The State of Healthcare Content Marketing: The Era of Forced Evolution

The annual State of Healthcare Content Marketing study illuminates the role that content plays in driving engagement and volume for hospitals, health systems and other healthcare organizations.

The 2020 State of Health­care Con­tent Mar­ket­ing report was gen­er­at­ed by a sur­vey of 200+ health­care exec­u­tives who man­age the mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions func­tions for more than 350 hos­pi­tals nation­wide, along with ancil­lary med­ical clin­ics, spe­cial­ty care cen­ters and oth­er affil­i­ates. Respon­dents guide con­tent strat­e­gy for many of the nation’s lead­ing health­care brands, includ­ing HCA, Cleve­land Clin­ic and more.

In light of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic and height­ened impor­tance of diver­si­ty, equi­ty and inclu­sion, sur­vey ques­tions were expand­ed to reflect the impact of those issues on health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing strategies.

On behalf of True North and our part­ners at the Forum for Health­care Strate­gists, we hope these insights, trends and take­aways will serve to inspire, inform and opti­mize your con­tent strategy.

The Use of Content Marketing

Q: Does your orga­ni­za­tion use con­tent marketing?

Does your organization use content marketing answer


The trend: The near­ly 90% of health­care mar­keters cur­rent­ly using con­tent rep­re­sents a 13% increase over 2019 and a 20% increase since the first State of Health­care Con­tent Mar­ket­ing sur­vey was con­duct­ed in 2017.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: With 97% of respon­dents using con­tent or plan­ning to lever­age con­tent to engage con­sumers and dri­ve growth, dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing your approach is more crit­i­cal than ever. This requires mar­keters to design all aspects of con­tent strategy—from plan­ning and con­tent cre­ation to dis­tri­b­u­tion, mea­sure­ment and optimization—around the tar­get audience.

Get more insights: Read our blog post on effective healthcare content marketing in the zero-click search era.


The Shift in Content Strategy

Q: How is your con­tent strat­e­gy shift­ing in light of COVID-19?

 Q: How is your content strategy shifting in light of COVID-19?

What it means for health­care mar­keters: Con­sumers expect imme­di­ate, accu­rate and action­able answers to their health­care ques­tions, and mar­keters are respond­ing with edu­ca­tion­al con­tent that aligns with these needs. By engag­ing con­sumers ear­ly in the health­care jour­ney, mar­keters can guide them on the path to bet­ter health and achieve pref­er­ence and long-term affin­i­ty for their brands.

Get more insights: Check out our white paper on The Big Shift: How COVID-19 is Driving the Evolution of Healthcare Content Marketing.


Content Marketing Budgets

Q: How has your con­tent mar­ket­ing bud­get shift­ed due to the impact of COVID-19?


Q: How has your content marketing budget shifted due to the impact of COVID-19?


Q: How do you expect your organization’s bud­get allo­ca­tion for con­tent mar­ket­ing to change in your next bud­get cycle?


Q: How do you expect your organization’s budget allocation for content marketing to change in your next budget cycle?


The trend: Typ­i­cal of a down­turn, most orga­ni­za­tions fol­low the bell curve that has the major­i­ty main­tain­ing sta­tus quo (59% did not change their con­tent bud­gets) while oth­ers look to con­serve costs (21% decreased their con­tent bud­get) or cap­i­tal­ize on the oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain share while com­peti­tors scale back (9% increased their con­tent budget).

Look­ing ahead, more than 8 in 10 (84%) expect their con­tent mar­ket­ing spend to increase or stay the same. Last year, 99% of mar­keters sur­veyed expect­ed their con­tent mar­ket­ing bud­gets to increase or stay the same.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: The finan­cial impact of COVID-19 is being felt across all depart­ments, as U.S. hos­pi­tals lost an esti­mat­ed $200 bil­lion in rev­enue between March and June 30 accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal Asso­ci­a­tion. This means mar­ket­ing invest­ments are being scru­ti­nized even more than usu­al, and those proven to dri­ve engage­ment and rev­enue growth—like con­tent marketing—will con­tin­ue to receive fund­ing. The key is build­ing a busi­ness case based on data illus­trat­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty (e.g. poten­tial audi­ence based on search/ web­site traf­fic) and/or cur­rent val­ue to the orga­ni­za­tion (e.g. impact on patient volume).

Get more insights: Read our blog post on how to prioritize your marketing plan with limited resources.


Promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Q: On a scale of 1 (not impor­tant) to 5 (very impor­tant), how impor­tant has con­tent that pro­motes diver­si­ty, equi­ty and inclu­sion been in your organization’s con­tent strategies?

