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How to Maximize Your Healthcare Brand's Success with Less Budget

By Maurya Overall

Your CEO and/or president has declared their vision and goals. You've taken them in, been energized by them, and envisioned a strategy that you believe serves those goals.

Yet, just below that organizational direction sits a myriad of other goals and objectives that, in the day-to-day, draw your attention and budget. A service line or product needs support, a new disruptor is making noise and changing the market dynamics, the regulators are blocking your organization's growth, the shareholders are asking questions, and there are important stakeholders — people across the organization who want to know what you are doing to support their reputation.

If you work in healthcare marketing, you are probably all too familiar with this scenario. Likely you are skilled at navigating these trade-offs and finding ways to get traction on multiple important initiatives. But just as likely, this work feels removed from the institutional vision that you know will set your organization apart and drive growth.

There are three critical actions you can take that will help you drive impact and growth both in the near term and the long term. These will require letting go of existing beliefs and investing in new tools. But for those able to make the shift, you will have a blueprint for a truly cohesive strategy that will help your organization thrive.

First, deeply understand the business context.

It's hard work to get a whole group of people with different incentives to coordinate efforts in the ways that are needed. Healthcare marketing that can drive transformational value requires a broader set of players working in unison than many other industries.

While typically everyone is on board with the CEO's vision, prioritizing that against the immediate-term business objectives often results in a fractured strategy. Therefore, it is imperative to provide a "level setting" on the business landscape and your organization's place within it.

Artificial intelligence (AI), with its ability to consume and organize massive amounts of data, offers us an unparalleled and unbiased view into how an organization stands in the world. New AI platforms can offer competitive insights on how your organization and your competitors are discussed in news, blogs, forums, and social and owned channels. They can analyze trends, brands, behavior, sentiment, and channels at scale.

Using these tools, we can see what drives attention and what narratives are taking hold around topics we want to own. By leveraging the intel AI tools offer us, we can understand and analyze the landscape and identify the most impactful narratives. We can then build a strategic plan for the battles we need to win. When everyone is aligned on where the fights are, it is then possible to storm the field, shoulder to shoulder.

Second, let go of your old marketing frameworks.

Current marketing frameworks were built for managing the relationship between consumer and brand. But they are not broad enough to deliver on the complexity of the healthcare industry, with its vast array of audiences. We need a system-thinking approach that can connect and measure the impact of constituent initiatives within the context of the broader institutional strategy.

Narrative marketing offers this framework. Begin by distilling the C-suite's strategy with whatever strategic mapping methodology you believe in. We rely on Michael Porter's activity-map framework as a particularly effective tool — it captures both the important components of your business operations and the "bets" your leader is making.

Once you have your strategic foundation, narrative marketing offers a way to connect those strategies with the insights AI platforms provide. We can now see which narratives are gaining traction and can devise marketing plans that help us own and shape the narratives that are mission-critical to our success, the ones that will give us competitive advantage.

We find that most organizations can identify a handful of core narratives that can have impact across multiple audiences through an integrated communication and marketing plan.

While your marketing, social, and communications teams will activate these narratives differently, working from the same narrative map will create cohesion and impact. It will also help to provide defensible prioritization.

Last, measure, monitor, and adapt with AI-powered insights.

AI offers us a way to continually understand dialogues and feedback via multiple stakeholders, and allows us to adapt in real time to changing conditions.

Further, it provides a view into where we are finding the most reach for our narratives to inform investment.

This methodology has two important components for success:

First, the sheer volume of data points provided by AI tools creates an irrefutable view of the world you are operating in. Traditional measurement instruments tend to be slow and expensive, and, if there are considerations not accounted for, can be easy to discredit. AI is real-time and reports can be offered to key constituents on a regular cadence, allowing for steady progress reports and opportunities to pivot as the market changes or new narratives take hold.

Second, narratives are the natural currency of humans. Narratives drive economic impact, as identified by Robert Shiller. We have seen time and again how the language of narratives resonates in the C-suite in a way that the language of branding does not.

Taken together, you have a framework big enough to hold all the complexity inherent to healthcare marketing, but made manageable through a modern approach, leveraging the power of AI.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Maurya Overall is principal at Boathouse.