How to Evolve Your Custom Magazine into an Integrated Content Marketing Strategy

Get more out of your custom healthcare magazine with an integrated content marketing strategy approach.

If you already publish a custom magazine, congratulations: You’re ahead of the curve! The Content Marketing Institute recently suggested that marketers consider using print because everything else is going online. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to ditch digital, but it does mean you need to create an integrated content strategy. 

 (And if you’re not already publishing, here are six reasons to rethink print from content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi.) 

 According to a By The Numbers report from the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, healthcare marketers leveraging the power of print are actually in the majority. They found that 80% of its members produce community publications and 71% produce employee publications. In addition, nearly half (44%) produce publications for physicians. 

 While healthcare marketing often gets a bad rap for being behind the curve, if print is part of your marketing toolkit, you’re also in good company. Facebook, Airbnb and other global brands are embracing print to engage their “always on” audiences in a “lean-back” format with less distractions

 Success Stories: Expanding Custom Magazine Content Beyond Print

While print remains viable—and usage is even increasing among younger demographics, an effective custom magazine is now part of a larger engagement or growth strategy that leverages content marketing tools and multiple digital touchpoints to promote, integrate and measure content developed for the publication. 

 Here are a couple examples of health systems that have evolved their content strategies:

HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital — A centerpiece example of an integrated content strategy is a blog called Inspiring Health, which leverages content from an award-winning community publication of the same name and is then optimized for search and promoted through paid and organic social media, native advertising and email. Following its February 2019 launch, the blog received more than 2,000 page views during the first month—including 1,500 new users. Engagement metrics for Facebook and native advertising are beating industry benchmarks, meaning the audience is engaging with this content at a higher rate compared to other healthcare-related promotions.

magazine and digital display

Methodist Health SystemMethodist produces a 48-page, quarterly print publication titled SHINE along with infographics, videos, patient stories and other types of content to reach the community. In 2019, the marketing team partnered with True North to launch SHINE Online and deliver a multifaceted content experience with relevant nurturing and conversion opportunities. Within the first two months, the site was already driving engagement at unprecedented levels. In fact, August and September of 2019 produced over 1,000% more traffic than the same time frame in 2018 on Methodist’s former blog, which was housed on their main site. Learn more about the evolution of SHINE in a detailed case study.

Methodist magazine and digital display

Read the Case Study: Methodist Health System Boosts Consumer Engagement With Integrated Content Marketing Strategy

The Advantages of an Integrated Content Marketing Strategy

As these examples illustrate, extending the content in your custom magazine to an integrated content approach offers several benefits for your audience and your organization.  

  • Grow Your Audience. Broaden the reach of your content beyond the publication’s defined circulation, which is typically targeted based on demographics, geography and other parameters.
  • Multiply Your Channels. Add value and depth to your web, email and social platforms through content already created for your magazine.
  • Measure the Impact of Your Content Marketing. Connect your content to digital touchpoints to allow for real-time monitoring of site traffic, open rates and other metrics that demonstrate the value of your content marketing investment.
  • Generate Increased Outcomes. Increase exposure to your content to build relationships with online consumers, positioning your brand as the best choice when seeking solutions to their healthcare needs.

So the question is: How do you evolve your program from a print-centric silo to a more integrated content offering that engages the audience via web and social channels? Try these three techniques. 

 1. Integrate custom magazine content into your website.

To begin, start by identifying a place on your existing website to incorporate the content. A blog or health news section on your site may be perfect. If you do not have an area that acts like a blog, invest some time into creating a space that can be easily integrated into your company’s site. This addition will enhance your online presence and make your organization more competitive, paying dividends long term. 

 “By optimizing content for the web, you naturally kick-start organic search visibility for people searching for the keywords included in your content,” says Ashley DuFrene, senior digital marketing specialist at True North Custom. 

 2. Repurpose your print content for an online audience.

Creating a seasonal custom magazine takes time and effort in order to reach your community audience in a way that resonates. To create relevant and newsworthy content readers want to see, include general wellness information with season-specific stories, carefully chosen photography and graphics, and interviews that incorporate quotes from local experts.  

By the time the next season rolls around, your magazine no longer feels fresh and relevant, and the publication you have been admiring should probably be retired. The good news is you do not have to get rid of the content completely. By repurposing the stories in your custom magazine for the web, you can capture and connect with a wider audience for an indefinite period of time. 

“Print material is great for communicating and spreading awareness among your target market. However, all magazines have a shelf life within someone’s home,” DuFrene says. “Optimizing your magazine content for the web creates new paths for people to reference and find healthcare content that is relevant year round.” 

