As we contemplate what it is going to be like to market healthcare to consumers and employers in the post-election era, I am reminded of Bette Davis’s famous quote in All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.” For certain, it is not going to be an easy time to potentially un-explain many of the ACA provisions that we have spent the last six years preparing for and finally communicating to employers and consumers. However, I take comfort in the fact that as healthcare communicators we are accustomed to constant change and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are now experienced in communicating the complexities of healthcare legislation to consumers and employers.
Rather than run for cover (which I admit is very tempting…), here are four New Year’s resolutions for healthcare marketers that should help us remain calm and carry on:
Resolution #1: Stay focused on your priorities and messages.
It will be easy to become distracted, but just because the political landscape is changing, our priorities should remain the same—advancing the transformation of healthcare, ensuring access to coverage, preserving adequate resources for healthcare, protecting patient access to care, enhancing the quality of care and patient safety, and making healthcare more affordable.
Even though a lot may be changing around us, do not be tempted to change your core brand DNA—mission, values and your unique benefits and advantages. Consistency of messages will remind your audience why they chose you in the first place and can be a reassuring reminder that you are there for them even in times of uncertainty.
Resolution #2: Know the facts before you speak.
Do not feel obligated to rush out with new information about changing healthcare legislation or benefits until you have digested the information and can think strategically about what you need to communicate. The changes will be confusing enough, so it is important that we understand the facts so that we do not add to the confusion. It is anticipated that repealing the law and replacing it with a viable plan for healthcare coverage, especially with more than 20 million Americans being covered under the ACA, would take close to two years. If that is the case, it will allow us time to digest and understand how we can best explain new information so everyone understands it.
Resolution #3: Listen to the voice of your constituents.
As healthcare marketers we can often become so immersed in the details of complex issues that we lose sight of whether our audiences have the same understanding or care about the same things we do. If you have patient or health plan member advisory panels, the coming year will be an important time to find out what they want to know and care about with regard to the changing environment. If you don’t have an advisory panel, now would be a good time to recruit panelists to help you with your messaging. You may find that they know more or less than we think and their issues may be very different from what we think they should be. There has never been a better time to understand what your audiences know and are thinking.
Resolution #4: Be a valued resource to your audiences.
During times of great change or uncertainty, your brand has an opportunity to become invaluable to your constituents by reassuring them that you are staying abreast of changes and will be prepared to help them through any transitions. You don’t have to have all the answers, but regular communication (emails, newsletters, white papers and social media posts) with the facts as you understand them and what you think they should know (here’s where your advisory panels can play a role) will help to position your brand as a valued resource they can turn to for information and assistance.
There is no silver bullet for managing change, but if we stay focused, communicate the facts and keep our communications as straightforward as possible we can weather the next sea of rough waters.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward