On an average, a city person is exposed to 300 advertising messages in a day. He whips past hoardings on the road, he reads through ads in the newspaper, he overlooks promotional messages on TV and he indifferently listens to the radio in his car which plays the local FM channel. Perhaps the biggest challenge for any business today is to be seen and/or heard in an overcrowded marketplace. Everyone is fighting for that one moment of attention from the target customer.
What is more intriguing is the fact that doctors cannot even advertise themselves. The hospitals can communicate the services they provide in an ethical way, but full blown advertising is yet to emerge on the scene. However, there are a few ways in which the hospitals can create ‘visibility’ for themselves in the target market. Here is how your hospital will no longer be the best kept secret in town:
1: Find out what newspapers are read by your target market. Then find out how you can give them an informative interview for the prevention of diseases [in which you specialise]. You may even have a weekly column for answering questions of patients in that paper. The purpose is to impart information and not to blow your own trumpet.
2: You can have a similar strategy for being heard on the radio. You must however, not overdo it. Overdoze is not good for your image.
3: You must remember, a news item will only get published if it is of value to the masses. No one is interested in what you have done. They want to know how it will benefit them. Your article/interview must have, what journalists say, ‘news’ value.
4: Giving advertisements about your hospital/organisation in special health supplements of newspapers doesn’t work. Same is the case with giving ads in the sections of journals or magazines which have special pages to display all the ads. You will get lost in the crowd of other advertisements. Make sure you are standing alone in a visible corner when it comes to displaying the ad of your hospital. Researchers say that the top right hand corner of a newspaper is most likely to be visible.
5: Remember it is illegal and unethical for doctors to advertise themselves. At the same time, the companies can advertise themselves. Hospitals are companies whether they are proprietorships, partnerships, private limited or public limited. However, the hospitals should not advertise irresponsibly and inappropriately.
6: You must ensure that there are certain take aways for your patients when they go homefrom your hospital. It may be key chains, pens, greeting cards, diaries, privilege cards, etc. Not only will they remember you, their friends will also get exposed to your presence.
7: Some messages on safe driving [if you are a trauma centre] women education [if you are a Ob-Gyn centre], quitting smoking and exercising [if you are a cardiac centre] etc should be put on the highways in form of hoardings. Not only these messages are for public good, they also create a good image about your hospital. Once again, the location of the message is important.
8: The hospital should never shy away from social work. Organising Preventive Healthcare Seminars in the target market is one such initiative. Another hospital I did a project for, has about 250 volunteers trained in first aid in case of accidents. These volunteers are in various villages and are regularly trained. My own hospital gives away school books and school uniform to a poor village school going girl every month. Needless to say, that when such social work makes headlines in the papers, the hospital does not need to spend money on advertising.
9: Many hospitals are offering free ambulances and are promoting emergency helpline phone numbers for these ambulances. I believe it is a good way to be visible with the help of an easy to remember helpline number. There are many innovative ways to promote an emergency no.
The above mentioned ideas boil down to one thing. They emphasise the role being creative to be seen in the market place. In this era of competition the hidden good doers will not survive for long. You have to be visible without sounding boisterous.
Sai Mahima Hospital