3. Drive traffic to your digital content.

Once content is up and running, your next order of business should be to drive readers to your repurposed articles. Emails, newsletters, native advertising and social media are effective tools to incorporate into your integrated content strategy to achieve this objective. 

 Additionally, driving traffic to the content via social media builds brand awareness, benefitting and positioning your entire organization as an authority in the medical arena. 

 “A strong online presence with unique content builds authority,” DuFrene says. “This positions your hospital or health system as experts in health care in your community, which is the ultimate goal.” 


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The Big Shift: How COVID-19 Is Driving the Evolution of Healthcare Content Strategy

In the latest True North guide for healthcare marketing pros, you’ll learn how to evolve your content marketing strategy to align with shifts in consumer habits and preferences that were underway prior to the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the hourly news cycle has fueled the need for timely, accurate and engaging healthcare content by orders of magnitude. Between the months of January and March of this year, it’s estimated that more than 1,500 articles on COVID-19 were being developed each day.

This demand for healthcare content—and its value to consumers—is demonstrated by recent studies:

The data sends a clear message: content is still king—if created intentionally and built around the community served. Like the market leaders embracing telemedicine and other consumer-centric delivery models, healthcare marketers who purposefully reconstruct their content strategies around the rapidly changing lifestyle habits and media preferences of their audiences will build trust and rise above the competition.

The time to reject business-as-usual healthcare marketing is now. Engaging today’s healthcare consumers requires fundamental shifts in how content is planned, developed and distributed.

To guide your efforts, we've identified four pivotal areas that will make or break your COVID-19 content strategy during the pandemic and in the future. 

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Want the full version eBook—including examples and recommendations for the most effective COVID-19 content strategy tactics for each shift? Download the entire report here.

Let’s Plan Your Strategy

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

5 Types of Content You Need in a Crisis Like COVID-19

With the COVID-19 news cycle being refreshed by the hour, healthcare marketers are rising to the challenge to communicate quickly and accurately with employees, patients and community members — to ensure all bases are covered as news breaks and consumers move from education to action, here are the five types of content your communication plan needs during this unprecedented crisis.

Every screen, inbox and social feed is filled with content and communication about the coronavirus crisis, with much of the information coming from hospitals and healthcare systems. We’re partnering with clients to create content on the symptoms of the disease, how it’s spread, the organization’s updated policies and other critical topics weighing on the minds of consumers.

To ensure your content has the greatest impact on employee and patient safety during a crisis, public health and your healthcare brand’s reputation as a trusted resource, here are five types to include in your crisis communication plan.

Discoverable Content

Searches for specific topics like COVID-19 spike during a crisis. In fact, Google reports that interest in coronavirus grew more than 260% globally from the first week of February to early March. Delivering timely, relevant and accurate content to anxious consumers is critical—and the first step is understanding which questions they are asking. For example, one of the main queries is “How is COVID-19 different from flu?” and by incorporating these keywords where they make sense in headlines, meta descriptions and body copy, your brand will show up when consumers are searching for information.

Based on our research, here are some of the more common coronavirus-related searches that are relevant for healthcare providers:

Geographic Searches—Users are interested in, and often worried about, local results right now. When you are building search terms, add your specific geography to this list so your content shows up for people who are searching for the topic.

News/Updates Searches—The media is creating a demand for updates about COVID-19, and that is reflected in frequent search results based on these keywords:

  • Coronavirus update
  • Coronavirus news
  • Coronavirus latest news

"Spread"-Focused Searches—Even more important than symptoms right now is information about how the coronavirus spreads. There is a demand to know how to prevent and avoid the spread of the virus. These keywords are driving the majority of related traffic and should be incorporated into your digital content:

  • What causes coronavirus?
  • How does coronavirus spread?
  • What to avoid to stop coronavirus

Educational Content

This is the baseline content type for crisis content and communication, and journalistic tenets like the inverted pyramid are best when conveying information on what COVID-19 is, why it is a threat, who is most susceptible, how it’s spread and where to get updates.

The most effective format for conveying COVID-focused information is a dedicated landing page with links to resources.

Here are a few examples:

Along with the basics on COVID-19, the page can also feature tips for hand-washing, definitions of terms like “social distancing” and ideas for successfully transitioning to a remote work and school environment.

Also, make sure you’re promoting the page and driving traffic through your email newsletter, social media pages, custom publication and other channels.

Authoritative Content

As a pillar of the community, your brand’s voice is among the most trusted—and this is especially true during a crisis. The timing, accuracy and authenticity of your messaging will reinforce your brand’s position as a respected source of healthcare information.

