Healthcare marketers, are you at the kid’s table or the grown-ups table?
Whether in a small town or large city, your medical practice or hospital is impacted by external matters, such as zoning issues, health plan changes, and the national debate about healthcare access. Are you at the leadership table when these issues are made?
Historically — and even today, in some organizations — the marketing and communication function was seen as a “packager” of decisions made by others. This “take this and sell it” mindset can fail spectacularly when the stakes are high, forcing a series of clarifications that make the organization look uncoordinated.
A lack of upfront input from communications contributes to decisions that come across as tone deaf when messaged to the public or other influential audiences In these situations, the communications function hasn’t failed, but leadership failed to anticipate the external response, because of a lack of communications input at the beginning.
The communications function should be a critical input to actual decision-making, especially when it impacts patients. Having communication professionals at the table can help operational leadership anticipate — and prepare for — criticisms and questions that will arise when major decisions are announced.
For this construct to work, however, the communications function needs to come to the table prepared. This requires five things:
- Reading a broad array of consumer, medical, and policy publications to understand various perspectives on trending issues, as well as core ones;
- Staying in contact with external audiences through original and third-party market research and participation in influencer events;
- Anticipating likely questions and bringing well-developed FAQs to the table for solution development by the full leadership team with an emphasis on how the organization will help transition those who are negatively impacted;
- Aligning (or internally pointing out misalignment) between a decision and the organization’s publicly stated mission, vision, values, and previous statements. In cases where they do not seem to align, be transparent about the considerations that led to the decision and any steps being taken elsewhere in the organization to lessen perceived harm; and,
- Recognizing that the outcomes of issues management may impede progress on your carefully constructed strategic marketing framework, particularly if the issue lingers in traditional or social media.
Wishing you a happy holiday season and a seat at the grown-ups table.