It’s getting real on the front lines of healthcare marketing and brand development. The two most important groups of people you care for are forever changed. This little nugget of truth means your career—and your job as you knew it—will fundamentally change in the coming months and will continue to evolve for years to come. Things may seem overwhelming these days, and the pressure is likely not gonna’ lift anytime soon, but have hope. This can be for the better.
Your Internal Stakeholder Community (ISC) is experiencing stress, uncertainty, and tremendous change as a direct result of COVID-19, and your organization is still struggling to make sense of it all:
- There has been a great deal of change and uncertainty in the employee experience—and that change continues today.
- Enterprise realignment of priorities; layoffs and furloughs; heavy workloads; workplace intensity; and fatigue have created an urgent need to connect with your teams and learn their realities at ground level.
- There is a good chance you do not truly know and understand the current sentiments (both amid and post COVID-19) of your internal stakeholders, and we must urgently seek to gather those sentiments as quickly as possible. So LIFT conducted some healthcare market research with this group specifically around the COVID-19 event and I include some of that here.
- 100% of HCPs interviewed stated that their Internal Stakeholder Community has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.
- >90% of HCPs interviewed shared that they are seeking to understand ISC sentiment and to engage with them in a fresh manner.
Your Patients and the community at large have had a similarly difficult experience, and they have their own needs and beliefs. The community you knew in February of 2020 is not the same community you are caring for anymore:
- Customers are more aware than ever of their own health as well as the health of their community.
- Trust in local healthcare providers is a mixed bag of wanting to have confidence in the local provider community blended with a distrust of the news and blurred by an information overload.
- 51% of consumers have increased anxiety since the onset of the pandemic. They state that perception around hospitals is mass chaos, and that there’s so many different stories and narratives going around it’s almost impossible for to find information they can trust.
- >75% of consumers believe that there will be permanent changes in how people communicate and interact with your hospital, and most are prepared to play a positive role in the Next Normal.
- 83% state that they are more aware of the health state of others, and are afraid to go to large public gatherings (80%), yet they share a desire to be more physically connected to their work, friends, and family.
As Healthcare Marketers we are feeling our own pressures for sure—but we have to push aside our needs and focus on those of the communities we serve—especially our patients and those who care for them:
- > 90% of hospital marketers share that the top 2 areas of focus have been communicating with the patient (and community at large) as well as their internal stakeholders.
- > 80% of HCPs share that they know their jobs will be different going forward—and that understanding stakeholder sentiment is their first priority.
- And, while the pandemic has certainly shifted focus for most marketers, the majority say they are still focusing on marketing services that can get them back on solid footing after pausing many of their most profitable areas of operations.
HERE’S THE POINT:
Everything has changed, but nothing has changed much—you still must seek to understand and connect with the people who you depend on.
People still need healthcare and the industry will survive—but we must take into account the changing sentiment towards healthcare services, healthcare careers, public health, and community wellbeing.
We must listen to what these two foundational groups of stakeholders are telling us—knowing them intimately and showing we care about them is table stakes for the Next Normal. They have an opinion and beliefs that matter; they want to do the right thing;. They are willing to lean in and be a part of the solution. And they are the only thing that matter as we enter into what many are calling the “recovery” phase.
REMEMBER THESE TWO THINGS:
1) Understand sentiment. This is crucial to framing a voice that is empathic and purposeful.
2) Cultivate trust and competency every day. Make competency building an ongoing component of your strategy and outreach plans.
Internal Stakeholder Community (ISC): Now is the time to pivot your internal communications strategy to better align with immediate needs. Take what you are learning from recent events and use it to connect with and re-commit to the people who make your hospital run. There has never been a better time to show you care about your teams and their well-being and help them see they have a safe place to work and build a career.
Patients and The Community at Large: To set the best path forward, create a short-term, mid-term, and long-term plan that champions stakeholder understanding every day is the best foundation or the Next Normal. Invest in patient understanding to fuel programs that educate and empower patients and the community you are charged with caring for. Take the time to include these two communities (employees and patients) in strategy and brand development initiatives. They are all that matter. Now is the time to champion a new way forward for healthcare marketing. Through this experience we are playing a role in the evolution of a system that needs to evolve and that wants to change. We can either ignore the Next Normal or we can step up and champion what matters—people.
We are the marketing, strategy, research, and innovation executives, and we share a particular advantage in this Next Normal. We are the communicators and the educators. We are the members of the healthcare community with the ability to engage with, educate, and empower patients and new ideas—and we can surely incite change. This is a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the ongoing rebirth of a better system of care. We can use what we learn today to make profoundly important impacts for years and years to come.
Let’s not squander this opportunity, rather, let’s seek to understand and to be of service to the people we depend on every minute of every day of every year.
*2020 LIFT Consumer and HCP Study