With the pandemic playing on everyone’s mind, healthcare marketing needs to deploy the trust and empathy mechanisms. Image Credit: Agency

As the COVID-19 crisis impacts earthlings everywhere, it also adds a complication for healthcare brands and their communications teams. The teams are required to adjust their brand and communications strategy to be thematic in light of the virus crisis.

With the pandemic playing on everyone’s mind, healthcare marketing needs to deploy the trust and empathy mechanisms to spread the revised message, while establishing their voice as a frontline leader. Here are four key points to do so via enhancing brand awareness and positioning in alignment with the shift in focus.

Deploy empathy

This is the time to communicate exactly that. The messaging should not look like overt marketing at this time. Look at the leading consumer brands that are trading in empathy and comfort right now, with TV spots professing their history, how they are “here for you” in “challenging times” and so forth.

It might seem funny as how remarkably similar they are. Yet, it isn’t wrong for a healthcare brand to adopt a similar approach as this is the message for the moment. People are scared, frustrated, and looking for comfort in things that are familiar .

Apply appropriate tone

For sure, you would want the messaging to be appropriate for the moment as, for example, humor, though desperately needed right now, isn’t likely to be a good choice for healthcare brands. The risk of coming off as flippant or insensitive is just too high.

Humor, sarcasm and snarky remarks should be best avoided at the moment. Beyond that, you also need to consider the many ways the coronavirus outbreak is affecting your patients.

Showcase and emphasize

Over a 360-degree communication plan, one way to build trust is to highlight the aspects of how you are helping in this crisis. One can cover, yet may not remain restricted to, clinical information, patient care and experience. If your facility isn’t a hospital on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, you are likely still involved to some degree.

Are you lending staff to the frontlines? Donating equipment and medicines? Undertaking community testing in labour camps? Providing unique accommodations or information to help with social distancing? Offering additional healthcare services to non-COVID-19 patients?

Whatever you are doing, show the community that you care by communicating these activities. Communication at scale with your audience quickly, clearly, and accurately using various channels.

If your facility is on the frontlines, you are probably focusing on facts and timely updates, which is right. But add some highlights to the mix. Share good news when you can. Profile doctors and nurses, and even your leadership, who are front and center in this crisis

Communicate authority

In these times of an oversupply in information, people are looking for sources they can trust. This health crisis has unfortunately become somewhat politicised, and there is some distrust of news reporting on the topic, as well.

Since a healthcare team is neither partisan or part of the media, be a trusted source by communicating with confidence and authority. The audience should know the organisation can be trusted and ready to provide anyone authentic information.

Another facet of communicating authority is keeping your message timely and accurate as the coronavirus outbreak has set off a rapidly changing situation.

But COVID-19 is not a marketing opportunity. It is an opportunity for all healthcare brands and communication teams to rise to the occasion. In times of uncertainty, what the community wants from a healthcare brand is strong leadership in the face of the unknown.

- Anurag Kashyap is Vice-President of Marketing and Corporate Communications, NMC Health.