Healthcare industry marketing requires a balancing patient and community engagement with the growing needs of a complex healthcare organization.

On the Business to Human podcast, Leslie DiStefano, Director of Communication and Public Relations at Samaritan Health, located in Northern New York state, shared how the organization achieves marketing success — from implementing marketing campaigns to interpreting user data and understanding the priorities of senior management.

Working within your organization’s capacity to support a successful marketing program

A common perception is that, while local health centers located in rural communities typically have everything needed for routine visits and wound care, they often lack advanced robotic care and surgical specialties. Leslie aims to redirect this kind of misrepresentation. With cancer care affiliates that provide protocols and guidelines, Samaritan is well-equipped to handle a wide range of patient needs.

“It’s a challenge to ensure the larger community is truly aware of all the services you offer.”

Leslie DiStefano

Serving transient communities

Another factor in Leslie’s marketing efforts is the major military installation in her service area. It does not have its own schools or healthcare facilities, so it relies heavily on local resources. Making sure those individuals aware of where they can seek care requires a twofold educational approach:

Through the general community: The transient population will rely on word of mouth mostly. Educating the public is vital.

Through events: Leslie uses these platforms to get in front of the community and explains their offerings, furthering public education.

Leslie is also careful to balance mass and finite marketing. She explains, “When we start to do finite targeting, we instantly see a change in social media engagement because it’s too small of an audience. So we have to, in some ways, do a lot of mass marketing to even hit that finite population.”

Creating and maintaining brand awareness for a large medical center

Leslie uses a mix of print and digital marketing to hit every age group, tailoring her marketing tactics to a combination of baby boomers and younger generations — but sometimes that marketing can work too well …

Imagine you’ve just hired a dermatologist and want to create exposure for them. Your marketing activities are so successful that suddenly, the demand for services exceeds the dermatologist’s ability to keep up.

When this happens, Leslie scales back her marketing to support a good experience and quality care for both patients and physicians.

It’s also important not to undersell offerings. For example, Leslie works hard to make sure people are aware of Samaritan’s 24/7 coverage for general surgery, a service particularly unique to the area. 

It’s about promoting the lines you know you can provide coverage for and what makes sense.”

Leslie DiStefano

Advice to healthcare marketers

Leslie shares many of the same challenges as her peers in the healthcare industry. She encourages other industry marketers to, “Force the hand of your senior leadership to tell you what the priorities are for the year. And really home in on that because everyone will be asking for something.” You realistically cannot align with the goals of every entity within the organization, so make sure you focus on those that matter most. Leslie explains, “We have weekly check-ins on our corporate goal so we can say, ‘Hey, have we done anything to help meet this goal that I haven’t quite met?’

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