How Cleveland Clinic Wins with Content

by | Mar 6, 2019 | Content Strategy

Discover how a consumer-centric, data-driven content strategy earns big wins, fostering brand and revenue growth for one of the country’s largest and most respected hospitals.

Amanda TodorovichIn a recent Healthcare Rap podcast interview, Amanda Todorovich, senior director of content and creative services at Cleveland Clinic, highlighted the philosophy and best practices behind the hospital’s highly successful wins in paid, earned and owned media initiatives—including Health Essentials, the No. 1 hospital blog in America with more than 7 million sessions per month.

Todorovich, 2016 Content Marketer of the Year and member of the Healthcare Insight advisory board, leads a team of about 30 people. The team also develops content for the hospital’s physician blog ConsultQD, social media accounts (including a Facebook page with 2 million followers), and other Cleveland Clinic channels and campaigns.

Todorovich’s keys to an effective content marketing strategy, which often includes a nontraditional healthcare marketing mindset, are listed below.

Check the Data, Not the Boxes

“Unfortunately, most people in our industry are doing what our CMO calls ‘check the box’ content marketing,” Todorovich says. “You have a Facebook page, Twitter account and maybe even a blog—but are you actually making an impact on your business? Are you being strategic and serving those audiences? Do you deserve those followers by earning their time?”

To answer these questions, Todorovich recommends marketers drill into the data to determine the type of content that resonates with the target audience. She says the metrics often challenge assumptions that drive healthcare marketing decisions.

“There is way too much going on in our space where we’re bragging about how great we are, ranking this and ranking that, and our audiences don’t want that,” she says. “We have been really focused on what our analytics are telling us about what our audiences want and understanding who they are.”

Put Your Audience First

Todorovich cited Google data that shows 75 percent of consumers think hospitals put profits before patients. This sends a sobering message that healthcare marketers must internalize and use to inform their content marketing plan.

“Consumers are thinking about how we push procedures or treatments that drive revenue rather than the things that help them live well and stay out of our facilities,” she says. “What continues to make our team successful is being hyper diligent about focusing on what our audiences really want and viewing our channels as products instead of platforms to just push out messaging.”

Todorovich encourages healthcare marketers to embrace the responsibility of creating content that contributes to the health and well-being of their audience—not just the organization’s bottom line.

“Every healthcare organization is about taking care of people, and your content should do the same,” she says.

Contribute Your Unique Voice to the Conversation

Todorovich boils her team’s content strategy down to one sentence: “It’s all about engaging in daily conversation utilizing content related to health, wellness and clinical topics that are unique to Cleveland Clinic.”

To borrow a page from the hospital’s playbook, she suggests thinking about how to provide your organization’s unique perspective on topical issues that are relevant to today’s consumers. This approach differs from conventional healthcare wisdom, where the latest awards and technologies take center stage, and creates opportunities for marketers willing to shift focus to the communities served.

“Great care is table stakes in healthcare, so if you’re constantly telling people that you provide great care, what does that mean to them?” Todorovich says. “Effective content marketing is much more about providing content that’s meaningful to your audiences in their particular situations and showing how your expertise benefits them—and a lot of organizations aren’t doing that.”

Build the Case for Customer-Centric Content

While Todorovich and her team are highly successful, they still face the challenges common to all healthcare marketers when collaborating with peers.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had discussions with service-line leaders who want quotas for blog posts,” she says. “There are a lot of tough conversations, and I spend a lot of time saying ‘no,’ but the key is having a documented strategy with data that supports your decisions.”

Todorovich says the data that resonates most involves topics people are searching for on Google, as these are questions that aren’t being answered in a meaningful way, showing current and potential patients that the hospital cares.

By sharing heart-healthy recipes, exercise tips and the hospital’s view on hot topics like “Is It Possible to Become Addicted to Social Media?” the hospital builds trust and long-term relationships that drive brand loyalty. Todorovich says this approach to content marketing requires a commitment to a long-term, consistent strategy that revolves around the audience. She adds that it isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight.

“The shift is hard to make, as most hospital marketing departments have done things a certain way for years and clinical partners expect certain things from us,” Todorovich says. “You have to do it small and incrementally. Test something and show that it works. That’s how we got started with Health Essentials. We told our leadership that we were going to try a couple things and come back and show what happened. When we started to post things like recipes, tips and tricks for living with a condition, and how to prevent certain things from happening, those topics started to get more engagement and traffic. That led to more people seeing our brand, and that ultimately supports our mission.”

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