How to Market like Cleveland Clinic

This week I sat down with Amanda Todorovich, Forward contributor, thought leader and Director of Content Marketing for Cleveland Clinic to discuss, well, Content Marketing. Todorovich, who’s dedicated her career to digital content strategy, and is a trusted SME (Subject Matter Expert), speaks at numerous conferences, including Content Marketing World this fall. Her approach to digital content is leading the new movement in healthcare content and storytelling. Follow her on Twitter, @amandatodo.

1. You have almost a decade of exclusive healthcare marketing experience. What keeps you attached to healthcare and the patient experience?

I’ve been in healthcare for most of my career by design. I love it. I wouldn’t change a thing.

You know, I think being in healthcare marketing is such a privilege because the story that we get to tell and the information that we get to show really have a direct impact on people’s lives. When we talk about new treatments that are available, or symptoms to watch for, or something they might not have known about before, we have the ability to impact their quality of life.

That’s really powerful and it’s so different from working in some other industries that are more retail or product oriented – we are really, really in a service industry. And the stories we tell are so amazing. And the product we have are our doctors who are these amazingly talented people.

2. Content marketing has gained more influence in recent years, what do you think makes this specific area of creative relevant to healthcare?

At Cleveland Clinic we have an amazingly talented team of writers and designers who previously were primarily working on offline publications that we do. Now we’re really bringing the two teams (Creative and Digital) together under a content marketing umbrella, but really, we’ve been in this movement for a few years.

Content marketing is not new to healthcare. It’s how we’ve educated patients and communicated with them for decades. The evolution of content marketing is really more about producing the right content, putting it in front of the right audience and being useful and helpful and relevant to people.

What has made it different is the digital evolution of content marketing and the way that we’re able to reach out to people now. Now we’re able to use data and be smarter about the content we produce. For years and years and years there were newsletters and print posts and things that we were doing offline that you’d produce, and you’d hope and you’d think that the content was working and was getting people to be patients, but you didn’t have the data.

The digital piece gives you the data and it lets you get really sophisticated with how you tell stories; how you choose what to put resources behind, in terms of content production. So to me I think the evolution of content marketing is really more about producing the right content, putting it in front of the right audience and being useful and helpful and relevant to people.

It’s really about relationships; it’s not about selling. You can’t really sell a hospital; it’s about building relationships. It’s critical for us as a brand to have that awareness, have that relationship with people all over the country because we are a large academic medical center with a world-class reputation and we take that very seriously. We want to be reaching people and helping people all over the world, not just here in Cleveland.

3. Cleveland Clinic is one of the most influential healthcare nonprofits in the nation. What best practices do you and your team use to stay ahead of the ‘curve’ and set an industry-wide example?

As a regulated industry and an industry that has to really be careful about the risks we take, I think that one of the things that we do to make sure we are really staying ahead and that we do maintain a leadership position in our industry, is really watching other industries. It’s seeing what’s going on in the media industry, what’s going on across the internet and what are other brands doing really, really well.

Big brands like Coca-Cola, they’re like a role model brand when it comes to content marketing. What can you learn from them and how can you apply that to our world? We look at things like Women’s Health Magazine. How are they writing headlines? How are they creating content that’s getting engaged and what can you learn from that? How can you apply that within our own brand guidelines and what’s true to Cleveland Clinic?

You can’t be an expert in this area if you’re not doing it. It’s really just staying on top of it, making time in your day to make sure you do that.

So for me, I’m constantly reading and engaging with other people’s content too. I’m reading other people’s case studies, following blogs, being active on Twitter and Social Media to make sure I am paying attention to what channels are coming out. Where are things changing? What’s the data saying about different methodologies?

4. What is at the heart of Cleveland Clinic’s content strategy and how can other healthcare nonprofits use the same approach to bolster their community presence?

The heart and soul of our content strategy is really three words, that’s ‘useful’ and ‘helpful’ and ‘relevant’.

We are creating content that is about what people are looking for from us, not necessarily about what we want to be talking about. And what I mean by that is really when we share an infographic about what color of pee says about your health, that’s not necessarily the most prestigious or strategic topic, but it’s helpful and one of our most engaged pieces of content. And it’s reached people all over the world.

It’s always about finding a balance of health and wellness and prevention information, as well as that clinical treatment information. We’re making sure that we really give our users that mix because I think they want the information from us, so we are in an amazing position to give it to them.

