Hospital Impact: Lessons from the Oscars about marketing to patients

Jenn Riggle

It’s that time of year, when everyone is abuzz about the year’s biggest awards show—the Academy Awards—and who’s going to win best actor and actress and what film is going to win best picture.

Like the Oscars, marketing is all about putting on a great show. In fact, even the marketing teams at hospitals can learn a thing or two from Hollywood’s biggest night. With that in mind, here’s five key marketing lessons from the Oscars:

  • Wear the white hat: No one likes a sore loser. That’s why nominated actors and actresses never say, “I deserve to win because I gave the best performance,” or “It’s about time I’ve been nominated”—even if it’s true. Instead, they say they’re honored to just be nominated and acknowledge the other talented actors/actresses who have been recognized.

    So too, it’s important to never “throw shade” or make negative comments about your competition. While it may be tempting for hospitals to tout their world-class care or compare their services to those of their competitors, it can come across as hollow and, ultimately, doesn’t move the needle. It’s much better to follow the journalism adage of “show, don’t tell,” and let others sing your praises—like patients, who have personal stories to share.
  • Keep it short: When Academy Award recipients are thrust into the spotlight to give their acceptance speech, they sometimes ramble as they try to remember all the people who have been instrumental to their career—from their high school drama coach and agent to the producers and cast mates. Without preparation, they might forget to thank their spouse or someone else important to them, and their speeches get cut off with wrap-up music.

    By the same token, hospitals have a limited time to capture people’s attention on social media. It’s important to have a clear goal about what you hope to accomplish when you’re writing a blog post, developing a social media campaign or creating a YouTube video. Never underestimate the value of creating an outline and having an organized approach to creating social media content. Otherwise, people may lose interest or not know what messages they should remember because you presented too many messages.
  • Put your best foot forward: If you’re going to a fancy awards show, you don’t show up in your favorite pair of jeans and a T-shirt. That’s why actresses go on diets and squeeze into Spanx, so they can fit into glamorous designer gowns and answer the infamous question, “Who are you wearing tonight?”

    By the same token, if you’re making a corporate video or taking photos for marketing materials or your annual Report to the Community, it’s important your employees and executives look their best. If that means making sure you have the right lighting and hiring a makeup artist to ensure employees look their best, it’s well worth the effort. After all, they are your brand ambassadors, so make sure they’re dressed appropriately for their position and accurately convey your organization's brand.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences likes to reward filmmakers who take risks. Look at the following films that have won Best Picture: “Midnight Cowboy” in 1969 (the only X-rated movie to achieve this honor), “The Artist” in 2011 (a silent, black and white film), “Birdman” in 2014 (a movie filmed as if in one shot) or this year’s top contender for Best Picture,  “La La Land," which is a musical.

    By the same token, hospitals shouldn’t be afraid to go out of their comfort zone and take some risks when creating social media content. For example, consider using humor in your marketing efforts to encourage people to get the age-appropriate cancer screenings, yearly physical, etc. Healthcare and the possibility of getting sick can be scary, so it’s important to consider taking different approach to reach people and encourage them to take steps to stay healthy.
  • Embrace diversity: When the 2016 Oscar nominees were announced, it was the second year in a row that only white actors and actresses were nominated for the top four categories—resulting in people embracing the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has since taken steps to correct this and announced an effort to double the number of women and minorities in its ranks.

    Hospitals also need to embrace diversity marketing and appeal to different subgroups—not just based on ethnicity, but also age, gender, profession, religion, family size, physical environment, etc. This is important to keep in mind, especially if you’re trying to reach Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and the LGBT community. It means including photos that represent these groups in your marketing materials, website and photos you use for your social media posts.

As you’re watching the Oscars this year, think of all the planning that goes on behind the scenes to make this awards show the media event that it is—and know that your hospital can benefit from taking a similar approach to marketing.

Jenn Riggle is the senior director of public relations for Compass Professional Health Services.