Healthcare Strategy Society’s Highest Award Recognizes Innovator.

13 09 2010


Joel English, managing director and leader of the healthcare practice at BVK, a marketing communications agency in Milwaukee, Wis., was announced today as a recipient of the 2010 Award for Individual Professional Excellence from the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) of the American Hospital Association. SHSMD’s Award for Individual Professional Excellence is the highest honor the Society can bestow on one of its members.

 English accepted his award from SHSMD President David Kantor during the Society’s Annual Conference in Chicago.

 As a marketing and communications strategist who has worked with more than 100 healthcare clients in his 20-plus years at BVK, Joel English thrives on chaos and enjoys employing the “why not” thinking necessary to deal with the challenging healthcare field. At BVK he has been a leader in exploring applications for data mining in healthcare, using both surveys and patient encounter data in predictive modeling. He has also been a leader in BVK’s work in healthcare provider brand discernment and development, as well as a leading proponent of integrating brand communications and organizational behavior.

English stepped down from the SHSMD board in December 2009 after seven years of service, and he is currently on the faculty of SHSMD U, where he teaches an online course in marketing communications. As chair of SHSMD’s Branding Task Force, he was instrumental in creating the Society’s brand strategy and identity. As president-elect of the Alliance for Healthcare Strategy and Marketing, English served as the bridge to SHSMD for its members when the Alliance dissolved. At the state level, he has served as president and a board member of the American Marketing Association’s Milwaukee chapter.

 About the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development
The Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development is the premier organization for healthcare planners, marketers, and communications and public relations professionals. A personal membership group of the American Hospital Association, SHSMD serves more than 4,000 members and is the largest organization in the nation devoted to serving the needs of healthcare strategy professionals. The Society is committed to helping its members meet the future with greater knowledge and opportunity as their organizations work to improve health status and quality of life in their communities.

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Cut Through the Clutter with Microcampaigns

11 09 2010

Are you stuck in a rut, implementing the same tactics and talking to the same audiences year after year? Do you need to break through, capture attention and drive individuals to action? Then maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift – moving from marketing campaigns to a series of fully integrated communication tactics using targeted, emotional messages for the symptomatic audience. This powerful, provocative approach can change the dialogue, encourage interaction and reap results.

 Next Tuesday, I will be part of a  fast-paced, interactive session at the SHSMD conference in Chicago that will introduce the concept of micro-campaigns and take you through practical implementation. I will be joined by Gary Mueller, executive creative director at bvk and Keith Whitworth, marketing manager at Southeast Missouri Hospital. Together, we will ask participants to forget everything they learned in marketing 101 and focus instead on human behavior. We will ask you to look at marketing challenges in a different way, working to unearth an interesting statistic or fact and make it so interesting it stops people in their tracks and gets them talking.

And because the resulting tactics themselves are newsworthy, you can stop even more people and generate ample buzz when earned and social media strategies are included in your plan. Storytelling also allows for physician and patient involvement so expertise and clinical sophistication can also be leveraged. Rather than investing marketing dollars to compete, we want you to completely change the conversation. Then, once you have engaged prospects, compelling calls to action can drive traffic to experiential tactics designed to create interactions and build a relationship or sense of community. Only then can you expect to be viewed as a personal, approachable and trustworthy resource.

If you have been itching to shake things up but been afraid to step outside of the healthcare norms and are attending the conference, I hope you will join us from 1:45-3:00 p.m. next Tuesday. We will  be sharing 2009-2010 tactics from a variety of clients and show how providers have put micro-campaigns to work and created highly visible and memorable campaigns capable of generating an exponential return for every marketing dollar invested.

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What Challenges Do You Face Post-recession?

4 09 2010

I just came across a recent study and wanted to share the results. Accenture reached out to 400 individuals in lead marketing positions at companies with more than $1 billion in revenue to ask what issues were most important as they move ahead.  Here are the results:

 SOURCE:  Onward and Up: How Marketers are Refocusing the Front Office for Growth, Accenture.

