Data Science for Content Marketing with Christopher Penn

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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Why Frequency in Healthcare Marketing Matters

We’ve probably all heard the old marketing adage: It takes about seven impressions for prospects to remember your brand and consider buying from you. Content cadence and frequency is as critical as content quality when it comes to building awareness, preference and loyalty in healthcare marketing—and striking a balance between engaging and fatiguing your audience can be tricky.

As any­one who’s dis­cov­ered a brand or bought some­thing from them based on a dig­i­tal ad, blog post or mag­a­zine arti­cle knows: Tim­ing mat­ters in mar­ket­ing. And while heart screen­ings and hip replace­ments aren’t exact­ly impulse buys, con­nect­ing with con­sumers who aren’t famil­iar with your brand—and mak­ing it easy for them to find your con­tent and take action when they’re ready—can have a big impact on performance.

We know there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to health­care mar­ket­ing, but let’s take a look at what the data says about fre­quen­cy, along with our expe­ri­ence in help­ing health­care orga­ni­za­tions engage con­sumers through the most pop­u­lar mar­ket­ing channels.

Email Marketing

While shiny new chan­nels like chat­bots and Tik­Tok gar­ner most of the atten­tion from mar­keters, there’s an over­looked plat­form that con­sis­tent­ly deliv­ers results: email. In fact, Lit­mus research found that email mar­ket­ing returns $38 for every dol­lar invest­ed, and health­care con­sumers love email so much they’d even be will­ing to pay per inter­ac­tion with a physi­cian. With 99% of con­sumers check­ing their email every day, reach­ing them with rel­e­vant con­tent on a reg­u­lar sched­ule is a crit­i­cal piece of an effec­tive health­care mar­ket­ing plan.

What the data says:
Accord­ing to a Mar­ket­ing­Sh­er­pa sur­vey, 61% of users pre­fer receiv­ing a pro­mo­tion­al email at least once a month, and 15% say they wouldn’t mind receiv­ing a pro­mo­tion­al email every day. (Entre­pre­neur)

In our expe­ri­ence:
Send­ing emails to a list of patients or prospects with­out their per­mis­sion is nev­er a great idea. So assum­ing your audi­ence wants to hear from you, here is what we have found most effective:

  • For health and well­ness email newslet­ters designed to gen­er­ate aware­ness and build trust as part of a robust con­tent strat­e­gy, set a goal to send every oth­er week or even week­ly if pos­si­ble. Even bet­ter, offer­ing mul­ti­ple sub­scrip­tion options based on the user’s desired fre­quen­cy (like we do) ensures you’re reach­ing the audi­ence not only how but when they want to hear from you.
  • For nur­tur­ing prospects gen­er­at­ed by a health risk assess­ment, paid search cam­paign or oth­er source, a cadence of 5–12 total mes­sages in the two months fol­low­ing lead cre­ation is ide­al to move con­sumers toward a goal con­ver­sion. The total num­ber of mes­sages and the time between them will vary based on the cam­paign goals and MarTech tools used.

Blog and Social Content

Your dig­i­tal con­tent says a lot about your brand. If your site and social media con­tent is sta­t­ic for weeks (or worse, months), any traf­fic received will leave vis­i­tors with a neg­a­tive impression—and they like­ly nev­er come back. Your dig­i­tal con­tent will become increas­ing­ly impor­tant as brands like Ama­zon and Wal­mart con­di­tion health­care con­sumers to expect an online expe­ri­ence sim­i­lar to retail brands.

What the data says:
You might be sur­prised to know that while there’s a sur­plus of data about why blog posts are inte­gral to mar­ket­ing, there’s not much on the ide­al fre­quen­cy of post­ing. This is because, well, it depends. (Hub­spot)

In our expe­ri­ence:
Search is the No. 1 source of site traf­fic for lead­ing health sys­tems, and while build­ing organ­ic rank­ings doesn’t hap­pen overnight, a com­mit­ment to post­ing qual­i­ty con­tent on a con­sis­tent sched­ule can accel­er­ate the process. Once key­word research and oth­er ele­ments of con­tent plan­ning are com­plete, we rec­om­mend a min­i­mum of week­ly blog posts pro­mot­ed at least 2–3 times on social media and via email. For larg­er health systems/teams in high­ly com­pet­i­tive mar­kets, we sug­gest 4–10 new or updat­ed blog posts per month. This will ensure your site shows up when con­sumers are seek­ing health infor­ma­tion (and ranks above competitors).

