If Politics Can Do It… So Can Hospitals
by: Morgan Ribeiro | posted February 2, 2010
“You have got to have a dialogue with your audiences – don’t just tell them your message.”
Heard that one recently? Likely on Twitter.
But is this really something new? After all, this dialogue follows the tactic of grassroots communications, which political campaigns have been doing for years.
A great example that will stick with us for a long time: President Barack Obama’s incredible campaign (you had me at “Hope and Change”). Up to five times a week, I receive emails from someone on Obama’s team – including ones that invited me to a watch party for SOTU, or others sharing the important issue of the day, fundraising deadlines, etc. Since the election, the emails continue. It wasn’t just a campaign thing.
So, how does this relate to hospitals? You may not muster the size of the crowd in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night, but we’ve seen it work plenty of times. Your advertising isn’t getting the ROI expected? Your competitor is beating you up in the press? Try building a relationship that turns your employees and community members into ambassadors, and even fanatics, instead of the traditional tactics you’ve used. A few ideas:
- Empower the People: Sounds cheesy, but people want to be a part of something. They just need that “something”. Once they’re plugged in, the energy and honesty they’ll bring will spread throughout the community as an extension of you that they can feel and trust. (Does “change you can believe in” ring a bell?) The public can relate to the grassroots group better than the voiceless, branded advertisement that they saw today in the newspaper and last month, and the month before and…you get the picture.
- Third Party Endorsement: Grassroots groups create an outside voice that supports your key messages. They are positive, consistent, authentic and credible (and many times, like an email I received from Mitch Stewart, don’t even have to name your competitor). Obama’s grassroots effort conveyed a positive message of change, unlike traditional attack ads of prior elections. In hospitals, a grassroots campaign will get the people out in the community talking and spreading the good news about your organization.
- Viral Results: Like a video on YouTube, grassroots groups spread like wildfire. Instead of the CEO of the hospital standing alone as the only voice asking for support of the state for a CON application, he now has his employees and members of the community rallying the troops and voicing their support on a scale that one individual could not produce alone. So, that ROI you were looking for from the ad campaign? It’s now magnified by an eager group.
To be fair, I issue a warning: Grassroots feels nothing like day-to-day work. It’s exhausting. It’s tough. It’s a little out of the comfort zone for most. At the same time, social media has made it easier than ever before – and people have never been more hungry to engage. Feed them.