Healthcare marketing requires a different approach than most industries. It’s a highly personal topic. An effective healthcare marketing strategy involves authenticity, compassion, and community engagement. In this episode, Nichole Cassells Stevens chats with host Evan Brandoff to explain why. Nichole is the Director of Marketing & Business Development for Roper St. Francis Healthcare. Evan and Nichole discuss the effectiveness of multichannel marketing, how Roper St. Francis is leveraging community events to build mindshare, and the values required of a good leader. Tune in to learn more!
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The Role Of Community Engagement In An Effective Healthcare Marketing Strategy With Nichole Stevens
We welcome Nichole Stevens onto the show. Nichole is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Roper St. Francis Healthcare. She is not only an incredible healthcare marketer but also a tremendous leader. Let’s get into it.
Nichole, how are you? Welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here, Evan. I’m looking forward to talking with you.
We are so excited to have you. In my notes, I see that you almost didn’t go into healthcare marketing. What’s the story behind this?
In my junior year of college, I was studying abroad in London and having the time of my life. I had aligned an internship for myself in DC when I got home that summer. My mom who was a nurse at the local hospital and had been for many years did not like the idea of me being away again for the summer. She was like, “I’ve lined up an internship for you at the local hospital. They need help writing their newsletter and doing some things at the radio stations and some of their partnerships. You should do that. If you do, dad and I are going to get you a car so that you can get back and forth.” I’m like, “A car sounds great.” What I did not know is that it was a Ford Tempo and it was all $500. It got me where I needed to go but I did not go into politics.
That was my first taste of healthcare. It wasn’t even marketing then. It was more like I worked in HR and got to do fun outings and community events. I did get to write the newsletter that I thought was super cool because when I was little, we used to go with my mom to pick up her paycheck. That’s how long ago this was. We go to the bank and get a lollipop. With the paycheck though, there was this little newsletter. It was stories of the folks that work there. I always thought it was sweet. It was a bribe. I tell everybody I got into healthcare because of a bribe. I knew that the blood thing could never work for me, but the whole people and service have spoken to me. I’ve been in the field ever since.
If you knew what the car was going into it, do you think you would have accepted that internship offer?
I don’t know if I would have. I feel like things happen for a reason always. There was a reason that I got that experience. I then moved to Atlanta. My first job ended up being in healthcare marketing. It all worked out.
What drew you to politics originally?
I thought I’ve seen it. It was more that it seemed like that’s where everything happened. It’s where all the action was. They can make real change. It seemed interesting. It’s a different way of politicking for patients, families and the best care.
With the impact that you’ve made over your career in healthcare, I would make a strong argument that you’ve positively impacted just as many if not more people and their health outcomes.
I hope so. I’d like to think that. Thank you.
You mentioned college. You went to school in New York.
It’s SUNY Cortland in Upstate New York. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I took one marketing class. I was like, “This is awesome. I could do this.” I was hooked after my second semester of freshman year.
What part in New York are you from?
I’m from way Upstate New York, North of Syracuse. It’s a little town called Lowville. It’s on the Adirondack parkway. There’s a place called Tug Hill that gets the most snow ever. It’s a big snowmobile area, skiing and all that. It’s beautiful but it’s cold and dark for a long time. I knew that wasn’t for me. I graduated from college in May. It was Mother’s Day weekend. It snowed the morning of our graduation. It was like, “I don’t think I can do this.”
I’m going to date how old I am. It was the year the Olympics were in Atlanta. I have an aunt that lived there. I was like, “I’m going to move to Atlanta. I’ll do something with the Olympics like an internship or something.: This is my big idea, which I didn’t end up doing. However, I got a job in healthcare marketing. That was cool and the rest is history. I still have family up there and still love to visit but it’s 75 and sunny in February in Charleston. You can’t complain too much about that.
What drew you to the Olympics? Were you big into sports?
