A Marketer’s Skills Can Make Advocacy Better
Healthcare marketing professionals often focus on reaching potential patients as well as the upstream employer, broker, health plan and physician audiences that have an impact on where patients go for care. Less often they participate in government relations efforts and advocacy. Is this a missed opportunity?
Decisions by state and federal government have a significant impact on access to care and can cause big swings in the bottom lines of practices, hospitals and health systems. Some high-profile issues spark intense debate, such as suspending individual mandate penalties, which other decisions, such as supplemental funding for Disproportionate Share Hospitals, tend to attract interest only in legislative committees.
It’s worth remembering that legislators and staff aides are people and like all people, can only respond to issues based on what they know, who’s talking to them and how many people they think might be affected. This is where a marketing communicator’s ability to craft succinct messages and organize campaign outreach can help in unexpected ways.
If you work in marketing, consider reaching out to whomever in your organization manages government relations activities to find out the issues that are of concern. Your value proposition is simple. You can help them communicate the pros or cons of a pending issue through supporting materials used in meetings, developing talking points or creating a mechanism for affected audiences to contact decision-makers. By doing so, you are helping the management team see the skills within marketing as broader than advertising, sales or events.
Once you connect with your government relations leader to learn about legislative concerns, you’ll want to get up to speed on those issues. Spend time researching the original legislation, find white papers that assess its effectiveness, subscribe to newsletters that follow the topic, and learn about what’s driving this issue to the forefront now. Be sure to consult your government relations executive about any restrictions on sources of funding for advocacy efforts.
As you learn about the issue, work with the information as you would any other campaign. What makes this important? What’s the potential impact? Who is likely to care about this? If legislation may have a material impact to your organization’s bottom line, you may be able to convey how it could limit your ability to support underserved populations or cause a loss of jobs. How can you share the story behind the numbers so an arcane policy change becomes relatable because of its impact on people? How can you find them and empower them to take action?
If you can help advance your organization’s perspective as legislation is taking shape, your contribution can make a huge difference to patient care, jobs and your community. And isn’t that why you were originally drawn to the field?
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.