After the pandemic disruptions of 2020 and a record amount of healthcare transactions in 2021, healthcare marketers are gathering their collective breaths—and preparing for the future. What happens in 2023 could shape healthcare marketing for years to come.
Curious about what the future holds?
I asked two of our in-house healthcare marketing experts, Sara Payne, president and chief healthcare strategist, and Heather Morrison-Boldt, principal, engagement, to see what they think the coming year holds. Combined, Sara and Heather bring 33 years of healthcare PR and marketing experience to the table. Below, they share the five trends that they expect to prevail in 2023—and share tips on how savvy marketers can capitalize on these trends in efficient or innovative ways.
#1 The consumer revolution in healthcare is here to stay
The pandemic has really democratized healthcare access. Consumers demanded care when and how they wanted it—and sites of care delivered out of necessity. Now those novel methods of care delivery, e.g., telehealth and pharmacy by mail, are mainstream.
What does this mean for healthcare marketers? First and foremost, consumers are going to start talking with their pocketbooks. The trend for high-quality care at a lower price will become a tidal wave. Provider competition will increase, and incentives will realign around consumer needs and preferences.
There’s an upside for marketers in this seismic shift in how healthcare will be consumed. Consumers will take a more active role in their care, and education will be central to that decision-making. To that end, patient education should be at the core of every marketing effort. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with dusty pamphlets in doctors’ offices—patient education can take the form of information-centric microsites, interactive quizzes, influencer marketing and more.
#2 Healthcare marketers must give consumers the tools they need to make informed decisions
Make no mistake: Education is healthcare marketing. Consumers now realize the power that they have in their own healthcare decisions, and they want to hear from trusted voices to help them make those decisions.
Who are those trusted voices? Most powerfully, they are other patients sharing their story firsthand. These voices are complemented by people with authority: thought leaders, academics, leading clinicians and journalists. The common thread here is that they’re not people being paid to represent your brand.
To truly be trusted, you have to earn your way into the conversation. Consider tapping allied healthcare providers as a trusted conduit for patient education. One client we work with tapped psychologists to help educate patients—and other healthcare providers—on a critically important topic. They weren’t compensated for their expertise, and that was reflected in the authentic content we were able to produce as part of the partnership.
#3 Inclusive language is paramount
Think carefully about how you address your target audience to make sure you’re not inadvertently alienating part of your target market. Not all people who have breasts identify as women, and not all people who receive a breast cancer diagnosis are female. Breaking the paradigm of gendered language and other biases in healthcare will take time—but it can start with your brand.
Start by taking a hard look at your brand messaging. Really look. Do the pronouns, stock photos, and larger narratives encompass the audience you’re trying to reach—or are you subconsciously excluding some groups? Also consider looking into inclusivity training or bringing in educational speakers from different backgrounds on the problem your company is trying to solve. There’s no shame in needing a refresher, opening your horizons to new thinking or simply wanting to learn more.
#4 Leverage awareness days thoughtfully
It can seem like every day of the week has an associated awareness day for a cause or condition. When an awareness day pops up that’s related to your brand or mission, brainstorm how you can do something more meaningful than a few social posts.
Harness that hashtag to elevate your brand into critical conversations with thought leadership. For instance, the American Hospital Association used Maternal Health Awareness Day to shout an important message from the rooftops: Most maternal deaths are preventable. Instead of leading with fear, however, senior program manager Aisha Syeda, MPH, coated the conversation in hope and offered actionable steps forward.
#5 Lead with simple messages
The biggest mistake a healthcare brand can make is leading with a message that’s too complex—even if they’re speaking to a clinical audience. Playing it safe or trying to appease everyone with product messaging isn’t going to cut through the noise. Be bold, take a stand, and lean into that core message in every channel.
Some brands that are doing this well (besides Inprela clients) include Folx Health and Walmart Health. Check out their sites; you’ll notice approachable healthcare messaging in a way that transcends their missions and purposes.
Harnessing trends to stand out
Following trends doesn’t mean just doing the same thing that everyone else is doing. There are creative ways to follow the latest best practices while standing out in the marketing and media landscape. Start thinking about how your brand can stand out in the coming year.