Aver­age rat­ing: 3.7


Q: Using the same scale, how impor­tant will con­tent that pro­motes diver­si­ty, equi­ty and inclu­sion be for your organization’s con­tent strat­e­gy mov­ing forward?


Aver­age rat­ing: 4.0

What it means for health­care mar­keters: Hos­pi­tals are often among the largest employ­ers in the area, and their impact often has a halo effect on vir­tu­al­ly every house­hold in the com­mu­ni­ty. This reach often comes with a respon­si­bil­i­ty to address key issues like diver­si­ty and inclu­sion. Many health­care orga­ni­za­tions are embrac­ing the role to guide their com­mu­ni­ties and advo­cate for all their con­stituents. The key is mak­ing sure your tone and mes­sage match your brand val­ues and orga­ni­za­tion­al culture.


Content Marketing Goals

Q: Select the top con­tent mar­ket­ing goals for your organization:


Q: Select the top content marketing goals for your organization?


The trend: The year-over-year trend in health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing goals reflects the impor­tance of build­ing a strong brand while ramp­ing up efforts to gen­er­ate, engage and con­vert leads:

  • #1: Con­sumer Engage­ment = up from #2 last year
  • #2: Brand Aware­ness = down from #1 last year
  • #3: Lead Gen­er­a­tion = same rank as last year
  • #4: Patient Loy­al­ty = same rank as last year
  • #5: Physi­cian Engage­ment = unranked last year

What it means for health­care mar­keters: While con­sumer engage­ment and brand build­ing remains key dri­vers behind con­tent mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives again this year, health­care orga­ni­za­tions increas­ing­ly lever­age con­tent to dri­ve patient vol­ume and rev­enue growth with half cit­ing lead gen­er­a­tion as the pri­ma­ry goal. And while health­care con­sumers are more empow­ered than ever, the impor­tance of engag­ing physi­cians to dri­ve refer­rals and rep­u­ta­tion is rein­forced by the sur­vey data.

Get more insights: Find out how content marketing can support financial recovery in our whitepaper on The Big Shift: New Strategies for Service Line Growth.


Content Marketing Effectiveness

Q: Over­all, how effec­tive is your orga­ni­za­tion at con­tent marketing?


Q: Overall, how effective is your organization at content marketing?


The trend: The 92% of health­care mar­keters who con­sid­er their con­tent strate­gies effec­tive reflects a 7% decrease from 2019.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: As the health­care mar­ket­ing dis­ci­pline con­tin­ues to mature, mea­sure­ment and opti­miza­tion are emerg­ing as crit­i­cal pieces of the puz­zle. Greater account­abil­i­ty for per­for­mance and empha­sis on growth requires mar­keters to take a more strate­gic approach to con­tent strat­e­gy and ensure pro­gram objec­tives con­nect to the organization’s busi­ness goals.


Strategic Approach to Content Marketing

Q: Does your orga­ni­za­tion have an over­ar­ch­ing con­tent strat­e­gy in place?


Q: Overall, how effective is your organization at content marketing?


The trend: Near­ly every respon­dent (98%) has a doc­u­ment­ed con­tent strat­e­gy or is plan­ning to devel­op one with­in the next 12 months, which reflects an 11% increase over 2019.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: Mar­keters con­tin­ue ele­vat­ing their approach to con­tent, which starts with map­ping out a com­pre­hen­sive (and iter­a­tive) plan that guides their efforts. Com­pet­ing in this era of forced evo­lu­tion and height­ened account­abil­i­ty requires con­tent strate­gies to be pre­cise­ly aligned with orga­ni­za­tion goals and audi­ence pref­er­ences to be effective.

Get more insights: Read our blog post outlining a 5‑step content planning framework.


How Content Fits into Marketing Priorities

Q: Think­ing of all the mar­ket­ing strate­gies you employ in your orga­ni­za­tion, how high a pri­or­i­ty is con­tent mar­ket­ing on a scale of 1 (not a pri­or­i­ty) to 5 (high priority)?

Aver­age rat­ing: 3.8


The trend: Since the sur­vey was first con­duct­ed in 2017, the per­cent­age of health­care mar­keters who place a medi­um (3) to high (4–5) pri­or­i­ty on con­tent has grown from 85% to 89%.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: Even before the pan­dem­ic, mar­com teams were jug­gling com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties and divid­ing time between myr­i­ad dis­ci­plines. In the lat­est By the Num­bers report from the Soci­ety for Health­care Strat­e­gy and Mar­ket Devel­op­ment, at least 50% of mar­keters sur­veyed were respon­si­ble for 19 dis­parate job functions—ranging from media/public rela­tions and brand strat­e­gy to mar­ket research and com­mu­ni­ty education.

