A Prescription for Success: Why a Faith-Based Health System’s Campaign Welcomes Women with All Their Flaws

January 26, 2016

// By Lisa D. Ellis //

As one of the largest Catholic health systems in the Midwest, Franciscan Alliance recently decided to reach into its religious roots in an attempt to make a deeper connection with females in the local market and build up the women’s services line.

The result is a unique marketing campaign for the health system’s women’s services that strives to accept people “as God made them,” explains Julia Mastropaolo, Partner and Health Care Director of Brogan and Partners, which is the agency that worked with the health system to create a campaign dubbed “Perfectly Human.” As the name implies, this campaign moves away from trying to pressure people to meet an idealized version of themselves and, instead, welcomes them into the system with all of their flaws.

Standing Out from the Pack

With 14 hospitals spread throughout Indiana and Illinois, Franciscan Alliance serves a geographic area with a population of 3.7 million people, providing more than 2.9 million outpatient visits and more more than 100,000 inpatient discharges every year. The system also employs more than 20,000 employees and operates a number of nationally recognized Centers of Health Care Excellence.

“We’re in a highly competitive environment. There are seven other major hospitals in northern Indiana alone, and lately we are seeing encroachment from some of the major metropolitan hospitals in Chicago, particularly in the service lines of oncology, cardiac, and orthopedics,” explains Joe Dejanovic, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the northern Indiana division of hospitals for Franciscan Alliance. As a result, the marketing department is always seeking new, and interesting, ways to distinguish it from other health care providers in the area and to make a lasting impression with women, who make most of the health care decisions for their families.

The “Perfectly Human” Campaign

The “Perfectly Human” campaign grew out of the desire to resonate with women and get them to take a second look at Franciscan Alliance. Brogan’s expertise also led the way on this endeavor. “Our target audience was women 35 to 65, and we really wanted to reach out to the younger women who have families or who may be caregivers for their parents, as well. Brogan helped us conceive the ‘everyday woman’ concept from a different perspective… sort of in a spiritual and pensive way that everyone possesses but is hard to pinpoint,” Dejanovic says.

The campaign works off of the reality that all too many women may put off seeing their health care providers because they are worried about being scolded for weighing too much, feel guilty that they eat too many processed foods, or are embarrassed that they don’t exercise enough. “Perfectly Human” strives to remind women that the health system and providers will accept them as they are.

FA2015_outdoor_PerfectlyHuman_14x48_FINAL-1FA2015_outdoor_PerfectlyHuman_14x48_FINAL-2Franciscan Alliance’s “Perfectly Human” campaign moves away from idealized concepts to truly accept women as they are.

While this concept fits well within the framework of today’s patient-centered climate, what sets it apart from other efforts is that instead of prescribing what people need to do to be healthy and fit, it welcomes them into the system “as is” and builds a relationship through which clinicians can move them to improve their health over time. This strives to take away some of the guilt and the pressure many people feel over not meeting the standards.

“We’re reaching women with the message that you may not be perfect—but you are still beautiful. We are all beautiful, even with all our imperfections, in God’s eyes. It is also an indirect way of bringing in the ethics and values instilled in us from our sponsors, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. Brogan always kept that in mind while working with us,” Dejanovic says.

He adds that the overall idea is “Franciscan Alliance accepts you unconditionally. Certainly we promote wellness and good health practices. But we are realistic, too, and want our patients to know that we are there for them at every stage, when sick and when healthy. Reverence for life in all its stages is a main theme for everything we do,” he stresses.

The Logistics

With this concept at its core, the “Perfectly Human” campaign was launched in the fall of 2015 and includes all of the traditional marketing vehicles: television, print, radio, and billboards. Franciscan Alliance also started a digital advertising component of the campaign and is taking advantage of social media and direct mail. In addition, it did a tie-in with a mammography print ad, since this was a perfect complement.

“We wanted something different, special and direct. Not just the usual polished, model-like atmosphere,” says Joe Dejanovic, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Franciscan Alliance.

Maximizing Internal Support

With such a bold angle to pursue, Dejanovic says he is fortunate to have great support from the health system’s management. “We have a top-notch department of professionals who seek perfection at all times. I love to come to work every day because of that support, both from the top and among my peers in my department.”

And while the concept for the campaign is unusual, he points out that he believes taking chances with striking messaging such as this is good, even if the efforts don’t pan out as expected. “Sometimes you have to take chances and learn from those endeavors to compete within the highly competitive nature of health care marketing today,” he says.

For the “Perfectly Human” campaign, Dejanovic adds that there were definitely some obstacles to overcome along the way. “The initial stages of copy for print ads were contemplated quite a bit. It must have gone back and forth at least 10 times! We struggled with a few words some thought could be misconstrued negatively,” he recalls.

Turning to the Experts

To determine how women would interpret the wording, the health system decided to seek input from women themselves. “Luckily, Brogan had an email list of women to whom they could send questionnaires regarding the words in question and the feedback was great. It guided us to the right path and choice of the right words. Also, [laughs] there was a line in the radio spot I wanted to take out, thinking it was a little ‘too much information’ but the women in our department said ‘absolutely not!’ It was real and honest. We kept it in and now when you hear the commercial on the radio, it is said in a humorous fashion and fits in just perfect,” Dejanovic says.

Measuring Results

While it is too soon to have concrete results from the campaign, feedback thus far has been quite positive. The health system is noticing more traffic on its website directed toward women’s services. In addition, Dejanovic says it is tracking several measures to determine success. “Although much of the campaign focuses on branding Women’s Services and developing trust in our physicians and programs, we will be looking at our physician visits and increase of utilization of services such as mammograms and other women’s programs.”

He also points out that the biggest marketing challenges the health system faces—not only with this campaign but overall—has been getting a good handle on digital advertising and social media. “Some things work and some don’t. It’s a different psychology to market in these new areas that are exploding in technology and reach. Very different to what we are used to in traditional media methods. But the nice thing about it is that it is very trackable,” Dejanovic says.

Lessons Learned

“Good marketing is both a science and an art,” he stresses. “In the end, the question is whether your messaging achieves a real connection to the audience and helps develop trust in your product—in our case, excellent health care services.”

Lisa D. Ellis is Editor of Strategic Health Care Marketing. She is a journalist and content development specialist who helps hospitals and other health care providers and organizations shape strategic messages and communicate them to their target audiences. You can reach her at editor@strategicHCmarketing.com.