I love sports. I grew up in a small town but my parents were big believers that if you keep kids busy, especially young kids and teenagers, they stay out of trouble. I have two other siblings. We all did sports. My very first one was softball. I wasn’t that great at it but I did that and participated in some weekend things. I did soccer in middle school and high school. I was a cheerleader all the way through and then track as well. I did a bunch of fun sports in college that don’t count for anything. Cortland is a big physical education school.
A lot of my friends were on sports teams. I went to a lot of games and that kind of thing. I have two children. Like my mother and father, I’m a big fan of keeping people busy. Sports are so important for kids, particularly girls, and boys too. Boys are more encouraged to do sports. It’s super important for girls too for their mental health and image. They can be part of a team. Mine have been on sports teams since they were four years old. I’ve been the mom on the sidelines, cheering and screaming excitedly.
On the work side of things, Roper St. Francis Healthcare is a community healthcare system. We’re a not-for-profit. A big part of that is partnerships. That’s super important to us. From a brand standpoint, partnering around youth sports and adult sports is a huge part of what we do. It’s a big part of my sponsorship budget. What we do is sponsor youth sports through our recreation programs in all three counties. We also have athletic trainers in all of the high schools here. We are the team physician for our local college, The Citadel here. Sports are big.
When I’m sitting on the field cheering, I love seeing my big old logo on the back of all these kids’ t-shirts. I go to the grocery store and see my brand everywhere. I’m on the sideline and I see it. It’s awesome. I have teammates reach out and say, “Thank you so much for sponsoring my child’s team.” We give out tickets for The Citadel. They’re like, “I got to go to The Citadel. I’ve never been to a Citadel football game. Thank you for sponsoring.” I love huge sports fans, what that can do for brands, and what it does for the mental health of kids and adults.
You are preaching to the choir. I’m so excited to get into the incredible work you’re doing at Roper St. Francis. First, I want to set the stage for our readers that aren’t too familiar with healthcare marketing and what the foundation of healthcare marketing is. I understand that you used to teach or maybe still do teach a healthcare 101 class.
I haven’t taught one. I did one class for college at Charleston. It was pretty funny.
There you go. We’re talking to the right expert to help level set what are the foundation of healthcare marketing.
When I taught the class, it was one class. The Wonderful and Wacky World of Healthcare Marketing was my creative title. That’s what I called it. I was talking to a class of seniors. We’re looking at career opportunities. Fundamentally, healthcare marketing is no different from any other marketing field. How you approach marketing for healthcare is different. Healthcare is super personal.
Healthcare isn’t necessarily something you think a lot about until you need it. Part of our job though is to keep people healthy so you don’t necessarily need us. We focus a lot on prevention and wellness as far as what someone needs to get into the healthcare marketing field. Like all of the marketing skills, you need to be able to write, do strategies, and know the latest in digital and traditional marketing.
Healthcare isn’t something you necessarily think about until you really need it.
For us, this is an awful expression but it’s like cradle-to-grave. We birth beautiful new babies and we’re often there for end-of-life care when it comes to hospice. We get to see people at their most joyous moments and some of their most vulnerable. Our team gets to tell those stories, which is an incredible honor to get to be a part of someone’s health journey.
I’m relatively healthy. What’s an example of preventative care that I should be thinking about? Can you talk me through how through marketing you’re able to educate me about preventative care and take advantage of Roper St. Francis’ resources?
For most people in their 20s and 30s, their first experience with most healthcare is in an urgent care setting. Maybe we have been a weekend warrior and done a big run or done something to enjoy ourselves at home. You’re like, “I’m going to need to be seen.” You’re thinking, “What’s the fastest way?” Typically, it’s in urgent care. That’s the first touch for most people. We love to see active people and keep them well. A lot of times, it’s important to get hooked into a primary care provider.
You can go in two ways. There are internal medicine or family practice doctors. A lot of women do that care with their OB-GYN. Our goal with getting someone who dealt with primary care is to be their health and wellness partner for life. There are certain screenings everybody needs once a year. Let’s check your blood pressure, cholesterol, height, weight and mental health. It’s great to have a partner that can help you through those times when you might need more. Sometimes it’s once a year.
