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Social Marketing to Health Care Providers

Social Marketing to Health Care Providers

November 29, 2017

Clients frequently hire PRR to communicate important health messages – not just to patients, but to providers. It’s incredibly rewarding to motivate behavior change among those who are in the business of saving lives. It’s a little different too. Here are a few things I consider when planning communications and social marketing for a provider audience.


  1. Doctors don’t have a desk. Literally.
    (Though health care executives and administrative staff do.)

    Most physicians don’t sit in an office when they’re accessing information online; they’re either on an iPhone, tablet, or laptop, while moving from patient to patient. Physicians were one of the first professions to adopt mobile use. When it comes to smart phones, they’re almost exclusively on iPhones (85% of doctors use iPhones, while 33% of the general population chooses iPhones over other brands).

    • Many readers of this blog are reading on the big screen. We may share the busy, hectic day of a health care provider, but the way we visually consume information is different. Bigger screens allow for bigger paragraphs. Smaller screens require a different way of sharing and processing information, even to very smart, highly educated professionals. Technology drives behavior.
  2. Don’t ask for too much over email.

    We can use email marketing selectively, e.g. to send an e-newsletter, but provider emailing habits are different from the general population since they’ve been trained out of email and text for patient-related communication due to HIPAA. As a result, it’s important to incorporate a variety of marketing techniques.

    • Despite all the regulations, providers are no less social or collaborative than other human beings, and there are digital/social platforms where they can engage on professional topics.
  3. The profession deserves respect—in ways that may be surprising.

    Some things are obvious: Don’t lecture or patronize. Don’t use marketing fluff. Do support statements with facts. Somethings may be less so: Don’t confuse medical brilliance with being a fact-consuming, process-oriented robot; the way to the head is still through the heart, and there’s an emotional reason why they practice medicine.

    • Also, respect their long hours by creating content that’s interesting to consume – this means writing that respects their authority but isn’t overly formal and choosing imagery that goes beyond the same stock photos that are served to them in every medical marketing brochure. They are not clones. They are individuals who care for their patients – and individuals who are savvy consumers of witty copy and creative design.
    • Medical specialties have their own demographics. This includes gender, clinical setting, urban/rural setting, income, and other demographics that vary by specialty. These should also be reflected in creative choices and media placements.
  4. Doctors wear multiple hats.

    Social marketers should try to reach all three of these:

    • The doctor-as-physician: “trust my product/service to benefit your patient and save lives”
    • The doctor-as-business person: “trust my product/service to help your business thrive—so you can go back to focusing on medicine”
    • The doctor-as-human: “trust my product/service to help improve your quality of life, so you have time for your family”

Most of the doctors with whom I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate on social marketing projects got into medicine in order to improve health, reduce pain, and make life better. Those are values I share as a social marketer who uses the art of communications for the greater good of the communities PRR serves. I invite you to join me: Speak to these higher values in ways that respect health care providers’ time, their digital behaviors, their intelligence, and their heart.

Diana Steeble
Written by:
Diana Steeble

Director of Marketing & Public Relations, Chairman of the Board

My first love in communications was food and nutrition work. Through my work at PRR, that focus has broadened to […]