As time and resources are con­strained, it will be increas­ing­ly crit­i­cal for mar­keters to avoid cater­ing to squeaky wheels and chas­ing bright, shiny objects. By build­ing a busi­ness case for proven engage­ment and growth ini­tia­tives like those asso­ci­at­ed with con­tent strat­e­gy, mar­keters can focus on those pri­or­i­ties that deliv­er max­i­mum impact.


Measuring the ROI of Content Marketing

Q: How suc­cess­ful is your orga­ni­za­tion at track­ing the ROI of its con­tent mar­ket­ing efforts?


Q: How successful is your organization at tracking the ROI of its content marketing efforts?


The trend: Mar­keters have come a long way since the sur­vey was first con­duct­ed four years ago. The 65% of respon­dents who said their orga­ni­za­tions are suc­cess­ful at track­ing the ROI of con­tent mar­ket­ing rep­re­sents a 21% increase since 2017.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: With near­ly 9 in 10 mar­keters track­ing ROI and the large major­i­ty con­sid­er­ing their efforts suc­cess­ful, stand­ing out from the crowd requires a data-dri­ven approach. By ana­lyz­ing search trends, com­peti­tor traf­fic and oth­er vari­ables, your con­tent will be fine tuned to audi­ence inter­ests and orga­ni­za­tion­al priorities—and gen­er­ate opti­mal ROI.

Get more insights: Read our blog post on incorporating research to drive content marketing ROI.


How Content Marketing Success Is Measured

Q: What met­rics does your orga­ni­za­tion use to assess con­tent mar­ket­ing success?


Q: How successful is your organization at tracking the ROI of its content marketing efforts?


The trend: The top three key per­for­mance indicators—website traf­fic, called/lead vol­ume and qual­i­ta­tive feed­back, respectively—have remained unchanged since 2017. The most sig­nif­i­cant shift is social engagement/following mov­ing into the top five KPIs (fea­tured above), which were fol­lowed by awareness/recall and SEO per­for­mance at 53%, and direct vol­ume attri­bu­tion with 30% of those sur­veyed bas­ing the suc­cess of their con­tent strat­e­gy on the num­ber of appoint­ments gen­er­at­ed through con­tent marketing.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: A growth-focused approach will con­tin­ue to emerge as the most impor­tant met­ric of con­tent mar­ket­ing suc­cess, espe­cial­ly in an envi­ron­ment where finan­cial recov­ery is paramount—and mar­ket­ing is charged with lead­ing this effort. This even applies to chan­nels like web­sites and social media that have tra­di­tion­al­ly been con­sid­ered brand builders.

Get­ting ahead of the curve now will posi­tion your orga­ni­za­tion for the future and ensure you con­tin­ue invest­ing in con­tent as a rev­enue driver.

Get more insights: Read our blog post on what you can do now to drive growth after COVID-19.


Content Marketing Channels and Tactics

Q: Please select the con­tent mar­ket­ing tac­tics used by your organization.


Q: How successful is your organization at tracking the ROI of its content marketing efforts?


The trend: The most-used con­tent mar­ket­ing tac­tics are vir­tu­al­ly iden­ti­cal to last year, with the excep­tion of print magazines/newsletters gain­ing a spot over in-per­son events to round out the top seven.

What it means for health­care mar­keters: A dig­i­tal-first approach to health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing will remain the stan­dard for engag­ing the mod­ern con­sumer con­di­tioned by the likes of Ama­zon. How­ev­er, mar­keters neglect print at their per­il with cus­tomers expe­ri­enc­ing more dig­i­tal noise than sig­nal and the organ­ic reach of web and social con­tent decreas­ing. With dou­ble-dig­it growth in using print as part of an over­all con­tent strat­e­gy, mar­keters are fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Face­book, AirBNB and oth­er glob­al brands in lever­ag­ing these lean-back, longer-form touch­points that add val­ue to the cus­tomer experience.

Get more insights: Read our blog post on 7 reasons print makes sense for healthcare marketers.


Content Marketing Tactics to Build Brand and Engagement

Q: What are the most effec­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing tac­tics used by your orga­ni­za­tion to gen­er­ate brand aware­ness and con­sumer engagement?


Q: What are the most effective content marketing tactics used by your organization to generate brand awareness and consumer engagement?


What it means for health­care mar­keters: The mod­ern, dig­i­tal-first approach to mar­ket­ing is clear­ly demon­strat­ed in the pri­ma­ry chan­nels used to gen­er­ate aware­ness and shape per­cep­tion. This also reflects the impor­tance of an inte­grat­ed strat­e­gy that includes paid, owned and earned media to build and nur­ture rela­tion­ships with con­sumers in ear­ly stages of the deci­sion cycle.

Get more insights: Learn how Methodist Health System engages consumers through an integrated content strategy.


