Do You Have a Content Marketing Plan?

by Heather Hammond, Managing Editor - 06/05/19


In a recent episode of the Touch Point podcast, our Regional Vice President Jane Crosby shares advice for getting the most out of your content investment—including the one thing all marketers can do today to boost ROI.

Jane recently chatted with Touch Point Co-Host Reed Smith about a myriad of content-related topics, including the intersection of technology and content, rising above the fray on social media, and other critical topics of interest for healthcare marketers who are looking to boost their content marketing plan.

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Q: As the industry continues to evolve and adopt marketing technology at increasing rates, how are you guiding clients along this curve?

Jane: As our business evolved, clients were coming to us and saying they were ready to move into digital but they didn’t know how to effectively extend their publications into the digital space. Allowing them to easily take that print content and let it live online, perhaps scaling back the circulation in the process, was a great way for us to continue to produce great publications while complementing them with a blog environment as well as social media content that increases the brand’s reach while allowing clients to extend content across multiple channels.

This is important as today’s consumers are constantly searching for health information online. Rock Health produced a study showing that the adoption of digital health tools is going to be most prominent for consumers in the online health information area—even more so than wearables, online provider reviews and other digital platforms that our clients are investing in today or consumers are investing in themselves. 

As a result, it has become increasingly important for us to deliver content online for our clients and that’s often driven by technology. As their consumers search for health information they’re finding it on our clients’ websites and converting through various channels and points along the decision-making journey.

Q: Despite the rise in technology and adoption of digital tools, is it fair to say that content is still a struggle for most marketers?

Jane: Yes, we see that all the time. Our clients are investing in technology platforms and either they don’t renew those platforms or they just don’t see the value because they’re not doing anything meaningful with them. For a website or health risk assessment (HRA) or whatever tool they’re using to be valuable, there has to be good information and actionable takeaways for the consumer or it’s never going to give you an ROI.

Also, content creation is genuinely hard and our clients are more and more challenged to create quality content. An Adobe survey found that to create one short form piece of content or an ad typically takes about 17 hours, and developing a long-form piece of content takes closer to 27 hours. If you have a full-time employee working 40 hours per week, that’s essentially less than two long-form pieces of content they’re able to create during that time, which is a very expensive piece of content.

Another issue is the fact that healthcare marketers tend to live in silos, so content that is created in one area is rarely used in others. Content can be used across multiple channels and for different purposes by simply tweaking it a bit, for example by turning an article into an infographic or adding some video components. Thinking strategically about a content marketing plan is important to ensure we’re pushing that information out to as many consumers as appropriate when we invest time into creating it in the first place.

Q: Why do you think it takes so long to create content? 

Jane: For health care in particular, it’s important to make sure a piece of content is accurate and medically verified, and that requires time and expertise. Another challenge we often see involves understanding what to write and how to do it in a way that’s effective. While we have some health system clients who have trained writers on staff, it’s rare for an organization to have writers and designers dedicated to producing engaging content on their teams.

When it’s not necessarily within someone’s scope to sit down and write a search-optimized blog post or page of service line copy—and make sure all of that information is accurate for a consumer, it can be a challenge. Large, national organizations like the Cleveland Clinic do a great job with their content marketing; however, 99% of health systems do not have the resources to do what they’re doing and produce a substantial volume of content.

I think it’s hard to find the help to create content as well. I had one client tell me that when they look for content, they’re typically finding agencies who don’t specialize in content so it is hard to get them to consistently produce good content, especially if they ask for it not to be tied to a broader campaign or brand relaunch.

On the other extreme, you have freelance shops or individual freelancers from whom it’s hard to get commitments, and when you’re managing multiple freelancers, the tone and voice and style is pretty inconsistent. Finding that middle ground of a partner who can consistently deliver quality content in a cost effective and content-only focus is challenging, and it’s even more challenging to find a great writer or designer who wants to write for a health system than freelance on their own time.

Q: Social media is such a huge part of a successful content strategy. What are organizations like Cleveland Clinic doing well on social to make their content strategy work?

Jane: When we think about our top-of-the-funnel content strategies that build brand and trust with consumers, like the health and wellness content that’s designed to raise awareness around areas like primary care and ER services, we do think of it as social-first. If people aren’t engaging with that content on social media, then you’re probably not going to get much traffic to your blog.

