Five Things Healthcare Marketers Should Break Free From in 2011

by Priya Ramesh of CRT/tanaka

(Reprinted from The Buzz Bin, a CRT/tanaka blog)

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to talk social media trends and what’s next with Chief Marketing Officers in the healthcare space at the Innovator’s Studio in Chicago. As part of the discussion, we were asked to break into two groups and identify a few traditional tactics that the CMO’s in the room would commit to get rid of in 2011. Let me just say the experience was very eye-opening. I strongly recommend this exercise with your team at the end of each fiscal year to sit as a group and identify where you can cut expenses and re-invest that money/resources into other more efficient ways of doing things. So here’s a list of five things that a group of highly experienced, smart healthcare marketing leaders decided to move away from in 2011 that might get YOU thinking:

  1. YELLOW PAGES: Are you kidding me? I mean, I was surprised that big organizations still spend millions of dollars every year in advertising in the Yellow Pages (physical directory) that goes straight to the dumpster! Seriously, when was the last time you reached out to that bulky thing to find a business or a service? There is a reason why Google is so successful. Why not spend the Yellow Pages budget into SEO for your website? Chris Silver Smith, SEO expert and contributor on one of my favorite blogs, Search Engine Land discusses why Yellow Pages is becoming an obsolete concept. Must read. If you are still doing Yellow Page advertising in 2011, I really would love to hear from you and understand the ROI behind that. All about hard metrics at the end of the day.
  2. PRESS RELEASES: This debate continues in the PR world, and those who continue to churn out press releases every week openly admit that they do so to appease their C-Suite. So let’s do the math quickly, depending on the purpose of the press release, the whole process involves several hours of research, writing and my favorite part: the APPROVAL PROCESS. Then we drop it blindly on a distribution system without any SEO, multi-media content, anchor text and hope that the Wall Street Journal and New York Times is going to call you asking for an interview. I am sorry if that’s what you are doing right now, you belong to the dark ages of PR. First let’s start by renaming it a News Release. With citizen journalism, blogs and Twitter breaking news these days, company announcements need to be geared toward all audiences versus just the “press.” Maybe its time to cut down on the weekly churn and focus on multi-media content for your company announcements that actually get read, blogged about and tweeted. Start by exploring Pitch Engine. CRT/tanaka clients have seen good results with Pitch Engine releases.
  3. NEWSLETTERS: Every month, we spend a gazillion hours mailing or e-mailing the company newsletter that’s filled with content about ourselves. We all know readers are more interested in WIIIFM (What Is In It For Me?). Instead generate content that highlights industry hot topics, best practices, use cases that help your customer/employee get better at what they do. Further e-newsletters are fading due to low click through rates and corporate blogs are taking over as good alternatives. All that time spent on a company newsletter can very well be spent on a blog that generates fresh content and keeps you on top of search rankings and if you do it right, start generating leads for your business. Debbie Weil, well known B2B social media expert shares some very useful tips on how to integrate your e-newsletter with blog efforts in this post.
  4. BROCHURES: Okay I get it that some of you might need that fancy brochure to leave behind after a sales meeting or at a trade show, but honestly, do we really need to kill that many trees every year on print materials that get tossed once you leave the room? How about creating digital content that’s more engaging? I still like flash drives or a piece of personal technology that eases some stress in my work life. If the whole point is to get noticed, then why not provide something that matters to your audience and in the process of doing so, ensure they remember your brand name. Hey if healthcare marketers can move away from printed collateral in 2011, anyone can! Right?
  5. MEETINGS WITHOUT SPECIFIC GAME PLAN: Some 25 million meetings take place in corporate America and according to Peter Economy, 50 percent of business meetings are a complete waste of time. I couldn’t agree more when the groups at Innovator’s Studio agreed that they need to think before scheduling a meeting and then to run that meeting most efficiently. Giga Om’s Imran Ali did a really nice story on how to run meetings effectively — Google style. I think its beneficial to highlight an excerpt of the Giga Om story below:
    • Google’s Marissa Mayer was recently interviewed by Business Week. In the interview, she described her own methodology for dealing with the 70+ meetings she needs to attend each week. Mayer’s six key principles for running productive meetings are:
      • Set a firm agenda. Mayer believes agendas provide focus and help participants find routes toward achieving a particular goal.
      • Assign a note taker. Mayer’s meetings tend to use multiple displays to project presentation slides, a live transcript of the meeting and a ticking stopwatch! Each element provide focus, and crucially a record, enabling non-attendees to stay informed.
      • Carve out micro-meetings. Mayer routinely divides larger meetings into smaller 5-10 minute blocks to highlight particular subject areas. This enables agendas to remain flexible, but disciplined, and also allows wide-ranging discussions to occur.
      • Hold office hours. Each day, for 90 minutes at 4 p.m., Mayer holds court with colleagues in her own office. Co-workers can choose a slot on a first-come-first-serve basis. Incredibly, she’s able to get through up to fifteen meetings in these periods.
      • Discourage politics, use data. To avoid showing favoritism and to minimize office politics, Mayer insists all decisions are driven by performance-based metrics and analytics. (This approach has caused some controversies, as related by former design director Douglas Bowman.)
      • Stick to the clock. The “ticking clock” mentioned earlier might sound draconian, but is apparently a source of levity at meetings, exerting a subtle motivation, but also underlining a precious commodity in a busy organization.

Thank YOU Innovator’s Studio especially Karen Corrigan and Carla Bryant for facilitating this discussion last week. Nothing ever gets translated into action if we first don’t accept and verbalize the areas of improvement. Your workshop helped us just do that.

So if you had to pick just one of the five goodbye items above, which one would you say goodbye to in 2011?

Priya Ramesh is director of social media for CRT/tanaka.  She helps companies employ strategies to leverage new media platforms such as YouTube, blogs, Facebook and Twitter, in order to drive results by building awareness, increasing brand visibility and increasing lead generation. Her experience includes managing social media efforts for Network Solutions (the leading web-hosting service provider) and its Grow Smart Business initiative.

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