A Marketer’s Skills Can Make Advocacy Better

Healthcare marketing professionals often focus on reaching potential patients as well as the upstream employer, broker, health plan and physician audiences that have an impact on where patients go for care. Less often they participate in government relations efforts. Is this a missed opportunity?

Healthcare marketing professionals often focus on reaching potential patients as well as the upstream employer, broker, health plan and physician audiences that have an impact on where patients go for care. Less often they participate in government relations efforts and advocacy. Is this a missed opportunity?

Decisions by state and federal government have a significant impact on access to care and can cause big swings in the bottom lines of practices, hospitals and health systems. Some high-profile issues spark intense debate, such as suspending individual mandate penalties, which other decisions, such as supplemental funding for Disproportionate Share Hospitals, tend to attract interest only in legislative committees.

It’s worth remembering that legislators and staff aides are people and like all people, can only respond to issues based on what they know, who’s talking to them and how many people they think might be affected. This is where a marketing communicator’s ability to craft succinct messages and organize campaign outreach can help in unexpected ways.

If you work in marketing, consider reaching out to whomever in your organization manages government relations activities to find out the issues that are of concern. Your value proposition is simple. You can help them communicate the pros or cons of a pending issue through supporting materials used in meetings, developing talking points or creating a mechanism for affected audiences to contact decision-makers. By doing so, you are helping the management team see the skills within marketing as broader than advertising, sales or events.

Once you connect with your government relations leader to learn about legislative concerns, you’ll want to get up to speed on those issues. Spend time researching the original legislation, find white papers that assess its effectiveness, subscribe to newsletters that follow the topic, and learn about what’s driving this issue to the forefront now. Be sure to consult your government relations executive about any restrictions on sources of funding for advocacy efforts.

As you learn about the issue, work with the information as you would any other campaign. What makes this important? What’s the potential impact? Who is likely to care about this? If legislation may have a material impact to your organization’s bottom line, you may be able to convey how it could limit your ability to support underserved populations or cause a loss of jobs. How can you share the story behind the numbers so an arcane policy change becomes relatable because of its impact on people? How can you find them and empower them to take action?

If you can help advance your organization’s perspective as legislation is taking shape, your contribution can make a huge difference to patient care, jobs and your community. And isn’t that why you were originally drawn to the field?

To Honor Jerry Cerasale and the Contributions He Has Made for Us

Next month will mark a new beginning for Jerry Cerasale, a man whose countless contributions to marketers over the past four decades have served us immensely. After a career of public service and advocacy on behalf of direct marketing, Jerry is about to start a next chapter—more time with his family endeavors on his schedule, not those of Congress, the U.S. Postal Service or the Direct Marketing Association and coalitions in which he has represented us so brilliantly

Next month will mark a new beginning for Jerry Cerasale, a man whose countless contributions to marketers over the past four decades have served us immensely. After a career of public service and advocacy on behalf of direct marketing, Jerry is about to start a next chapter—more time with his family endeavors on his schedule, not those of Congress, the U.S. Postal Service or the Direct Marketing Association and coalitions in which he has represented us so brilliantly.

For those of us who know Jerry, we know this moment is sweet. He is a gentleman who always seems to know the score on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Though it may be impossible to know outcomes on public policy debates with any certainty, since his joining the Direct Marketing Association’s government affairs team, we’ve had someone who is able to shape that policy or influence it in a manner that has advanced our professional practice—and to do so with fairness, clarity and a knack for building consensus. In each occasion, importantly, Jerry has also articulated how marketing ultimately serves the needs of customers and consumers, and a well-functioning, competitive and innovative marketplace. All the time, he’s engaged DMA members—and given us opportunities to participate in the lawmaking and policymaking process as citizens and as members of our business community.

Jerry first joined DMA in 1995 as senior vice president, government affairs, and had led the charge of DMA’s contact with the Congress, all federal agencies and state and local governments. There has not been a single issue – postal, privacy, the environment, use taxes, telemarketing, data security, commercial free speech, sweepstakes—where his advice and counsel has not been spot on. Not only has he been our voice before Committees of Congress, he has testified before both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission on these and other direct marketing matters. We may not win every marketing battle, but Jerry always builds good will, because of his demeanor and respectfulness.

