Selected Podcast

Strategic Marketing in the wake of COVID-19

Date: May 27, 2020
Jennifer Horton discusses strategic marketing insights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strategic Marketing in the wake of COVID-19
Jennifer Horton, MBA
Jennifer Horton, MBA is a strategic problem-solver with 20 years of experience leading marketing and strategic planning in for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare systems. She simplifies complex healthcare problems, breaking them down into manageable goals to achieve her clients’ large-scale dreams, all while expertly navigating corporate structures and keeping all players engaged along the way. She is passionate about helping marketers understand their mission critical purpose, develop and executing their plans and teaching marketing leaders how to decrease the time they spend working on non-essential projects and increasing time on their core goals.

Bill Klaproth (Host):  On this edition of the SHSMD Podcast, you’ve heard of the game Where’s Waldo, right? Well Jennifer Horton of Ten Adams, has got a new one for you. Find your Fauci. That’s right. And not only is she going to tell us about that, she shares with us her COVID-19 strategy insights for you. It’s fresh out of the oven. It’s baked to perfection. Go ahead, grab a seat. We’re serving it up for you right now. This is the SHSMD podcast Rapid Insights for healthcare strategy professionals in planning, business development, marketing, communications and public relations. I’m your host Bill Klaproth. And in this episode, we talk COVID-19 strategy insights with Jennifer Horton, Vice President of Strategy at Ten Adams, Healthcare Branding, Marketing and Advertising. Jennifer, welcome to the SHSMD podcast. Always love talking with you. And as you know, we start out every episode on the SHSMD podcast with Rapid Insights, one quick tip someone can use to make their marketing communications better today. Jennifer, give us your Rapid Insight.

Jennifer Horton, MBA (Guest):  So, thank you Bill. What I have found that’s really interesting about this year is of course this dramatic shift that has happened with COVID. The quick tip is this for healthcare marketers is they really need to think about that the industry that they are working for, the consumers has changed. So, it’s almost like they were a healthcare marketing leader, they went to sleep in February, and they knew the rules, they knew the way to reach their consumers, they knew the business and now you are waking up in May and actually you are working for a completely different industry. You have different consumers even the diehard that we focus on baby boomers is starting to change with COVID. And you kind of have to relearn a lot of the new behaviors and the new expectations.

Host:  And that is your Rapid Insight. That’s how it’s done. Jennifer, thank you so much. And so true. You go to sleep in February, you wake up in May and say what happened? Everything I knew is changed. So you are here to help guide us through and I love talking to you. You always have such great insight. So, you’re going to take us through COVID strategy insights. We’re going to talk about how consumer perception of healthcare is at an all time high and how you can bank the goodwill. We’re going to talk about how there’s a new interest in safety, infection control and prevention and then we’re going to talk about Telehealth. So, consumer perception of healthcare is at an all time high. Tell us about this.

Jennifer:  Well I think as healthcare marketers for decades, I mean since healthcare marketing exists, we’ve been working so hard to improve consumer perception. So, consumers tend to think of healthcare organizations and hospitals as cold, they’re aloof, they are a big business, I got a bit bill from them, Grandma had a bad experience and what the interesting piece of that is, is that they really have historically focused on us as a entity and a business. And the shift that’s happened because of the COVID pandemic is that the community has come to really understand the healthcare organization and the real commitment of the workers and the sacrifices and all that they’re doing to serve their communities and their friends and neighbors and so the perception shift has really been a lot about changing the vision of healthcare from an entity to very much more human. You hear all the hashtags of healthcare heroes and we’re so much more trustworthy and people are giving back. And so this is a really, really important change for us as healthcare marketers that we really have to take advantage of.

So, I think one of the best survey results I’ve seen lately is that NRC has done some studies with consumers across the country and they’ve been asking about do you feel more positive about healthcare. And what they found is that 50% of consumers feel more positive about healthcare since the COVID outbreak and I think this is a huge opportunity for us. We’ve been trying to move that perception for years and now it’s happened. And so what do we need to do to lock that in?

Host:  Right. That is the question and I love driving around my neighborhood and seeing all the signs thanking our healthcare heroes. So, how do we lock that in? So, you’ve come up with a strategy for this, you call it Bank the Goodwill with Four Important Points. So, let’s go through those right now. Under Bank the Goodwill, number one refreshing your brand. Give us your insight on that.

