Washington Health System embraces storytelling in print and online to increase awareness of key service lines and prove return on investment (ROI).
Overview and Objectives
Washington Health System is a community-based organization in Washington, Pennsylvania, that cares for patients at multiple locations across a three-county radius. Despite the system’s wide array of services, it faced an all-too familiar challenge for hospitals near major cities: Community members were traveling to nearby Pittsburgh for care. The challenge for the WHS marketing team was letting people know the same services were available closer to home at WHS.
To introduce the community to the system’s physicians and capabilities, the WHS marketing team began publishing a newsletter called YourHealthRx. However, the newsletter was time-intensive for their small internal marketing team. Also, there were no metrics in place to measure engagement, making it difficult to evaluate the returns on all the work the team was putting in. Even more concerning, the hard-sell content didn’t seem to resonate with readers. Following the publication of each issue, the marketing team received multiple calls from community members who wanted to be removed from the publication’s mailing list.
“The magazine didn’t have the desired look or feel,” says Stephanie Wagoner, manager of marketing and community relations at WHS. “We started looking for a vendor to help.”
Content Marketing Strategy
WHS partnered with True North Custom in late 2015. Following a detailed discussion of the publication’s goals, the teams worked together to give the publication a makeover, including a brand new name, Connections.
The marketing objectives—showcasing the WHS team and high-quality services, particularly services related to women’s health, cardiology, outpatient services and pulmonary care—remained the same. However, the approach to communicating those messages changed. Instead of focusing solely on the hospital’s services, for example, the content now incorporates a blend of hard- and soft-sell elements. Lifestyle-focused content that provides useful, relevant health and wellness tips accompanies sidebars and blurbs educating community members about the hospital’s services.
“The articles are now much more inviting,” Wagoner says. “People want to read them because they’re content-driven rather than sales-focused.”
In addition to optimizing the editorial content, the WHS marketing team utilized their existing physician referral line to help track community engagement. Each Connections article that doesn’t have a call to action driving readers to a specific physician practice or service line now drives to the physician referral line.
To ease the workload of the small WHS marketing team, which consists of Wagoner, an administrative assistant and an outreach liaison, True North Custom also assumed responsibility for scheduling and completing interviews with physicians and other hospital subject matter experts and obtains contact approval for all copy.
Based on the success of Connections, WHS recently partnered with True North Custom to apply the same principles to its website content. As part of a larger project that will consolidate three WHS websites into one, the True North Custom team provided editorial, writing, and fact-checking services.
Since launching the new version of Connections, a 16-page magazine published four times a year, the trend of community members requesting to be removed from the mailing list has decreased dramatically, while the team has noted major growth in the service lines featured in the magazine. For example, a recent Connections article discussed facials available at Spa Harmony located inside the system’s Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center, an often-overlooked feature at the center. Shortly after the issue hit mailboxes, calls started coming in from community members who wanted to schedule a facial.
“Many people didn’t realize that our spa offered facials or that they could visit our spa without a wellness center membership,” Wagoner says. “In this way, the magazine helps educate people about services they didn’t know they could have access to within their local community health system.
“Our spa also offers acupuncture and acupressure, which can help relieve back pain and issues related to poor circulation and even help cancer patients along their road to recovery. In some of those areas, the magazine has helped open the community up to new ideas and new ways to take care of themselves.”
The WHS marketing team measures service line growth, in part, by tracking the number of calls placed to the physician referral line after each issue reaches homes.
“We usually receive several calls per article,” Wagoner says. “By tracking those calls, we can show how patients are learning about our services and prove that the things we’re doing are effective. When we meet with our internal administrative team, we can now say, ‘Yes, we’re spending money, but our investment is driving patients to our health system,’ which is great.”
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