Print Marketing

Com­pared to your email inbox that receives an aver­age of 121 mes­sages per day, your mail­box is prac­ti­cal­ly des­o­late. Print offers as close to a guar­an­teed inter­ac­tion as it gets with 80% of direct mail recip­i­ents read­ing or scan­ning each piece before throw­ing any of it away. This means that mar­keters who aren’t lever­ag­ing print are leav­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty on the (cof­fee) table.

Whether it’s a cus­tom pub­li­ca­tion to build aware­ness and trust or a post­card offer­ing ser­vice line prospects a free screen­ing, print could be what con­nects with your audi­ence, espe­cial­ly if it is tar­get­ed, inte­grat­ed with dig­i­tal chan­nels and deliv­ered on a con­sis­tent schedule.

What the data says:
Fifty-nine per­cent of those sur­veyed by Epsilon enjoy get­ting mail from brands about new prod­ucts, and 41% of Amer­i­cans look for­ward to check­ing their mail each day, accord­ing to Gallup.

For a cus­tom mag­a­zine, the Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Insti­tute asserts that the most effec­tive fre­quen­cy is quar­ter­ly or more.

In our expe­ri­ence:
Hav­ing devel­oped thou­sands of hos­pi­tal pub­li­ca­tions and direct mail cam­paigns over the past 30 years, we can defin­i­tive­ly say that the ide­al fre­quen­cy is … it depends.

Sev­er­al fac­tors dri­ve the fre­quen­cy con­ver­sa­tion in health­care mar­ket­ing, includ­ing goals, audi­ence pref­er­ences and bud­get. That said, here are our gen­er­al guide­lines for print mar­ket­ing resources:

For direct mail used as part of an inte­grat­ed cam­paign to dri­ve ser­vice line growth, a month­ly cadence is a good place to start. Any­thing less fre­quent is more like­ly to get lost among the cred­it card offers and, increas­ing­ly, catalogs.

For pub­li­ca­tions designed to influ­ence con­sumer perception/choice and physi­cian refer­rals, we rec­om­mend a quar­ter­ly deliv­ery sched­ule at min­i­mum. This allows health­care providers to cov­er time­ly and sea­son­al top­ics along with pro­mot­ing a vari­ety of ser­vice lines with­in each issue.

Digital Advertising

With online resources start­ing to replace a physi­cian’s refer­ral for many consumers—and health­care orga­ni­za­tions ramp­ing up dig­i­tal ad spend in response, the ele­ment of fre­quen­cy to ensure your mes­sage meets con­sumers where they are in the patient jour­ney is becom­ing even more important.

What the data says:
Face­book research, done in con­junc­tion with Ora­cle and based on track­ing sales response to ads for pack­aged-goods prod­ucts, finds the ide­al aver­age expo­sure fre­quen­cy is one to two impres­sions week­ly over at least 10 weeks for a cam­paign. (AdAge)

In our expe­ri­ence:
While opti­mal fre­quen­cy can be a mov­ing tar­get depend­ing on the cam­paign focus, tar­get audi­ence and bud­get, we gen­er­al­ly ascribe to a rule of at least three expo­sures before mea­sur­ing results and opti­miz­ing as needed.

It’s espe­cial­ly impor­tant to under­stand the cor­re­la­tion between how fre­quent­ly you post an ad and the ad’s rel­e­vance score, and to track the lat­ter on a reg­u­lar basis, as rel­e­vance score tends to drop as fre­quen­cy increas­es. Ads that have high rel­e­vance scores ear­ly in the cam­paign typ­i­cal­ly see those scores drop as the ad is served to the same audi­ence mul­ti­ples times.

A Few Final Words on Frequency in Healthcare Marketing

While it’s clear that the ide­al fre­quen­cy varies based on the goal, audi­ence and chan­nel (among oth­er fac­tors), there are uni­ver­sal guide­lines that can inform how often you engage your audience.

