Advertising and media buying strategies for hospitals and health systems during the COVID outbreak

Times have never been more stressful and hectic for hospitals and health systems as the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues to impact cities and towns across our country. Besides worrying about the influx of patients and how to keep healthcare providers safe, your marketing department is probably asking questions about how to best handle marketing during the crisis. Should all advertising be paused until further notice? What about the service line campaign you were just weeks away from launching? While no one has all the answers, we wanted to offer some suggestions for ways to continue to build positive brand awareness during this difficult time. We also reached out to our colleagues at ClickIt Digital to get their advice from a media planning perspective.

Social Media and SEM

Lisa Aiello, President and Director of Digital Media Strategy at ClickIt Digital offered this advice for healthcare marketers;

“Now, more than ever, consumers and potential patients are turning to online sources for information, guidance and social connections. This is especially true with such a large percentage of the population working remotely. It is not only a great opportunity for health care providers, it is essential to maintain a connection to their communities. For this reason, we don’t necessarily recommend shifting your advertising budget away from either SEM or social channels, but rather to tailor your messaging accordingly.”

Here are some tactics that she recommends:

Do not stop your SEM campaigns! Healthcare is one of the only industries that has seen a large boost in searches and conversions from the COVID-19 pandemic. SEM drives traffic from viewers who will still be looking for information about your services. You want to be there when they are searching. Use this as an opportunity to create audiences who need your services.

Use SEM to drive website traffic, and then retarget to those viewers with social media ads. To build a bigger audience, try custom audience building, and creating lookalike audiences on Facebook.

Rather than promotional, “adsy” messages in social media, focus on relevant, informational content or even positive stories that can be uplifting to viewers (see some inspiration here). Try creating shareable content so your messages can get far reach before you even put dollars towards them, and track engagement to see which posts are performing best.

A note on Google Ads campaigns:

Google is currently blocking Ads that “capitalize on the coronavirus,” so do not create new Google Ads that directly talk about COVID-19. Instead, continue what you have already been running or create very general, brand focused ads.

Digital marketing, like social media and SEM, is the easiest to turn on and off and change creative or budget quickly, but what about traditional forms of advertising that require a contract?

Traditional Advertising

When it comes to TV, now probably isn’t the time to go dark, as many more people will be home watching TV. However, make sure your commercials are appropriate for the current needs of your community. For example, now is not the time to promote elective surgery services like orthopedics or bariatric surgery. If you can, switch out service line specific ads for more general brand awareness messages. If you have ads for telehealth services, now is the time to push those, as patients will be seeking out alternatives to urgent care and emergency rooms. If you are currently in a radio contract, do the same for radio.

Another advertising tactic that is difficult to change quickly is outdoor. Though taking down and swapping out billboards might be difficult at this time, if you’ve invested in digital boards, make sure to switch those out to be brand, telehealth or urgent care focused. Though fewer people will be driving, you’ll still want to be there for the people who are still working.

Looking to the future, plan to reduce your TV spend during summer when people can finally go out of their houses, and invest heavily back into out-of-home.

Need more help?

Need more specialized help for how to adapt your marketing messages? We would love to help. Schedule a call today.