Most insurance companies or companies want you to get a wellness check every year anyway to make sure that you’re as healthy as you can be. The way we market, we have done a variety of things. A lot of them are fun and funny. I always like a lighter approach typically, especially for younger folks. A lot of times, it would be an email campaign or a direct mail. If we see that someone isn’t affiliated with primary care yet, we will send different things and do things around like, “Did you know what the screening and thing can help you do?”
Sometimes it’s more on the funny side. You’ve hurt yourself and you need to get care now. We approach it a couple of different ways. I’m tailored to the audience. Typically, when someone is over 65, they have Medicare. They get a free wellness screening every year. Most people that are employed get a free wellness screening. It’s about health, wellness and prevention. It’s how can we keep you healthy and well to live your best life and the life you want to live.
As a director of marketing and business development, I understand you have 10 direct reports and 98 indirect reports, which is a massive marketing team. From a high level, how has that broken up?
We are structured like an internal advertising agency. I say that a lot. We have a couple of folks that act as account reps and work with our key service lines like orthopedics, urgent care and primary care. They’re the team that works through a strategy like, “Let’s work through a marketing plan and a creative brief,” and then we’ll come back and work with our creative teams. We have graphic designers and writers on the team and those that we contract with. I have a leader in digital innovation. She and her team are responsible for reputation, social media, our website and intranet.
We have a media buyer and sponsorship person on our team as well. That’s on the marketing side. On the communication side of the house, we have a head of media relations and a head of internal communications as well. We have a physician sales team. They’re called physician liaisons. Their job is to go out and like pharmaceutical reps, they work with practices and help them troubleshoot if there are any issues, tell them about the latest and greatest that we have going on in our system, and see how we can make their worlds better in working with us.
The other team is we have a system contact center. A lot of times, people call when they need a doctor or when something has happened. That team is often the first voice a consumer will hear before they ever see us. We have evolved that more into online chat. That grew for us 65% instead of having to call. I don’t know about you but I don’t enjoy calling. I would rather chat, send a message or something. Our online appointment scheduling went up almost 41%.
People want to connect digitally. I always say, “Maybe you work in a busy office and you don’t want to tell somebody about your health issue by phone. You can connect in other ways.” That center and team continue to evolve. They fulfill all of our marketing campaigns. Charleston is a popular area to move to especially during the pandemic. We saw lots of people moving from California and the Northeast. It’s a pretty affordable place to live by some standards. We have a very active new movers campaign.
That means when you move to the area, we welcome you to the neighborhood, give you a few little health and prevention tips and then say, “If you would like a free first aid kit, fill out this form. Either mail it back or fill it out online.” We will hook them up with a doctor and that kind of thing. We also send emails telling them about great places to go for a walk, some different parks to go to, some sports events that happen in town, and some of the beauty of our town. We’re trying to focus on that health and wellness lifestyle and keeping people healthy. The contact center fulfills those first aid kits and any other needs from our marketing campaigns that we have.
What channels are you communicating to people that are first moving to Charleston?
They get direct mail and an email. We did a social campaign for a while. That didn’t prove quite as successful. Some of it is they don’t necessarily know who we are yet. We also do a magazine. It’s still super popular, believe it or not. We blew in special inserts for those that we could identify as being new to the area and got some response from that. It’s interesting. Recruitment is a big issue for a lot of companies across the country. It is for us as well. One of the things we have added to our new mover guide is, “Do you mind job opportunities?” We have been amazed at how many people are like, “Tell me all about that.” That has been great. It’s another touchpoint.
We’re looking at ways to continue to grow that program. The COVID surges have made that hard, to be honest. Our contact center also answers for all of the employee practices that we have in the system. When people think they’re sick, they call. They’re worried and they need reassurance. Our phone lines go up. The next phase of that campaign is to reach out and do an outbound phone call. It’s welcoming somebody in, seeing if there’s anything else we can do for them, and sending them up with an appointment with a primary care physician or a specialist if they need it. It’s multitouch.