Surprised?  I have to say, I am not.  For years now I have been advising healthcare providers to focus their marketing on three core things. It may sound simplistic, but I feel they hold the keys to your success.  But I will admit I order them a bit differently: 

 (1) Never take your eyes off of your prospects — keep your primary focus on acquistion of new patients. And don’t forget that often means your key target is your referral source and not the patient himself. (Channel management is key).

 (2) Build relationships with your current patient base to ensure loyalty. This means you need to start conversations and learn what is important to them. Work to develop meaningful touch points in your communications, use experiential tactics and CRM to cross-sell services over time. Don’t ever assume that exposure to you once will guarantee return visits.  Research shows not even women who deliver their children at your site maintain loyalty to you over time. Needs change and patients shop by condition and even body part these days. Take nothing for granted — work to earn loyalty.

(3) Increase revenue. Seems so simple but I see this as a blend of the #3 and #4 issues on the Accenture study.  You need to be a true marketer and not just a communicator. Work with your leadership and clinical teams to develop new services and products of value to your community. Whether this means you need to recruit in new specialists, acquire new technology or simply extend current offerings, product development is key. But you don’t have to be wildly innovative or invest a small fortune to increase sales — simply making services more accessible (think online registration, second opinion programs, online health risk assessments, same day appointments, retail clinics, etc.) can extend your reach and increase your traffic and revenue.

While the Accenture study was not an exclusive healthcare study, I must say they results were great to see. They confirm that I am not completely crazy and only add validity to my strategic marketing platform and the need to keep your focus narrow and course steady.  When its time to start market planning for your next fiscal year, keep it simple and work to acquire new patients, enhance loyalty and increase revenue and you will be well on your way to meeting your organizational and departmental objectives.

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On February 29, Bryan Should’ve Died.

2 09 2010





Would that get your attention? Outdoor boards carrying this and a similar message went up throughout the Sioux Falls region last week. Today the meaning was finally revealed during media interviews under one of the boards by local stations KELO and KSFY. It was all for the launch of, a landing page designed to help Avera create awareness of the emergency and trauma services it provides throughout the region. In the morning, the reveals will go up — boards that route viewers to a landing page where they can read the story of Bryan and several other individuals who faced death and survived as a result of the medical care provided at an Avera facility.

The campaign which includes both public service and promotional messaging and also includes print and banner ads, was designed to get people thinking about medical emergencies. Often families have a tornado or fire plan but have never discussed what to do in the case of an auto accident or other unforeseen incident. We want people have emergency health plans, to know they should never be embarrassed to call 911 and to acquaint themselves with their nearest Emergency Department.

 The August issue of the Journal of American College of Surgeons reveals cracks in the U.S. trauma system.  An article cites trauma as the leading cause of death of people under 45 in our country and states many regions do not offer adequate trauma services. A combination of a shortage of surgeons and gaps in coverage hinder access to timely, appropriate care. That’s exactly why Avera works to ensure high quality emergency care is available throughout the region. The health system offers emergency care at 27 locations and has eEmergency care available in 14 communities, bringing trauma and emergency medicine consult to areas without 24/7 access to a physician. tells the stories of real people from throughout the region whose lives could have changed dramatically if emergency services were not available. In the case of trauma, access to timely, optimal care during the first golden hour has been proven to save lives, restore function and prevent disability, according to Dr. Brent Eastman, author of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons article. By featuring real patients, bvk and the Avera team were able to show that real emergencies are happening around us all the time and that fast action by local emergency teams can ensure that life saving medical care can be administered. We also wanted community members to have confidence in the care available locally and know outstanding emergency treatment is available throughout the region because of the efforts of Avera and its team of expert caregivers.

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Outdoor Demands Attention.

1 09 2010

Is it possible for a tactic to generate earned media simply because of the approach taken? Absolutely! And great success can result when a public service announcement and education are combined with a unique marketing approach.

