The Network

A Berry Network Blog

Marketing Your Healthcare Foundation Online

It’s an understatement to say that raising funds for your hospital foundation is a challenge, particularly in a tough economy. Having an online presence, however, can be an effective solution. Online marketing is quick, flexible, and a cost-effective means of soliciting and promoting your foundation initiatives. Still, challenges remain on knowing how to promote your foundation online, finding tools to use for capturing donations, and discovering which best practices are actually best for you. Following are some thoughts you should consider. Defining Your Target Before you begin mapping out an online strategy, you need to be clear on your objectives. Whether you are seeking donations to grow a specialty line or raising funds to hold a community event, your tactics will be different. Maybe you are looking to help support an affiliated cause such as breast cancer research – your online approach will be different yet again. By having specific objectives, you’ll know when and if you are reaching them. Growing a Specialty Line Suppose your objective is to raise money to expand your hospital’s cardiac care unit. An online blog is an excellent starting point. Blogs allow you to post case studies about local patients (with their permission, of course) that have received heart surgery and that are thankful for the technology and care they received from your hospital and staff. Another option is to have a cardiac surgeon post commentary about surgical procedures and the need for continued advancements in technology. You will likely be surprised about the level of community engagement the blog generates.   Your PR manager could also join in by posting on your hospital’s Twitter and Facebook site about the need for expanded cardiac care and the benefits it could bring to your community. Tapping into these forms of online social media provides the local community the ability to join discussions and ask questions in an open, friendly environment. Social media also provides users with the means of remaining anonymous if they so choose. Social Media widgets (mini Web applications) are available for plugging into your blog or Website for collecting donations. For instance, provides a free donation widget that you can download from their Website. The widget connects directly to e-commerce programs, such as PayPal, to give you instant and secure access to every donation you receive. Funding a Community Event From women’s health seminars, to dinner galas and children’s helmet safety programs, increasing donor income through fund-raising events is one of the most widely-used forms of foundation marketing. So, how do you get the word out about your event through online channels? If you have looked into online banner advertising in the past but thought against it due to suggestions of low “click-through” rates, you should reconsider. Online banner advertising has made significant advancements over recent years with hyper-local and user-centric targeting capabilities across large distribution networks. Most of these advertising networks can zero in on users based upon previous online history (behavioral targeting), page content (contextual targeting), and user location (geo-targeting). For instance, these capabilities would allow an advertiser to promote a bike riding event to those in its local community who are visiting a healthcare Website, and who have also visited an Alzheimer’s-related Website within the past 30 days. Some online banner programs also allow targeting by age and income demographics. If you need further evidence that online banner advertising is still viable, consider the fact that according to investment firm ThinkEquity, U.S. online ad spending is expected to reach $37.5 billion this year, up 18% over last year. Supporting a Cause  Another big question is “what marketing vehicle should I use to promote our foundation’s cause? While it’s true that mail-acquired donations is the leading medium for promoting gift-giving, you may be surprised to learn that online-acquired donors tend to give much larger gifts and give more in total revenue each year than mail-acquired donors. Whether you are seeking funds to directly support AIDS research or looking to promote your pediatric department with portions of the donations going to the Children’s Miracle Network, online marketing is a must for promoting healthcare causes. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is another very effective method of online marketing, particularly due to the nature of search – where online users are seeking relevant information, rather than having the information broadcast or pushed to them. Google Ad Words is the leader in SEM advertising. It allows users to promote local gift-giving through the purchase (bid) of keywords. For example, a hospital foundation for children’s research in Des Moines may want to bid on keywords that include cancer, oncology, children, pediatric, pediatrics, foundation, research and giving. When the user searches on any of these words and specifies Des Moines or Iowa, the foundation ad will appear in the search results. The higher the advertiser bids, the higher its ad will appear in the search results. Performance-based SEM programs are also available whereby advertisers only pay for ads clicked by the user. There are many ways to use online advertising to promote your healthcare foundation. Taking advantage of blogs, banner ads, social media, and search engine marketing is a great place to start. So, if you haven’t looked into online advertising lately, now is the time to look again. About the Author: Mark Williams is a Senior Media Strategist at Berry Network. Berry Network provides advertising solutions to national and local advertisers through a variety of print and online media. Berry Network is also the preferred advertising vendor for Novation member organizations. If you have questions or comments about this article or would like more information about online advertising solutions, please contact Berry Network, Healthcare Marketing, at 1-800-366-1264, or visit

