Marketing for better Hospitals

Puzzle explaining the donation chain used in SMO Marketing

Brand Awareness has become very important for hospitals and is a major goal of effective marketing. So how do you become the “Coca-Cola” of your industry? How do you become the default brand when people think of your product? Constantly being mentioned in the media helps. Especially if it is in a positive light.

With this in mind there was a great opportunity for News Media Coverage this month. A twelve person, six-way kidney exchange. EricGrossDesign was tapped by Sutter Health’s CPMC for creating a graphic explaining how the complex chain of donors and recipients work. As I was making the graphic, I thought okay I can reach out to my former News colleagues who have all moved around a bit.

But there’s one glaring hurdle my experience has taught me:

Medical stories do not make exciting news.

It is true audiences don’t care. There are a lot of breakthroughs in science. But if you’re not affected by hip pain, do you care about a new high tech joint? If you’re not concerned about breast cancer, will you watch a two minute piece about the amazing new 3-D tissue scan? No? It’ll no doubt save tens of thousands of lives, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Still no?

Yeah I get that. Effective Marketing for the medical folks is tough to come by.

The key difference with this story is that we had a lot of people, I mean twelve people under the knife, that is a busy day. As one of our doc’s stated, “we might need more scalpels.” So yeah rare event. I had our media relations guy Dean Fryer, research as much as he could about each patient. General stuff, not enough to identify patients, but at least a bit character development, we have marketing to do aka storytelling.

People remember stories.

Luckily the altruistic donor was on board for promoting kidney donations. She had lost loved ones, and that was a strong emotional story for our target audience to connect with. Also, as is common in donor chains, there is usually a sibling or child, so I made sure to highlight that in my graphic and in our pitch. Again, trying to think of my marketing background, people connect and act on emotion. The more emotionally charged the better. Those relationships make the story more personal. If you hear how the daughter of a patient is donating their kidney, anyone who hears the story will immediately think of their mom. That is the kind of emotional driver that I am talking about. So again, I made sure the human relationship would be a focal point of my graphic.

Know your audience.

Most of the patients were local, San Francisco, Greenbrae, Oakland, Benecia which would be great for our local news teams. But we also had a patient in Fair Oaks, heard of Fair Oaks? No? It’s a stones throw from Sacramento. And chances are you’ve some connection, been to or at least heard of Sacramento. That means my good mate who is the main anchor in Sacramento can pitch this story to his News Director with confidence. See what I mean about making something relate? One patient was from Arizona, giving us some interstate interest. By crossing a state line, we can now make the story global, as in if it crosses one state line, maybe my state too? News outlets and social media will want to show the local connection, I made it easy for them to have it.

We also had a tech angle to help the marketing of our story. Matchgrid, is software that coincidentally was developed by former CPMC kidney recipient David Jacobs. Thats a fun coincidence, but you know that will play well to our skateboarding silicon valley hipster tech types, when they realize something that they or one of their coworkers created is getting national attention. This builds our audience as well, now expanding beyond geography plane.

The other thing to know about media is that if you can give them resources, your story moves up in priority. Let’s face it you make it easy for someone else to succeed, you get remembered. I personally put together a graphic kit and sent these to my former News Directors and Executive producers. We even made suggestions for street parking of those big satellite trucks.

What was the payoff? Did the Marketing work?

The result was incredible. We locked up the local front page, but it was also picked up by CNN, syndicated and picked up nationwide. The map below shows markets where the story aired the next day. Score. I just heard that our second press event was picked up on by SkyNews, so there’s a good chance my graphics are going international. After a few days of marketing and pre-surgery, we had a market reach in the US of 20,319,778 people.

Map of US highlighting key markets we reached

Even more cool was that Popular Science and even techie oriented Wired picked up on the “matchgrid software” side of the story. Sutter Health CPMC’s web presence had pretty impressive results as well. Due to this effective marketing our brand awareness has put my client well out infront of our competitors. The huge spike in our facebook and twitter activity can be underscored by the fact that we received dozens of calls and even more emails from potential donors. If each of those can be paired to 12-person chains, that means hundreds of lives being affected, and that is just based on the calls we received. No doubt other hospitals around the nation received an increased number of calls from altruistic donors. That is pretty awesome. These stats were taken just a day after our first event.

Key Marketing metrics like 900 percent spike FB shares, 26.5k page views


Just a guess here, but I’ll bet more than have of the staff involved in the operation has posted a link to their mom and dad saying they had a hand in this operation. We were not even counting those links.



So, what would I do better next time?

CNN clipped off the header of my graphic, of all things, removing Sutter’s Logo! Sure I had some other Sutter Info in there, but I revised it for the second press event.

I also increased the use of people silhouettes. SF Chronicle re-interpreted the graphic, using man and woman silhouettes. This was immediately more humanizing than my puzzle pieces (a cliche used to show the connection). Well-played SF Chronicle. You’ve clearly made your share of infographics.

Burn in my own source courtesy. Total rookie oversight. We branded the original Sutter Health CPMC, great for them, but I am an independent and need to look out for myself sometimes. What is the saying? “Cobbler’s kids own no shoes…” Grrr.

There was one marketing technique I will be posting another blog post on which Bloomberg capitalized on. I remember reading about it and thinking it clever. I’ll explain why you know the first pilot who flew across the Atlantic, and why you also know the third. Like I say, a future article…

After it’s all said and done, it is nice to know that for everyone touched by this story, there is a chance another altruistic donor will step forward. That will put another donor/recipient chain into action, perhaps an even larger chain. Even just one person. So with that, I just want to say, learn how to donate here.

And if you need you’re own international marketing exposure, I am for hire.

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