*THE DOWNLOAD is an ongoing series with ARPR’s tech clients

HealthIT marketers faced significant changes in buyer behaviors and evolving business needs last year. In fact, The CMO Survey found that 56% of marketers transformed their go-to-market business models to focus on digital opportunities in 2020. Effectively navigating the changes brought on by COVID-19 required understanding client needs quickly, a strong PR agency relationship and the ability to pivot on a dime.

For deeper insight on healthcare marketing and PR lessons learned from 2020, what’s ahead for marketers and the must-have ingredients for a robust client-agency partnership, we sat down with Audrey Prior, manager of marketing campaigns at Greenway Health – an ARPR client going on four years. Here’s what she had to say.

QUESTION: What drew you to healthcare marketing and to your current role at Greenway?

ANSWER: I previously worked in an agency setting for various industries, but was interested in moving to the client side in order to focus on one product. I was intrigued by healthcare, and even thought about becoming a nurse or doctor. But healthIT stuck out to me because it is the future of healthcare – everything is moving towards digital. Greenway had a role open that did everything I did, but on the client side. It was a new industry and very seamlessly brought together my expertise and where I wanted to go. In the beginning I was drinking from a firehose getting up to speed on the industry because healthcare is so heavily regulated. You need to understand the landscape and how the company’s products fit into the big picture – and it changes rapidly. COVID is a perfect example of that. Many previous regulations are now quickly getting dropped because of patient and practice needs. One of the biggest things we are learning is that we need to understand new regulations quickly so we can digest and explain them to our clients. 

QUESTION: What’s most critical to you in an agency relationship? What are 1-2 best practices you recommend to ensure an organization achieves the most value from its relationship with their PR partner?

ANSWER: Two things: Transparency and consistent communications. The agency should be a true extension of the internal marketing team, and you need a deep level of trust in order to do the best work together. If you’re only giving your PR team 90% of the information, you’re only going to get 90% of the work you need from them. They should be ingrained in the company’s communications processes and part of your workflow. Even when things are moving fast, we include the ARPR team in everything from the start versus playing catch-up down the line. 

Consistent communication outside of email is also key. This means a strong meeting cadence and being able to ping each other quickly when needed. A best practice is to ask the team, “Do you feel like you’re looped in, or do you feel like you’re getting things at the last minute?” If everyone feels like they’re constantly running fire drills, you have to stop and re-evaluate what good communications feels like. 

It’s also important to have a shared content calendar that acts as the “Point of Truth” so everyone is on the same page about the strategy and what we’re working toward. As a company you have your mission and priorities, but small projects can get in the way of achieving the bigger picture. As a team you need to be able to say, “This is our big picture and we don’t want to deviate from it.” Our Content Calendar with ARPR helps us stay true to achieving our healthcare PR and marketing goals.

QUESTION: The entire healthIT industry had to pivot quickly last year to meet the evolving needs of healthcare providers. What are some lessons learned that Greenway’s marketing team plans to implement moving forward?

Greenway quickly developed marketing content to help healthcare providers maintain profitability during the pandemic.

ANSWER: When COVID hit, it gave us a true North Star of what we needed to do – and that’s to support our clients so they can be successful in business. The industry learned an important lesson last year: when something significant happens that impacts healthcare providers, it’s critical to rally around clients and make sure they’re able to navigate the impact. Greenway supports healthcare practices from the business standpoint so that they can run their practice smoothly and focus on providing patient care. From a marketing standpoint, our team very quickly stood up resource centers including blog posts, webinars and other materials to help clients get through the pandemic. We weren’t talking about ancillary products – we focused on one message to support them.

We also learned the importance of taking a more integrated approach to client communications to meet our clients where they were. We shared waiting room social distancing tips via email, ramped up our social media engagement, and posted digital ads letting clients know about upcoming webinars they might find helpful. That holistic approach to pushing out one message through multiple channels helped us engage our clients when and where they wanted to be engaged during what was a very chaotic year for many practices.

QUESTION: What’s the most dramatic shift you’ve seen over the last year in your prospects’ and clients’ buyer behaviors? Do you see this changing after the pandemic, or is this healthIT marketers’ new normal?

ANSWER: Whether you’re an administrator or a healthcare provider, everyone has less time to do more. Everyone has to multitask more. And I definitely think this is our new normal. All of our clients need solutions and content to make their jobs easier, but we need to give them choices in terms of format. Some people want to read a blog over their morning coffee, while others want to listen to a podcast while they walk the dog. We will continue to offer a variety of formats, measure the results and see what works best.

That being said, what we have found to work well is a heavy virtual presence with content directly from our experts rather than filtered through marketing. For example, webinars and roundtables with our chief medical officer and chief technical officer are quite popular.

QUESTION: If you could crystal ball the year ahead, what marketing channels will have the biggest impact for healthIT companies?

ANSWER: Virtual events or networking opportunities. When COVID hit, our audience wanted insights on what others in the industry were doing. That demand will continue as digital health moves forward. Virtual events can be stood up quickly on various topics and providers can come together to discuss industry updates, what’s working and what’s not, and build their networks. That will have the biggest impact.

To hear more perspectives on 2020 lessons learned and tech marketing best practices for the year ahead, watch ARPR’s latest webinar.

Melissa heads up ARPR's healthIT practice. With a passion for using storytelling to build connections and inspire action, she develops creative campaigns that drive results.

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