No mat­ter the chan­nel, keep these five mar­ket­ing tenets in mind to deter­mine the right fre­quen­cy for deliv­er­ing health­care mar­ket­ing content:

  1. Know your audi­ence. How often do they pre­fer to receive con­tent? If you’re unsure, sim­ply ask!
  2. Think qual­i­ty over quan­ti­ty. Like the per­son who choos­es her words care­ful­ly, strive to add val­ue with every con­tent asset and cam­paign you cre­ate rather than add to the noise.
  3. Make every touch mat­ter. Avoid ran­dom acts of con­tent and only deliv­er con­tent when you have some­thing mean­ing­ful to say.
  4. Keep score. Anoth­er adage that bears repeat­ing: “If you can’t mea­sure it, you can’t man­age it”—so make sure you’re track­ing the right met­rics that can inform cadence (and oth­er ele­ments of con­tent strategy).
  5. Test and learn. What works today might not work tomor­row (espe­cial­ly when it comes to search), so exper­i­ment with mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cies to find the sweet spot for your audi­ence and mar­ket­ing goals.

Let’s Talk Timing (and More)

Our health­care mar­ket­ing experts are ready to tai­lor a strat­e­gy that ensures your con­tent reach­es con­sumers, physi­cians and oth­er audi­ences at the per­fect time.

A 5‑Step Content Planning Framework for Effective Digital Marketing

The planning phase is critical for an effective content strategy. Here’s a five-step framework for digital marketing to ensure each web page and blog post makes an impact.

As with any mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, a well-planned approach to con­tent mar­ket­ing can mean the dif­fer­ence between suc­cess and failure—especially as health­care orga­ni­za­tions are embrac­ing con­tent like nev­er before. In fact, our lat­est State of Health­care Con­tent Mar­ket­ing sur­vey found 97% of respon­dents are using con­tent or plan­ning to lever­age con­tent to engage audi­ences and dri­ve growth. That means dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing your approach is more crit­i­cal than ever—and it starts with a sol­id frame­work for dig­i­tal marketing. 

Based on our work with hos­pi­tals and oth­er health­care orga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try, here’s a five-step frame­work for dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing that our team uses to ensure every piece of con­tent we cre­ate aligns with the clien­t’s goals and tar­get audience.

Step 1: Create an SEO strategy and conduct keyword research.

Most web con­tent gets zero organ­ic traf­fic and pages ranked beyond page 1 are ignored. To over­come these chal­lenges, start with a search engine opti­miza­tion (SEO) strat­e­gy that charts a clear and effec­tive course for your con­tent plan.

This strate­gic approach to con­tent ensures the time and resources you’ll invest gen­er­ate qual­i­ty traf­fic that can trans­late into brand and rev­enue growth.

The first step in cre­at­ing an SEO strat­e­gy is to bench­mark your per­for­mance. Use a tool like SEM­Rush (our favorite) to find out which key­words your site ranks for and using those insights, set goals for con­tent per­for­mance and define the met­rics that will be used to mea­sure success.

If your goals are focused on gen­er­at­ing traf­fic and top-of-the-fun­nel leads, these can include (among oth­ers based on your goals):

  • Total ses­sions
  • Total new/return users
  • Key­word performance/trend
  • Aver­age pages per ses­sion and time on site

Next, con­duct key­word research to iden­ti­fy those terms that align with your pri­or­i­ty services.

Here are the pri­ma­ry steps in the process:

  • Cre­ate a “wish list” of key­words for which you want to rank #1 (or at least page 1) of the search engine results page.
  • Using an SEO tool or sim­ply key­ing key­words into Google, check the com­pe­ti­tion for your tar­get list.
  • Based on the analy­sis in the step above, refine your list to include the key­words you can com­pete for and have the exper­tise to address via your content.

Step 2: Define your topic categories.

Now that you’ve devel­oped an SEO strat­e­gy, you’re ready to round out the plan with inter­nal per­spec­tive and audi­ence data. This 360-degree view helps you con­sid­er how to engage your audi­ence around top­ics they care about, while strate­gi­cal­ly incor­po­rat­ing ele­ments that posi­tion your brand as the author­i­ty and trust­ed advisor.

Along with key­word research, here are a few areas that guide your con­tent plan­ning efforts:

  • Ser­vice line priorities
  • Sea­son­al health obser­vances and initiatives
  • Hos­pi­tal news and updates
  • Ever­green health and well­ness issues

A few of the more com­mon ones we fea­ture are patient sto­ries, health and well­ness top­ics, news and events and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions and awards.