Effective crisis communication starts at home, and healthcare organizations are featuring fellow associates to address their team's frequently asked questions. This video series from CHRISTUS Health covers topics ranging from "Who should be wearing masks?" to "Should pregnant women be working?" and other relevant issues.

To educate the community on critical topics and clarify misinformation, feature your subject matter experts as illustrated by this COVID-19 and Children video from St. Louis Children's Hospital.

With both internal and external audiences, it's important to communicate early and often to help build trust and ease anxiety—despite not having all the answers. “Even if you’re still trying to understand the extent of the problem, be honest and open to maintain credibility,” writes Paul A. Argenti in Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis (HBR).

Reassuring Content

The topics you address and tone of your content can be as impactful as the information itself. By considering the whole person and their needs—physical, emotional, spiritual—and communicating clearly and with compassion, you can further position your brand as the community’s trusted resource for health care.

Use plain language to talk about the coronavirus, with links to reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).

Also, it’s important to maintain a professional look and feel to all communications. Even when you’re moving fast, it’s important to adhere to brand standards. There are some free resources online with icons that you can use as you create content to maintain a professional tone that will be reassuring to your audience. And be sure to take the time to proofread your content and review before posting.

Actionable Content

Lastly, the question on everyone’s mind when searching for information regarding the coronavirus is, “What should I do?” Make sure your content answers this question with current guidelines based on the CDC, WHO and other reputable sources.

This page from Novant Health is an excellent example of actionable content with a coronavirus self-assessment, directions for accessing virtual care, a map of local screening centers and other resources.

Learn More: Watch the COVID-19 Webinar

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7 Reasons Print Makes Sense for Healthcare Marketers

In 2019, we launched more custom publications for healthcare organizations than we have in several years. This resurgence reflects the value of print as (still) one of the most effective ways to reach and engage your audience.

While headlines have declared the death of print for decades, the medium has not only survived but is thriving with younger generations embracing magazines, market leaders across categories leveraging print and even digital-first brands investing in publications to engage their communities. 

Wondering if print fits into your plans? Here are a few reasons it makes sense for healthcare marketers to consider a custom magazine as part of an integrated content strategy.

The most trusted consumer brands believe in print.

By investing in custom publications, healthcare organizations are following the lead of the most trusted brands in America. From consumer packaged goods and travel to food and entertainment, brands across industries are delivering content in print as an effective, lean-back format to educate and engage their communities. 

Here are a few publications that brands are leveraging to foster community and drive growth as part of an integrated content strategy:

Your new competitors see the value in print.

As healthcare providers compete with new entrants like Amazon and Walmart (both investing heavily in print), creating a stronger connection with consumers and providers will be critical. Unlike much of the ephemeral content clogging up our social feeds and inboxes, magazines are a value signal for healthcare organizations working to demonstrate quality, deliver authentic stories and differentiate their brands. 

Generation Z is big on print.

At 25% of the population, Gen Z is the largest generation of consumers, and despite growing up on social media and surrounded by technology, those age 24 and younger are spending more time reading print than on digital platforms. This offers tremendous opportunity for healthcare organizations to build awareness among young adults and families that can translate into brand loyalty and increased customer lifetime value. Better yet, when a custom healthcare publication is integrated with a blog or content hub, it further enriches the consumer experience and creates a path for conversion.

Even digital-first brands are bullish on print.

You might be surprised to find that many web and social platforms are leveraging print as an extension of their digital presence. For example:

  • Facebook sends a printed version of its GROW magazine to “a handful of clients,” as part of the social networking site’s efforts to help business leaders stay ahead by creating and curating insightful content and experiences. 
  • Email marketing platform MailChimp acquired a publication that expands its reach internationally and teaches small businesses how to be successful. 
  • Dating app Bumble launched Bumble Mag to share expert advice, in-depth features, trend pieces on hot topics, answers to questions posed by users, and more. 

The “catalog effect” is real.

According to Harvard Business Review, catalog mailings have been increasing over the past five years, and response rates have grown 170% in the last decade—despite the rise in digital platforms. Research suggests these print resources are resonating with consumers of all ages due to “the increasingly cluttered digital inboxes and social media feeds.”

Google keeps moving the goalposts.

The majority of searches now result in zero clicks, and experts predict that Google’s claiming the lion’s share of search traffic is only going to continue. While optimizing content for search is still a vital part of an effective digital strategy, reaching your audience offline and promoting content via other channels like print will be imperative.

We all get too much email.

While the average email inbox receives 121 messages per day, my mailbox never has more than a handful of items—and anything other than a bill is a welcome respite. (And yes, I’m among the 80% of direct mail recipients who read or scan each piece before throwing any of it away.) Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi pointed to this “scarcity of competition” in the print space as leading marketers to double down on magazines, and he even compares marketers using print to the first movers who dominated the early days of the web by creating content.