We need to move to Charleston. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten direct mail that has valuable resources that are going to help us.
Come on. We would love to have you.
In that direct mail, is there a magnet or anything that people can put in their home to keep Roper St. Francis top of mind?
If they send it back or go online, we send them a first aid kit. We have a magnet philosophy. I’ll share that though. With stainless steel refrigerators, magnets don’t stick. We don’t do magnets anymore because most folks don’t have them. We used to do that. That used to be a huge thing that we did. We would attach them to postcards. People loved those.
One of the things that we focus on from a marketing standpoint is how people want to consume information about healthcare and anything in life.
I could already tell that you are fun and energetic. What makes a good leader or manager of such a large team?
First and foremost, it’s recognizing the talent that you have working for you and letting them do what they do best. I don’t like to micromanage. I want to hire people that I know can do the job. My job is to be supportive, be their biggest fan and cheerleader. If they need clarification and things, to help with that and be their guide. I often feel like I’m a therapist at times but that’s okay. You’re a bit of a counselor sometimes, and sometimes a project manager.
You’re helping with priorities and also getting to know somebody as a person. To me, that’s what has gone so far and the thing I love most about being a leader. I’ve had a lot of people on my team for many years. I know them and their families. Several of the people on my team met my children when they were first born at the hospitals. It’s the personal relationship and connection, and knowing that you always have their back. No matter what, you’ve got their back. You’re their biggest fan, tying it back to sports. Ultimately, it’s where you shine.
As people move up in the organization, they’re getting promotions or maybe leaving. It’s always hard when somebody leaves but you always support when someone gets to leave and become a marketing leader in a new space or field. I’m proud. It’s like having babies if I help this happen for somebody. That’s how I would describe it. Plus, we like to have some fun happy hours and some other things here and there. We celebrate birthdays and try to make everybody feel special.
That’s such a good perspective about when people leave. That means that you provided them with the skills and resources to go be a leader somewhere else. When you joined Roper St. Francis, what did the marketing department look like many years ago?
It was very traditional marketing-based. I remember the graphic designer that we worked with would drive down old-school printout proofs that we would take a red pen and red line. We did a lot of direct mail back then like giant newspaper ads and brochures. We do some of that now but everything was traditional. We did some television. Social media didn’t exist. I don’t know if we had a website when I started. The team was small. It was only a couple of people. We planned a lot of events because back at that time, marketing was like a party planner.
There was some of that. Now it has evolved into a strategic partner, which is exciting. One of the things that we focus on from a marketing standpoint is how people want to consume information about healthcare and anything in life. To us, being that authentic brand voice is important. Our brand is around being local and compassionate. We’re your neighbors, family and friends. We have been around for 150 years. We want to make sure it feels like that anytime that we do marketing with them.
You have a website and a lot of what you do is digital. What percent would you say of marketing initiatives or marketing spend is digitally focused?
Going into that omnichannel channel mix, I know that Roper St. Francis is big in community engagement, specifically a lot of sponsorships. Can you speak to that a little bit?
For me, from a brand perspective, one of the most important components of our brand is that we are community-facing local and not-for-profit. Everybody that works at Roper St. Francis on all of our annual evaluations, one of the areas that we look at is how much community service did you do. If you do a certain amount, you get a higher score. Giving back is built into the heart of who Roper St. Francis is. We’re the largest private employer and we’re a big company here. We also have a responsibility to be sure that we’re supporting the community at every turn.
We have a couple of processes. We have a community benefits area that focuses very specifically on that. I’m trying to partner with people in the community around healthcare disparities and the underserved. As an example, we announced through our Ryan White Program that we’re partnering with the city of Charleston to also help provide housing for folks that are HIV positive. Often, they haven’t maybe gotten the care that they have needed and have gone through some social gaps. We want to help boost them up at all levels of the area, not just getting their medications but also making sure they have a safe and healthy place to live.
