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Challenges and Benefits: An Inside Look at Marketing at CHOC Children’s Hospital

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
Photo of Jan Lansing

Jan Lansing, CHOC

[Podcast] Our continuing series of healthcare and hospital marketing interviews today spotlights CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange County, CA. Jan Lansing, Vice President of Marketing and Communications talks with Healthcare Success Co-Founder and Hospital Division Director Lonnie Hirsch.

CHOC, Children’s Hospital is located in Orange County (CA), the fifth most populous county in the US. In our talk with Jan Lansing, we asked about the biggest challenge and the biggest benefit in her role as Vice President of Marketing and communications.

Perhaps my biggest challenge is in the fact that we are a specialty hospital and medical center. The good news is that most kids are healthy. And in our market only three percent of children are hospitalized during the course of any year. In terms of inpatient care, that’s a small number.

“So, [it’s a challenge to create] relevance for a family, a parent, a grandparent, and having that person understand that it is important to be familiar with your regional children’s specialty hospital…how to access those services…and to insist with your pediatrician or physician that you go to CHOC Children’s for care…when you may not have had any direct experience in the past.

“On the flip side of that, the benefit is that we are talking about pediatrics, and there is a tremendous amount of emotion attached to that. An adult having cancer is tragic. But the level of tragedy that most people infer from a child having cancer is a powerful emotional story.

“That allows us to share and gain the support and the engagement of the community. So on one hand it can be challenging to work with pediatrics, but it is also a powerful and connecting story that we have to share with our community and beyond.”

Spreading CHOC’s compelling and connecting message online…   

In this podcast, Jan provides an inside look at how the well-known institution is using social media and digital tools to engage the parents of patients and non-patients.

Given its nearly 50- year history of service in the region, CHOC has about an 82 percent unaided, brand awareness. “That’s a high ranking,” Jan told us, “but we still work hard to go beyond awareness to preference and familiarity. To do this we have invested in online resources such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp.”

“Our strategy in terms of content on social media platforms is to post stories that are about us, but also about our patients, our families, and our physicians,” she explains. “We find that is the best way to engage followers. As  you know, it’s not enough to have someone just reading your posts. You want them engaged. And we do measure engagement through people who repost, like us, or post comments.”

CHOC has over 39,000 people who LIKE the hospital on Facebook. And when you extrapolate from there to friends, there are about 7.5 million potential followers. “Facebook is an important way that we do get our stories told and our messages out there. With Twitter, we have over 5,000 people who are following us…and that’s a number we are focused on growing.”

Through social media, friends and followers are inspired to share their stories, to submit photos, and to thank physicians and nurses by name. That content strategy has proven to be successful for the facility.

Social media at CHOC is a team effort.

The social media responsibility is a big job that is shared by a number of people. “In fact, we have a weekly content meeting among my team where, among other things, we discuss Facebook and what needs to be addressed over the course of the next week, month and three months in our calendar and schedule.

In addition, there is always one person who is on-call to monitor posts on Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, which we do use as a customer service mechanism. In addition to responding to and supporting the positive posts, that person has the responsibility of identifying any potential, real time customer service issues.

CHOC also works with local media to extend awareness. A recent example is the opening of a new patient care tower. “That’s provided an incredible opportunity to reach out to the community and educate them about the services in the tower and the benefits to the community. And that includes both local and regional media.

“In advance of the tower opening, we hosted a media day and invited local media—including broadcast, print and bloggers—to spend a morning touring and talking to our subject matter experts in our new service areas and to meet our CEO. The blogger group was a particularly successful component. We actually hosted a separate day just for the bloggers, and they have continued to cover us in their posts.”

For more about CHOC Children’s Hospital marketing and communications strategies, including Internet advertising, and measuring results from brand-based marketing efforts, listen to our podcast with Jan Lansing below.

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Jan Lansing, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at CHOC Children’s, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism. CHOC Children’s is affiliated with the University of California, Irvine, and has four centers of excellence - The CHOC Children’s Heart, Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Hyundai Cancer Institutes. 


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