Crit­i­cal ques­tions to ask at this stage:

  • Which top­ics are most close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with your strate­gic priorities?
  • What con­tent can you cre­ate that can’t be found any­where else?
  • Which cat­e­gories can help you rank on page 1 of Google?

Putting the plan into action:

Cre­ate a brain­storm­ing map with strate­gic pri­or­i­ties as the cen­ter and spokes of the wheel for all your major top­ic ideas.

Pro Tip: Source inter­views and sources early—and make friends with the clin­i­cal resources who are will­ing to help and be fea­tured in posts. 

Step 3: Get in sync with stakeholders.

An effec­tive frame­work for dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing shouldn’t exist in a vac­u­um. The most suc­cess­ful strate­gies are devel­oped in part­ner­ship with peers in PR, ser­vice line man­age­ment, oper­a­tions, foun­da­tion, advo­ca­cy and oth­er areas.

This typ­i­cal­ly involves meet­ing with depart­ment lead­ers to dis­cuss key con­tent ele­ments, including:

Dif­fer­en­tia­tors—What sets your orga­ni­za­tion apart? Is it your spe­cial­ists, tech­niques, tech­nol­o­gy, location/convenience?

Sub­ject mat­ter experts—Who should we fea­ture in our paid/earned/owned media chan­nels based on exper­tise, per­son­al­i­ty and reputation?

Capac­i­ty—What is the wait­ing peri­od for a fea­tured ser­vice line, and how many patients can they accom­mo­date with­in a rea­son­able time­line after con­tent deploys?

Calls to action—What do we want users to do after con­sum­ing the content?

Lead intake—How can we reduce fric­tion when some­one inter­acts with our content?

Pro Tip: If you have a large orga­ni­za­tion with mul­ti­ple cam­pus­es or facil­i­ties, you are like­ly fac­ing an issue where you are try­ing to be equi­table with who you feature—from what ser­vice lines/physicians/campuses across mul­ti­ple con­tent forms. The good news: You’re not alone. Even con­tent mar­ket­ing lead­ers at Cleve­land Clinic—the No. 1 hos­pi­tal blog in Amer­i­ca with 7+ mil­lion ses­sions per month—deals with this issue.  In our expe­ri­ence, iden­ti­fy­ing a peer with­in your orga­ni­za­tion who can part­ner with you to track this and reach out to those var­i­ous inter­nal play­ers is an effec­tive strategy.

Crit­i­cal ques­tions to ask at this stage:

  • What makes your orga­ni­za­tion unique?
  • List three sub­ject mat­ter experts you can use.
  • List new inno­va­tions or part­ner­ships planned in the next 6–12 months.

Putting the plan into action:

For each piece of con­tent, iden­ti­fy the pur­pose, the audi­ence and the call to action.

Step 4: Flesh out the plan with other relevant data.

To ensure the con­tent plan is ful­ly informed, con­sid­er oth­er data sets that can guide your direc­tion on audi­ence, chan­nels, cadence, calls to action and oth­er elements.

This can include:

  • User/Reader sur­veys
  • Focus groups
  • Web­site metrics
  • Key­word research
  • Con­sumer data
  • Social met­rics
  • Nation­al headlines

Crit­i­cal ques­tions to ask at this stage:

  • What is the community’s per­cep­tion of your brand?
  • Which top­ics do your com­mu­ni­ties care about?
  • What key­words are you rank­ing for? Which ones have the most potential?

Putting the plan into action:

Brain­storm a list of places where you can gath­er data and infor­ma­tion about your audi­ence (any­thing from sur­veys to social engage­ment to con­sumer data trends, etc.)

Pro Tip: Of course, there’s still room for “heart” and “gut” checks in mar­ket­ing, but it needs to be both/and. Start with the data and let that be the pri­ma­ry dri­ver, along­side your gut, and go from there. 

Step 5: Map out your plan.

Now that you’ve col­lab­o­rat­ed with stake­hold­ers and ana­lyzed data to define your audience(s), top­ic cat­e­gories and chan­nels, it’s time to map out the con­tent plan itself.