Jennifer:  Sure. So, I think the real key thing, the buzzword to keep in your mind as a healthcare marketer or strategist is looking for ways to bank that goodwill. So, you’ve had this dramatic shift that has moved the needle on perception of healthcare, perception of your organization. You need to look for ways to make that stick, to lock that in, to bank that into the brand and so the first step of that is really looking at your brand. And so getting into your brand platform, your brand positioning in the past may have been focused on high technology, it may have been talking about a new cancer center you’re opening and with this change, you need to go back and just spend a little time looking at your brand and what it means and what your messaging and shift your focus some to this more human side. So, we’ve made the shift in perception a lot because we moved from an organizational focus to a human focus and so how can you shift your brand to incorporate that. And so look for ways to be real and authentic, not overproduced. When you think about looking at TV at night, you’ve got the commercials that are coming out now are a lot more natural and real and not so canned as they have been in the past. And people have really been resonating with broadcasters and people really doing television shows, they are doing them from their home and people are so excited to see the authenticity of that.

And so as you think about your brand, pull in that humanness, pull in the authenticity and just really being connected to your consumer.

Host:  I love that so good. So pay attention to the human side of your brand and look for ways to be real and authentic. That is a really good tip on how to reinforce this perception change. Okay number two, refresh your consumer engagement plan. Tell us about that.

Jennifer:  Sure so, we all have consumer engagement so we’re out doing health screenings and we’re doing events and activities and of course we can’t do that the same way we have in the past. And even as you look down the six month path, how much of that will you be able to do in September? How much will we be able to do around October and pink? So, you really have to reexplore your engagement plan. So, again we’re connecting with our consumers, we’re much more human, we want them to feel that and so looking at your engagement plan and finding more virtual opportunities. The other thing that’s interesting with our engagement is that again, consumers used to be a little reluctant to participate and be involved in our events and the research is showing that consumers are really hungry for healthcare information to learn more. They’re just a little more afraid to go out and go to a health fair or be in a lecture series and so it’s an important time to take a couple of hours and just rethink that engagement plan.

Host:  Yeah, that’s really good. People are definitely hungry for healthcare info. So, it’s a great time to build a more personal relationship with them. Okay number three, reputation strategy, invest the goodwill into that. How do we do that?

Jennifer:  Sure, I think we’ve done a really amazing job. I think that’s part of the reason why our perception has improved is because when this thing started, when COVID hit and communities started shutting down; our social media people, our communications teams within healthcare really came on the frontline and they are kind of our internal marketing heroes. They have been doing posts, they’ve been sharing information of closings and what’s happening and telling stories and so the strategy there is really to continue that. So, even as your organization starts reopening and things start getting back to, I’ll say a new normal, continue to tell those stories. Continue to look for ways to keep the messaging going and so one of the things that you can do around that is looking at ways to share the good news. So, where we would have historically said heh this clinic is now reopened, let’s do a press release, we’ll send out this information, we’ll do a simple ad; there’s some new reputational opportunities for us because the media is really hungry for good news. And so, you might look at repositioning a reopening or we’re now doing orthopedic surgeries; you might be able to reposition that and work with your local media to tell that story. So, in one case we’re working with a partner of ours in their – they’ve had a clinic that had been shifted over to their COVID clinic and now they’re starting to make that back into the normal clinic. Well working with their media, we’re going to go and tell that story of what happened. Here’s what this clinic has done in the last two months. Here’s how they’ve helped and we’re so excited to be able to share the good news that they are going to be able to get back to their primary purpose of doing this.

I think another thing under the reputation strategy is really continuing to be that source of information for your community to find ways to partner with your city and county as you look at the research there’s a lot of research saying that healthcare is one of the most - healthcare voice is one of the most trusted voices right now. And finally looking for your Dr. Fauci. Having that spokesperson whether it’s a leader or your infection control physician who can really be that again, human face to the organization that can share information and be out there all the time as that trusted information source for your community.

Host:  I love that. That is so great. Find your Fauci. Yes. Find your Fauci. Tweet it out everybody. Find your Fauci. I love that Jennifer. It’s so good and so true. Right. Everybody’s got a Fauci on their staff. Find your Fauci. In fact, I bet it’s up on the board. Let’s find out. Show me find your Fauci. All right, all right, enough of that. But I digress. But I love that idea. And another great point about good news as people are hungry for healthcare info, they’re hungry for good news too. So that’s another great tip. So, thank you for sharing that with us. Okay number four, I just can’t get find your Fauci out of my head. Sorry. Number four, work on your growth strategies. Tell us about that.

Jennifer:  Sure. Of course we all know that all of our CEOs, all of our organizations are looking at revenue recovery. We’ve lost literally millions of dollars each week and so that revenue recovery strategy is really important, and I know you’ve got that. Here’s the thing that I want you to think about though is your foundation. So, one of the dramatic sea changes is how consumers think about donating to healthcare organizations. So, in a recent study, there’s 42% of consumers said they are interested in learning ways to donate money to their local hospital or healthcare system. I mean when have we had that in the past where people are actually almost half the population is saying I want to donate, tell me how. And so, as you think about the growth strategies, how you are going to divide up your budget which may have already been pulled back and cut some; you really have to push heavily and get your leadership to support an investment in promoting your foundation.

