Spreading the Word
The Arizona Heart Institute is reaching the public—and you can, too.
In the past, reaching out to potential patients was primarily a matter of offering a variety of screening services. Those who were asymptomatic might come in for testing and discover that they could benefit from angioplasty or another preventive procedure. Today, there are so many different modalities available that marketing must be comprehensive and offer much more to the public than simple screening services. The Arizona Heart Institute (AHI) in Phoenix has developed a thorough campaign targeted at the local, state, and national communities, and it’s spreading a positive buzz about successful procedures, experienced physicians and staff, as well as the latest technology. This overview of the philosophy behind AHI’s strategy may prove helpful in shaping your facility’s public relations efforts.
POSITION YOUR PRACTICE AT THE TOP
According to Dick Williams, Director of Marketing for VAS Communications, the in-house marketing firm that represents AHI, the initial goal of your advertising should be to position your facility as the authority in the field. Establish a “branding” campaign that explains and reinforces the concept behind each modality you offer. Materials should emphasize the innovative technology that makes each procedure possible (stents, trap devices, imaging, etc.), specifying what sets it apart from previous or alternative devices. Discuss the value of the research conducted at your facility, and explain how that research keeps you on the cutting edge of treatment and also educates the members of your staff, as well as the larger medical community.
MAKE THE COMMUNITY CONNECTION
AHI visits the surrounding community bringing a message of prevention. Jeff Davis, AHI’s Public Relations Director, comments that this approach establishes the facility as a source of education for patients and nonpatients alike. ?We offer free advice all the time,? says Davis, ?but it pays off because we strengthen our role as caring providers. If the people we reach should find themselves in need of the procedures we perform, they know exactly where to find us.? This approach is also an effective means of generating a family-and-friends referral base, which Williams asserts is AHI’s strongest source of new patients. ?What we want is a city of walking billboards—people who have had successful procedures and are eager to help their loved ones do the same.?
One of the ways AHI reaches the community is by hosting an annual public forum. During the event, live procedures are broadcast in a hotel ballroom with members of the public and press in attendance. Several physicians explain the procedures to the audience, detailing exactly what they are doing and why, while another specialist acts as a moderator and fields questions. AHI attracts the community to the event by placing ads in local magazines and informing newspapers and TV stations with media announcements in advance.
PUT THE PRESS TO WORK
To put a personal spin on their public forum, AHI contacts local media prior to the event and encourages them to write a story about the patients involved. Such articles provide profiles of the individuals, a focus on the technology and procedure used, and a background of the facility itself. One patient even created an e-mail network that offered information to people with similar ailments, creating a source of referrals in the process. AHI also has a paid media campaign that places ads during the winter, and first and third quarters of each year. These ads explain how AHI treats heart and blood vessel diseases, emphasizing the use of the latest technology and often incorporating graphics or animation to facilitate understanding.
NEW STRATEGIC APPROACHES
In order to remain competitive, today’s practices must utilize today’s media. AHI’s Web site, www.azheart.com, includes each of its public education brochures, a risk factor assessment tool, video archives of live cases, information on insurance issues, and many other features. Printing your institution’s Web address on everything you distribute is essential in drawing people to your site. AHI also reaches the public with a quarterly newsletter, which is mailed to past and potential patients as well as members of the endovascular professional community. These are just a few of the ways that AHI has successfully built a strong relationship with its surrounding community. Your institution may benefit from implementing a similar marketing strategy.