How Hospital Marketing Must Adapt to the New World Order

Meet confluency: the wrecking ball (and savior) knocking down the walls between marketing communications disciplines.

By Brandon Edwards • September 7, 2016

There was a fantastic article in Becker’s Hospital Review recently — “10 Things Keeping Health System CEOs up at Night” — that illustrates two important recent trends. First, there is the trend of confluency, which Chris Bevolo addressed in a recent blog post. Second, there is the transformation of our very own agency to meet the fast-changing needs of healthcare’s New World Order. More on that later.

Consider the “10 Things Keeping Health System CEOs up at Night”:

  1. The speed of movement from volume to value and potential impacts.
  2. The cool-off as it relates to provider-sponsored health plans.
  3. Traditional M&A continues while nontraditional alliances grow more prevalent.
  4. Growth in ancillary systems and alliance efforts with best-in-class operators.
  5. The extent of risk being pushed to systems in each of core payer areas — commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid.
  6. A shrinking pool of acquisition candidates.
  7. The return to the basics of execution and business.
  8. The impact of the cost of pharmaceuticals and impact on healthcare costs for systems.
  9. The competition with private equity for high-margin business.
  10. The pushing of procedures out of hospitals and the efforts to backfill.

Aside from the staggering complexity inherent in running a health system, and the size of these critically important businesses, there is something that really jumps out about this list. Eight out of 10 top issues are directly connected to marketing communications (arguably No. 8: pharmaceutical pricing, and No. 6: the shrinking pool of acquisition candidates). That means 80 percent of the issues keeping health system CEOs up at night can be directly addressed by the marketing department, creating huge value to the organization.

To reiterate a point we’ve hammered home lately, this isn’t the same kind of marketing most health systems have done over the last 20 years. This New World Order marketing — which we’ve labeled confluency, both because it’s an accurate description and because it’s a fun word to say — recognizes the growing confluence of the various marketing communications disciplines such as marketing, branding, public relations, and digital. It is having a profound impact on our industry and promises to continue changing and shaping our organizations. More importantly, it is bound to have a significant impact on those of us responsible for leading marketing communications efforts at our rapidly evolving organizations. And it can help every health system CEO address eight of the top 10 things on their worry list.

Chris Bevolo is right on the money when he says we’ve been talking about “integrated marketing communications” for the past few decades, but that is something different than the confluence we’re talking about now. With an integrated marketing communications approach, the goal is to ensure you’re appropriately using all of the disciplines when you tackle a specific marketing or communications challenge. But you’re still thinking about them as distinct disciplines — marketing, PR, digital, and brand — that need to work together somehow. With this new trend, the walls between the disciplines are breaking down and their definitions and applications are blurring together. With the new confluence, it’s becoming harder and harder to know where marketing stops and PR begins, or what should be labeled “branding” and what should be labeled “digital.”

As the walls come crumbling down, what was known and neat is becoming unknown and messy. We’re dubbing this new skill set an individual’s “confluency” — your ability to successfully navigate the continued blending of marketing disciplines. With any new term, it helps to use it in a sentence. For example, “How do you build your confluency to better deal with the nebulous distinction between marketing, PR, branding, and digital?”

Now a few words on the transformation of our very own agency to meet the fast-changing needs of healthcare’s New World Order. This massive shift in healthcare marketing is exactly what ReviveHealth was built to address. We are the first purpose-built agency that brings together all the expertise and capabilities necessary to help healthcare organizations grow market share, build reputation, improve the bottom line, and tackle any issue or crisis. We’ve built a content machine, deep technical expertise in lead gen and content marketing, and all the creative capabilities necessary to deliver targeted digital and social paid campaigns, as well as traditional advertising. We have built this agency specifically to deliver engagement through branding, advertising, digital, social media, PR, internal communication, and crisis management capabilities.  And we deliver that on a platform of deep industry expertise in health systems, health services, and health technology.

  • Brandon Edwards

    Brandon Edwards

    Brandon brings 25 years of experience in healthcare and integrated marketing, with a special expertise in issues management and the complexities inherent in the business of healthcare.

    More about Brandon »
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