A Social Hospital is a Healthy Hospital

Social media is the new frontier in healthcare communication. Patients are seeking answers before and after medical appointments. People that were once private about their medical conditions are now connecting with family, friends and complete strangers to get opinions on their conditions and possible treatments. And, today’s new “social patient” is venturing online to get ratings and reviews about hospitals and doctors in order to get more comfortable about their healthcare decisions. So, why all the caution and concern by hospitals about joining the new social revolution? Is it really that complicated and risky?  I believe most of the pressure and uncertainty can be eased by answering a few common questions for the hospital:   1.  How engaged should our hospital be in the social stratosphere? The social media environment is enormous; literally thousands of social networking sites and applications are available. The breadth of it all is simply overwhelming when you try to understand what’s available. So, don’t even try. The best approach to determining where—and to what degree—you should get engaged in social media is to look at it from an outward strategic perspective. Your organization needs to ask:   ·    Do we want to simply watch and be aware of conversations in our community? This is an activity that your healthcare organization should do at a minimum. The more you know about the topics and issues being discussed about your organization, its services and staff, the better you will be at shaping your organization for success. This activity is easy and can be done with little or no investment. You can simply use a browser and visit common social media sites.   ·    Do we want to go a step further by engaging our hospital in social conversations? The answer here can be more easily determined by deciding … “When a patient is expressing a complaint online, would we like the opportunity to respond and help solve the issue?” Or, “If a patient is posting a question about our services, would we like to offer answers for all to see, not just that patient?” If the answer is that you would like to engage in conversation, then you need to involve your IT department so that you can set up and manage your own social media accounts within your organization. I say this because many organizations block social media from company access. Begin by setting up accounts and responding to content on sites such as: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and Twibes.   ·    Do we want to go all the way into social media by becoming a thought leader and conversation starter?  Again, this depends upon your strategy as an organization. If you are the healthcare brand leader in your community, consumers expect you to take the lead in social conversations. They will watch what you post, how you position your organization, and what you say to patients and constituents in the community. Take the opportunity to do just that. Post your press releases on Twitter and Facebook. Announce job openings on those social networks — as well as on LinkedIn.  Get your physicians engaged on Facebook by posting their opinions on health topics and issues. Write articles for posting on WordPress and Blogger. The bottom line is, if you want to be a healthcare leader, you also need to be a leader on the social front by pushing content and creating discussions, rather than just reacting.   2.   How can we best use social media without the fear of violating HIPAA requirements? The position to take here is no different than what you do today. Your employees know they should never release information about specific patients and their medical information. You trust that they comply with HIPAA regulations in their personal time, why not trust that they would do the same in the work environment? Granted, incorporating social media into the workplace facilitates greater opportunities for employees to make mistakes, but it can also be viewed as a means for making employees more aware of privacy rules and methods. That said, a social media policy is a valuable document to help protect your organization from potential liability. The easiest way to begin drafting a policy is to look at how other organizations have already tackled the subject. One rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Danbury Hospital in Connecticut does a good job of this on their policy. They begin by differentiating between personal and professional online activities:   ·   Personal blogging is not a business-related activity and should be done during personal (non-work) time only.   ·   Company-sponsored blogging may only be done after express authorization of public relations/marketing.   ·   In the event that you participate in personal blogging, the following applies …   Other social media policies by hospitals include: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Sentara/OptimaHealth, Sutter Health, and MD Anderson. Perhaps the safest overall position I have seen organizations use to protect themselves is to have employees that are engaged in social media add a disclaimer on their blogs and social media sites similar to: “The opinions and statements on this site are my own and are not approved, reviewed or endorsed by my employer or any other organization.” You can find a host of additional information about social media policies for healthcare organizations at 100 Best Health Care Policy Blogs hosted by    3.   Who in our healthcare organizations should be responsible for social media? This is a question that your management needs to answer. Typically, a simple social media presence can be managed by one person. This person should be familiar with your hospital’s positioning, branding and service offerings. Quite often, this person is in a marketing, PR or customer relations role. This person can watch conversations, report on the sentiment and subjects discussed, monitor your competitors, and manage a corporate Twitter and LinkedIn page. However, if your communications strategy requires more social engagement, then you may want to add responsibilities that include writing and responding to blogs, speaker forums and chat rooms. This may require the involvement of a physician or another subject matter expert who can respond intelligently to questions and comments. At the highest level of social engagement, for organizations that want to be a community leader, you should form a “social team” that includes members from IT, marketing, public relations, community relations, and possibly members of your outside agency. The more connected team members are to each other and the more ownership each has in the process, the more successful the social media program will be. You should also assign a person within your organization to perform tracking and measurement using social media tracking tools such as: Twitalyzer, Twinfluence Rank, HootSuite, Addictomatic, Social Stats and Google Analytics.   In summary, the way I like to address hesitations and uncertainties about social media is to quote Reed Smith, director of project management at the Texas Hospital Association, who said, “These conversations are going to happen anyway, so it's just a matter of whether or not you're going to participate in the conversation. If you're not involved, you don't really have any influence."   If you would like assistance in creating a “healthy” social media program for your hospital, please contact me at  You can also join me on my social media sites below as well as on Twitter at @Just4Hospitals.  

