Use Your Voice: How Healthcare Content Can Respond to Audience Needs Post-COVID

By: Brian Cusack  | 06/24/2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has both shaped and revealed consumer perceptions of healthcare information. With exceptions, consumers and patients have been generally overwhelmed and underserved by the quality and quantity of information throughout this COVID-19 pandemic. Information from numerous sources around symptoms, treatment and prevention has ended up being contradictory, complicated, unclear and incomplete. This lack of quality, actionable information has added to the stress and anxiety already created by employment security, job loss, crowded homes and multi-generational family care challenges.

Fortunately, this perceived gap in clear, authoritative health content also presents healthcare providers with an opportunity to emerge with a stronger and more strategic voice.


Assessing Public Perceptions

NRC Health conducted a survey in mid-March to understand consumer perceptions around the pandemic. 

49% felt the news coverage was “too much and creating unneeded panic” around the virus.

At the same time, 67% did not understand the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus. 

At a time when there were regular news conferences featuring members of the national task force, when newspapers were providing front page coverage in print and on the web, why did consumers feel so uninformed while also overwhelmed by what they were reading and seeing? 

One reason is that healthcare professionals did not succeed in becoming the trusted source for information as the crisis emerged and grew. This position was lost to media and government platforms — despite consumers being aware of and even looking to their healthcare systems to lead from their expertise. 

In that same NRC Health Study:

73% said they were looking for the healthcare system to handle the crisis. 

Additionally, twice as many indicated trust in national healthcare leaders, local hospitals and health systems for information as indicated trust in the news media — and nearly three times as many indicated trust in coronavirus information from governments.


Identifying Healthcare’s Opportunity

It is very possible for you to capture the trust and attention of your consumers and patients now, as the crisis continues. You have the expertise, you have the brand, and consumers both want and expect you to lead by delivering trusted, easy-to-understand, actionable information and advice to help them manage themselves, their families and community to a safe summer and beyond. In addition to expertise and brand, you have the assets and, in most cases, platforms and programs to project your voice as the reliable resource when consumers most need it. 

Still, providers need to find a way to rise above flood of content. The digital delivery of information and advice has exploded during this crisis. People are searching for Lysol, Clorox and masks at the volume they had once been searching for phone chargers and shoes.

The fastest path to establishing or reestablishing your hospital or system as consumers’ first choice for information is to build a coordinated COVID-19 plan. In addition to being the fastest path to market, a solid coordinated plan will also be measurable, accountable, flexible, and offer the widest scale of viewership and interaction. 


Exercise: Creating a Coordinated COVID-19 Plan

In this exercise, we will define the amplification of your voice as the quantity, relevance and timeliness of your communications. The quality is also critically important, which can be measured through numerous metrics, tools, or your own research and surveys.

First, let’s grade or at least assess what we currently have for resources and assets to deploy in response to consumer needs. Without being exhaustive, the basic shape of your scorecard and inventory might look something like this:


Amplification-of-Voice Scorecard and Asset Inventory 

Platform Quantity Quality
COVID-Specific   (ratings, views)
Promotional/Brand   "
Community    "
COVID-Specific   (visits, time on page)
Community Health   "
Service-Line Driven   "
Patient Emails # of addresses (open rates, clicks rates)
Community Emails " "
Staff Emails  " "
Twitter # Followers (engagement rates)
Facebook " "
Instagram  " "
Snapchat  " "


Once you’ve done a basic audit of your content and channels with a score card, it’s time to grade yourself. Where are the opportunities for improvement?

  • Where are there obvious holes or gaps in your written or video content?
  • Where are your open rates or click rates behind the curve?
  • What social media channels are stagnating?

Then, look at which improvement opportunities offer the lowest hanging fruit. For example, what gaps can be resolved most easily by repurposing existing assets? Which social channels are well-followed but just need fresh content to reenergize engagement? Where do you have the talent on your team to accelerate success where you already have traction?


Creating Your Content Plan 

With a clearer understanding of what you have and where you can grow, you can look at how to move forward. Let’s take a look at what a plan could look like for applying assets and content to audiences in a form and frequency that works for the platform, the audience, and the boundaries of your staff and budget. 

Audience:  Patients Needs Content/Theme Delivery Platform Frequency
  Schedule Postponed Elective Safe to come back Video, Email and Social

V: 1x per week

E: 2x per week

S: as updates exist

  Pre- and Post- Procedure Prep  A new normal away from the hospital Video and Email

V: 1-2x pre- and 1-2x post-.

E: Daily from 5 days prior to length of recovery after

  Connection to Team We're rested, recovered and ready for you! Video 1x pre-


Audience: Community Needs Content/Theme Delivery Platform Frequency 
  Sense of Stability We're here to stay, to take care of you and your family  Video Ongoing, 1x per month
  Health and Wellness  Taking care of you when you don't have a crisis - diet, exercise, mental health, etc.  Video, Email and Content Hub  Ongoing, based on seasonal editorial calendar
  Early Warning  What we see on the horizon  Email and Social  Bi-monthly, current healthcare trends 


Audience: Staff Needs Content/Theme Delivery Platform Frequency
  COVID Safety PPE, vaccine updates, site security Email 4-5x per week
  Job Security CARES $, budget planning transparency Email and Social Daily and when fresh info available or when disruption sensed 
  Planning Updates 3/6/9-month operating strategy Video Town Hall, Webcast Monthly


Planning to Strengthen Your Voice

A plan like outlined above may seem like a lot, but laying it out over a month with appropriate sequencing and spacing provides a manageable framework. You will find that with intelligent planning and content creation, you will be able to use pieces across audiences and platforms with reasonable editing.

Video is a particularly powerful opportunity to establish or re-establish your voice. Sight, sound and motion is the most effective way to communicate, and in the case of the crisis, there is a particular need and gap. According to a study published in the journal The BMJ, COVID-related videos on YouTube reviewed in March were largely ineffective, if not misleading. Of the videos reviewed, based on COVID search queries, 27.5% contained non-factual information. Government and professional videos were factual but only accounted for 11% of the videos and 10% of views. There is an immediate opportunity to provide better content for consumers and to increase the value of your voice and brand to consumers who are looking to YouTube as one of their information platforms — as well as through email and social channels. 

Finally, engaging with your C-suite about your content plan is critical at this time, to help support your audiences, communities, and activities and asks. Proper execution of this framework during this crisis, measured and accounted for, will drive effective future investment in digital — meaning more money, more staff and more impact. 



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