Can Your Healthcare Brand Build Meaningful Social Connections?
Conventional wisdom says that while the holidays are celebratory times for many people, they can also bring out feelings of anxiety, stress and loneliness. But for many people, those profound feelings of loneliness persist long after the holiday lights have been put away. One recent study said that three in four Americans struggle with feelings of loneliness. Does your brand have a role to play in building up those meaningful social connections?
Loneliness and Health
Because loneliness is a feeling, it’s associated with behavioral health or mental health fields rather than as an area for clinical practitioners. Physicians often feel they haven’t been trained in how to manage emotion-related conditions in patients, and prefer to refer such patients to mental health practitioners. But there’s a strong correlation between feelings of loneliness and clinical conditions. Sometimes loneliness causes people to withdraw and become sedentary, which contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and sometimes the struggle of dealing with a profound medical condition excludes someone from relevant social connections they used to enjoy.
It’s also worth noting that loneliness and a lack of social connections are not necessarily the same thing. A person who is married and has friends can feel lonely inside, while someone with few social interactions may be more introverted and content. Loneliness is the gap between what you actually have and what you wish you had. That’s why it can be hard for others to see.
In some posts, I’ve hammered on the need to demonstrate ROI on your marketing efforts. That typically means bringing your service lines to populations in need of that clinical service in the short-term. You can track their digital engagement and do look-backs from your seminar registrations to see how many people converted to actual patients. That has to be at the core of marketing to demonstrate value to the organization.
Perhaps there’s another approach — one that complements such targeted efforts — where your brand is a catalyst to enabling community. That doesn’t necessarily mean sponsoring more ‘fun runs’ or fundraising walks, which can skew toward those who are already socially engaged. It may be creating daytime events where mothers with young children are welcomed at a local theater without worry about the noise they might make, or inviting seniors to special hours in the cafeteria similar to what you see happening organically at McDonald’s on a Saturday morning. These type of events can be positioned to welcome ‘first timers,’ helping to overcome social hesitancy. Connections via social media are a pale substitute for in-person interactions and a meaningful sense of connection.
That same study also noted that loneliness tends to peak around three periods in one’s life: Your late 20s when the choices you’ve made can seem determinative of your future; the mid-50s when career reality may have fallen short career aspirations; and in one’s late 80s when you may be invited to more funerals than weddings. If true, that means many American’s will go through multiple periods when a lack of meaningful connectivity can cross-over to clinical health needs.
As you think about your marketing plans for 2019, consider whether your health care brand might also become an effective social connection brand.
Michael Crawford became interested in healthcare listening to the conversations around the patio table as his parents and their colleagues talked about work. For the past 30 years he's used his marketing expertise to help medical groups, hospitals and health systems connect with consumers, physicians, employers, brokers and health plans. He advocates for a strategic approach to marketing, audience-based communications, coordination between marketing and customer service functions, and early inclusion of the marketing discipline when planning services. His work has earned more than a dozen awards over the past few years. He’s no stranger to healthcare reorganizations or healthcare reform, from the failed effort during the 90s to the implementation of the ACA to today’s efforts at repeal. His blog, Healthcare Marketing Survival Guide, offers advice for B2C and B2B healthcare marketers trying to chart their course during uncertain times. Connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @health_crawford.