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Mission Control / Healthcare

Why Content Should Be at the Heart of Your Hospital’s Voting Strategy for U.S. News & World Report Rankings

To get voters’ attention, you need a year-round hospital reputation management plan.

USNWR Strategy Hero

By Katie Bridges

Each winter, hospital marketers shift their gaze toward the looming U.S. News and World Report Best Hospitals rankings. U.S. News’ evaluation process evaluates the more than 5,000 medical centers around the country, doling out Honor Roll accolades and rankings for hospitals and their various service lines.

The rankings, which are compiled from key metrics such as death rates and patient safety, also rely heavily on hospital reputation (read: awareness) based on the responses of more than 30,000 physicians who submit a ballot during the annual February and March voting period.

While this process is not without controversy or criticism, it’s continually noted as a validator of quality and respect by patients and physicians alike. So, for most healthcare marketing leaders, vying for a good showing in the rankings is a necessary evil they need to address in their hospital marketing plans (and budget), year after year.

Getting in front of the voting physicians provides a unique challenge. Many doctors note that the inundation of print publications, direct mail and email during the months of January through March has an opposite effect: Rather than impressed, they’re overwhelmed.

That’s why a number of forward-thinking hospitals have begun to play the long game and leverage content marketing to foster awareness, provide resources and connect with their physician audience throughout the year. Here are three tips for using content to bolster your hospital’s reputation and reach voting physicians.

1. Develop an Annual, Ongoing Physician Content Marketing Program

Cutting through the annual clutter of materials and information that goes out to voting physicians is a nearly impossible task. Therefore, this can’t be a once-a-year push. That’s not to say that special campaigns or paid efforts shouldn’t be deployed during the voting season, but if you’re only focused on a single annual push, your message is likely to be lost in the chaos.

Developing an annual program that considers ongoing content creation and distribution, tailored to the physician readers you want to reach, is a critical first step in boosting your U.S. News hospital rank. This content should be organized in a centralized destination that’s easy to navigate and provides multiple entry points for readers. And publishing new healthcare content should happen on a regular cadence with distribution across multiple channels like email, social media and key pages on your organization’s website. As you feature your own physicians, tag them on social media so they can share the content with their personal networks.

2. Make It Interesting, Even Entertaining

Physicians are people, too, and just like the rest of us, if information is dull, laborious and overly dense, it’ll be tough for even the most astute clinician to dedicate their limited time to reading something. Leave screen-hogging blocks of text to the medical journals and look for opportunities to differentiate your healthcare content by packaging it in a way that delves into the clinical details, while taking advantage of consumer-focused publishing tricks, such as:

  • Headings and lists, so physicians can scan the page for the information that interests them.
  • Graphical treatments, even illustrations, to highlight salient points.
  • Video content featuring your physicians. Remember to do your research to determine whether a physician would be comfortable on camera before asking them to appear in a video.

In your content, professionalism and expertise should come first, but personality and passion are important, too, to portray the human side of your hospital. Overall, writers and editors should continually ask, “Will this content interest a physician with limited time and attention?”

3. Use it to Support Your SEO and Paid Efforts

While the general public doesn’t normally search the web for terms like “neurofibromatosis,” you want your content to stand out to the physicians that do. Meeting their search interest (while highlighting your organization’s expertise) lets your content do the work for you. Include links to your own related articles to lead readers deeper into your site while leveraging the SEO benefits that Google bestows upon internal linking.

Additionally, in place of developing ad creative that just promotes your hospital with the logo and tagline, leverage content (and the headline) for your next digital display ad to target your audience with something that might actually capture their interest and drive them to click. As you enact the content plan you developed above, you’ll have a repository of fresh and relevant material to promote via search and social media advertising.

Furthermore, look beyond the typical clinically focused channels like Doximity to find where physicians congregate online and share information. These can range from topically focused groups on large networks like LinkedIn to niche mailing lists and blogs that offer advertising opportunities.

Put Content at the Center of Your USNWR Strategy

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Katie Bridges Overlay Blue
Katie Bridges Managing Editor

Katie has almost a decade of editorial experience, spending most of those years as an editor at regional magazines. A Georgetown University grad, she helps guide digital and print content programs from concept to completion for C/A clients such as Vanderbilt Health, Niagara Falls USA and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation. She has written for Garden & Gun, Washingtonian and Arkansas Life, among others.

The mother of two young girls, Katie can most often be found on a hiking trail with her family (Sedona’s a favorite). She’s a Southerner through and through, and the only member of the C/A team who uses the word “y’all” with abandon.

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