Pandemic Recovery: Gearing Up for Business Development Marketing

June 16, 2020

// By Sheryl S. Jackson //

Sheryl S. JacksonHealth systems across the country are cautiously restarting elective surgeries and trying to recover from financial losses incurred during the peak of the pandemic. How are leaders approaching this massive challenge? Here, industry experts walk us through their evolving communication strategies as their organizations pivot from crisis communications to the “new normal.”

During the initial stages of the pandemic, health care marketing leaders found their mission changing from brand and service-line promotion to crisis communication management, with staffs focusing efforts on sharing up-to-date information for patients and communities.

Suzanne Hendery, chief marketing and communications officer at Renown Health

Suzanne Hendery, chief marketing and communications officer, Renown Health

Now that businesses are beginning to reopen, employees are returning to work, and restrictions on daily activities are loosening, how will the lessons learned during the initial months of COVID-19 be applied to recovery from the pandemic?

Industry experts shared their thoughts on pandemic recovery in a recent Strategic Health Care Marketing webinar. The participants — Suzanne Hendery, Renown Health; Karina Jennings, Providence St. Joseph Health; Preston Gee, CHRISTUS Health; Danny Fell, Optum; and moderator David Marlowe, Strategic Marketing Concepts — reflected on how the marketing communications and business development roles changed during the pandemic and how their health systems are preparing for a return to operations with fewer restrictions.

In anticipation of the serious threat posed by COVID-19 — and two days before shelter-in-place orders were implemented as part of the declared national emergency — Renown Health’s Health Incident Command Structure (HICS) was established. This meant the system was prepared to send people home to work remotely and to take other necessary steps quickly, says Suzanne Hendery, chief marketing and communications officer at the northern Nevada health system. “We also had time on our side due to our location,” she says. Early preparation included cutting 10 percent of the operating budget to counteract the decline in elective services and the added expense of COVID-19 supplies that included personal protective equipment, she says.

Renown Health and other health system marketing teams also found themselves switching their messages from an advertising focus to a communications effort to inspire and motivate employees, patients, and communities. The change in messaging was accompanied by an emphasis on other forms of communications.

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