When I heard William Shatner was keynoting Content Marketing World in Cleveland this week, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. My knowledge of him was pretty limited; my impressions not altogether favorable. Before he got started, I posted this slightly snarky tweet.
I was clearly in the minority when I walked into the conference center. An interactive poll on the screens to either side of the stage asked:
Who’s Your Favorite Shatner
Seven hospitals. 2,500 affiliated doctors. More than 70 additional locations representing physician practices, imaging centers, surgery centers and more. All under the umbrella of HCA Virginia. And all represented by dozens of disparate, unconnected websites.
Freestanding hospitals are increasingly joining forces as large healthcare systems, which results in expanded offerings — more providers, broader services, advanced technology — and new brand identities. If you’ve experienced this as a healthcare marketer, you can appreciate the thought and effort that goes into communicating these changes. If you haven’t, you can learn from those who’ve been there.
The sweeping changes that accompany large-scale restructuring demand strategic communication. You have a new opportunity to express who you are and what you do. You have a chance to reshape the perceptions of consumers, referring physicians and competitors.
To their credit, HCA Virginia used the transition from a collection of hospital sites to an integrated central site as an opportunity to transform their online presence. They built a new website from the ground up, eliminating four websites representing seven hospitals in the process.
Ever overheard a conversation and immediately recognized a friend’s voice? Chances are you picked up on pitch, tone and phrasing – the style of speaking.
Everyone has a distinctive voice. Yours reflects how you relate to others, whether you’re formal or casual, intense or relaxed. The way you express yourself affects how others perceive and remember you.
The same is true for hospitals and healthcare organizations. Whether deliberate or not, hospitals have a unique voice and tone that creates a lasting impression of the organization.
Who and How
Voice is who’s doing the talking. Tone is how you talk to your audience. Think about the role your hospital assumes on the Web. Are you a clinical authority that promotes your expertise?
I was standing in a lengthy security line at LaGuardia Airport last month, when I came upon this sign.
My first response was, “Seriously?” My second response was, “And now you tell us?” Because a traveler needs to know about the sanction on snow globes before they get to the security checkpoint. In fact, wouldn’t the right time to share this rule come before you fork over cash for the snow globe at the airport gift shop?
Given this restriction, I’m not even sure why they sell snow globes at LaGuardia. My theory is that there are only six snow globes in the entire airport, which are sold at the gift shops, confiscated at security and resold again. But I digress.
As a leader of a team that cares a lot about words, I shudder when I read sentences like this:
At Three Platitudes Medical Center, we’re proud to offer world-class healthcare services, state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge treatments.
Of course, none of you would fill your Web pages with clichés as hackneyed and – in the case of “cutting-edge” – painful as these. And I’m okay with an occasional “state-of-the-art” as long as it’s used sparingly and accurately.
But I’m a lot better with content that shows, instead of tells, what it means to be the best.
Brand Proof Points
When we begin a content development engagement, we ask clients for their brand proof points, the specifics behind their best-in-class positioning. Increasingly, we find clients have already defined these as key support points for their healthcare marketing. For those who haven’t, we interview them and their subject matter experts to define what sets them apart from the competition.
Consumers are rightfully skeptical of clichés, but hungry for information that helps them make better healthcare choices. Information that avoids buzzwords, but clearly describes benefits. When we write Web content, that’s what we aim for.
A Few Examples
Don’t tell: We offer exceptional stroke services and are accredited as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission.
It’s no coincidence that many of us at Geonetric choose to work for a company that serves the healthcare market. Sure, we could do Web work in finance, energy, manufacturing or a number of other worthy industries. But the truth is, a lot of us are passionate not only about Geonetric’s mission, but also about the mission of our clients – bringing healing and hope to people of all ages.
I’ve been on the receiving end of this important work, most notably as the mother of a severely premature baby. Four months in the NICU provides perspective about what patients and their families need from hospitals. For me, it was information – anything that could help me understand procedures, find support and connect with specialists. Our clients’ websites are often the vital source of this information. When my team writes Web content, we never lose sight of the person on the other side of the screen and how helpful our words may be to each of them.
Our focus on our clients’ patients doesn’t stop there. At Geonetric, we’re committed to community service – and what better way to serve than to reach out to our hospital communities?
Most of us start the new year full of energy, determined to clear the decks and tackle new projects. Some of us at Geonetric have spent the past week in “clearing” mode: recycling documents, archiving information, purging duplicate files. The result is a clean and uncluttered workspace – or at least a lot less cluttered than it was – one where we can readily find the information we need without tripping over outdated stuff or running into dead ends.
As we worked, it became easier to say “yes” to the perennial question – “Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?” – especially when the information was several years old or saved in multiple locations.
The whole process got me thinking about how the practice of clearing our workspaces needs to extend to our websites. Websites are workspaces for our online audiences as they seek to find directions and phone numbers, pre-register for a procedure, learn about a treatment, sign up for a class or complete any number of tasks that brought them to your site. The more content you have, however, the harder it may be for people to find what they need. That’s because more content often means more clutter in the form of duplicate, redundant, misplaced or outdated pages.
Although most of us figured out that popularity was overrated as soon as high school was over, now that we’re all hanging out on the social media campus, it may be time for a reminder.
A recent (paraphrased) Doonesbury cartoon made the point perfectly:
Teenage son: “Cool beans! I just hit 1,000 followers on Twitter!”
Dad: “Uh-huh. And which of these pals will help you move or loan you money?”
While the teenagers at my house share the son’s perspective, I tend to relate more to the dad’s perspective. Yes, a big group of friends and followers casts a great social glow, but would you invite any of these amigos to dinner, a movie, a study date? Heck, how many would even know where you live – let alone expend the energy to get there?
This view of relationships carries over to the business sphere. We’ve been talking a lot in this space about social media, and Ben Dillon recently posted about un-following hundreds of his Tweeps. Who, by the way, probably didn’t notice or care.
Why? Because they weren’t paying attention to begin with. They weren’t following Ben in the true sense of the word; they were simply along for the ride. It isn’t possible, even with the best intentions and latest tools, to actively follow and interact with hundreds of people.