We do that on the community investment side. On the marketing side of the house, we like to partner across the board. Youth and adult sports and outdoor recreational opportunities are important to us and our brand. We want to keep people moving and healthy, and foster that sense of community. Sitting on the sideline at a soccer game, there are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended families. Your neighbors are there. It fosters that. We purposely do those sponsorships at a local recreation level so that we are hitting all the different parts of town. That’s important.
Moms are important to us. One of the things that we do is sponsor the local Charleston Moms. Our goal here is to give tips and tricks to new moms and dads or parents on how to take care of your baby, how to take care of yourself and that kind of thing.
There are a couple of events that we do because of that. Community partnerships are important. We do a lot through our DNI lens. We have the Charleston Air Show. There’s a big military population here. The Blue Angels will come and fly. We have so many teammates that are either part of a military family or have been impacted by the military. They always want to go on base and thank all the people that help serve us. That’s a sponsorship coming up. We’re doing Charleston Black Expo. That promotes Black business leaders.
We will have a big presence there. We have some people talk at different panels and also be a sponsor of that. We have the Charleston Cooper River Bridge Run. It’s a huge 10K event that has been in the area forever. Lots of people come into town. We’re the hydration station’s sponsor of that. We have sent out and asked for 200 volunteers to help staff those water stations. Their job is to hand out water but also cheer everybody on. It’s being that community partner and cheerleader and connecting people back to our brand and those that we serve.
Going back to what you were saying about leadership, this is all evidence of you being an incredible leader. It would be impossible to do all of these things in the community if you weren’t enabling your team to be able to go out and do that. Talking about youth sports specifically and rec sports, and then going back to the concept of omnichannel and layering on different channels, how are you able to take what you’re doing in the community through youth sports sponsorship and then use that content perhaps in different ways and channels to amplify it in the community?
We have done a few things in that space. Through all of our partnerships, we get a spot or a feature in all of their eNewsletters that go out to all the members. We typically promote our Get Care Now campaign. We’ve got all these ways that you can get in to see us. We do hands-on onsite concussion clinics for the coaches. The coaches all meet a few times at different times of the year. We want to always have one of our health experts on hand so they know what to look for.
It’s like, “If you see this in a child, this is what you need to do.” There are some things you can treat as a coach but there are some things that are going to need a more urgent level of care. We leave our information like, “Call us if you don’t know. We will help direct you where you need to go.” This is a little thing but it has meant a lot to our coaches. We will provide the coaches with a clipboard, pen, whistle and these ice towels. It gets hot here quickly. These ice towels keep their athletes cool on the sidelines.
More from a content perspective, we do a lot with our local college, The Citadel. We did a partnership together where we sold these CARE t-shirts. The money then comes back to our foundation. People got to get a light blue t-shirt that is like, “Our own Citadel cares.” Knowing that they’re going to support people with cancer is great for people because you’re giving back to a cause that you’re interested in doing. We have a mascot go to play basketball against other local mascots. That has been a fun activation that we have done.
We always share on social media with other brands if there’s some great image that we’re sharing together or like, “We partnered on this together. Come out tonight and see the game.” We’re always looking for social tie-ins. We have had our teammates out to The Citadel, for example, to go to a game. Part of what we do a lot of times is we will get some tickets so our teammates can enjoy an evening of sports or an afternoon of daytime sports.
With the rec stuff, it continues to evolve because we continue to add more rec departments. Our idea there is what is it that they need? What would help them? In one of them, their STEM program is through rec. It’s helping with the robotics club or maybe sometimes with equipment or with dollars to be able to get them where they need to go to compete. Ultimately, more STEM people will help us because we need all those brilliant STEM students to come and work in healthcare eventually. It ties back in that way as well.
What’s the mascot?
