Social Media Backlash Cancels Puppy Event (and Other Hospital Advertising Lessons)

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

charity puppy auctionKeeping up with the “big stories” in the news is fairly easy. Dozens of media outlets jump on what’s hot and fuel the torrent of information overload. But, scratching a bit deeper, there are some timely and instructive news items about hospital advertising…with marketing lessons for administrators and marketing executives.

Here’s a quick roundup of interesting stories that popped up on our radar, but things you may have missed:

Being famous doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from advertising.

(Cincinnati, OH) – Surprisingly, Shriners Hospitals for Children have—up untill now—never advertised. But that’s about to change. The well-known and widely respected organization “plans to launch its first advertising campaign to boost the number of patients it treats for everything from serious burns to dog bites and birth defects,” reports the Cincinnati Business Courier.

shriners hospitalsName recognition and reputation is positive, but there’s still value in advertising. Ads “would target both the general public and medical professionals who might refer patients. While the campaign could result in more revenue, ‘it’s really to find more patients that could benefit from our services,’ said Administrator Pamela VanSant. ‘We have extra capacity right now.’

“ ‘We have never done any advertisement of our services,’ said VanSant. ‘[Shriners] is well known for treating burns, but not for other services we want to provide—and that’s what we want to advertise.’ ” The full news article is available here.


Failure to communicate: Social media backlash kills puppy event.

(Newton, NJ) A little red wagon full of adorable black Labrador puppies seems like an emotion-touching concept to support a hospital fundraiser. But, we suspect, Newton Medical Center never expected a heated social media reaction against the planned “Charity Puppy Auction.”

Community comments on Facebook and Twitter lead to the event being cancelled, according to this item in NJ.COM. The social-media backlash was relatively short, but fierce, and organizers say it was all a misunderstanding. Social media comments centered on concern for the puppies, and fears that the animals would not go to qualified and appropriate homes.

“The puppies’ owners said the outrage was a response to the perception of the auction,” and that a three-part screening process would have preceded any puppy placement. “All the potential owners would be checked out by a veterinarian, among others, and all the proceeds would go to the hospital.” Read the full news article here.

Hospital stops mommy perk-packs (and formula maker promo)

(South Florida) Beginning this year, “lavish gift bags from formula companies are no longer being given out to mothers as they exit the hospital at Memorial Healthcare System’s three birthing centers,” according to a Sun Sentinel report.

“ ‘It’s all part of the push to promote breastfeeding, and the cognitive, immune system and health benefits it provides to infants,’ said Mary Roberts, nursing director. ‘We took a major step and stopped giving out free formula and free formula gift bags. It was a big move, because formula companies use us as an advertising agency free of charge.’

“Roberts said the hospital does support mother’s choice, whether she wants to bottle-feed or breastfeed.” But, Roberts said that it appeared the hospital was endorsing this, and that was not our function.”  The Sun-Sentinel feature is available here.

We’d like to hear your comments. We know that hospital marketing and advertising can be challenging, sometimes with unintended consequences. Tell us about your experience.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA


Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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