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Steps Two to 1,000: How content turns awareness into relationships

Quick. Off the top of your head, name three marketing campaigns. Which come to mind first? Share a Coke? Dove’s Real Beauty? Apple’s Think Different?

Great ad campaigns like those earn their place in our collective memories by surprising and delighting us. They catch our attention to create awareness and spark affinity with an audience for a brand or an organization. Yet, in the spectrum of emotions, affinity is just the beginning.

What comes next is something even more valuable: friendship. But friendship, of course, is earned over time through repeated, mutually interesting and beneficial conversations. Or, as we call conversation in marketing, through content: compelling storytelling, useful information, and engaging conversations that build enduring relationships.

In short, awareness is step one. Content is steps two to 1,000.  Awareness is “Hello.” Content is “Let’s get to know each other. Then, let’s do something together.” Content moves audiences from the top to the bottom of the marketing funnel, keeping the conversation going, building a relationship with your customer step by step to the point of action.

How do hospitals, health systems, and innovators in the healthcare ecosystem turn awareness into relationships that generate action and lifelong loyalty? How can content increase the ROI of your awareness campaigns?

The gifts of relationships 

If we do not convert awareness into friendship, we walk away from an extraordinary gift: the generative power of human relationships. When affinity becomes a relationship, things happen. It’s a form of alchemy. Bring two or two thousand people together in an enduring relationship and something happens that is more than the sum of their individual efforts.

The deeper and longer the connections, the more generative they become. Think of long relationships in all their forms: marriage, business partnerships, the physician and patient. These relationships bring forth families, profits, and better health. These are gifts we receive only through sustained relationships.

With their reach into communities and span across lives, hospitals and health systems already have many relationships. Yet those relationships may lie fallow unless guided by content to generate action.

Fighting chronic disease with content 

Take the mission of Community Health Initiatives (CHI) of Monterey County, California. Forty-five percent of the region’s residents have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. CHI and ReviveHealth partnered to develop a campaign to increase awareness of the disease in the community. The campaign featured “The Beast,” an attention-grabbing animated character representing type 2 diabetes. We created campaign messaging to jolt the audience into awareness of the serious threat posed to their lives by the disease.  

But jolting alone would not lower the rate of diabetes in Monterey County.

Diabetes Beast promoting unhealthy habitsThe Beast awareness campaign was followed by an extended conversation in web and email content to educate residents about preventing and managing the disease. That extended conversation encourages the community to share their stories and support each other in affirming, healthy ways.

The campaign website, dontfeedthediabetes.com, launched in 2020, with a content strategy designed to build relationships between CHI, the healthcare providers in the community and, most importantly, among residents of Monterey County. Sparked by the campaign, content continues to fuel momentum for a community-led movement toward better health.

Just as we connect with our friends on some days with a phone call, on other days by taking a walk or over dinner together, content conversations take many forms in many places. In the case of Monterey County, conversation takes place on the website as locals share how they are beating the Beast. Easy-to-read articles encourage site visitors to make small changes in diet and exercise that make a big difference in their health outcomes. A monthly newsletter keeps this audience engaged with tips and links to activities and events in the community and at the local hospitals. Nuggets of helpful content inform and engage people across social channels.

And the initiative is already showing results. One key measure of success is click-throughs from the site to a health-risk assessment (HRA) that guides visitors to an appropriate level of care based on their HRA results. Soon after the launch of the site, more than 700 site visitors completed the HRA, and rates continue to rise. That’s 700 residents of Monterey County who have taken the first step toward better health in addition to 113 who took another step forward by enrolling in the CDC Diabetes Prevention Program. And the conversation has just begun.

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, we can’t stop at awareness. The content conversation must continue until real change is accomplished. By building relationships through cross-channel content, CHI will save lives.

What is your brand’s legacy?

What can your brand accomplish with a relationship-based approach to content? What will happen when you create enduring relationships with your audience—and they with each other through your content? When we understand that creating awareness is simply step one, the possibilities offered by a cohesive relationship-building content program will emerge for your brand, your community, and your legacy.

A relationship-based approach to content is at the core of personalized marketing, the strategy to deliver the right information at the right time in the right place to identified customer segments. A thoughtful content program ensures that personalized points of contact across the customer journey deepen into relationships that generate a community of word-of-mouth customers and trust in your services and brand promise.

This approach to content also grows awareness campaign ROI by stepping beyond reach to engagement—gaining interest and visibility to grow deeper relationships with your audiences.

Without pairing that awareness campaign with equally great relationship-building content, we don’t reap our full ROI. We’ve stopped short of converting simple affinity into enduring and generative relationships. The next step must be content that becomes a welcome presence in your audiences’ lives, an extended conversation long before and after they need healthcare services.

Over the coming weeks, we will explore the concept of relationship-building content and practical steps for implementing it. What does content look like for a state hospital association? How can it cultivate a positive culture among nurses or improve the health of the unhealthiest state in America? How can your organization create real change—and the legacy that comes with it—through content? Stay tuned.

March 24, 2021
Nothing beats a good old-fashioned conversation.
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