardiac, etc. “We have talks by the doctor on these subjects. At times, many of the companies have requested nutritionists to suggest the food plan for their cafeterias. In some of the companies where fitness is given priority, we have done special sessions on sports injury and special diets. We’ve also started a series of round table events for the HR’s in the corporate sector to discuss the issues and learn the best practises from peers. With this, we hope to decrease the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.” The hospital also uses technology to boost their marketing and participates in events with a health message like walkathons etc where is brand synergy,” adds Prasenjit.
A sizeable portion of the patients and large hospitals in metropolitan cities comprises international patients who come from world over to receive treatment in India. Reveals Prasenjit, “Business from International patients is quite sizeable and hence reaching out and managing their requirement is equally important for us. Currently, we get most of our patients from the middle east, SAARC and some African countries. We regularly visit these countries and conduct surgical and medical camps. A lot of effort is put into digital marketing programs to create brand and capability awareness in these geographies. We also link up with international insurance companies enabling treatment to their beneficiaries. Training programs for consultants and nurses are conducted basis requests from partner hospitals from these geographies helping us build better business relationship.”
The power of social media marketing
Social media marketing is huge and unsurprisingly so. Every major hospital makes sure that their social media presence is prominent an d they’re reaching out to the right people and market through online advertising and presence. Talking about the top rules to be applied hen doing social media marketing, Dinesh says, “The internet and social media connect people and businesses worldwide, and interactions between them are less dependent on time and place. The purpose of a social network is to build trust in a given community in order for its members to interact and share thoughts, ideas, and information about themselves. The three stakeholders and their interaction through the social media will make a difference in the way the digital engagers look at the vision, culture and image of the company. Here, the vision is by the mid and top-management, the culture by the employees and the image by the stake holders. A few basic aspects that will need to ensure that it is aligned to the brand strategy are ensure that there is an engagement and not a monologue, communication would need to be contextual to that time and what is socially impacting, make sure if you stand for Hope – Belief – Trust & Win to lead a QOL , it is consistent.”
Speaking about the top four rules to be applied when doing social media marketing, Prasenjit shares, “Social media helps healthcare brands to interact with the patients in real time and to form a patient-centric relationship. Social media is playing a major roles as more and more smart phones are getting into the market and people are engaging effectively at their convenience. Any marketing outreach that is done, can be boosted via social media. Effective usage of the social channels does help in garnering mind space and increasing the brand recall. The top four points to remember while using social platforms to promote are, Media Mix - selection of the right medium will help in reaching right TG. Each social media platform has unique user base, demographics and user interests. What works on Instagram might not work on twitter. To maximum benefits, campaigns and communications to be planned uniquely for each of the platforms. Two, don’t sell upfront: Do not focus too much on selling your services or product instead offer information which will help to patients in the areas of preventive, curative and post-surgery. Find a right mix between self-promotion and giving information. Deploy listen, learn and respond to build loyal fanbase. Do not Spam and Do not overload audience with the information which are not relevant or promote the same information again and again. And finally, track results: track and measure results to understand how your audience are engaging with you. Review these results on a timely manner and take corrective actions to increase engagement rates and increase your fanbase.”
As for healthcare practitioners, tools like Whatsapp, Facebook and broadcast messages often do the trick. Dr Niranjan Prabhakar, Chief Dentist, South Side Dental says he mostly connects on WhatsApp with his patients. "Marketing is now an important aspect for any practice. If you do good work, then people need to see and know. Although in this era of social media, word of mouth marketing still has an upper hand. Nevertheless, the younger generation is looking to get more answers and information about the doctor through search engines like Google and of course, Google reviews play a very important role."
To make potential customers aware of his clinic, he writes blogs on his website which he shares with them. "I also use Facebook often to promote and connect with people. For instance, in August to celebrate Oral Hygiene Awareness Month, I posted something about tips to brush correctly. We try to reach potential patients overseas also - those looking for affordable yet quality dental care from specialists.
Marketing and PR strategies not only help a hospital in advertising, but also educate the general public and help recruit more healthcare staff. With digital marketing at its peak, social media seems to have changed the way hospitals reach out to customers and is a marketing tool that no hospital – big or small, can ignore.