Healthcare marketing is one of the most regulated verticals in the profession. So hearing horror stories about misleading influencers in the space strikes fear among brand leaders who know they can be sued when sponsorships go awry. Here are four tips so healthcare brands use influencers well in their marketing mixes.
But before we begin, let’s take a quick look at one of those horror stories, as told by Dr. Francescsa Paltenghi in The Drum on Sept. 4. She writes about an influencer she saw on Instagram touting the benefits of Natural Cycles, an app that was advertised as an “effective method of contraception.” The way Paltenghi describes the app, it’s basically the rhythm method and so she became worried that the influencer was advocating a product that would result in unplanned pregnancies and STDs among women her age. (The article further states authorities in the U.K. “banned Natural Cycles last week,” but that the company can still market in the U.S.)
Paltenghi writes of misleading influencer marketing in healthcare:
“It’s potentially the perfect storm, in an age where people are addicted to their phones, with concepts like natural, organic, clean eating and wellness becoming increasingly popular and where ‘hormone free’ is often regarded as the best option. Here is a mobile app, claiming to be a natural, effective contraception, advertised via influencers who align with these values, and whom have huge sway over what their followers believe and buy.”
Use Healthcare Marketing Influencers to Educate Consumers, Not Promote Products
Influencers can talk about their experiences with your products, but ensure they don’t sell them — in order to also ensure you “avoid run-ins with regulators,” IZEA writes in January.
Influencers can also educate consumers on how to navigate a complicated healthcare system, the post adds.
Chose Healthcare Marketing Influencers Wisely
Similar to all other marketing verticals, pick influencers based on their relevance to your brand values, their influence with your target audience and their desire to, in fact, be your influencers.
Next, unlike other verticals, healthcare influencers require vetting that, say, travel and retail influencers don’t have to have.
“Unlike endorsing a new lipstick or eye shadow, there’s absolutely no way of knowing if an online personality is actually using it and can give a reliable testimony.
“Also, unlike trying some new makeup, if it doesn’t work out, the consequences could be life-changing.”
The IZEA post adds:
“Consider who they are, what their story is, and why they are in health. If you’re going to work with actual health care providers and professionals, be sure to verify their credentials. The last thing you want to do is partner with the wrong influencer. One who claims to be a doctor, but actually lost their license years ago, can ruin your brand.”
Have Influencers Pay Attention to Healthcare Marketing Regulations, As Well as Ad Laws
In addition to legal hurdles specific to healthcare marketers, there are overall ad guidelines that influencers must reveal messages are sponsored. If they don’t, the advertisers are the responsible parties, according to the FTC.
IZEA adds an example about the additional regulations for healthcare influencers:
“The FDA has also stepped in and issued warnings to influencers who didn’t put the proper warnings and risk information on their posts. One of the most famous examples involves Kim Kardashian, who landed in hot water with the FDA after posting about a morning sickness medication she was taking.”
Ensure You Maintain Consumer Trust in Your Brand
Last but most importantly, healthcare marketing involves consumer trust.
Paltenghi worried that women trusted the healthcare influencer promoting the Natural Cycles app.
But for brands already trusted prior to hiring healthcare influencers, IZEA writes:
“Trust is imperative in the health care system, as people need to put their faith in the recommendations of their doctors, pharmacists, and other health care providers to feel their best. A Gallup poll found that nurses were the most trusted, with doctors and pharmacists close behind. Trust is also imperative in influencer marketing. Consumers need to be able to rely on the words and advice from the people they follow online — and, according to Nielsen, they do.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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