Tonight in Sioux Falls, SD, many  folks traveling along Minnesota Avenue took a second look. Over the last week, regular commuters had passed an outdoor board which featured a woman seated on a stretcher. Behind her was the scene of a motor vehicle accident. The board was intriguing but tonight it was down right attention getting. The van on the board was smoking and tonight smoke was trailing off the board — yes, the board was smoking.

 Around town, you can find two similar boards. One features a football player and the other a farmer. Each uses the same intriguing headline which includes a date and the simple statement “I should’ve died.”

What’s this all lead to? Check back on Friday to see how this campaign launch unfolds and whether the unique tactic and a series of emails can generate media attention.

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A Campaign with Legs.

29 08 2010

When you have limited dollars but need to stop people in their tracks, what can you do? Why not look beyond traditional marketing tactics and place yourself directly in front of your target, using a message guaranteed to capture attention.

Environmental tactics allow you to capture attention in unexpected ways and in unexpected places. When asked to help promote a vein removal service, bvk team members started by working to understand how a woman with unsightly or painful veins may feel. Because women are often embarrassed and tend to cover their legs, we decided the best place to catch them would be in the mall where they go to shop for clothing items, or a changing room or gym where the legs would be fully visible in the mirror. From there a concept was born.

The creative team developed an eye-catching installation, designed to encourage women to “Change into a fresh pair of legs.” The displays include clothing racks filled with skirts and vein-free legs on hangers. These units were placed inside the Hospital’s store in the local mall, along with other clothing items, and within its fitness centers. A number of legs were also placed on coat racks in medical offices and in locker rooms at the Hospital’s fitness centers.

While the current placement is guaranteed to capture attention, I think there is great potential for partnering with retailers. Imagine your surprise if you came across a life-sized skirt — with legs — when shopping or visiting a changing room in your favorite clothing store. Then lectures or screenings could also be promoted via bag stuffers.

The call to action was to call the office to arrange for a consultation. Another option would be to arrange for screenings, creating an experiential tactic designed to create foot traffic at the Center and interaction with the patient care team.

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Looking to Promote Classes but Trying to Cut Costs?

4 06 2010

Are you still printing a quarterly, comprehensive list of all health education classes? Does this taking more time and budget than you can afford?  Then maybe it’s time to ditch the mailer and look for more effective and efficient ways to fill up your sessions.

If your core service area is relatively tight and you have a primary print media outlet in your market, you may benefit from a full page or large print ad featuring your upcoming classes (assuming readership is high and reaches your target audience). This approach is often more successful than a quarterly mailer and less costly than printing and mailing materials.  Your media buy will depend on the number of classes offered. You may need to run an ad weekly but monthly may suffice if you offer fewer programs.

Be sure to print copies of your ad so you have a sales sheet available when you are out at community events. Print enough so you can leave them in high-volume areas of your site(s) and also have them available at each class. I have also found that leaving ad reprints at public libraries, pharmacies and major day care facilities can help to extend your reach.

The challenge is that only specific topics will appeal to select individuals at any given point in time. A comprehensive list is appealing to those inside the hospital walls but rarely to those outside. Instead consider working to position yourself as the leading healthcare resource in the community and then driving folks online to search for available classes, screenings and support groups (and ideally to register there too). Or route them to a phone line with staff dedicated to providing class info andscheduling. Either way staff and infrastructure are both needed to support such efforts.

I have found that classes fill up best when you attach them to specific service line messaging targeted to a symptomatic audience. So if you have a chest pain center ad (print, radio or TV), cross sell your cardiac classes for the next quarter — make them your call to action. Or package all of your cardiac-related sessions and promote them on cafeteria tray liners and table tents within your hospital and in the food court at your local mall. And consider rotating your service line messages and rotating in general wellness programming. If you are promoting a new physician, be sure to cross sell the classes related to his/her specialty or that he or she is conducting. And don’t forget to reference your educational programming in your brand ads by listing a way to get more information.

Be sure to also monitor event attendance and measure the satisfaction of attendees. Some classes just don’t have consumer appeal. If time after time you cannot fill a class, it may simply be time to give the topic a break or redesign it to be more consumer friendly and benefit driven.

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