Ask a healthcare marketer: 7 questions for Jimmy Phillips
Becky Smith, Marketing Communications Manager
Managing a hospital marketing department is no easy task. No two days are the same. And whether you've been at it for years or are new to the game, there's always something to learn.
We wanted to ask someone who's seen a lot of success: How do you do it? So we turned to Jimmy Phillips, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at San Joaquin Community Hospital (SJCH) in Bakersfield, California. SJCH, a 250-plus bed facility, has been recognized in the top 5 percent of U.S. hospitals for overall care. And the marketing department has had its share of accolades too.
Here's a little of what Phillips, who joined SJCH in 2008, has learned in his tenure:
What's your greatest challenge as a healthcare marketer?
I think the greatest challenge is being relevant. Although everyone needs healthcare services, having a heart attack, stroke or cancer isn't something that people like to talk or think about. For us, the challenge is building strong relationships with potential patients to gain their trust—before they actually need our services. If we're successful in doing that, their choice in the heat of the moment becomes obvious.
How do you make sure your content stays relevant to your readers?
You have to talk to people in ways that resonate with them. One of the absolute best ways to do this is to tell great stories. It's easy to fall into the pattern of centering campaigns around awards or accreditations that your hospital earned. These things might be incredibly important and make a huge difference for your customers—but how can they decipher whether your award is better than hospital B's right down the street?
I'm not saying not to advertise your quality awards, but do it in the context of a story. If it's a print publication, share a story about a heart attack survivor—and embed the quality award into it. If you're holding a press conference to announce an achievement, invite a patient to share his or her story. These are powerful ways to connect to the community.
How do you measure success?
Each month we conduct a community preference survey that gives us a sample of which hospitals consumers prefer overall and for specific service lines. Looking at that data in chunks—a quarter or year at a time—allows us to see trends that help gauge whether the sum of our advertising is effective.
Of course, there are some departments—like ER and primary care—where we can drive patient volume. In those cases, success is measured by volume, revenue and consumer preference.
And in a town like Bakersfield—which is a bit unique—I also put a lot of stock in what I'm hearing when I'm out and about. When people tell me about their family member that just received excellent care or how much they enjoyed our new commercial, I think that says a lot.
How do you prioritize your day to get things done?
In terms of my project list, I try to think about what I need to do that day to move our projects forward. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It's easy to become overwhelmed if you think about the end product without understanding the steps it takes to get there. I try to focus on the process and let success be a result of that.
In terms of crises management, you do what you have to do in the moment. In many ways, it's like an athlete at a critical juncture of a game. Rely on your training, and do what needs to get done to ensure the best result possible.
I also try to work in time for personal development, such as reading, and also some big-picture thinking centered around what we need to be doing a year from now or five years from now.
What advice would you give a healthcare marketer whose resources are stretched?
Question everything. Don't just keep doing something because it's always been done that way. If you're investing resources, make sure you have a way to understand and measure success. Certain strategies can be harder to measure. But if you're constantly questioning their value and focusing on proving it, you'll be on a great path.
What is marketing's role in the patient journey?
Recently, we created a mission for our marketing team: "Bring stories to life that connect our staff, physicians and community with the heart of our organization." Although we don't touch patients directly, I truly believe that one of our most important roles is to continually elevate and inspire those involved in direct patient care. We focus on recognizing them for great work and helping them to stay centered on what matters most.
What marketing tool or resource could you not live without?
For me, it's our agency and the various experts that we work with (like Coffey) that help us accomplish our goals. We've really tried to surround ourselves with a stable of experts. It definitely takes a village, and I'll take our team over any out there.
Thank you, Jimmy, for your time, expertise and insights. It's a privilege to partner with you and your team to bring great stories and important health information to the people in your community.
—Becky and your Coffey team
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