Establish an Online Healthcare Presence to Hook Your Audience

80% of internet users look for health information online                                                        - Pew Internet   Health care marketing executives are tasked with leading the local community to their area of the pond.  They strive for community brand recognition through everything from billboards to direct mail campaigns, in hopes that the public will think of their hospital first when seeking health care services.  To further increase visibility, many are also turning to the internet to create an online presence. However, when it comes to the internet, the key to success is in knowing where to fish and what bait to use to get noticed.  Berry Network, an online and print advertising agency that provides services to VHA members, finds three strategies to be effective: Make Your Website a Destination Site It is old school to simply dangle a Website out on the internet in hopes that users will stumble upon it and find it enticing enough to get hooked.  Today, providers that have the greatest success understand that they must create engaging content that makes users want to keep them coming back for more on a regularly basis.  Hosting a CEO or physician blog is an ideal starting point.  Blogs allow users to post comments and questions and learn from the two-way conversation of others.  Equally effective is providing news updates on important hospital changes and announcements.  This provides a service to the community, keeping them informed on building expansions, new physicians, and recent advancements in health care procedures.  Another easy addition to your site is syndicated content.  For instance, the CDC offers a host of resources on health topics that can bolster your site.  At the site you can get RSS news feeds on health topics including seasonal flu, chronic disease, and emergency preparedness; widgets and buttons for administering online polls and health assessments; whitepapers and ebooks; and other site enhancements such as Podcasts and links to help users learn more about their specific health interests. To follow are examples of buttons you can apply to your site.     Engaging audiences through social media Today we are hearing more and more about social media, but does it really have a play for hospitals and other health care organizations?  According to the Pew Internet Study, 80% of internet users look for health information online.  The study also says that 41% of e-patients have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website or blog.  Further, according to a study by the National Research Corporation, 78.8% of Americans researched gave a level of 3 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 5) to the likelihood that social media influences their health care decisions.  Perhaps, this why more than 900 hospitals across the U.S., tracked by Ed Bennett, Director, Web Strategy, University of Maryland Medical Center, have jumped on the social bandwagon listening, creating conversation, and responding to the public.  One way to understand how social media may be useful for your organization is to watch and learn from the organizations that are already making a presence.  Children’s Hospital Boston, for instance, has more than a half-million likes from their Facebook page.  The Mayo Clinic engages with more than 100,000 followers on their Twitter page.  And, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital boasts a whopping 358,154 fans on Facebook.  These organizations also know that it is not enough to just have a presence, they have found ways to be creative and set themselves apart.  St. Jude’s, for instance, provides a special tab on their Facebook site for "Patient of the Month," and a "Shop" tab that allows visitors to purchase items from the hospital to support its fundraising efforts.  Physicians are also in the social media game creating online profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, and ZocDoc), authoring content (blogs, Medscape Connect, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter), connecting with other physicians (Sermo, HealthVault), and engaging with patients through mobile apps and community forums. Make Your Website Be Found When Users are Searching An equally effective method that marketers use to increase their online presence is making sure their hospital is found when users are searching health-related topics online.  Outside of the common search engine marketing and optimization methods your Webmaster is probably already doing, another tactic involves targeted banner advertising.  Unlike traditional Run-of-Site banner advertising, that has managed to get labeled as intrusive and wasteful, targeted banner ads do just the opposite.  Targeting technologies now allow advertisers to segment to the precise audience they want.  Programs like the AT&T/Yahoo Healthcare Network allows online targeting based on behavior (tracking online history by IP address), geography (regional or national), and demographics (age, gender, income, profession, etc.).  These programs can be easily managed with a fixed budget, simply by putting a cap on the number of paid impressions you want to deliver. Whether you’re talking about a fishing line or online, the principles are the same… make sure that what you are offering is enticing and keeps your users coming back for more.