On our healthcare blog, hardly anywhere does it say ‘call us soon to make an appointment’. It’s a softer sell than that. It’s journalism. So much so that our content is actually part of the Google network, we have media outlets syndicating our content.

It really isn’t selling, it’s sharing information that we know is going to help people.

5. Which content mediums do you find the most relevant for healthcare providers? How does your presence there further the patient/consumer experience at Cleveland Clinic locations?

Facebook is the number one driver of traffic to our blog, HealthHub. The blog gets about 3 million visits a month, and about 60% of those come from our Facebook audience alone.

We’ve invested and grown our audience so much that we have 1.2 million likes on our page, which is the most in the industry. We feel that it’s super relevant because of the way our content is written and works. It feels like it’s written in a way that speaks to people. So our engagement and our organic reach is really high and we strive to maintain that, tweaking our post formats and the way we write things to really get the most out of every post that we can.

We are very active on Twitter and our account is definitely I think among the best of the best. It follows a very similar strategy to what we do on Facebook in that we’re tweeting out a lot of our helpful content.

Our motto is always patients first and that translates really well into our content strategy and the way we do our social media as well.

I think everyone, all of our caregivers at Cleveland Clinic, that’s the attitude that we have. It’s that patient-first mentality. Whether that’s Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest or LinkedIn or Instagram, or Youtube, it really is all about the consumer and our patients, and providing information that’s helpful to them. I think that’s the exact same experience you have when you walk inside of our doors.

We do very few boosted posts on any network. Most of our social advertising has been around follower acquisition or likes acquisition, and the reason we do that is we view our followers as an annuity. We put content in front of them again and again and again, and continue to have that relationship.

Late last year we also launched a separate channel for the physician audience. Clinical information, clinical images videos, things like that are geared at a more clinical audience.

6. What is the science behind your content strategy? What numbers and stats do you use?

We’re leveraging data every minute of every day, and it’s not just survey data or CRM data, it’s every piece of data we can get our hands on. Part of that’s looking at a Facebook post and looking at the number of words we provided in a teaser verses from one post to another, what got more engagement and how we leverage that to topics where people are actually clicking.

My team, while we are definitely a group of writers and designers and content producers, we are just as equally a team of people who are engaged in numbers and data and analytics.

We’re tracking content interactions. What are people doing after that? Are they downloading a treatment guide? Are they becoming a patient? We do as much as we can to connect all of those dots. We’re literally looking at data in real time, and asking, what are people doing on the sites right this minute?

7. How do you keep your marketing content ‘close’ to your patients?

Social media has given us a direct line of access to people who are definitely willing to share information and give us feedback. Social is the biggest thing for my team directly, because we see it every day and are monitoring and responding to people and helping answer questions that come through the direct platforms. We’re definitely on the pulse of what’s going on and we’re monitoring that regularly.

Our PR group is in touch with patients and we’re telling more patient stories. We have an amazing video and media production team that tell those stories in such amazing ways.

We are capturing those meaningful moments and then translating them to other people. The more you can pull on the heart strings; the more you get that emotional reaction from your audiences; the more connection they feel to your brand, and the more they’re going to engage with your company.

8. What strategies do you use to make your content viral/shareable?

I love that question – just push the viral button! Again, it goes back to that same questions about making content that’s really interesting and helpful to people: What do people want to know? What are they talking about? What are they searching for? Then approach it in a way that is how your consumers would talk about it; writing things in a way that are approachable and inviting them to click and share and engage.

Academic health centers have a challenge in that. We have to balance being a prestigious thought leader and expert with the need to be reaching people, engaging people, and feeling approachable.

So we do some things with a little humor, we do some things that are a little softer. You know, I think some of our infographics are a great example of that. Some of our videos too, and some of the things we’re doing with vine. You know, our heart month strategy was all about cooking strategies.

That’s not how we used to do it, but I think it’s a necessary path we have to take as we live in this more social world and that’s really where are patients are finding us and engaging with us and learning about us that way.

There’s so many brands now doing content marketing really well, it’s an exciting thing to watch and see how it’s evolved over the last several years. We see other brands that have done something great on Facebook or vine and ask how we can accomplish that or apply it to our audience. It’s just about doing it differently.

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