Let's discuss your publishing strategy!

As a leading provider of custom publications for healthcare organizations, find out how True North Custom can help you develop or evolve your publishing program.

Christopher Penn on Data Science Basics for Content Marketing

As an official media partner of ContentTech Summit 2020, we spoke with keynote speaker Christopher Penn about the importance of data science and what healthcare marketers can learn from Facebook and other data-driven organizations.

Christopher Penn

Christopher Penn, co-founder and chief data scientist of Trust Insights, has helped global brands such as McDonald’s, Toyota and others leverage the power of data to level up their marketing efforts.

In this guest post, find out why Christopher believes data science is an essential skill and the implications of data-driven content marketing for healthcare organizations.



The Value of Data Science

Simply put, data science is the extraction of meaning. Using the scientific method, data science helps marketers prove or disprove a hypothesis—and if you’re not using the scientific method, then you’re not doing data science.

To derive meaningful insights from information, data science combines four disciplines—business acumen, domain expertise, technical skills, and mathematical and statistical skills—into one. At the very least, marketers need a solid foundation in technical and statistical skills while partnering with experts in the other domains to ensure better results, lower costs and fewer mistakes.

A fundamental understanding of data science is critical for marketers because it allows them to repeat and scale their successful initiatives. This, however, can be a challenge as marketers typically don’t have a strong quantitative background. We’re often winging it as marketers and while we might get lucky and have a campaign take off, we don’t know why it worked and therefore we can’t repeat or scale the successful initiative—much less make it better. There are many brilliant healthcare marketers out there whose work could be accelerated if they were able to leverage data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

On the other hand, there are healthcare organizations doing excellent work through data science, including The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Their researchers help prevent the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus by looking at code, doing the math and using the latest technology to inform policy decisions and unlock the value of domain experts.

The Intersection of Data Science and Content Marketing

One of the easiest ways to explain how data science applies to marketing is in the area of publishing. For example, a content strategy typically includes blog posts and white papers that offer information to the end customer in a way that delivers value.

We recently created a white paper titled Social Media 2020 that involved analyzing search and social data to determine whether marketers need a presence on Tik Tok. We crunched the numbers to figure out how many people search for “How to join Tik Tok” as well as “How to quit Tik Tok account” and found that the platform is not growing as fast as it has been. In fact, more people want to quit than are signing up. The implication for marketers: Go ahead and set up an account but don’t invest a lot of time. The data doesn't support diving headfirst into it.

When you think about all the time and resources that go into publishing, the scenario above is a good example of what data-driven marketing looks like. Data science helps you to make decisions and create value for your community using data and research, instead of laboring over onerous peer-reviewed papers to inform your marketing plans.

Healthcare Data Sources

Along with your own research, there are myriad public data resources available to marketers. Almost every country has a government organization that shares a tremendous amount of data. We often use to draw insights when developing content.

Another one of my favorites is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which offers a robust data set of hospital quality outcomes. Marketers can see how organizations rank for specific conditions and build their own benchmarks.

The Medicare data set is useful; however, some hospitals do not report certain metrics so about 20–25% of the data is missing. I recommend blending Medicare data with U.S. census data for a more complete picture of hospital ratings and population health.

As a marketer, these and other resources help you understand where to focus your content. You could, for example, translate outcomes data into a travel guide that helps consumers know where to go for specific conditions.

The Ethics of Data Science

Big tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are leading the way in using data for marketing, but they can also be the most unethical and dangerous. Facebook is a perfect example of what happens when data science is decoupled from ethics. Look at how the Facebook News Feed functions. The goal is to keep users engaged and ultimately to create compulsive behavior. By collecting a tremendous amount of data, Facebook learned that making people angry and afraid all the time is the best way to keep people engaged.

As you apply data science, both you and the institution must have the highest ethical standards as to how you use data and be proactively looking for bias and adverse outcomes. When you see skews in data sets, these can have substantial outcomes down the line.

In health care, our primary imperative is the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. If your marketing is discriminating or causing a bias, you are not following that principle.

Data Science Resources for Content Marketing

There are relatively few marketing data science resources as the disciplines grew up separately. My personal blog at Trust Insights is one  resource that tries to bring both of these functions together.

There are also organizations like Women in Analytics and other blogs, conferences and Twitter lists where marketers can access data science information.

A few of my favorite resources include:

Along with these resources, one of the most important things you can do is to start following individuals who share a lot of information on data science and can function as information mentors.

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