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Winning with Print: Nuts and Bolts of Magazine & Newspaper Advertising

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

nuts and boltsPrint advertising remains a cost-effective option when you test, track and adjust.

External Communications plans for healthcare marketing can still include magazines and newspapers to produce successful results. But print ads are may not be right for everyone, and only if you do it right from the start. The formula for winning with print involves a balance of many variables, and most of all, testing, tracking and adjusting.

There's no mistaking the fact that newspaper readership has been on a downward trend in recent years, particularly among the nation's largest daily papers.

But don't scratch magazines and newspapers from your marketing plan without looking deeper. In fact, using print advertising remains a strong option for many healthcare situations. (Sometimes with the added plus that ad rates can be quite attractive, too.)

Print advertising remains widely available, and highly valuable, for hospitals, healthcare organizations and practices of all types including manufacturers, physicians and surgeons, dentists and many others. There are a lot of options and variables to consider—too many moving parts to cover in one article—so you might need help in sorting it out.

But if print advertising is already part of your marketing plan, or if you are giving this option a close inspection, here are 9 elementary insights about the basic print landscape.

  1. There are more options than you realize. Don't rely on your own awareness about what other people are reading. The big publications seem obvious, but there are probably a number of smaller, local and/or specialized print options that you'll discover with a bit of research. Decide later what may be right to include in your plan, but list all the options to start.
  2. Magazines tend to be specialized, upscale and can be expensive. These are usually monthly publications with a well-defined readership. For cosmetic and some specialty practices, magazine advertising can be a worthwhile consideration. Generally they rely on a large circulation territory (which may be far larger than your primary drawing area), and they can command upscale rates for upscale readership. Beware of advertising for ego versus dollars.
  3. There are four basic newspaper categories. With some overlap, these are:
    (by frequency of publication)   Daily or Weekly
    (by content or audience)         General News or SpecialtyThe "big city-general news-daily" struggles with loss of readership, advertising and the increased cost of doing business. But many smaller and more focused publications remain effective options to reach specialized reader groups such as singles, young people, religious or ethnic sectors, or by language or smaller/specific geographic "local community" areas.
  4. In a weekly paper, the preferred ad position is forward and top. For greater reader notice, grab ad placement near the front of the newspaper, on the right side, and on the top half of the page. In essence, the ideal position would be page 3, on the top half of the page.
  5. For a daily newspaper, match the section to your target audience. The sports or main news sections tend to have more male readers. The "lifestyle" section likely has more women readers. There are other options, and daily publications can usually tell you the demographics.
  6. What are your day-of-the-week options? Healthcare decisions are commonly considered early in the week, so you may want your ad to run Monday or Tuesday. But other days may command different readership with emphasis topics such as "food day." Consider where and when you'll best reach your target audience.
  7. Warning: Don't advertise just to "get your name out there." The idea of name recognition advertising can seem appealing and low-key. But without a large budget and sustained effort, it is doomed to produce no results (and probably many frustration headaches.) Save your budget.
  8. Advertise Problem-Solution-Why You. Your name alone is neither a benefit nor a reason for someone to call your office. What does work in print advertising is presenting the reader with a specific problem, a specific solution, and reasons for them to select you for the solution.There's much more to the formula for a compelling message (including an offer and a deadline). But always talk in the patient's language, about issues that are important to them.
  9. Test, track and adjust. Exactly what combination of variables works best for you? Which paper? Which day? Which section? The only way to know with certainty—and to make your budget produce the greatest results—is to test these options, diligently track the results, and to adjust your media plan based on the results.

The decision to use print advertising in your external marketing should consider many variables, and we'd be glad to review how this fits (or doesn't fit) your overall healthcare marketing plan.

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