5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Health Care Advertising More Believable

January 9, 2024

Trust in the health care system continues to be low, so how do you get people to believe your advertising?

// By Ross K. Goldberg //

Ross K. Goldberg is president of Kevin/Ross Public RelationsEditor’s Note: This article kicks off our Q1 series on Advertising — and what better place to begin than with the ingredient most essential for successful advertising: TRUST.

Those entrusted with communicating clear messages during crises know that such communication is successful only if people believe what is said is true. But the time to build that trust is not when a crisis hits. That’s too late. Trust must be built through years of candid, timely, frequent, and honest communication.

The same can be said about health care advertising, especially when so many of our traditional institutions — from higher education to government to the once purity of sports — are being questioned for their integrity, authenticity, and worth. Day after day, we see another stack of wood being thrown onto the bonfire of mistrust, and sadly, health care is not immune to that escalating blaze.

The good news is that the pandemic gave health care organizations a chance to step up. According to an Ernst & Young study, consumer trust in the health care system increased in 2020 to 51 percent — the highest since 1977. This is encouraging because consumer trust in health care leads to healthier behaviors and better health outcomes.

But here the good news runs dry: Still half of Americans don’t trust the health care system. As reported by Deloitte Insights, that number is particularly high among Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Consumer trust in health care providers and institutions has a major impact on public health as trust influences a willingness to get crucial medical care, preventive screenings, and mental health care. Trust between a patient and a health care provider is also linked to improved patient experience and patients’ perception of the care they receive.

As far back as 2006, the American Hospital Association issued a warning on erosion of public trust in health care in a report titled Trust Counts Now.  The “Now” from 2006 is still very much the “Now” today.

The U.S. health care advertising market reached $22.4 billion in 2022, including spending on television, print, and social media. That makes it more critical than ever for health care advertisers to acknowledge the importance of trust and try to douse any whiff of mistrust or suspicion before they continue to collectively invest even more billions into messaging that only half of their audience believes to be true.

Just as you can’t go to bed one night and say to yourself, “Tomorrow I am going to start having integrity,” trust is not something that can be obtained overnight or by the flick of a switch. But here are five things health care advertisers can do to help make their messaging more believable.

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