Children’s hospitals have a unique mission and remarkable stories to tell.

As the marketing partner for several of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals, True North Custom is proud to partner with children’s hospitals nationwide to craft those stories and drive audiences from awareness to action.

Based on our experience, we’ve developed proven strategies for growing a children’s hospital brand and increasing revenue through content strategies designed for consumers, physicians, and donors.

This guidebook features our recommended strategies along with expert perspective from marketing leaders representing several renowned healthcare brands, including:

  • Cook Children’s Health Care System
  • Dayton Children’s Hospital
  • Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
  • Nemours Children’s Health System
  • St. Louis Children’s Hospital
  • The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, a part of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System

Establishing a Unique Voice:
Content Marketing for Children’s Hospitals

For children’s hospitals to establish themselves as a trustworthy resource in the community, they must find their unique voice.

Engaging consumers with unique content sets your brand apart as an authority on that subject matter. As a children’s hospital, focusing on your unique content and voice gives you the chance to illustrate exactly how you meet needs other healthcare providers aren’t. Are you addressing the elephant in the room by tackling topics other hospitals are afraid to touch? Are you answering questions area parents don’t even know they have?

If you want to reach parents in your community while differentiating your children’s hospital brand, take the opportunity to put the information they need and want at their fingertips—with your fingerprints clearly on it. Here are three proven ways to engage parents based on our work with several nationally ranked children’s hospitals.

Don’t Shy Away From Tough Stuff
The focus of Cook Children’s Health Care System’s publication Checkup is population health, a common target for many healthcare marketers. How Cook Children’s approaches the issue, however, sets them apart. Checkup positions Cook Children’s as an authoritative and trustworthy healthcare voice by discussing potentially controversial topics.

Recently covered subjects include spanking, bullying, gender identity, domestic abuse, and sexting—all timely and relevant topics of conversation that may be seen by some as too “taboo” to discuss in a public forum. Articles are concise, visual, and split into easy-to-consume elements, which make them a reliable go-to resource for area parents.

Prioritize the Practical
The St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Kids Today e-newsletter and publication take more of a prescriptive tone, focusing on practical content that parents can use day to day. Each issue features a St. Louis Children’s dietitian who addresses nutrition issues—snacks that are easy to make on the go and ways to get involved in the kitchen are notable recent examples.

Kids Today also published an article on bullying two years ago that, to date, has driven more traffic to their resource center than any other marketing piece.

Communicate Compassion
Forever First, the pediatric-specific magazine from The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, a part of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, focuses on the compassionate nature of children’s healthcare. Highlighting the comfort they provide for children and families through their child-centered pediatric care is right in line with The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s mission, something that drives not only the medical care they provide but their approach to marketing as well.

Forever First provides a tone of reassuring authority, showcasing ways in which they prioritize the emotional well-being of their pediatric patients, such as through the regular use of child life specialists. Further to that mission, the authoritative yet gentle tone makes it easier for parents to trust The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio as a reliable medical resource—they know their children are in good hands, which provides a sense of security in what can be a frightening situation.


How Children’s Hospitals Can
Engage Physicians
to Increase Referrals & Reputation

To create content that captures physicians’ attention and trust, children’s hospitals have to be true to themselves. 

You’ve probably heard pediatric physicians say that children aren’t little adults—they are a distinct patient group requiring care that’s just for them. By the same token, your physician-focused content strategy must be unique from its consumer counterpart.

Whether your goal is to drive referrals or boost public perception, the basic ingredients for success are the same: Physicians want to know what your hospital does well, and that their  patients are in good hands through your skilled, compassionate care.

Speak With Many Voices
With a presence in five states, Nemours Children’s Health System uses a multi-pronged content marketing strategy geared toward specific segments of its physician audience.

The News at Nemours e-news program, for example, keeps physicians in the Mid-Atlantic region abreast of clinical advances, medical staff additions, and continuing medical education opportunities at the system’s flagship hospital in Delaware. E-newsletters promoting Nemours’ International Medicine Program target physicians around the globe with content that blends advances in care—the use of PET/MRI in the treatment of epilepsy is a recent example—exciting research, and powerful stories of families who have traveled from abroad for diagnosis and treatment. Specialist e-newsletters highlight Nemours’ expertise in specific medical disciplines, such as otolaryngology, with case studies of treatment regimens.

The results of this targeted approach to physician communication are remarkable: Compared with other physician e-mail campaigns that have average open rates of 10-11 percent, a recent pediatric orthopedic campaign for Nemours had an open rate of 31.72 percent. The campaign also exceeded the average click-through rate for e-mails targeting physicians.

Highlight Your Hospital’s Heart
For Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio, a key driver of its physician content marketing strategy is conveying that its services are on par with those in the Cincinnati market to the south. Highlighting pioneering programs and advanced treatments are a big part of that effort, but they’re not the whole story.
In an email campaign intended to elevate its U.S. News & World Report rankings, Dayton Children’s focused on its most important differentiator: the lengths to which its providers go to help sick children.

Presenting patient stories is one way the hospital shows those efforts, but they also use subtler means. In a recent email, Dayton Children’s profiled its Scolio-Pilates® program for children with scoliosis. What better way to highlight both innovation and compassion than by introducing physicians to a first-of-its-kind program for a pediatric hospital in the United States?


Foundation Focus:
How Children’s Hospitals Leverage Content to Cultivate Donors

Stories about children who have overcome serious illness or injury tug at the heartstrings and they can be powerful calls to philanthropic action.

Children’s hospitals have an advantage over other healthcare organizations when it comes to content creation, and it lies in what they work toward every day: helping sick children get well. Every story about a young patient is, at its heart, a story about family, and that has universal relevance and resonance.

For children’s hospitals, patient stories are potent tools for inspiring philanthropic support that allows them to further their missions. What greater proof of a children’s hospital’s value than the story of a patient who is able to play, learn, and strive toward his or her potential because of its care? What stronger call for action than the story of a family committed to fighting the rare disease that took their child?
The ways children’s hospitals tell their patients’ stories are as unique as the children themselves.

Content as a Catalyst for Giving
Since All Children’s Hospital became part of Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2011, the St. Petersburg, Florida, hospital has transformed from a regional hospital into an academic health system. The teaching hospital is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report in three children’s specialties: cardiology and heart surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, and orthopedics. Research and education are major priorities, and philanthropic support helps drive both.

Without a personal connection, however, these programs can be difficult for potential donors to appreciate. The Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation’s For the Kids publication, developed in partnership with True North Custom, often highlights the hospital’s leading-edge programs through the lens of patient stories.
Recently, the magazine featured the hospital’s work on neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), an infant condition caused by maternal opioid use during pregnancy. To make the topic less abstract, the article wove in the story of a toddler who was born with NAS and was able to overcome many developmental issues, thanks to the care he received at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.

Even stories that don’t have the happiest endings can have a positive impact. One piece in For the Kids focused on a patient who, despite the doctors’ best efforts, didn’t pull through. The child’s mother continued his fight, however, raising funds for research and awareness through the foundation. The tragedy of their loss became a powerful message of hope and a call to action for readers.

Since For the Kids launched more than two years ago, the publication has become an integral part of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation brand identity, community engagement, and fundraising efforts. The marketing team receives positive feedback from the internal and external audiences, and the program’s impact includes contributions from donors who otherwise might not have opened their hearts—and wallets—to support the hospital’s mission.

In fact, one donor was moved to send a gift of $5,000 after reading a feature article titled “The Mind/Body Branch” in a recent issue. The first-time donor said he loved reading about the difference that gifts are making every day at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, and wanted to be part of the donor community.