This typ­i­cal­ly includes the fol­low­ing ele­ments that can make or break a con­tent strategy:

  • Audi­ences
  • Chan­nels
  • For­mats
  • Cadence
  • Calls to Action

When it comes to con­tent plan­ning and man­age­ment, keep it sim­ple and remem­ber: The key is not hav­ing the right tool but under­stand­ing your goals and think­ing con­tent first. In fact, we often use Google Sheets as one of the eas­i­est and most effec­tive tools to plan, man­age and track content.

Crit­i­cal ques­tions to ask at this stage:

  • How fre­quent­ly can you deliv­er rel­e­vant con­tent to your audience?
  • How often does your audi­ence want to hear from you?
  • What for­mat do you use to track your content? 

Putting the plan into action:

Move your brain­storm­ing for­mats into a cal­en­dar for plan­ning. Be sure to include enough time in the sched­ule for copy­writ­ing, design­ing, editing/proofreading and fact check­ing. And build in time on the back end for reporting.

Pro Tip: Plan out and deliv­er assign­ments as far in advance as you can—if you know Heart Month is a focus, get start­ed in Octo­ber or Novem­ber to leave room for adjust­ments, more cre­ativ­i­ty, and the abil­i­ty to pick up last minute requests.

Bonus Tip: 3 Ways to Error-Proof Your Content during the Planning Process

Based on our expe­ri­ence, here are some tips for avoid­ing most com­mon errors when build­ing and exe­cut­ing a con­tent plan:

  1. Make time for stake­hold­ers to weigh in dur­ing your process. If you need legal to review, build in time for that. If you need a physi­cian or patient to approve, build in time for that (and add a 2–3 day buffer to the actu­al deadline).
  2. Cre­ate check­lists for each step of the process and the process itself. This will reduce errors and keep your con­tent consistent.
  3. Choose a style guide. Your high school Eng­lish teacher was wrong: Gram­mar is sub­jec­tive. Some gram­mar and punc­tu­a­tion is brand pref­er­ence, so decide those things and stick to it. Most health­care and busi­ness orgs use jour­nal­is­tic style guides like AP and Chica­go and then add some excep­tions. Write this down and use it con­sis­tent­ly across your orga­ni­za­tion. Con­sis­ten­cy builds an uncon­scious trust. No one notices your gram­mar until you make a mis­take or it’s not consistent. 

Final thought: Don’t set-it-and-forget-it!

Of course, the process of cre­at­ing a frame­work for dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing is iter­a­tive and the plan needs to be refined as con­sumer pref­er­ences change, new chan­nels and com­peti­tors emerge, and oth­er issues impact performance.

Get more insights with our checklist for creating website content.

Want More Expert Perspective?

Our team of health­care mar­ket­ing experts is here to guide your con­tent strat­e­gy to greater success.

6 Questions to Improve Your Healthcare Content Marketing Strategy

It’s time to take a deep dive into what makes healthcare content marketing strategies tick.

Con­tent mar­ket­ing is an iter­a­tive process and made of many mov­ing parts, and that rings espe­cial­ly true in the health­care space. With so much to con­sid­er when try­ing to meet con­sumer demand for health infor­ma­tion, it can be easy to fall into the cycle of cre­at­ing “ran­dom acts of con­tent” and lose track of what makes health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing strate­gies effec­tive in the first place.

By ask­ing your­self these six ques­tions, you can focus lim­it­ed resources and take advan­tage of this pow­er­ful tool for engag­ing your com­mu­ni­ties and achiev­ing your orga­ni­za­tion’s strate­gic objectives.

1. WHY is content marketing effective for healthcare organizations?

A: Con­sumers are con­stant­ly search­ing for health­care information.

Online health­care search­es have increased so much over the years that Google has imple­ment­ed a new fea­ture that dis­plays doc­tor-curat­ed med­ical infor­ma­tion along­side search results for com­mon health con­di­tions. This infor­ma­tion includes symp­toms and treat­ment options and is high­light­ed with illus­tra­tions (try search­ing “ton­sil­li­tis” to see the fea­ture in action).

Accord­ing to Google, 1 in every 20 queries is relat­ed to health care and as illus­trat­ed by the chart below from the 2019 PRC Nation­al Health­care Con­sumer Study, the Inter­net is now the No. 1 source of information—surpassing friends/relatives and even the fam­i­ly doctor—about doc­tors and hospitals.

