October 24, 2011

Is it time to bust some new moves in hospital advertising?

It can be scary to bust some new moves.

In all communications with consumers, whether it’s online, in print or over the airwaves, it’s easy to forget that we’re just talking to people. Usually that’s because there’s a laundry list of information that “needs” to go into each ad. In fact, in healthcare advertising there’s a well-known dance:

Step 1: Mention skilled doctors, latest technology and dedicated staff.

Step 2: Throw in a patient testimonial.

Step 3: Always tell people about your awards (even if they have no idea what you’re talking about).

Step 4: Grab a partner (preferably a celebrity).

That’s why so many hospital communications are eligible for the Hall of Same. And it’s a real shame because hospitals are so much more than this set list—and with some creativity and courage, communications could be very different.

It can be scary to bust some new moves. It feels safe to repeat the tried and tested sequences. Just keep in mind that this isn’t how you talk to people. You don’t go around having the same conversations you’ve had for the last ten years, listing the same points (well, at least we hope you don’t). That’s when people start to ignore you.

There might be one thing worse than repetition when you’re talking to people. And that’s telling people what to do. It’s easy to fall into that trap when you’re writing a healthcare ad (“Go get a mammogram now!” “Get tested for prostate cancer stat!). Let’s be honest, no one likes being told what to do, not in person and not in print. When a hospital cares about its patients and wants to be successful, it just needs to find its voice and starting talking, not telling.

A lot of voices sound the same out there. If you covered up the logo on a print ad or TV commercial, could you tell which hospital was being advertised? Probably not. That’s why it’s so important to think about who you are and what your voice is. Finding your individual voice and not being afraid to show some personality is key. Every communication is a hospital’s chance to let people know who they are beyond a list of services, patients and beds.

The hospitals and agencies that are brave enough to break the age-old dance routine are the ones that will be up on the dance floor for years to come.

This blog post previously appeared in Ragan’s Health Care Communication News.

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