The mascot’s name is CC, which stands for Circle of Care. People like to call it the beach ball. That’s the red and purple brand mark. That is our system brand mark. We created that years ago for a few reasons. We were trying to reinvigorate our brand. There are lots of new people. That happens too in an organization. As we have grown, our team has grown. It’s like, “How can we make sure everyone knows our names?” We had opened a new hospital. There are the proper names of our facilities, “How can we make it fun and engaging for teammates?” Hence, we birthed an idea of CC. CC was born in January of 2020. CC went around and met teammates in what we dubbed Brand Circus events.
I am always amazed and love the fact that grown adults and kids come and want to hug that giant. It looks like a big ball. It’s super fun. You don’t typically think of healthcare as having a mascot but I have some fun videos I could share with you after what we have done with CC. CC goes to sporting events and rounds in our hospitals, especially during COVID. COVID was hard on healthcare as you might imagine. We made a giant mask for CC to wear so that CC was also safe from COVID when roaming and rounding our facilities. CC makes everybody happy.
I’m happy to hear about CC. Have you had the honor of putting on the CC costume?
I’ve put it on but I’ve not gone out in public with it. The thing is heavy. CC is going through a bit of a transformation. We have Wellness Works. It is focused on health and wellness for our teammates. CC is going through that and coming out with a little more mobile model that’s a little easier to manage. She has gone through her health and wellness routine and is looking even better. We’re rolling that out soon.
Every brand needs a mascot and/or a jingle. Both are so memorable and a great way to tie your brand in a fun way into the community. I love CC. I’m curious. With everything you’re doing in the community and so many different initiatives, how are you measuring the impact of the different initiatives, specifically as marketing impact?
We want to keep people moving. We want to keep people healthy. We want to foster that sense of community.
That’s part of what can be hard honestly. We have taken on a brand new sponsorship. It’s not youth sports. It is a concert series that we’re doing on Daniel Island in a newly renovated stadium. It went from seating 6,500 to 11,000 people. We’re working through that process of how you value your brand. What we have done are impressions at this point. We don’t have a great measurement system for that. We do ask always for people to tell us the result of where our sponsorship dollars went and what they did.
In the rec departments, that typically means that they can add more teams and let more kids join. We love to hear that. They do scholarships for families that can’t necessarily afford to pay for the youth sports thing. It’s not typically a huge amount. When we’re doing a significant investment, it allows a lot more families that maybe participated to be able to be part of that. We love those stories.
Sometimes we’re part of an inaugural event. When we opened a hospital up in a new county, we were part of the first She Tris event. That was a triathlon dedicated to young girls and women. Before we were a partner, the event was pretty small and then it grew three times the size and outgrew the space that it was in. It’s us helping to promote that.
We love hearing that too, “We have grown so much because of you.” I heard that from my Citadel partners like, “Every time you all did a social media post around the CARE shirts, we get this huge bump in orders.” Some of it is the power of our brand with theirs that just helps. It’s more around attendance, growth and people coming. I would love any feedback and advice on good ways to measure the impact of community sponsorship from a marketing standpoint. I would love to learn more about that and practice around that.
What I’m hearing is, intuitively, you know if you’re supporting those communities that they’re going to reciprocate and support you, which is valid. There’s a lot of data to support the validity of that. People want to support the companies that support them. There are a bunch of Brand Lift studies that I could help you with. This has been super interesting. I have one last official question for you and then it’s the lightning round. The last official question is, what’s coming up for Roper St. Francis? What’s exciting going on?
We continue to grow. We have launched the Strategic Plan 2030. There’s a lot that we’re doing around optimizing our footprint and making sure that we are serving our entire community and looking for some of those communities that maybe we aren’t in. I got to be in a meeting around this mobile health van that we’re going to be taking out into some of the smaller communities that don’t have as much access to healthcare. We talked about bringing it to the sidelines and some of the sports that we have as well because there are folks that haven’t gotten physicals.
