Beyond Marketing: Understanding the Role of Healthcare PR

Beyond Marketing: Understanding the Role of Healthcare PR

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

People often confuse marketing and public relations (PR), but they are not synonymous. They do, however, work best together. 

In fact, we often include healthcare PR services in our marketing plans along with other key strategies, including branding, digital marketing, traditional advertising, internal marketing, and professional referral building.

So, What Exactly Is PR?

Public relations is a strategic process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between businesses, organizations, influencers, and their target audiences. Often, these relationships are managed by trained professionals. PR is responsible for building and maintaining a positive brand reputation and public image.

The goal of PR is to positively influence public perception by leveraging the tools of marketing, communications, and advertising

The main functions of healthcare public relations include

  • External / media relations – building media relationships and earning media coverage to build awareness and goodwill (more on this topic later)
  • Crisis management – managing brand and corporate reputation before, during, and after a crisis
  • Community events – building goodwill and engagement on a grassroots level
  • Public affairs – advocating for a cause and building a coalition among civic leaders
  • Thought leadership – building expertise to generate media coverage and create lead-generation opportunities
  • Corporate and internal communications – engaging employees, partners, suppliers, and other key stakeholders about the company (e.g., annual reports)
  • Organic social media – nurturing online relationships (often a shared function between marketing and PR departments)

How Is PR Unique Among Marketing Strategies?

Both marketing and PR focus on selling or promoting a product, service, or brand, but their approaches differ. 

While most marketing strategies are direct and designed to yield results in the short term, PR is indirect and should be considered a long-term strategy.

If you need an immediate and definitive return on investment for every marketing dollar you spend, PR is not the right strategy for you.

Instead, think of public relations in healthcare as the strategic management of internal and external communications. It focuses on building relationships between the organization and its stakeholders (e.g., patients, families, healthcare professionals, employees, the media, and the public).

Healthcare PR creates a platform that boosts trust, credibility, thought leadership, and reputation.

In recent years, the lines between PR and other marketing strategies have blurred. 

Maggie Habib, the founder of mPR, a healthcare PR agency, says, "As the media landscape has changed, it's not just earned media we're seeing. Instead, we're seeing a highly integrated approach where social media, patient reviews, and branded communications are coming together to be a larger and more significant part of the PR and marketing mix."

What Is Publicity?

Publicity is an important subset of healthcare public relations focused on getting the press to favorably talk or write about us—to influence the influencers.

But how do you do it? What are the hooks that can get a skeptical reporter’s attention? And, how can a healthcare PR company help?

Here are just some of our favorite strategies you can leverage to create buzz-worthy content the media will promote

  • Human interest stories that evoke emotion
  • A point of view (e.g., opinion pieces that present a problem and your proposed solution)
  • Data (e.g., a national survey, localized data, advocacy group data, etc.) 
  • Hard news (e.g., a new product, service, CEO, offering, etc.)

The Evolution of Earned Media

Thanks to social media, marketers often think of “press” more broadly as “earned media,” which includes both traditional news outlets and user-generated content on social media and reputation websites. This combined digital currency builds credibility with patients and caregivers and increases online visibility. 

Here are four ways you can partner with your PR agency for healthcare to build your earned media presence.

  1. Keep your patients happy
    Designing a care module around the patient experience increases satisfaction among patients and caregivers and improves your business growth. It encourages more user-generated content, like positive online reviews and testimonials—not to mention word-of-mouth recommendations.
  2. Get involved in your community
    Connecting with your community by sponsoring a local event builds brand awareness and helps you connect with potential investors, patients, and caregivers. It also builds credibility, trust, and respect for your brand.
  3. Be responsive and stay positive in the face of bad press
    You've all heard the saying, 'There's no such thing as bad press,' but that's just plain wrong. Engaging with investors, stakeholders, doctors, medical staff, patients, or caregivers—wherever the story is—is crucial. Crisis management includes being responsive and staying positive and factual. When done right, healthcare public relations can help
    1. Change the narrative.
    2. Disprove misinformation.
    3. Share valuable data, statistics, and social proof.
  4. Promote good news
    Sharing the good news about your business (e.g., new hires, new products, new services, community events, etc.) builds a positive online reputation and helps mitigate potential negative press. When necessary, you can also balance negative news with positive stories about your business. In these situations, it's important to contact reporters to correct any mistakes, inaccuracies, or omissions in their stories. 

Why Your Business Needs a Healthcare Public Relations Strategy

Today's healthcare consumers are increasingly conscious of public health matters, rising healthcare costs, medical debt, and access to care.

You must offer easy access to convenient, transparent, and affordable healthcare to attract a larger volume of younger generations (e.g., Millenials and Gen Z).

And you must increase your online visibility through healthcare digital marketing and PR strategies that amplify each other and your organization's products and services. 

A healthcare PR firm can also support search engine optimization (SEO) strategies by creating and amplifying newsworthy content (e.g., expertise, achievements, and initiatives) to your target audience.

“Healthcare is having a post-pandemic moment, and everyone wants to be a healthcare company,” Maggie posited, “while that means there is a lot more noise around healthcare, there is also more appetite for companies and organizations that have a compelling or meaningful story to tell about healthcare outcomes, costs, or access.”

Impact matters, locally and nationally. Healthcare organizations need a steady supply of the right stories, data, and perspectives to make a lasting impact in their market.

Request a proposal to learn how a healthcare public relations agency can help your brand build trust, credibility, and thought leadership and grow your patient volume.

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