“Con­tent real­ly is a fun­da­men­tal com­po­nent to any health­care mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy because almost no one makes appoint­ments or deci­sions about their care with­out doing some research first,” says Jane Cros­by, vice pres­i­dent of strat­e­gy and busi­ness devel­op­ment at True North Cus­tom. “With­out great con­tent, health­care mar­keters can’t solve con­sumers’ prob­lems or answer their ques­tions in an engag­ing, scal­able way.”

2. WHAT can you accomplish with an effective healthcare content marketing strategy?

A: An effec­tive health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy will dri­ve qual­i­fied leads, strength­en rela­tion­ships with con­sumers and grow your organization.

A con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy should be two-pronged, with each prong accom­plish­ing a dif­fer­ent pur­pose. The two prongs to effec­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing are:

Active engage­ment through web­site con­tent that is focused on solv­ing prob­lems and answer­ing ques­tions for con­sumers who are search­ing for treat­ment options and con­di­tion infor­ma­tion, result­ing in qual­i­fied leads and conversions

Pas­sive engage­ment through health and well­ness con­tent that is focused on build­ing and nur­tur­ing rela­tion­ships with con­sumers through blogs, social media and oth­er chan­nels, result­ing in brand and rev­enue growth gen­er­at­ed by stronger con­sumer rela­tion­ships, a robust online pres­ence and lead development

“There’s a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence between active and pas­sive health­care con­tent engage­ment,” Cros­by explains. “What’s impor­tant for mar­keters when sell­ing the val­ue of these strate­gies to stake­hold­ers is to inform them that pas­sive engage­ment is a long-term play that builds trust, while active engage­ment will dri­ve short-term ROI.”

3. HOW can you develop an effective healthcare content marketing strategy?

A: Be inten­tion­al with the sub­ject mat­ter and goals of your content—ensuring they are rel­e­vant to the audi­ences served.

The health­care mar­ket­ing space is quick­ly becom­ing sat­u­rat­ed with con­tent, which makes it all the more impor­tant for you to be inten­tion­al about the type of con­tent you’re pro­duc­ing, both in terms of sub­ject mat­ter and the con­tent goals.

For exam­ple, when con­sumers are ready to learn more about their symp­toms or sched­ule an appoint­ment, it’s impor­tant to offer con­tent on your web­site that direct­ly address­es their needs.

“You want to ensure you’re mak­ing good choic­es in terms of what con­sumers might actu­al­ly be search­ing for,” Cros­by says. “We some­times see clients whose web­sites are boast­ing about tech­nol­o­gy or out­comes, but when some­one is search­ing for infor­ma­tion about a symp­tom they’re expe­ri­enc­ing, your goal should be to edu­cate them about what they should do next and help them get there.”

In addi­tion, you want to cre­ate fresh, var­ied con­tent that stands out from your com­peti­tors and includes key­words based on thor­ough research and analy­sis. This approach cre­ates a con­ver­sion path that moves con­sumers through the health­care deci­sion cycle.

“You don’t want to be cre­at­ing the same pieces month in and month out,” Cros­by says. “For exam­ple, vap­ing is a time­ly top­ic and we have many clients ask­ing us to write arti­cles about vap­ing. But the ques­tion is: What unique or local­ized view­point can you offer on the topic—and what do you want con­sumers to do after engag­ing with the piece? Because there are thou­sands of oth­er peo­ple writ­ing arti­cles about vap­ing right now. Find a new angle that oth­ers aren’t discussing.”

Keep­ing your con­tent fresh means that your web­site is nev­er real­ly finished—you should always be adding new con­tent and opti­miz­ing pre­vi­ous con­tent based on your consumer’s inter­ests and online activity.

“You can’t set up a web­site and expect it to be great for the next two years,” Cros­by says. “Google rewards fresh con­tent, so hav­ing a strat­e­gy in place to add blog con­tent and opti­mize web pages on a reg­u­lar basis is key to being effec­tive from an SEO perspective.”


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4. WHAT channels are the most effective?

A: Meet your audi­ence wher­ev­er they are.

Your efforts should be spread across mul­ti­ple chan­nels and plat­forms to meet con­sumers wher­ev­er they get their con­tent.

