Marketing to Healthcare Orgs Marketing to Physicians PR and Communications

Agencies Can Help Through the Crisis & Recovery

A few weeks ago, we held a two-day Virtual HITMC Event that focused on managing through a crisis (ie: the current pandemic) and how to best seize opportunities when the recovery starts. We structured the event to mimic our in-person HITMC conferences with a mixture of presentations, panels and we even held an unconference each day.

The panel discussions have always been a highlight at HITMC events, and the two that we held during the virtual event were no exception. Given the overall theme, we brought together 2 panels of experts to talk about working with marketing agencies during and post pandemic.

Both panels revolved around an acknowledged reality – when times get tough, marketing budgets shrink, and one of the first cuts to be made are contracts with external marketing/PR agencies. But should that be the case? Can agencies help healthcare organizations and companies navigate a crisis more adeptly or more importantly can they help accelerate the recovery?

The first panel was hosted by John Lynn and included a group of 5 agency experts:

  1. Erin Wabol from Agency Ten22
  2. Jennifer Jennings from Anderson Interactive
  3. Chintan Shah from KNB Communications
  4. Dan Dunlop from Jennings

The second panel was hosted by yours truly and included the following experts:

  1. Joel Cessna from Eruptr
  2. Scott Collins from Aria Marketing
  3. Melanie Hilliard from Clarity Quest
  4. Marnie Hayutin from Hayutin Creative

Agencies Bring Valuable Perspective

Collins made a very strong case for keeping your agency when he commented about how important it is to have a wide perspective during an extended crisis like COVID-19. People become myopic and focus only on what’s immediately in front of them when a disaster/downturn strikes. Although this can help an organization survive day-to-day, it does lead to missed opportunities.

Having a third-party who is constantly scanning the landscape allows you to focus on immediate needs while your agency partner looks for places where you can fill market gaps.

One example is PR. Media outlets can only cover so much of the crisis before their audiences tired of the constant barrage of crisis-related news. They need other stories. An agency can help organizations capitalize on those opportunities because of their strong relationship with media outlets. They can get organizational leaders quoted in articles which can be significant when all eyes are on the news.

Another example is the subtle shift that PR professionals are seeing from healthcare providers. During the COVID-19 crisis, smart providers are reaching out to their communities to reassure them that their facilities are safe. This is important for patients who may otherwise forgo needed care out of fear of catching COVID-19 in the ER. It is also a great way to reduce the fear patients may have returning to the hospital when the pandemic eases.

Working with an Agency During a Crisis

But how can you work effectively with an agency during a crisis? Dunlop stressed the need to have a process in place that include weekly touch points and constant communication.

Jennings echoed that sentiment, especially the value of having a regular recurring meeting to keep projects moving forward.

Shah summed it up nicely with his comment about holding your agency partner to the same standard you did before the crisis hit. Essentially, Shah was encouraging Virtual HITMC attendees to lean on their agency partners during a crisis and rely on the strong relationship.

Other Great Advice

During the panels there many valuable strategies and ideas that were shared. One of my favorite pieces of advice came via Hayutin about ending the practice of generating content through a committee. There is a reason for the “too many cooks” adage. You can’t have a group of 5 authors each with competing agendas try to write a short article. It just doesn’t work.

Panel Recordings Available

As a bonus for the HITMC Community, we are making the recordings of the panel discussions freely available. Just click on the links below, fill out your information and you can see/hear what the advice wonderful experts shared.

Panel 1: How to Thrive Working with a Remote Marketing and PR Agency

Panel 2: How can an Agency Help During the Crisis?

About the author


Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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The Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) is an extension of the HITMC conference that is the first of its kind event that brings together marketing and PR professionals from throughout the health care community. We strive to provide amazing marketing and PR related content that helps HealthIT companies and healthcare organizations  stand out amidst all the noise of the industry. If you’re looking to market to hospital executives, doctors, practice managers, patients, or other healthcare professionals, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the HITMC community!