Pandemic Marketing and Shifting Strategies in the Health-tech Space

By Jill Oestreicher Gross

This article originally appeared on HITMC by Jill Oestreicher Gross, Account Manager, Matter Health.

March 11th was a chilly, sunny day when the news flashed across my phone: The WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. In that instant, I knew newsrooms worldwide were lighting on fire, and that the media landscape would forever be altered by this breaking news. I breathlessly walked into the office of Ryan Lilly, Matter’s vice president of healthcare, to unpack the news. We both knew our lives were about to get very busy, but little did we know exactly how busy.

When a global health crisis takes over, it follows that healthcare organizations will need to understand the effects the crisis will have on its company, its people and its mission. The  pandemic has affected all walks of life, from every country to every industry to every slice of humanity, and it turns out healthcare marketing is at the forefront of it all. Every client’s priorities and initiatives needed to be analyzed and remapped through the lens of COVID-19. 

As Matter quickly pivoted to a remote environment, our Matter Health teams “met” with clients to begin to unpack and understand the implications the pandemic might have for each account’s initiatives. Plans long in the works were suddenly halted to ensure the program’s intent was still viable, or even worse, seen as insensitive in some way. Initially, every day surfaced a new nugget of information, a new way of considering programs and messaging, with plans derailed, repositioned, and postponed.

Sensitivities toward journalists working round the clock paired with promoting the right type of content at the right time became the healthcare’s team focus as we audited the media landscape to find appropriate openings. And just as we began to get our arms around COVID, a sweeping social justice movement overtook the media landscape. Our clients needed us to help them through these uncharted waters, and to guide them to safe harbor, to a place where the important healthcare work they do greatly impacts those who need care the most.

And so we persevered, again strategizing on positioning, newsworthy announcements, social content, thought leadership, when to share and when not to share…the list goes on and on. We did it all in the vein of adding value to the important stories being told throughout the news cycle. We tirelessly worked with each client to examine the pros and cons of releasing announcements, anticipating reporters’ questions, respecting journalists’ time, brainstorming “safe” announcements and advising when to hold back on sharing news. 

Amidst all this chaos, we somehow managed to secure new client partnerships and stand up new programs, adding our detailed and thorough attention to each nuance of each account to ensure consistency. In parallel, we even further solidified our relationships with existing clients by providing open communication and brainstorming discussions on myriad healthcare-related topics. During this time, we leaned heavily on our integrated capabilities within the wider Matter agency and pivoted toward appropriate social posts, videos, graphics and case studies, to continue to tell our clients’ stories internally and externally.

What we’ve learned since that fateful March day is that more than ever, audiences like and respond to data supporting trend-oriented stories. With conferences being cancelled well into 2021, marketing dollars have in many cases been shifted to new forays into virtual speaking engagements, targeted digital advertising, webinars, podcasts and engaging influencers. Analyst relations are also playing a larger role in the media sphere, giving clients an additional platform to become involved in trend reports and thought leadership.

We’ve gleaned a massive amount about how our healthcare clients’ marketing strategies overlap with the world at large, and one thing looks certain: pivoting has become more or less permanent. Explore the changes and strategies with our team and several well-known HITMC experts in our live webinar, now available on-demand.