That is one thing I didn’t talk about that we do. It’s having trainers in all the schools. We do free sports physicals for anyone that needs one, which is super cool. I love doing stuff like that. That’s fun on the community benefit side of the house. As far as other initiatives, it’s growing more our digital front door and capabilities around that. We have this great system contact center. We’re going to be live on a new EMR or Electronic Medical Record system.
That’s super exciting because our inpatient and outpatient are on different sides. If I’m a patient, I have to go to two different places. It’s going to make it easier for the community. There’s a certain stickiness to that as far as being able to connect with patients, and the way they want to be connected with. You can say your preference, “I want to be texted, emailed or called,” however they want to do that. We’re excited. That will roll out in August 2022. That’s a big thing on our plates.
We’re always looking at ways that we can do things better. Content is a big thing that we’re working through, particularly with our orthopedic service line. I’m a runner. I love to run. I’ve competed in a lot of events not because I want to be first but because I like to do it. I’m always supporting myself somehow because that’s what happens when you get in your 40s. I’ll Google things like, “Why does my knee hurt? When do I need to see a doctor for my knee?”
We’re working through more content guides around that. Charleston is a very active community. Running, tennis and golf are big here. We’re working through how we could do that in a way that’s helpful for the community but also helps us from an SEO perspective. It’s the community and what they need like, “I would love to know when do I need to go see somebody.” Those are some fun things that we’re working on. We’re working through some new brand projects. We’ve got a fun campaign coming out around our urgent cares.
As you know, many of us, especially those that don’t feel like they need to go for care often, try to treat things at home. We have this very fun video series. We went and interviewed a bunch of people in the park. It was during a break in COVID. We were like, “How do you treat a jellyfish sting?” You get every gamut of answers from pottying on it to every condiment in your refrigerator that you can put on it. Our experts come back and say, “You shouldn’t do those things. This is what you should do.” We did that for a bunch of different topics. We think it’s going to be a fun and engaging thing.
We’re going to be launching that on social media soon. We had to wait because we were in a COVID surge. We had to wait for our volume to come down. That’s fun and this campaign is entirely social. Our goal is for people to share their home remedies, and give advice as to when they need to see professionals. You had asked me, “How do you get people in primary care?” To me, it’s being real when they need us and realize, “I should see a real person for this versus being Dr. Google and trying to figure out what I should do at home.”
You brought up COVID. I’m so curious. Being in a market where it’s somewhat political and controversial about whether people should wear masks and get vaccinated, how are you able to communicate to the people in the community on how to stay safe without frustration?
We have always based it on science. What we did is we partnered with all the local health systems in town and we’re like, “Let’s do this together.” We partnered with our media partners as well who gave us all these PSAs. First, it was around the importance of masking, staying 6 feet apart, and keeping each other safe. That was wave 1. Wave 2 was around vaccines. It’s like, “Get vaccinated so you can keep those around you safe.” We were all unified on that message. Talk about a true partnership.
That was one of my proud moments of COVID. The other thing is educating what the impact of this has. We did a series. This is also on social media. It was inside the frontlines of COVID. One of them touched me the most. They’re all amazing. We had our infectious disease doctor that saw tons of patients during COVID. He likened it to the Vietnam War and the killing fields. He was in the killing fields. This was around the Delta surge.
He gets very emotional during this because he’s like, “They’re dying. It could have been prevented.” That one was the one that got the most reaction. We got letters to the editor around that in our local paper. The social love for this doctor, thanks and gratitude to him was incredible. We had another leader who runs one of our busier ERs. Talk about the fact that she had a baby at home. Her baby couldn’t get vaccinated. It’s like, “Help me by getting vaccinated because this is the only way I can protect my baby.” It’s authentic.
We ask people for their stories and what they would tell the community if they could tell them anything. When it’s a real person that might be your neighbor, family or friend telling you that, it takes the politics out. We did have one of our people saying, “There’s no place for politics in here. I don’t have a politician next to me putting them on the bench. I’m telling you what I’m seeing.”