“Every con­sumer, physi­cian and donor has dif­fer­ent pref­er­ences regard­ing his or her con­sump­tion of con­tent,” Cros­by says. “Most con­tent is con­sumed online these days, but we’re still see­ing that print pub­li­ca­tions are incred­i­bly effec­tive.”

When using mul­ti­ple chan­nels such as blogs, social media, print and web con­tent, make sure that you work smarter, not hard­er. Instead of cre­at­ing a new piece of con­tent for every one of your chan­nels, con­sid­er reusing or repur­pos­ing con­tent in dif­fer­ent for­mats. For exam­ple, infor­ma­tion from a print arti­cle might be repur­posed as a blog post, info­graph­ic or both.

You can also spread larg­er pieces of con­tent across mul­ti­ple avenues to fos­ter inter­con­nec­tiv­i­ty between print and dig­i­tal plat­forms. This inte­grat­ed dis­tri­b­u­tion strat­e­gy is espe­cial­ly impor­tant as search becomes a less-depend­able source of site traffic.

“We see a lot of our clients lever­age their print pub­li­ca­tions to extend the con­ver­sa­tion online,” Cros­by says. “You might fea­ture half a sto­ry in a mag­a­zine and the oth­er half on your web­site, or pair a great patient sto­ry with a com­ple­men­tary video that can be con­sumed on a con­tent hub.”

5. WHO can you reach with content marketing?

A: The bet­ter ques­tion is: Is there any­one you can’t reach?

Con­tent mar­ket­ing efforts can reach any­one involved with your health­care orga­ni­za­tion, includ­ing con­sumers, physi­cians, donors and oth­er stake­hold­ers. Both exter­nal and inter­nal audi­ences can ben­e­fit from the right piece of con­tent when tai­lored to their spe­cif­ic interests.

“From an employ­ee and physi­cian engage­ment stand­point, con­tent mar­ket­ing can cre­ate a sense of com­mu­ni­ty and team­work that is chal­leng­ing to come across in a large orga­ni­za­tion,” Cros­by says. “We’ve also seen sit­u­a­tions where clients have helped empow­er physi­cians to deliv­er bet­ter out­comes and dri­ve down health­care costs through con­tent that dis­cuss­es best prac­tices and pop­u­la­tion health.”

Make sure you’re address­ing the needs and pref­er­ences of your dif­fer­ent audi­ence seg­ments when craft­ing content:

Con­sumers typ­i­cal­ly enjoy cre­ative con­tent spread across mul­ti­ple for­mats such as ani­mat­ed videos or infographics.

Physi­cians typ­i­cal­ly pre­fer con­tent that is more clin­i­cal in nature and high­lights out­comes and inno­va­tion with­in their organization.

Donors usu­al­ly enjoy see­ing how their dona­tions are being used in the com­mu­ni­ty, through sto­ries demon­strat­ing the impact of new equip­ment or facil­i­ties on the health of their friends and neighbors.

6. WHEN do you need to perform a content audit?

A: You should reg­u­lar­ly check your website’s con­tent and research SEO key­words, but a more deep-dive con­tent audit should be per­formed every one or two years—or in cas­es when your rank­ings have become stale.

Ongo­ing SEO report­ing can help your orga­ni­za­tion know what opti­miza­tions and improve­ments to make on a dai­ly and month­ly basis, espe­cial­ly when it comes to bal­anc­ing organ­ic and paid search efforts.

“You need to bal­ance both,” Cros­by says. “Even if you’re the top rank­ing result organ­i­cal­ly, some­one will almost always beat you out in the paid realm, espe­cial­ly for high pri­or­i­ty ser­vice lines such as ortho­pe­dics, bariatrics and cancer.”

Reg­u­lar key­word research can help you infuse con­tent with words that will improve your organ­ic search rank­ings. How­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to per­form reg­u­lar con­tent audits to make sure you’re keep­ing up with or out­pac­ing your competitors.

“Ongo­ing SEO report­ing focus­es on the per­for­mance of key­words and not nec­es­sar­i­ly on the gaps that might be present in your con­tent,” Cros­by says. “Peo­ple con­stant­ly find new ways to dis­cuss con­di­tions and treat­ments, and new tech­nolo­gies and ser­vices are always com­ing out. Con­tent audits can help you make sure you don’t have con­tent gaps regard­ing health­care deliv­ery, ter­mi­nol­o­gy or services.”

