Roundtable: Marketing in the healthcare industry

We talked to marketing and PR folks across the state to hear their thoughts on marketing trends in the healthcare industry. Below are the highlights.

Medical News: Is healthcare marketing different than other types of marketing? If so, how is it different?


Andrea Brady

Senior Strategist, C2 Strategic Communications

Effective healthcare marketing leverages many of the same tools used in other industries, yet the stakes for connecting and engaging with healthcare consumers may be higher. Whether someone is receiving care at a hospital, a senior living community or a small practice group, their healthcare needs are personal and unique; quickly establishing trust and open communication lines with your provider is critical to your decision-making.

Ensuring your digital strategies and tools—web site, SEO, video content and social media usage —are top-notch will go a long way in targeting your customers and engaging with them where they are. Seeing providers in thought leadership roles and hearing testimonials from satisfied customers is especially important in healthcare.


Matt Stull 

VP, Marketing & Public Relations, Lucina Health

It is different because the rules for its sectors are different. From the health system standpoint, you are dealing with a limited number of competitors, but you must take factors into consideration like government regulations that might not affect other areas of work.

From the product/service marketing standpoint, you must be able to back up your claims as lives are at stake. You can’t just tout “the world’s best tasting coffee” and have no results to back that up. Most importantly, you need a tremendous amount of patience in healthcare marketing. Health plans, health systems and consumers move to act more slowly in healthcare than in other product segments.


Erin Jones

CEO + Founder, in.Mode Marketing

Healthcare marketing does require a bit of a different level of marketing, partially depending on the medical topic. Due to HIPAA laws and privacy concerns across the board, there may be layers to the plan that keep subjects anonymous, yet there are others that are happy to share messaging and missions to spread the word about a healthcare topic.

I recommend a full evaluation of marketing efforts and see how you can best focus on the mission of the healthcare company and the core of the organization.

Medical News: Give an example of a successful marketing/PR campaign you have implemented. Why did it work?

Harrison Turner

Kathy Harrison Turner

Communications Director, Louisville Metro Dept. of Public Health & Wellness

Because we are already a lean, efficient department, we rarely, if ever, have money for advertising. A core function of public health is to educate and inform the public and we depend on PR strategies to do that.

In 2018 there was a hepatitis A outbreak in Louisville. For months we used PR tactics and strategies to educate our target audiences and the general public about the outbreak and best ways to protect themselves. Our efforts paid off. Locally more than 120,000 people were vaccinated. We were able to tackle the epidemic in half the time of other cities across the country. In fact, the CDC called our city’s response the gold standard for others to emulate.

Andrea Brady, C2 Strategic Communications: A public outreach campaign, helping Hope Scarves grow its reputation and better communicate its story and expanded mission around the city, region and nationally was particularly rewarding for our agency.

Hope Scarves, a nonprofit organization that partners with survivors to share scarves, stories and hope with women facing cancer, enlisted help from C2 to increase the number of stories collected, grow donations and break into regional and national markets with earned media. The first annual Story-thon collected an additional 100 stories of hope to include with future scarf sends. C2 also helped Hope Scarves reach almost five million people, secure a sizeable matching donation and garner thousands of dollars in earned media value.

Matt Stull, Lucina Health: A year ago, no one outside of a small circle had ever heard of Lucina Health. In the last 12 months, our story has been featured by Tech Republic, Wired Magazine, Modern Healthcare nationally and by several local outlets. It worked because we had a great story to tell about success in reducing preterm birth and NICU days for Medicaid moms in Kentucky.

Erin Jones, in.Mode Marketing: I helped launch the Life Lift mobile application with the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates and The Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust For Life. It was successful because it created a new way to target communications about organ donation education to a much younger generation.

Life Lift is like action style games with an endless runner style, featuring air transport of organs to hospitals; races against time and navigation through obstacles to deliver organs and save lives. Life Lift teaches the urgency of donation, the crucial need for organs and the shortage of those organs.


Claire Tidmore

Account Supervisor, Doe Anderson

Norton Healthcare’s Look for the N campaign plays on the idea of approachable expertise. Doctors are the face of healthcare, so by pairing images of experienced doctors with relationship-based messaging, the campaign can sell the ideal healthcare experience. If patients Look for the N, they’ll find more than a doctor or hospital, they’ll find approachable expertise.


Melissa Mather 

Director of Communications, Family Health Centers

Family Health Center’s, Inc. (FHC) best marketing strategy is our reputation and referrals we receive from current patients and partners on the ground. We pay close attention to what our patients are saying about us, online and at the health center.

Each month, we survey our patient’s experience using a random sampling of the previous month’s patients. We look for trends and feedback that is meaningful for our patient’s time with us and we compare this data with other key operations metrics to see where we need to be focusing our attention for improvement.

We also monitor online reviews on social media and developed an internal process for responding to negative experiences in a HIPAA compliant manner.

People are not going to eat at a restaurant that consistently gets two stars from patrons – and they certainly are not going to a doctor’s office with two stars. Your online presence and what people are saying about you must imbue confidence in your organization. Your patients experience begets good reviews and likely referrals to others.

Take care of your patients, listen to their feedback, provide a meaningful experience and they will become your best marketers.

Medical News: Explain the benefits of Google Business to Family Health Centers.

Melissa Mather, Family Health Centers: From a marketing perspective, especially if you are trying to make your dollars stretch, you cannot ignore Google Business or other free tools that increase your online visibility. Often people look for doctors that are convenient where they live or work and Google uses their own tools to help deliver on their search engine results.

Google Business allows you to create a listing that compliments your web site and helps people find your services, leveraging geographic proximity to your location and increasing your Google SEO.

Creating an up-to-date engaging Google Business listing is relatively easy and updates can be made from their interface or integrated with platforms like Hootsuite.

Further, Google Business pushes out requests for people to leave public reviews when it sees you have visited a location. This has increased our public, patient feedback ten-fold. A few years ago we may have had a few reviews a month online, where now people are leaving reviews and comments multiple times daily. Our Google Business reviews are generally good and that bodes well for a business when people are looking for services that we offer.

The backend tools and analytics of Google Business offer insight as to how people are searching for us, what zip codes they are coming from, calls made, web site visits, etc. This is all helpful data especially when you are developing a location-based marketing strategy.

Medical News: How have you worked to build your brand over the past year?

Matt Stull, Lucina Health: I make a point to say yes to any legitimate opportunity to tell the Lucina Health story. A web site that features startups called Hypepotamus contacted us earlier this summer and did a nice feature on our work. We got more positive feedback on that article on social media than just about anything else we have done. We have also said yes to every speaking opportunity and even held our first town hall discussion on preterm birth and maternal mortality. Aside from those large efforts, we post daily on issues related to moms and babies trying to keep that conversation active.

Medical News: What is a marketing trend you are seeing this year? Do any of your clients follow the trends?

Claire Tidmore, Doe Anderson: There’s been a push to focus on the patient experience, while also acknowledging how younger generations (millennials) are consuming healthcare differently than older generations. The younger consumer expects to be engaged in their care from research to treatment. Norton Healthcare surveys patients to ensure they’re providing positive experiences and information before, during and after treatment.