Marketing Strategy PR and Communications

Attendees Focused on Communication at #SHSMDBytes

Last week I had the chance to attend the #SHSMDBytes online conference hosted by the Society for Health Care Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD). It was a well-run event that featured interesting sessions and an outstanding system for attendee networking.

Online Table-hopping

SHSMD opted for the Remo platform for their attendee networking and it worked very well. When you logged in for the networking session, you were presented with a top-down view of the room. The room had many virtual tables around which people could congregate.

The tables varied in size from 2-6 and you could see the avatar of the people seated around a table. If you hovered on their avatar, their profile would pop-up. When you clicked on an open seat, you were immediately connected into a video chat with everyone else around that table.

I have to say that this was one of my best online networking experiences this year. The interface was simple and the video was seamless. I had a blast hopping from table to table meeting new people and saying hello to old friends.

Communications on the mind of #SHSMDBytes Attendees

From my conversations in the networking space and from the sessions I attended, there was no doubt that clear communication was the primary focus for many healthcare marketers.

Many were focused on external communications:

  • Public-service-style communication campaigns to educate their communities on how to stay safe during COVID-19
  • Reassuring patients it was safe to come into their facilities by highlighting the precautions they were taking
  • Instructions on how to connect with doctors online via telehealth

Some were also being asked to help deliver internal communications:

  • PPE instructions
  • How to use the new telehealth system
  • Resources for mental health support
  • The impact on staffing should there be a prolonged second wave with more lockdowns

Notable Sessions

There were two notable sessions at #SHSMDBytes.

The first was a presentation by the team at Advent Health. They presented their brand journey and how they had to wrestle with over a thousand separate social media accounts and hundreds of distinct websites. They spoke about the internal buy-in they had to achieve and the challenge they had in overcoming the territorial attitude organizations had. Through hard work and dogged determination, they managed to consolidate everything into a handful of social media accounts and a single website. Impressive.

The second was a fantastic presentation by University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. They told the story of an unexpected viral social media campaign that was started, unexpectedly, by a member of their local community. Carson King at an Iowa State Cyclone game and managed to get into the background of ESPN’s College Game Day coverage. He held up a sign that asking viewers for donations to replenish his Busch Light supply.

King’s appeal went viral and donations started pouring into his Venmo account. After seeing the response, King decided to donate the proceeds to the UI Children’s Hospital. This in turn made his appeal even MORE viral and donations skyrocketed. Anheuser Busch and Venmo got on board and matched the donations King was receiving. In just 16 days, King raised over $3M for the hospital.

The UI team spoke about how they managed through this “good crisis”, having to tip-toe around the alcohol aspect of the initial appeal and remaining supportive of King without usurping his campaign. It was a fascinating story.

Key Takeaways

At the end of the event, I asked fellow attendees to share their key takeaways. Here are some of the best responses.

Lisa Crockett, MBA, DBA – Executive Director, System Strategy & Planning at Providence St. Joseph Health

Each time I attend a conference like SHSMDBytes, I walk away energized and reminded about the importance of carving out time from my daily work to learn from others and see things from a new perspective. While many have described 2020 as unprecedented, we can’t ignore that it has been a catalyst for health care transformation. The dialogue at SHSMDBytes highlighted these changes – the acceleration of digital and virtual strategies and the creativity of designing new avenues for access; the focus on addressing inequities and disparities in health care; the importance of addressing stress, burnout, and mental health – not only within the communities we serve, but first and foremost within our health care workforce; and more. We may speak of wanting life to return to “normal”, but “normal” should not be pre-COVID. As health care strategists, we need to embrace and continue pushing forward on opportunities to truly transform health care.

Alan Shoebridge, Director of Marketing & Communication at Salinas Valley Memorial Health System

Not surprisingly, how we initially responded to COVID-19 and plans for what might happen in the future were topics on everyone’s mind at this year’s virtual conference, which was a first for SHSMD. The pandemic has raised so many challenges for those working in healthcare marketing, planning and strategic planning. How to best engage patients and consumers, communicate effectively to our employees and make the most of the limited resources we have available has always been challenging, but this year all those issues took on even more significance. Hearing from what others have done to be successful in 2020 was so valuable.”

Jeff Steblea, Director of Sales at Eruptr

2020 has been a year like no other, and so this year’s conference has been like no other. I think the main themes I noted across presentations and discussions with fellow attendees were all around resilience. It’s impressive to see how healthcare has pivoted so quickly to meet new demands and operate in a new environment. It’s times like these where you really see the value in having a community of peers to learn from and support each other.

Jason Skinner, Chief Marketing Officer at True North Custom

A common thread that has emerged in recent months, and was consistent throughout the conference, was the role of marketing in championing revenue growth initiatives. Now more than ever, health systems are recognizing that a consumer-centric, data-driven approach is paramount to financial recovery — and marketers are uniquely qualified to guide both patients and their organizations to greater health.

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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