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Healthcare marketing during and after coronavirus – Reasons to be cheerful

by in Coronavirus, COVID-19, GP Practice Management

World War Z. 28 Days Later. Mad Max.

They ALL got it wrong when it comes to the currency of the apocalypse. It won’t be weapons, food or Guzzolene that people kill for. It’ll be bog roll and packet pasta.

But, practice manager, when this is all over (and it WILL be over), medical marketing and primary care comms will never be the same again (nor will primary care itself, actually). And for the better it’ll be, too.

You see, normal is overrated. Normal wasn’t working…

Problem #1 – Workloads were WAY overloaded. And your health was suffering because of it.

Problem #2 – Influencers and celebs are placed on a pedestal. That space should be reserved for our healthcare staff, scientists, and the amazing people who do amazing things for us day in, day out (#clapforourcarers).

Problem #3 – You’re overrun with other jobs that all come before healthcare comms. Poor marketing belongs to healthcare comms of old because, when done well, effective communication can mean time-saving video appointments, more effective signposting and better patient outcomes.

But there are plenty of reasons to think that these problems will disappear post-coronavirus. Because, despite how things might feel, there is plenty to be positive about…

Positive #1 – Support for the NHS has never been stronger. Before this crisis hit, Facebook posts about early closures of pharmacies or ‘we’re closed for the afternoon’ were routinely met with friction, frustration, flat-out rudeness.

Now, they’re met with comments of support. We clap for our key workers. We praise the NHS ALL over social. Heck, we should bottle this feel-good appreciation and protect it with all our might.

Positive #2 – Patients and staff are finally embracing video conferencing, video appointments, and online classes – across both the public and private healthcare sectors.

For years primary care workers tried and tried to engage patients with the convenience of video conferencing. Now, within weeks, primary care patients have embraced video and telephone consultations – finally!

Some say that this will transform how we triage and treat patients in the future. Let’s hope they’re right. And as we’re now well aware, beyond workload alleviation, video also protects our workforce.

Positive #3 – Social media is now genuinely social. Communities are closer.

There are rainbows. People pulling together. There are neighbours shopping for one another and the elderly and vulnerable being protected. It’s really rather beautiful, actually.

Positive #4 – Healthcare professionals, if patients didn’t fully grasp the importance of your medical training before, they do now. Professor Whitty has been hailed a hero – while Dr Faucci is now known affectionately as America’s Doc.

No longer is your opinion overruled by “my mate’s, Karen from Stockport, who said…”. Underscore this understanding by making it known that you’re available and interested in their health today, tomorrow and for the future.

So, what now?

Right now, I’m hedging my bets that you’re working longer hours than ever before.

And there’s no doubt that coronavirus is impacting businesses far and wide. But after this, patients and customers will re-engage. Your brand is here for the long haul, so protect it by proactively switching up the way things are done during these unprecedented few months, with the following ten steps.

Proactive Step #1 – Only worry about what you can control.

Like your internal comms. Stay in touch with staff and stakeholders with regular email marketing. Be friendly, engaging and, above all else, human. This is no time for robots and corporate speak. Don’t have time to write it down? Record a quick video update on your phone (or opt for video anyway – especially for social media comms).

Proactive Step #2 Today is the perfect day to get around to those endless ‘To Dos’ which never get done.

It’s time to finally refresh that tired website (that you put on the back burner more times than you care to admit). Take a morning to research your ‘competitors’ and their marketing activities. Pencil ‘visuals and content’ in for the afternoons, and create refreshed in-surgery communication which will await your patients when they return.

Proactive Step #3 – Consider what more downtime might mean for your patients

For better, for worse, this lockdown means more time for internet research and looking up healthcare advice. Are you showing up to tell people about the services you could provide?

Proactive Step #4 – How does your website look?

What sort of content is there to greet visitors both old and new? People want a break from coronavirus. And just because it’s here right now, doesn’t mean people are not thinking about other aspects of their health (nor that their other conditions have disappeared).

Proactive Step #5 – Reassess your patient touchpoints

How many ways do you communicate and to whom? How are you positioning yourself? Helpful and supportive or a tad desperate and bossy? All traditional and no digital because you don’t know how to wield Facebook? You’re worried. I get it. Get training, grow confidence, nurture fans.

Proactive Step #6 – Re-set the tone for your social media

Show empathy and be consistent. People are being overwhelmed with coronavirus information. Use this as an opportunity to sprinkle positivity, a little light-hearted humour and build trust and respect for your brand.

Proactive Step #7 – Let people see that you’re human too.

Show others how you’re supporting your staff, patients and the wider community – share how you’re going above and beyond – rather than just posting your updated cleaning policies and new surgery hours.

Proactive Step #8 – You can still, and should, remain visible as a brand.

Stop and step into your patients’ shoes. What do they need now, rather than in the grand scheme of your surgery’s growth? A support group? Some exercise sheets? A text with helpful resources?

Proactive Step #9 – Watch your words.

Your patients are confused and uncertain. They’re looking for confidence, calmness and reassurance, rather than comms that are the wrong side of being too upbeat or out and out miserable.

Proactive Step #10 – Treat your customers, staff and patients well.

Reassure them and stay in touch. Engage with existing users directly – through email marketing or via social media one-on-one (rather than posting to the masses each time). Do all this, and in return, In return they’ll be eager to support you.

Things are going to get better. And we’ll be better for it. But in the meantime, here’s to all those toughing it out on the frontline. And let’s also cheer for all the determined men and women supporting them – from the postie to the carer, the shop worker to the nursery teacher.

Author: Kara Skehan (Yorkshire Medical Marketing) – Front-line friend to primary care. Champion of common sense and ‘reyt’ simple words. Kara is a healthcare marketing specialist living and working in Yorkshire.

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