The Cleveland Clinic does a great job stepping away from the status quo. They’re not just doing the seasonal topics like healthy recipes and five tips to avoid mosquito bites in the summer, they’re getting a little bit edgy with some of their content. You really do need to stand out to capture attention today as we’re reaching a point of content saturation in the market and consumers have so much access to health information.  

Q: How do you supplement the content about flu shots and other seasonal issues?

Jane: You can’t tie every piece of content with a call to action for health system revenue. I think even when you are doing content on summer safety, fireworks safety and other evergreen topics, having a headline that pops or having some kind of spin that’s a little bit different than what somebody else produced last summer is important and is the only way that our clients are going to stand out.

Images are another way to differentiate content. Infographics are a great way to capture attention and they typically have a strong takeaway for the consumer. We see those being one of the more valuable pieces of content because it is about helping consumers understand when they need a specific type of care like weight-loss options rather than a strong health system call to action. I see those as consumer-centric and the design is so fun and engaging that they can be used in a lot of different channels and campaigns.

Q: Are you seeing clients move toward more edgier content? Is that something we can do in health care very well?

Jane: Yes, in fact I heard Amanda Todorovich from Cleveland Clinic speak at a conference about an article her team had written that had the word “vagina” in the title, and her health system leadership hated it, but it performed very well. [Find out how Amanda champions the cause for content marketing within her organization.]

It depends on the organization but I think you can have fun with content and start to push the envelope when you think about blogs, social media and some of those more top-of-the-funnel channels. Once people are thinking about making appointments or they are searching for provider reviews and listings, being more conservative with your content makes sense.

Q: Are healthcare marketers still pushing the same content through their social pages and other channels, or have we evolved away from that?

Jane: While it depends on the health system, we are starting to evolve and more of our clients are thinking about each of their social channels differently. For example, Twitter and Facebook are very different types of engagement platforms. Twitter is great for updates and promoting events versus the social content that is more around seasonal tips and tricks and other health and wellness content.

Once we think about engaging consumers who are lower in the funnel, our channels change as well. Social media and blog content are very much designed for the learning and discovery stage when consumers are starting to think about their health versus getting down to the action level for consumers who need information about a condition they’ve been diagnosed with.

Maybe someone completes an HRA and are told they were at high risk for heart disease. It’s important to deliver content about what that means so when they’re searching for that information and locate a provider, you’re there guiding them through a clear and concise pathway. It’s important for health systems to invest in that type of content as they build out their websites.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of websites? Some predict that traditional websites will be replaced by more of a decision-based AI experience.

Jane: I think you’re right. Website content is going to be much more simplified rather than a one-stop shop for all things health-related. I think we’re going to see health systems transition their websites to a place of outlining the conditions they treat and offering service recommendations for how to treat them. 

I had one client tell me that they recently relaunched their website and through the content-strategy portion of that process, they went from roughly 12,000 pages to 2,500 pages of content on their site. It’s a common scenario: A doctor tells them they need content for this innovative new treatment they’re offering so they add a new page on their website that outlines that treatment when that information could live as a couple sentences within the conditions page. I believe we’re going to see clients scale back with a much more streamlined taxonomy and structure for their site UX and functionality. 

Q: Do you have any advice or specific tips for things our listeners could do today to impact their content strategies?

Jane: If I had one tip for any listeners today, it would be go back to your office and analyze all the content you have. Look at everything created over the last 12 months to try and understand whether or not you got the most bang for your buck for each piece. Did you use it just on the blog and not promote it on social media? Did you use it in a service line campaign along with promoting it from the website service line page? There’s a lot you can do with each piece of content and even if you missed the boat 12 months ago when it was created, there’s probably a way to go back, edit the piece, optimize it and use it again. 

When we help clients develop a content marketing plan and especially when they need help optimizing digital content, we’ll take a look at the content and once articles stop getting traffic or haven’t been touched in over a year, we’ll either rewrite it or get rid of it altogether.

The goal is to truly understand what you’re creating and how to get more mileage out of what you’re doing today. Ideally, your content doesn’t slowly die over time, but rather continues to evolve so that it’s always getting traffic.

Need Help with Your Content Marketing Plan?

Our team of content strategy experts (like Jane!) can guide you toward an effective plan for building brand, driving volume and optimizing marketing technology through content. 

Contact Us →

Topics: Content Strategy, Content Marketing

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