Performance Marketing Expert

Driving Healthcare Preference Through Content Strategies

In recent years, healthcare marketing has experienced an accelerated pace of change. As we continue to explore healthcare marketing’s evolution from traditional media buying and brand messaging to data-driven, privacy-first, audience-centric targeting, it’s imperitive to recognize the important role of a well-defined content strategy.

Healthcare is a needs-based decision. One of the primary goals for healthcare marketing leaders should be to establish a dialog with patients (and potential patients) regardless of whether or not they are sick or actively researching healthcare options at that given time. By driving preference with healthy individuals, your brand is more likely to be top-of-mind when those individuals do have a need. This method not only enables you to deliver beneficial advice to the community, it also allows for a deeper level of brand awareness and loyalty. While the concept of reaching out to healthy patients is not new, it can be a challenge in terms of deploying the right strategy to drive real impact. A successful content strategy for driving patient preference should focus on three key areas: Targeting, messaging, and syndication.

First and foremost, a winning content strategy starts with identifying and understanding your ideal audience. For healthcare systems, this means driving preference and engagement within the right payer mix.

While traditional media such as TV, radio, out-of-home, and print may reach the right geographic areas and are certainly useful in their own right, you are targeting a broad spectrum of individuals. In digital, there are additional targeting capabilities that provide highly-effective ways to reach commercially insured audiences by leveraging your first-party and other audience data. At Rise, we’ve seen clients achieve significant increases in driving qualified healthcare leads as a result of employing highly-personalized targeting and messaging strategiesincluding Nicklaus Children's Hospital, who saw a 23% increase.

Content Strategy and Message Development
Once you have identified the right audiences, your content strategy can be tailored to achieve specific goals based on each audience group. Content ideas for engaging healthy patients can come from a multitude of data sources. Here are a few ideas you might consider as you get started:

  • What are some of the key opportunities for injury or illness prevention for each life stage?
  • What diet and nutritional choices should be considered for each life stage?
  • How do these topics change seasonally? For instance, while there are “Back to School” content opportunities for young families, there may also be seasonal healthy aging tips geared toward empty-nesters.

There is a wealth of resources within your organization, and typically healthcare marketers are sitting on a large amount of existing content. Leverage leaders within your medical teams to help update previously posted content, as well as develop new ideas. Showcase innovative techniques and procedures from within various practices. Share your experts’ points of view on recent medical research and trends, and feature them as thought leaders within their fields. Data also suggests that patients love to hear from other patients— create video testimonials for another highly-effective delivery tactic.

You can develop a scalable process by using search volume and seasonal data to influence your content calendars. This ensures your team is creating content around the right topics at the right times to maximize engagement. For example, during daylight savings, people experience sleep disruption and fatigue that can lead to poor diet decisions. Timely topics like this create a number of relevant content opportunities.

Now that you have established the right audience, content, and messaging strategy, the next step is to actually get your content in front of the right individuals.

Begin by pushing out content via your website and applicable organic social profiles, and then look for ways to expand your reach. Some of the more successful methods our team has seen include identifying renowned medical professionals, authors, or other influencers— either within your organization or the industry— who are willing to share your content.

While these earned and owned methods can be very effective, paid methods, such as native advertising and social media, enable you to granularly target individuals. Consider allocating resources toward testing these methods. Promoting your content across programmatic and social channels can help influence your longer-term strategy and ensure you are reaching your target audience most effectively.

Native Advertising
Native advertising allows you to deliver articles, videos, or visual content through large publishers (such as CNN or WebMD) in a way that blends in with the site’s editorial content. As a result, you’re able to reach a highly-engaged audience in a contextually relevant and non-intrusive way.

While native advertising is relevant for a number of industries, it is especially effective in healthcare according to Medical Marketing and Media, healthcare consumers are up to 20x more likely to engage with a native ad versus a branded ad. In addition to their attention-grabbing capabilities, having a native advertising presence enables healthcare marketers to reach potential patients where they already are, building patient preference while providing an opportunity for direct response. Last but certainly not least, native advertising sets the stage for retargeting through other digital channels, such as paid social.

Paid Social
One study found that 57% of consumers say social media presence would influence their choice in hospital. According to another study, 96% of hospitals have had some form of social media presence since as early as 2014, making it vital your team takes a strategic approach to maximizing impact in the channel.

Through paid social, you’re able to promote your content on platforms like Facebook and Instagram in a way that is both highly-targeted and allows for a variety of engaging content formats.


By understanding your audience, the content that will best resonate with current and potential patients, and how to most efficiently get it in front of them, you’ll be well-equipped to drive preference. And, as with any marketing initiative, measuring success will enable you to continually evolve and optimize your programs. Check out, “Closing the Loop on Patient Acquisition” for more details, and to learn more about developing effective content strategies, reach out to Rise.

Originally published in 2017; updated in 2023.

08/07/2023 at 09:39