Keep the messaging... but tone it down to meet the requirements of the moment. Healthcare brands will still need to address their audiences. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The question of whether marketing during this crisis is appropriate can have multiple answers.

We are all aware of the impact the pandemic has had on healthcare, but understanding the impact on a brand, both in the short- and long-term, should be explored. According to ‘Marketing Week’, only 8 per cent of 35,000 surveyed thought brands should stop marketing altogether during the pandemic. A majority felt brands should help them in their daily lives, inform people what they’re doing, and not exploit the situation.

In short, yes... but we need to be smart. Marketers should be asking the following questions:

• As the lockdown eases, what aspects of social distancing will still be in effect?

• Will marketing budgets be affected?

• What messaging will resonate with consumers?

• What media habits will change?

Operating a business remotely in a time of crisis is a real challenge. The virtual meeting rooms are dealing with the most alarming concern of the present - how to keep customers engaged at the time of social distancing? This calls for a calculated strategy that can help businesses connect to their audience effectively.

Brands need to be heard even now

In another survey, 43 per cent of respondents said that they find it reassuring to hear from brands they trust at a time like this, while another 40 per cent said they are eager to learn what brands are doing in response. Just the same, 15 per cent said they don’t want to see or hear any brand at this time.

This is the time when businesses should focus on utilising their online channels to keep customers informed rather than trying to make sales. Adapting mindless marketing tactics at this time can do more harm to brand equity.

Need to adapt

In response to the current situation, all healthcare marketers are required to improvise strategies. Irrespective of whether they are big or small, healthcare providers must share online notices regarding the safety measures and initiatives taken by them to fight COVID-19. This can contain the necessary information that might be helpful to patients, such as any change in operating hours, availability of doctors for individual consultations, measures taken for the safety of other patients, or about any change of policies.

Whether dealing with paediatric patients or those treated for oncology - for that matter any medical issue - you must make them feel safe and secure. To avoid the risk of transmission, make special arrangements and, just as important, let them know about it.

Capture the stay-at-home

As more families remain stuck to the indoors, this might be the time to invest in TV commercials while lowering exposure on radio spots. You can have podcasts, organise discussion panels of qualified medical professionals and senior management to speak on COVID-19 and other related diseases and post on social media. This will create higher organic traffic on to the site and enhance the thought-leadership credentials of the organisation.

No let up in pressure

It’s unlikely there will be any easing of the degree of difficulty the healthcare industry is experiencing. But all operators still have a part to play in eradicating misinformation and promote safe living through measured marketing efforts.

This pandemic may be a catalyst for change within the industry. It is certainly spurring new thinking about marketing. It just requires a fresh set of eyes and an open mind.

- Anurag Kashyap is Vice-president for Marketing and Corporate Communications at NMC Health.