Because you can spend a small amount of resources to inform consumers and to drive those donations and then that’s revenue and that revenue doesn’t have staff expense tied to it. just as an interesting side not too as you think about those strategies, as I said at the beginning; the world shifted, your consumers shifted, everything you know about healthcare shifted. Historically, when we think about foundations and reaching an audience when we are talking about that target audience, we talk a lot about the baby boomers and the silent generation kind of that older population. Because they’ve been our tried and true donors. But the new research is showing that less than 30% of the boomers and the silent generation are interested in learning more and donating to the community. However, close to 50% of millennials are interested and gen-x and gen-z are well over 50% are interested in donating and so if you think about that foundation strategy, think about this new audience of the younger audiences is where you are going to tap into.

Host:  And those people will be your potential patients, consumers down the – way down the road so good to cultivate them while they are young. It just makes sense. Right?

Jennifer:  Absolutely.

Host:  Yeah, that’s really good. So, I love that, so this is all fantastic stuff. Consumer perception of healthcare is at an all-time high. So, how do you take advantage of that as Jennifer say, bank the goodwill and the four steps to that refreshing your brand, work on your engagement plan, invest the goodwill into your reputation strategy and work on your growth strategies. And find your Fauci. Yes. Find the Fauci. All right so then, people are a little reticent concerned about returning to the hospital so, plan number two here is new interest in safety, infection control and prevention. We’ve got to get on that too. So, tell us about that.

Jennifer:  Sure. Kind of the sum of these things are silver linings that have come along with COVID. Again, for decades, we have struggled to get our patients and families to really embrace safety, infection control, prevention. We have talked for years about population health and the need to get consumers to really own their own healthcare. And in the course of this last two months, we have seen a dramatic shift again of consumers who are actively involved in protecting themselves. So, a good way leading into that is a little bit of a side story. My mother in law is 92 years old. She had some health issues in January. She went to the doctor. They were asking you need to wear a mask and she did it begrudgingly but when we got home, it was like why do I have to wear the mask. That was silly. On and on. Now, she went to the doctor in April for a visit and she was really frustrated. She was angry that the nurse who saw her didn’t have a mask on. And she asked her why. When the doctor came in, again, not a mask on because of the type of visit we had, and she was like why aren’t you wearing a mask. Why aren’t you wearing gloves and so this has been a huge shift in safety and infection control and prevention that the consumer is taking. So, we need to be thinking about that a little bit as we prepare and start our communication messages as we come into these plans where we are starting to see more patients, more visitors.

Host:  Yeah really good points. So, people definitely are concerned about this, interested in this and they want to know what you’re doing about it too. So, make sure that you are paying attention to the importance of safety, infection control and prevention. And then Telehealth, this really has just like you said, we went to bed one night, and we woke up the next day and the world has changed. COVID-19 has caused a virtual healthcare boom. I recently had a virtual healthcare visit with my physician. I had never done that before, never thought I would. I always thought I don’t know if I’m ever going to use this but there, I was using it. So, tell us about the Telehealth care boom if you will.

Jennifer:  It’s about this shift that happened. And so, as organizations, some organizations were really far along that adoption curve. So, they had had Telehealth in place for years, their physicians were engaged, they were having okay adoption rates within their community. Other organizations had it on their horizon. It’s something they wanted to do, or they were actively moving into, but they were hitting those kind of traditional obstacles. So, whether it was physician buy in or how are we going to execute this to yeah, we have one in place, but we have really low consumer adoption. So, I was talking to a healthcare organization yesterday and we were talking about Telehealth and they said you know in January we had absolutely zero visits and now we’re managing 1000 visits a week and this is kind of a rural healthcare system. So, they are the kind of audiences that we thought would be slowest to adopt, this organization turned a program around and launched it within that short period of time of probably four weeks.

So, this shift has really been happening and what I think is important and the key lesson with Telehealth is that what I am starting to see right now so organizations have adopted, they’ve launched it, people like you are trying it. We have a lot more engagement. They have 1000 visits a week, what strategically is happening through leadership discussions is this discussion around okay now what. Do we leave Telehealth, do we keep working on Telehealth or do we start kind of pulling that into the background and phasing it – not phasing it out but we really need to get those patients back to the in person visits, the reimbursement is better, we can do a hands on examination which is better for the patient and so, I’m starting to see the sentiment of pulling back from promotion of Telehealth and my recommendation is figure out the way that you can maintain Telehealth and maintain the promotion of it because here are some of the thoughts around that.

