Case Study: Custom Content Helps Health System Boost Awareness & Reverse Outmigration

by | Jan 24, 2018 | Content Strategy | 0 comments

Washington Health System embraces storytelling in print and online to increase awareness of key service lines and prove return on investment (ROI).

Overview and Objectives

Wash­ing­ton Health Sys­tem is a com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tion in Wash­ing­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, that cares for patients at mul­ti­ple loca­tions across a three-coun­ty radius. Despite the system’s wide array of ser­vices, it faced an all-too famil­iar chal­lenge for hos­pi­tals near major cities: Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers were trav­el­ing to near­by Pitts­burgh for care. In this case study, we explain the chal­lenge for the WHS mar­ket­ing team of let­ting peo­ple know the same ser­vices were avail­able clos­er to home at WHS and how cus­tom con­tent allowed them to achieve that goal. 

To intro­duce the com­mu­ni­ty to the system’s physi­cians and capa­bil­i­ties, the WHS mar­ket­ing team began pub­lish­ing a newslet­ter called YourHealthRx. How­ev­er, the newslet­ter was time-inten­sive for their small inter­nal mar­ket­ing team. Also, there were no met­rics in place to mea­sure engage­ment, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to eval­u­ate the returns on all the work the team was putting in. Even more con­cern­ing, the hard-sell con­tent didn’t seem to res­onate with read­ers. Fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of each issue, the mar­ket­ing team received mul­ti­ple calls from com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who want­ed to be removed from the publication’s mail­ing list.

“The mag­a­zine didn’t have the desired look or feel,” says Stephanie Wag­oner, man­ag­er of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ty rela­tions at WHS. “We start­ed look­ing for a ven­dor to help.”

Custom Content Marketing Strategy

WHS part­nered with True North Cus­tom in late 2015. Fol­low­ing a detailed dis­cus­sion of the publication’s goals, the teams worked togeth­er to give the pub­li­ca­tion a makeover, includ­ing a brand new name, Con­nec­tions.

The mar­ket­ing objectives—showcasing the WHS team and high-qual­i­ty ser­vices, par­tic­u­lar­ly ser­vices relat­ed to women’s health, car­di­ol­o­gy, out­pa­tient ser­vices and pul­monary care—remained the same. How­ev­er, the approach to com­mu­ni­cat­ing those mes­sages changed. Instead of focus­ing sole­ly on the hospital’s ser­vices, for exam­ple, the con­tent now incor­po­rates a blend of hard- and soft-sell ele­ments. Lifestyle-focused con­tent that pro­vides use­ful, rel­e­vant health and well­ness tips accom­pa­nies side­bars and blurbs edu­cat­ing com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers about the hospital’s services.

“The arti­cles are now much more invit­ing,” Wag­oner says. “Peo­ple want to read them because they’re con­tent-dri­ven rather than sales-focused.”

In addi­tion to opti­miz­ing the edi­to­r­i­al con­tent, the WHS mar­ket­ing team uti­lized their exist­ing physi­cian refer­ral line to help track com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment. Each Con­nec­tions arti­cle that doesn’t have a call to action dri­ving read­ers to a spe­cif­ic physi­cian prac­tice or ser­vice line now dri­ves to the physi­cian refer­ral line.

To ease the work­load of the small WHS mar­ket­ing team, which con­sists of Wag­oner, an admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant and an out­reach liai­son, True North Cus­tom also assumed respon­si­bil­i­ty for sched­ul­ing and com­plet­ing inter­views with physi­cians and oth­er hos­pi­tal sub­ject mat­ter experts and obtains con­tact approval for all copy.

Based on the suc­cess of Con­nec­tions, WHS recent­ly part­nered with True North Cus­tom to apply the same prin­ci­ples to its web­site con­tent. As part of a larg­er project that will con­sol­i­date three WHS web­sites into one, the True North Cus­tom team pro­vid­ed edi­to­r­i­al, writ­ing, and fact-check­ing services.


Since launch­ing the new ver­sion of Con­nec­tions, a 16-page mag­a­zine pub­lished four times a year, the trend of com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers request­ing to be removed from the mail­ing list has decreased dra­mat­i­cal­ly, while the team has not­ed major growth in the ser­vice lines fea­tured in the mag­a­zine. For exam­ple, a recent Con­nec­tions arti­cle dis­cussed facials avail­able at Spa Har­mo­ny locat­ed inside the system’s Wil­fred R. Cameron Well­ness Cen­ter, an often-over­looked fea­ture at the cen­ter. Short­ly after the issue hit mail­box­es, calls start­ed com­ing in from com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who want­ed to sched­ule a facial.

“Many peo­ple didn’t real­ize that our spa offered facials or that they could vis­it our spa with­out a well­ness cen­ter mem­ber­ship,” Wag­oner says. “In this way, the mag­a­zine helps edu­cate peo­ple about ser­vices they didn’t know they could have access to with­in their local com­mu­ni­ty health system.

“Our spa also offers acupunc­ture and acu­pres­sure, which can help relieve back pain and issues relat­ed to poor cir­cu­la­tion and even help can­cer patients along their road to recov­ery. In some of those areas, the mag­a­zine has helped open the com­mu­ni­ty up to new ideas and new ways to take care of themselves.”

The WHS mar­ket­ing team mea­sures ser­vice line growth, in part, by track­ing the num­ber of calls placed to the physi­cian refer­ral line after each issue reach­es homes.

“We usu­al­ly receive sev­er­al calls per arti­cle,” Wag­oner says. “By track­ing those calls, we can show how patients are learn­ing about our ser­vices and prove that the things we’re doing are effec­tive. When we meet with our inter­nal admin­is­tra­tive team, we can now say, ‘Yes, we’re spend­ing mon­ey, but our invest­ment is dri­ving patients to our health sys­tem,’ which is great.”

Let’s Plan Your Strategy

Let our health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing experts help you nav­i­gate these shifts. 

Sign up for updates!

Sign up for updates!

Get marketing tips delivered straight to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!