Marketing strategists gathered in Boston recently for the New England Society for Healthcare Communications to discuss the latest changes, trends and tactics in healthcare marketing. Here are five of my takeaways from industry insiders:

1. Be strategic in managing change and the “endings” involved.
Our ability to manage organizational change is particularly applicable in healthcare these days because of acquisitions, mergers, affiliations, re-brands, etc. If we don’t understand our role in change, it becomes a lost opportunity. Employees involved will be in the dark and they will misunderstand. Change is inevitable and we must lead change as effective communicators. The “people element” is often left out of the process. Ultimately, understanding is more important than agreement. Acknowledge people’s losses and understand that grieving is natural and necessary. Give people all the information they need and clarify what is and is not ending. Be open, talk and let people lament. In the end however, remove excuses to hold on to the past. (John Looney, Lahey Health & Julia Sorensen, Cooley Dickinson Hospital)

2. Simplify market facing brand architecture.
Today’s healthcare consumer gets confused by the network of providers they have to navigate. They deal with hospitals, systems, physician groups, labs, imaging centers, even holding companies. And they get communication and bills from all. (Chris Bevolo, ReviveHealth) Streamlining brand architecture and naming conventions will cultivate consistency, clarity and brand recognition, and, ultimately, brand recall and value.

3. Use measurement to market your marketing.
Tag everything to know what is working and ensure that marketing gets proper credit for it. Create baselines, analyze metrics, look at what isn’t working and fix it.  Look at financial investment vs. increase/decrease in traffic. Keep dashboards simple, especially when getting started. Here are some great tools: Wistia for video analytics, Marchex for phone call tracking and Sprout Social for social media. (Dan Dunlop, Jennings & Brooke Tyson Hynes, Tufts Medical Center)

4. Research shows that while physician recommendations are the most important factor in provider selection, additional information offers an influential stamp of approval.
Research shows that advertisements build brand awareness of hospitals and that there is a relationship between this image building and market share. Ads are especially effective in adding credibility once a PCP has recommended a particular hospital or provider. Research also shows that usage of online sources in support of healthcare decisions skews heavier for metropolitan, Northeastern, affluent and younger demos.   (Jeff Steblea, Market Street Research)

5. The revamp of a major healthcare website should be guided by a 3-year roadmap.
Year one starts with a digital strategy built on research, digital governance, staffing plans, digital change management, tools and infrastructure. Next is site design, CMS, mobile, content development, SEO, training and analytics. Year three is the year of optimization, including patient portal, eWorkplace, content management, service lines and social media. (John Bidwell, Baystate Health & Elizabeth Scott, MedTouch)