Is that consumers like you once you’ve used it and tried it once even though you thought you’d never use it; it’s really convenient. You didn’t have to leave your house. You didn’t have to drive across town. And so the convenience of even that very first visit is going to stick in the consumer’s mind. But I think there’s bigger long term implications. So, one is that as we think of the next five to ten years, what we used to think as primary care as the gatekeeper of healthcare; you’re going to see Telehealth shifting into that primary step. And so, Telehealth is going to be the first call for healthcare. And then the Telehealth gatekeeper can push them into the system in a variety of places.

The second thing is that we believe the consumer switching once they’ve selected their first Telehealth visit, they are going to be very slow to switch. And so, what that means is that the organizations to get people signed up in their Telehealth, experiencing it for the first time will probably maintain those patients in the system, in the organization because they’re used to that platform. And what you know on the backend of that is if we look two years down the road, if you went silent on Telehealth, and two years down the road you are like okay, we’re really going to reinvest in Telehealth; it’s going to be much more expensive to get those consumers to switch to you from somewhere else. And their somewhere else might be Cleveland Clinic or it might be kind of a straight retail Telehealth. And so locking the consumers in and being the first place they get docked I think is a critical success factor for the future.

Host:  Yeah locking people in before they go somewhere else is a really good point. So great thoughts on Telehealth Jennifer and thanks for sharing your COVID strategy insights. I’m just wondering from your perspective, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen so far up to this point when it comes to marketing?

Jennifer:  So, I really think it’s the consumer. All of us, if you think about your personal life, you’re doing things now differently than you ever would have done them before. You’re doing things that if I asked you in December and said heh will you be buying all your groceries online, parking in the parking lot and having them delivered into your car? You would have gone well I don’t think so. Will you be staying home for a month? I wouldn’t think so. So, that I think the consumer, their behavior, what their wants and needs are has been a really big shift. The tying in with that is that when I say that the industry, we work for changed; I think we’re going to see some interesting things happen operationally as well.

So, as I was talking through Telehealth, we’re talking about how organizations were able to rapidly execute a Telehealth program and start going from zero to 1000 a week. So, the tried and true behavior of healthcare organizations is we’re a little bit risk averse, we are a little bit slow to move. We have so many constituents that we’re working with that it’s hard to get everybody on the same page. This shift has caused that to change and so organizations are going to move faster, they are going to be digging into things differently and they are going to have to be more nimble because the world’s going to keep changing. So, we don’t know if there’s going to be COVID II. We don’t know how the flu season is going to impact it. We don’t know so many things about supply chains and how we think about supply chains. It’s all going to shift.

So, for healthcare marketers, the interesting piece about that is as you think about how you plan for your marketing and your communication for the next year and these are things we’re going to focus on; I think you have to start being prepared to design a nimble strategy and a nimble strategic approach for your department because as the organization is able to bring things to market much quicker, or make big shifts or in some cases organizations are looking at their staffing models and the clinics that they own; we as marketing and communications experts are going to need to move even faster than before. And be nimble and to pivot quicker and so I think that’s an important thing for us to think as we start building kind of our plans for the next year.

Host:  With things changing so quickly and they will continue to change quickly; the more we get into this, for those who are able to survive and thrive in this new environment; they are going to have to be nimble and be able to pivot quicker as you say. That is critical for success in the future. So, is this what your advising your clients?

Jennifer:  Absolutely. We’ve moved from here’s the master marketing plan and we’re going to do cancer in October and we’re going to do this and heart in February to okay these are the things that we plan to do but we’re really moving to a shift to a quarterly strategy model. So, each quarter, really reassessing what we’re doing, looking back on what we’ve done and what’s worked but really looking at six months out, what are we going to do six months from now and being able to be responsive to what the market is saying and what the organization needs us to do.

Host:  Yeah, I really like that idea of moving to a quarterly strategy model with things changing so quickly. That makes sense. Well Jennifer, thank you for your time. I always love talking to you. You always are a wealth of information for us. And thank you for sharing your COVID strategy insights which included consumer perception of healthcare is at an all time high, how do you take advantage of that? Bank the goodwill. Also remember there’s new interest in safety, infection control and prevention and then pay attention to Telehealth, lock them in now. Jennifer thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

Jennifer:  Thank you Bill.

Host:  That’s Jennifer Horton and to connect with Jennifer please do so at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and to learn more about SHSMD, visit, that’s And visit out education page to learn about upcoming programs at And if you found this podcast helpful, and as always, come on, how could you not, please share it on all of your social channels and make sure you hit subscribe or follow to get notified of every new episode. This has been a production of Dr. Podcasting. I’m Bill Klaproth. See ya.