Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Conference '19 part 2: Hype cycles and context collapse

Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Conference ’19 part 2: Empathy mapping and story finding

At the 2019 Mayo Clinic Social Media Network annual conference, we heard a lot about, well, social media. But there was also a deeper conversation across sessions concerning how healthcare providers can create positive, engaging experiences for their patients.

Instead of focusing on the tools – how do we use a CRM or Facebook? – the discussion was about healthcare’s shift towards a patient/consumer-centric model and how hospitals and health systems can better connect with the people they serve.

Two talks in particular stood out.

Putting customers at the center of your digital strategy

There’s so much conversation today about making healthcare a consumer-centric industry. Chris Boyer,  system director for digital strategy and analytics at M Health Fairview (and a good friend and podcast co-host to Jarrard Inc.’s own Reed Smith) dug into how providers can actually make progress in that area.

The key, Boyer said, is to flip the too-common approach of starting with technology and instead work backwards from the desired customer experience to the necessary tech. There’s a lot of nuance required, along with a lot of qualitative work to understand the audience you’re trying to reach. The first step is always to know your customer, but the actual goal is to understand them. For example, he pointed out that consumers may be coming through the doors in emotional states that aren’t obvious. A mother coming to the pediatrician with her coughing child could be just as concerned with food insecurity as she is whether the baby has the flu – but it’s unlikely that worry will come out on the intake form.

Therefore, providers need to go beyond the superficial to create experiences and engagement programs that speak to those emotions – or at least don’t alienate people.

You can achieve this through empathy mapping (here’s a quick primer if you’re new to the term; here’s an example of its use in healthcare). It involves thinking about what your customer says, does, thinks and feels. If you’re reading this as a marketing pro, be encouraged – tools like empathy mapping and ideal customer profiles are just as applicable in healthcare as any other industry. If you’re reading this as an executive, know that your marketing team has these tools and, while they may feel squishy and unmeasurable, they are critical to your organization’s success. As evidence, Boyer pointed out that 76 percent of consumers view customer service as the truest test of how much a company values them, and 97 percent say it’s an important factor in deciding which brands to choose or remain loyal to.

While a lot of satisfaction in healthcare depends on the actual clinical care provided, marcom professionals have significant power to smooth the path around and behind clinical visits. The information provided on our websites and social channels, the technology marcom teams help implement and the internal communications processes they guide all play roles in the patient’s journey and therefore influence their overall experience.

When you think about customer experience overtaking price and product as the key brand differentiator,  building a strong internal culture  and reputation for putting patients first  become critical foundations for success in healthcare.

One last thought: The average consumer sees 6,000 brand messages per day. How will you make yours count?

Capturing moments in your hospital

The M Health Fairview team was busy at the Mayo Clinic conference. This talk was hosted by Ashley Lawson and David Henke, development officer and social media manager, respectively.

The premise was that healthcare is a very personal experience at the patient level, so stories are a crucial way for hospitals and health systems to connect with their communities. But it can be challenging to prove financial ROI when it comes to telling stories. Lawson and Henke suggested thinking about other ways to frame up ROI:

  • Return on Community: How is your content helping you foster online and real-world communities? An example is sharing stories from a NICU. When providers post NICU content, others tend to reply with their own stories and photos.
  • Return on Partnership: How is your content helping you develop or elevate your partnerships? This can relate to “celebrities,” as they discussed, but it’s also true in moments with less high-profile people as well – think first responders, notable community leaders, local charities, patients who have started non-profits to benefit others etc.

They also highlighted a risk for marcom teams when enthusiasm is high: When capturing moments, it can be easy to inadvertently get in the way.

Your content team should take a “boots on the ground” approach and be present at those moments. But you must have a limited footprint. Be right in the action when you can with video/photo/audio, but don’t let your presence lessen the authenticity of the moment. For example, if a patient with a dramatic story is being discharged, it could be easy for the content team to be front and center, physically disrupting the patient’s loved ones. Or, there’s temptation to script an event. Better to let things play out naturally and have minimal staff on hand to record the proceedings.

Every organization wants their great work showcased, and it should be. This session covered how Lawson and Henke handled large-scale moments like fun, kids-only press conferences and visits from athletes. However, their ideas apply more broadly to mining patient and staff stories and establishing people in an organization as thought leaders.

The importance of building relationships within your health system cannot be stressed enough. Whether it’s knowing a research coordinator who can give you a heads up about an amazing study or a therapist who’s willing to introduce you to a patient making inspiring progress, good stories come from everywhere in hospitals where amazing things happen literally every day. The key to finding good stories is building relationships with sources across departments and levels. It’s also important to note that even if stories don’t make national news, they are always wins that can be used to celebrate your team internally.

Finally, in all cases, it’s important to make sure people come first and the brand comes second. As communicators in healthcare, we need to keep this in mind throughout all aspects of our work. Making sure our patients, their families and our team members and physicians feel comfortable, supported, safe, informed, etc. is a part of our collective mission as an industry and should always be treated as such – whether we’re online or in-person.

Brittany Hunter