Prior to joining DMA, Jerry was an effective public servant—where he was the deputy general counsel for the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, United States House of Representatives. He also served for 12 years at the Postal Rate Commission as legal advisor to Chairman Janet Steiger, and also as special assistant to the Commission. He was an attorney advisor to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Steiger in her service there. Prior to the PRC, he was employed in the law department of the Postal Service. Jerry also is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served our country from 1970 to 1972. He is a graduate from Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He is the recipient of the Silver Apple and the Mal Dunn Leadership Award from the New York Direct Marketing Club and a lifetime achievement award from the Continuity Shippers Association—accolades that are prestigious, but only begin to tell the tale of Jerry’s stewardship in our field.

But what I love most about Jerry is his loyalty to wearing “Save the Children” ties as he goes about his professional work—because social responsibility always seems to be part of who he is—and always will be, no matter what his schedule. For that I am truly grateful, “Thank you, Jerry” from all of us.

3 Ways Social Communities and Engagement Will Redefine Marketing

The growth of social media provides many new opportunities for brands, including the ability to identify best customers and influencers, and to actively engage those influencers to grow brand advocacy and community. Naturally, it’s this prospect that’s helped fuel the enormous growth in spending across and within key social communities like Facebook, YouTube and more.

The growth of social media provides many new opportunities for brands, including the ability to identify best customers and influencers, and to actively engage those influencers to grow brand advocacy and community. Naturally, it’s this prospect that’s helped fuel the enormous growth in spending across and within key social communities like Facebook, YouTube and more.

But as always, marketers have been pressured to do more with less, particularly in today’s tough economy. That means even more pressure to track and measure marketing program success. For many marketers that success is increasingly defined by engagement and the ability to measure its value and impact on the brand. But what’s the value of engagement?

One of the best studies I’ve seen on this front was conducted by Aite Group. The study looked at the relationship between Generation Y and their banks. It dove into how the level of engagement impacted loyalty, influence, advocacy and sales. Specifically, Aite Group found that highly engaged Gen Yers are significantly more likely to use their debit cards, pay their bills online and receive email.

These users were also more than 3.4 times more likely to use their bank’s website and social networks to research products. Additionally, highly engaged Gen Yers were found to be high-value customers. Specifically, they were 86 percent more likely to open new accounts, 73 percent more likely to recommend their bank and 62 percent more likely to trust their bank.

While the value of engagement is likely to vary by industry and brand, one thing is certain: Social engagement is an important component to add to your integrated marketing tracking and it will have a profound effect on the way you plan, target, execute and measure marketing for many years to come. Here are some of the most important changes you’ll see as a result of realizing the enormous value of catering to highly engaged consumers who use social media and influence others:

1. Media mix allocation tools and research will include social channels. Social will take its rightful place in the marketing toolbox as media mix allocation tools and research include social media platforms and networks as viable options. Business goals, target audience, product type and targeting approach (e.g., geographic, behavioral, contextual) will be re-examined to help marketers prioritize and allocate budgets to appropriate channels, including social — e.g., when a new product launches.

More ambitious marketers will embark on customer research projects to customize these findings for their specific products and targets — i.e., prospects and customers — as social formally joins the budget and planning process.

2. Engagement filtering and targeting capabilities will emerge. The emergence and importance of engagement combined with the growth and increasing activity across social networks and communities will redefine how, who and when you target. You’ll see the emergence of next generation query tools that will allow brands to select and target consumers by applying channel and engagement weightings and filters based on the program or campaign objectives and goals. Highly engaged users will be tapped more aggressively to help launch new products and drive product adoption and sales across the social web.

3. Marketing plans and roll-out strategies will be reinvented. Product launch cycles will continue to be impacted by social channels and emerging technologies. Marketers will become better at not only identifying key influencers and highly engaged users across their respective communities, but also crafting more targeted messages to these audiences to encourage the desired behavior.

As a result, new product launches will be supported by a more formalized and sophisticated roll-out plan. Imagine a world where a new product launch will include a phased rollout. Phase one would include a roll out to key influencers where ideas are exchanged, feedback is collected and enhancements/revisions are made. Phase two would include a soft launch to loyalty or highly engaged users as advocacy and product education continues. Lastly, phase three would include a general or mass market-supported rollout. Communications and tactics within each of these audiences will also be customized to include various communication stages such as education, trial and feedback, and, hopefully, purchasing followed by advocacy.

There’s little doubt the emergence of social media and growth of social brand communities has impacted marketing as we know it. However, bigger changes are in store for marketers as communities occupy an increasing role and influence in the success of brands. This radical sea change requires new thinking and processes.

Marketers who can connect the dots by embracing these new channels and tying social interactions (i.e., engagement) to traditional CRM systems will be a step ahead. However, the real winners will be those that can leverage that data by implementing new strategies and tactics to support the social web and grow brand advocacy and marketing success.