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Comprehensive, Multi-Channel Beaumont Health Campaign Focuses on Showing, Not Telling, Consumers It’s Safe to Return

As Michigan transitions to the next phase of recovery during the coronavirus pandemic, marketers at Beaumont Health faced a conundrum. For months, the Southfield-based health system had served thousands of COVID-19 patients during the height of the crisis, and yet now, it had to convince the community that it was OK to return for routine services.

So, head of marketing Jennifer Carbary and colleagues went to work, devising a multi-channel campaign focused on communicating to the public and its patients that it is safe for them to come to the health system’s hospitals for care. The campaign, which is both sophisticated and old school, includes advertising on TV and the radio with public service announcement-like formats and pushed content on social media. It also used patient data to connect with those who had previous encounters with its emergency centers (ECs). The health system even sent out direct mailers, which isn’t its normal M.O.

“We tried to strike a tone that was emotional, recognizing that people were uncertain about coming to a hospital. We want them to trust that we’re a leader in the market when caring for COVID patients and that we would continue to be a leader in providing the other necessary care that the community needed,” Carbary said.

Like most others across the globe, the eight-hospital system had seen massive drops in patient volume since the start of the crisis — particularly in surgery, its catheterization labs and emergency care. But just a few weeks into the ambitious campaign, Beaumont Health was already beginning to see a rebound, for instance, recovering about 40 percent of surgery volumes.

“Our goal is 100 percent, but we’re on track and seeing that number increase,” Carbary said.  

Rocky Ramp Up

While the health system is beginning to make a dent, Carbary admitted the ramp up was rocky at first. Beaumont Health has focused more on that physician component and has put its infectious disease specialist — who has served as a spokesman during the pandemic — front and center.

“We’ve looked to include a ‘significant’ physician communication component after some docs expressed concern that we weren’t quite as ready as the ad campaign conveyed. We got a little too far out ahead of them and had to dial that message back a little bit and reach out to our surgeons, in particular, to reassure them that we were ready for them so that they could be ready for their patients,” she said.

The health system has also quickly learned the importance of “showing” consumers that their campuses are safe, rather than just “telling” them. That included incorporating a lot of patient stories from individuals who visited for delayed care and had a positive experience. One ad featured a man who was treated in one of its ECs after having symptoms of a heart attack for nearly a week. Another highlighted a patient with a kidney tumor that Beaumont Health clinicians removed, without incident, right after the peak of the crisis. And, as Michigan started entering its third phase of recovery, Carbary said Beaumont Health shifted to promote more cancer-related services, including radiation therapy and routine annual screenings such as mammograms.

 “We felt it was important to meet people where they’re at and show don’t tell,” she said. “We found just saying, ‘hey, we’re open, come back,’ is not going to generate the trust and the confidence that people need to resume care.” 

With consumer research showing early success from these personal stories, the marketing team plans to expand the approach further in the coming months to include more patient anecdotes, employee profiles and specific examples that align with system marketing priorities, Carbary noted.

Measurement Is Key

She said measurement has been one of the biggest early keys to success. To avoid getting ahead of consumer sentiment, Beaumont Health has on-site consumer researchers who constantly look at secondary (and some primary) research to make sure the marketing team is on the same page as consumers at each phase. In addition to consumer sentiment, the team is also tracking patient volumes, social engagement and employee feedback. 

After just fielding a second wave of research to assess sentiment about safe care, Beaumont found that consumer confidence in safety is high. That’s because of the system’s concerted focus on transparency, Carbary said.

“In fact, some consumers mentioned they still don’t feel safe at a hospital but do feel safe with Beaumont due to our reputation and messaging around safety, with many mentioning that they’ve seen or heard our ads,” she said.

The marketing team has incorporated the insights gleaned from the measurements into the campaign. As of late June, the hospital system continued to see results, she added. Inpatient and outpatient surgical volume are almost at pre-COVID levels and cath lab and EC volumes continue to rebound strongly. Plus, appointment center call volume and scheduling are above 90 percent of averages prior to the pandemic.

Carbary also stressed the importance of uniformity. She and her colleagues have built an integrated campaign so that every piece consistently conveys the same message with a shared graphic identity stating, “safe care available here.” Other elements of the campaign include on-campus signage, messages while patients are on hold over the phone, banners on the website home page, a dedicated website landing page, and the relaunch of a dormant podcast program.

“It’s still early, but we are very pleased with how the campaign is performing so far, and the internal and external feedback we’ve received is positive,” said Carbary. “It’s definitely making a difference in helping us attract patients back to our hospitals.”

This article features an interview with:

Jennifer Carbary
Director of Marketing
Beaumont Health
Southfield, Michigan


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