Going back to authenticity, one of the other things we did a lot of too during COVID was trying to educate about the numbers. It’s like, “You don’t have to listen to us but here are some facts. Talk to a healthcare professional and those that you trust in the community. Here is the CDC’s website.” People can do their own research because we did want to empower people to do that. In the end, talk to your healthcare provider.
If you remember a little bit during COVID, in the beginning, there were a lot of questions like, “If you’re pregnant, should you get a COVID vaccine? What could that do to your unborn baby? What could that do to your future fertility?” We did a series of town hall meetings and we always had an OB-GYN doctor being part of that both for our internal teams because women are a huge part of the workforce in healthcare. It’s 75%.
A lot of women either want to have a baby eventually, could be pregnant or whatever the case might be. We did a lot of education around that. She would bring in the recommendations from her professional organization, ACOG. The thing with COVID is it’s always changing. Your messaging needs to be updated. Our goal was to be the trusted voice of our community during COVID. It’s like, “Please come to us with questions. We want to answer your questions and talk with you about your concerns.”
If you’re reading and you don’t trust your local politicians, that’s okay but please trust science and healthcare professionals that are seeing what’s happening at the hospital and the impact COVID is making. Nichole, are you ready for the lightning round? It’s four questions.
I’m excited. Let’s go.
It’s the first thing that comes to mind. First question, what is your favorite youth sports memory?
This is embarrassing. This is not my favorite but it’s my most mortifying. I was playing soccer and racing down the wide-open field. I had the ball in front of me. There was a white line and I was getting ready to kick it. I tripped and flaked. That was my most embarrassing moment that I will never forget. I was teased about that for years. It’s probably that one.
What is a brand whose marketing you admire the most?
Nike would be a huge one. Dove is the other one. I love how they showcase diversity and everyone being beautiful. Those are my top two.
We had Josh Spiegelman from the agency of Dove come on the show and talk about their big Dove campaigns.
I’m such a fan. I’ve studied their stuff before we did our brand refresh. They were the brand that we studied the most. We have been amazed by what they have done. They’re incredible.
When you were in middle school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I don’t know still what I want to be when I grow up.
Last question, what is your go-to cause to support?
It’s typically any pet rescue organization. We have been big fans. We fostered nine dogs. I have a coworker who used to foster the little baby kittens that we used to give feed bottles to. That’s always close to my heart for shelter pets and finding a place to adopt them. One of the fun events that we’re doing is we are partnering with the local Animal Society. We have an event called Paws in the Park. We’re the Couch to 5K sponsor of that.
It’s helping people and their pets work together to be able to walk or run to 5K. That one is coming up. That has been great. We have done tips around hydration, stretching, and the importance of all the things you do if you’re going to start an exercise program for yourself. We have a celebrity trainer that works with dogs and those dog makeovers. He has also a piece of that. That has been a fun sponsorship.
Nichole, it is incredible what you have been working on and what you’ve achieved. I love your energy. I’m so excited to see what you achieve in the future. Thank you so much for coming to the show.
It has been so great meeting you. I enjoyed it. Thanks so much.
Thank you for reading. In this episode with Nichole Stevens, we discussed the foundation of healthcare marketing, how to layer different marketing channels on top of one another, and the importance of being involved and engaging with the community. See you next time.
- Roper St. Francis Healthcare
- Ryan White Program
- Charleston Moms
- Charleston Air
- Charleston Black Expo
- Charleston Cooper River Bridge Run
- Get Care Now
- Wellness Works
- She Tris
- Josh Spiegelman – Previous episode
- Paws in the Park
About Nichole Stevens
Nichole Stevens is the Director of Marketing & Business Development for Roper St. Francis Healthcare located in Charleston, SC. She is a seasoned marketing leader with deep experience in strategic marketing. Her areas of responsibility include marketing, corporate communications, physician liaisons, and the system contact center.
In her free time, Nichole loves to travel with her husband and two daughters. She hits the beach whenever possible and enjoys running, but you are most likely to see her on the sidelines cheering her daughters on in their various sports.