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Since Anonymous is the Enemy of Engagement, How Do We Engage?

Last week we talked about recent anger and violence and the danger of treating certain people as “anonymous.” Yet, we know the idea of engagement is much easier than engaging on a personal level. When people are anonymous to us, they can be ignored, feared, pitied, or even attacked. The anonymous seem to deserve our worst.

We know the healthcare system in America has its own tendency to make people anonymous. We talk about “population health” instead of the health of individuals, “patients” and “volume” instead of people, and FTEs instead of nurses and caregivers. Health plans talk about “members” and refer to us by our numbers, and it often seems like personal circumstances and human judgment are removed from the equation. Anonymous means we can just follow process, ignore personal circumstances, and lump people together in convenient groups – demographically, geographically, and economically.

So if anonymous is the enemy of engagement, how do we engage? In the wake of my blog post, I’ve been asked that question multiple times by people in all different kinds of healthcare organizations. Since most of those questions have come from hospital leaders, here’s a brief, high level answer focused on that segment.

Healthcare marketing is responsible for connecting with the entire community. And hospital marketing in particular can appeal to the “angels of our better nature,” helping people to see how they can live better, more productive, healthier lives. Healthcare organizations are uniquely positioned to engage with people – individuals at moments of great joy and sadness, but also all the moments that matter in between. We can be leaders in moving past anonymous to engagement.

Engagement requires a certain mindset, but it can also be enabled by technology. CRM and marketing automation technology provides unparalleled opportunities to engage with people on an individual level, and a variety of digital data feeds give us insights into preferences, likes, dislikes, and priorities. Social media channels give us an opportunity to communicate with people one-on-one, rather than just another advertising channel, and people can opt-in to certain types of information. Unique, personalized URLs and calls-to-action (CTAs) in every marketing campaign element allow us to capture feedback, preferences, and interests. Mass advertising may have its place, but it does not engage – targeted, personalized, and digital forms of communication engage.

You may read some of these suggestions and think: how did did this conversation shift from the benevolent desire to engage to a commercial exercise? In healthcare, we can do both simultaneously. When we meet people where they are, when we seek to know them and their interests, when we provide them information they can use and something of value, that’s when we move people from “anonymous” to engaged. The irony is, that’s when we also see business value as well. We do well by doing good, which is not something that happens in every industry. We are blessed to have this opportunity.

The truth we all know, deep in our hearts and souls, is that we treat people differently when we know them – what they like and don’t like, what they care about and how to connect with them. Anonymous is the enemy of engagement, yet we can decide to engage. We can decide to break the antiquated rules of healthcare marketing communication to really engage with people, to know them, to connect with them on a personal level. And that will benefit your organization and the healthcare system as a whole.

February 8, 2018
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