Content Marketing Tactics to Generate Leads

Q: What are the most effec­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing tac­tics used by your orga­ni­za­tion to gen­er­ate leads for high-val­ue services?


Q: What are the most effective content marketing tactics used by your organization to generate leads for high-value services?


What it means for health­care mar­keters: The top three chan­nels illus­trate the impor­tance of a con­tent strat­e­gy that com­pris­es both lead gen­er­a­tion and nur­tur­ing ini­tia­tives. The large major­i­ty of fol­low­ers on your social chan­nels (#1) and vis­i­tors to your web­site or con­tent hub (#3 and #5) are not ready to sched­ule an appoint­ment, which makes email (#2)—often fea­tur­ing video (#4)—critical to stay con­nect­ed and advance con­sumers toward a goal conversion.

For cam­paigns specif­i­cal­ly designed to gen­er­ate leads, gat­ing con­tent assets can be effec­tive way to fill the pipeline for pri­or­i­ty ser­vice lines.

Get more insights: Read our blog post on top lead generation content types at every stage of the healthcare consumer journey.


Content Marketing Tactics to Engage Physicians

Q: What are the most effec­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing tac­tics used by your orga­ni­za­tion to engage physicians?


Q: What are the most effective content marketing tactics used by your organization to engage physicians?


What it means for health­care mar­keters: Email is the pre­ferred means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for physi­cians by a large mar­gin, and mar­keters are meet­ing this need by deliv­er­ing rel­e­vant, engag­ing infor­ma­tion to their inbox­es. For best results, pro­vide con­tent that enables effec­tive uti­liza­tion of tele­health and oth­er new advance­ments by arm­ing physi­cians with mes­sag­ing on pol­i­cy changes, fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions and oth­er resources they need to effec­tive­ly con­nect with patients.

Get more insights: Read our blog post on best practices for marketing to physicians.


Social Media Platforms Used to Promote/Distribute Content

Q: What social media plat­forms does your orga­ni­za­tion use to dis­trib­ute content?


Q: What social media platforms does your organization use to distribute content?

The trend: Face­book has been the #1 social plat­form used by health­care mar­keters since the sur­vey began in 2017. The oth­er plat­forms in the top five have trad­ed spots while com­mand­ing the major­i­ty of mar­ket­ing time and resources com­pared to oth­er social plat­forms like Pin­ter­est (16%) and more nascent chan­nels Tik­Tok (9%) and SnapChat (4%).


  • #1:Facebook = same as last year
  • #2: Insta­gram = up from #2 last year (tied with YouTube)
  • #3: LinkedIn = same as last year
  • #4: Twit­ter = down from #1 last year (tied with Facebook)
  • #5: YouTube = down from #2 last year (tied with Instagram)


What it means for health­care mar­keters: As we’re social dis­tanc­ing, social media is fill­ing the gaps for con­nect­ing with the peo­ple and brands we value—and Face­book is the #1 social plat­form con­sumers turn to for time­ly, acces­si­ble and action­able infor­ma­tion. Whether active­ly fol­lowed or shared by a friend or loved one, a hospital’s Face­book con­tent is often a first step in a health­care deci­sion cycle that could last weeks, months or even years depend­ing on the con­di­tion. Make this path as clear as pos­si­ble by post­ing organ­ic con­tent and tar­get­ed ads that align with each step on the journey.


Get more insights: Read our blog post on 7 ways you should be using social media in healthcare.


NOTE: This con­tent is updat­ed each year based on find­ings from our annu­al State of Health­care Con­tent Mar­ket­ing survey.

Let’s Level Up Your Healthcare Content Strategy

Our team of health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing experts is here to help.

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

Get more out of your print magazine with an integrated strategy. Here’s how healthcare leaders are evolving their approach to content marketing.

If you’re already using print con­tent mar­ket­ing, 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 con­tent mar­ket­ing is part of your 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 print con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­gram to a more inte­grat­ed strat­e­gy 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.”


Let’s Build Your Content Strategy Together

Find out how we’re help­ing health­care orga­ni­za­tions like yours find, engage and con­vert patients and prospects.

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. 

Download the Full Report

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

Get more insights and exam­ples to guide your COVID-19 com­mu­ni­ca­tions plan.


We’re Here to Help

Our team will tai­lor a con­tent strat­e­gy to guide your com­mu­ni­ty dur­ing the crisis.

Why Print Marketing Makes Sense for Healthcare Marketers

This year, we launched more custom publications for healthcare organizations than we have in several years.

This resur­gence reflects the val­ue of print health­care mar­ket­ing 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 healthcare marketing.

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 health­care con­tent via oth­er mar­ket­ing 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.

Sign up for updates!

Sign up for updates!

Get marketing tips delivered straight to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!