People often confuse marketing and public relations (PR), but they are not synonymous. However, they work better together.
In fact, we often include healthcare PR services in our marketing plans alongside other key strategies, including branding, digital marketing, traditional advertising, internal marketing, and professional referral building.
So what exactly is public relations?
Public relations is a strategic process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between companies, organizations, influencers, and their target audiences. Often these relationships are managed by trained professionals. Public relations is responsible for building and maintaining a positive brand reputation and public image.
The goal of public relations is to positively influence public perception by leveraging marketing, communications, and advertising tools.
The main functions of public relations in health include
- External / Media Relations – build media relationships and get media coverage to build awareness and goodwill (more on this later)
- crisis management – manage brand and corporate reputation before, during and after a crisis
- community events – foster goodwill and commitment at the grassroots level
- public affairs – advocate for a cause and build a coalition among civic leaders
- thought leadership – develop expertise to generate media coverage and create lead generation opportunities
- Corporate and internal communications – engage employees, partners, suppliers and other key stakeholders about the company (for example, annual reports)
- organic social networks – foster online relationships (often a role shared between marketing and public relations departments)
How is public relations unique among marketing strategies?
Both marketing and public relations focus on selling or promoting a product, service, or brand, but their approaches differ.
While most marketing strategies are direct and designed to generate short-term results, public relations is indirect and should be considered a long-term strategy.
If you need an immediate and definitive return on investment for every dollar you spend on marketing, public relations is not the right strategy for you.
Instead, think of public relations in health care as the strategic management of internal and external communications. It focuses on building relationships between the organization and its stakeholders (eg, patients, families, healthcare professionals, employees, the media, and the public).
Healthcare PR creates a platform that builds trust, credibility, thought leadership, and reputation.
In recent years, the lines between public relations and other marketing strategies have blurred.
Maggie Habib, founder of mPR, a healthcare public relations agency, says, “As the media landscape has changed, we’re not just seeing earned media. Instead, we’re seeing a highly integrated approach where social media, patient reviews and brand communications come together to be a larger and more significant part of the public relations and marketing mix.”
What is the publicity?
Advertising is an important subset of healthcare public relations that focuses on getting the press to speak or write favorably about us, to influence influential people.
But how do you do it? What are the hooks that can get the attention of a skeptical reporter? And how can a healthcare PR firm help?
These are just a few of our favorite strategies you can leverage to create attention-worthy content that the media will promote.
- Human interest stories that evoke emotions
- A point of view (eg, opinion pieces presenting a problem and its proposed solution)
- Data (eg, a national survey, localized data, data from advocacy groups, etc.)
- Hard news (for example, a new product, service, CEO, offer, etc.)
The evolution of earned media
Thanks to social media, marketers often think of “press” more broadly as “earned media,” which includes both traditional news outlets and user-generated content on social media and reputable websites. This combined digital currency builds credibility with patients and caregivers and increases online visibility.
Here are four ways you can partner with your healthcare PR agency to build your earned media presence.
- Keep your patients happy
Designing a care module around the patient experience increases satisfaction among patients and caregivers and improves the growth of your business. Encourage more user-generated content, such as positive online reviews and testimonials, not to mention word-of-mouth recommendations.
- Get involved in your community
Connecting with your community by sponsoring a local event builds brand awareness and helps you connect with potential investors, patients, and caregivers. It also builds credibility, trust, and respect for your brand.
- Be receptive and stay positive in the face of bad press
Everyone has heard the saying: ‘There is no such thing as bad press’, but that is simply incorrect. Engaging investors, stakeholders, doctors, medical staff, patients or caregivers, whatever the story, is crucial. Crisis management includes being responsive and staying positive and objective. When done right, healthcare public relations can help.
- Change the narrative.
- Disprove misinformation.
- Share valuable data, statistics and social proof.
- promote good news
Sharing good news about your business (eg, new hires, new products, new services, community events, etc.) builds a positive online reputation and helps mitigate potential negative press. When necessary, you can also balance negative news with positive stories about your business. In these situations, it’s important to contact reporters to correct any errors, inaccuracies, or omissions in their stories.
Why Your Business Needs a Healthcare PR Strategy
Today’s healthcare consumers are increasingly aware of public health issues, rising healthcare costs, medical debt and access to care.
You need to offer easy access to convenient, transparent, and affordable healthcare to appeal to a larger volume of younger generations (eg, Millennials and Gen Z).
And you need to increase your online visibility through healthcare digital marketing and public relations strategies that amplify each other and amplify your organization’s products and services.
A healthcare public relations firm can also support search engine optimization (SEO) strategies by creating and amplifying newsworthy content (eg, experience, achievements, and initiatives) for your target audience.
“Healthcare is going through a post-pandemic moment, and everyone wants to be a healthcare company,” Maggie posited, “While that means there is a lot more buzz around healthcare, there is also more appetite for companies and organizations that have a compelling or meaningful story to tell about healthcare outcomes, costs or access.”
Impact matters, locally and nationally. Healthcare organizations need a constant supply of the right stories, data, and insights to make a lasting impact in their marketplace.