Once you have an effec­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy in place, you can begin using tech­nol­o­gy such as automa­tion tools to help enhance your efforts.

“Automa­tion comes into play main­ly once the con­sumer has already engaged with a health sys­tem,” Cros­by says. “Your core func­tion­al­i­ty will come from the web­site itself and mak­ing sure your con­tent is aligned with best prac­tices and opti­mized with search results.”

Let’s Build Your Content Strategy Together

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

Setting the Pace for Voice Search Content Marketing in Healthcare

By 2022, more than half of U.S. homes will have smart speakers — and nearly 3 in 4 people have used voice search within the past month. Find out how marketers at one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country are leading the way by leveraging “the shiny object” into a voice search content marketing strategy that actually works.

Serv­ing North Texas for more than 100 years, Children’s Health is con­sis­tent­ly named one of the top pedi­atric hos­pi­tals in the coun­try by U.S. News & World Report. Part of the team stew­ard­ing the brand and growth strat­e­gy of Children’s Health is Court­ney Cox, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing man­ag­er, who will be shar­ing her expert per­spec­tive on voice search and real-world exam­ples at Con­tent Mar­ket­ing World 2019.

We spoke with Court­ney in advance of her pre­sen­ta­tion titled “You Will Fail at Voice Search.”

Q: Why do you feel the topic of voice search content marketing is relevant for today’s healthcare marketing professionals?

There are so many rea­sons voice search makes sense for health care. First, when you think about being at home and try­ing to admin­is­ter med­i­cine, or take your kid’s tem­per­a­ture, or look close­ly at a spot on your partner’s arm, you don’t have your hands free to use your phone to look things up. We’ve lived in a world for the last decade where our phones have become increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful. They give us the access to lit­er­al­ly all the world’s knowl­edge, but frankly, the expe­ri­ence sucks. It’s so dis­rup­tive and unnat­ur­al to pick up your phone in the mid­dle of liv­ing your life to look some­thing up. Voice main­tains that acces­si­bil­i­ty to knowl­edge in a way that fits much more organ­i­cal­ly into the way we live our lives.

The sec­ond major rea­son voice search is rel­e­vant for today’s health­care mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als is that our patients often lack the phys­i­cal abil­i­ty to inter­act with a phone. Whether they have a vision impair­ment, a mobil­i­ty issue or they’re just too ill to go through the motions, voice search enables patients to access infor­ma­tion despite phys­i­cal limitations.

Q: It feels like early stages for voice applications in healthcare marketing; when do you estimate the majority of hospitals and health systems will adopt voice as part of their content marketing efforts?

It will be much faster than mobile, but not fast enough to keep up with mar­ket demand. Look, users are adopt­ing voice tech­nol­o­gy faster than any oth­er com­mu­ni­ca­tion device in his­to­ry. The health­care indus­try can be very con­ser­v­a­tive when it comes to tak­ing risks with new tech. Voice will be no dif­fer­ent. You have your pio­neers that have already begun to exper­i­ment, but real­is­ti­cal­ly, it’ll be at least anoth­er five years before it’s com­mon­place and prob­a­bly 10 before health­care voice mar­ket­ing will have matured.

Q: Can you share an anecdote or experience that illustrates how Children’s Health put this idea into practice?

Once we got a taste of that first voice search result, which was a search for “why can’t my kid sleep?” our team was hooked.

I’ve always been the type of per­son that wants to exper­i­ment with new tech­nol­o­gy, and we’re lucky to have lead­er­ship that allows us to explore and try new things. We decid­ed we were going to give organ­ic voice search a shot, and set out to find exist­ing con­tent that ranked for voice. We had exact­ly one rank­ing that we could find, but we nev­er stopped after that first taste.

Now we have hun­dreds of voice posi­tions, and we add more every day. But we’re still chas­ing dominance.

Q: What is the most important thing that you want attendees to take away from your presentation on voice search content marketing?

The most impor­tant thing I want atten­dees to take away from my pre­sen­ta­tion is to start now. The folks that are exper­i­ment­ing and try­ing this stuff out now will dom­i­nate share of voice for the next decade. We’ll be the ones every­one else is try­ing to mim­ic and beat. Don’t you want to be a part of that, rather than try­ing to catch up?

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