This post was written by Elise Stieferman, Coegi’s director of client strategy and development, alongside PulsePoint’s vice president of marketing, Maria Simeone.
Healthcare marketing is a highly nuanced profession that requires not only a depth of understanding about the ins and outs of the industry, but also an ability to delicately tap into the hearts and minds of consumers who need to hear this message most. It is critical for marketers to carefully evaluate how to tactfully accomplish brand goals while prioritizing compliance and empathy, keeping the patient at the center of the strategy.
Take a Strategic Approach to Audience Targeting that Considers Both Context and Relevancy
While the conversation of privacy and the elimination of third-party cookies is all the rage for most marketing professionals, healthcare marketers are well-versed in finding solutions to this issue because they’ve been doing it for years. At points challenging, this does provide these teams with a leg up on having an understanding of deterministic targeting approaches that work.
Through data and technology partners such as PulsePoint* and Healthlink, healthcare marketers are able to access highly valuable data for related health audiences that are compliant and accurate based on condition, treatment history, and OTC usage. Beyond this, there are additional approaches that can be explored through geotargeting, keyword research, and endemic targeting.
Obviously, targeting consumers 1:1 through geolocation data is a big no for healthcare marketing. However, targeting outside of a .32 mile radius of a point of care practice where a known practitioner for certain conditions or a frequent prescriber of certain medications works allows for sufficient location imprecision to have a likelihood of reaching your audience while maintaining sensitivity.
Beyond this, serving ads in a relevant context can be highly effective. This can be accomplished through keyword targeting that relates to the brand and/or pharmaceutical, or even serving an ad in an endemic environment such as WebMD where a patient or a patient’s support system is already seeking out relevant information.
PulsePoint Perspective — through data analytics, machine learning, and programmatic automation, PulsePoint decodes the customer journey to highlight both real-world digital and clinical touchpoints. The resulting data creates a unique and holistic view of health audiences. This enables marketers to have access to data insights that support easy and instantaneous business decisions.
The key to addressability in targeting stems from either having opt-in consent. Another approach is to focus on the aspects of digital identity that does not have a direct link to individuals’ PII. Technology is enabling us to get more refined in assigning and classifying context relative to audience motivations, and the industry will mature in how it uses context to deliver a real-time portrait of audiences as they move across content, platforms, and devices.
Find Balance in Creativity When Speaking to Healthcare Audiences
Communicating on behalf of healthcare and pharma brands offers a unique challenge for marketers in an environment where personalization is typically king. On the one hand, you want to ensure the messaging is highly relevant to your target audience and is useful in the patient’s journey. On the other hand, it is critical to remain hypersensitive to the individual’s condition and/or needs and avoid creating an environment where they feel an invasion of privacy has taken place. As such, personalization should be kept at a minimum and instead multiple messaging and visual variations should be put in-market to ultimately let the audience lead you to the approach that is most well-received and appropriate.
This is where leading from a place of empathy really becomes critical. While the end business goal for a brand’s campaign may be to increase appointment bookings or lift volume of sales, the true underlying goal is to help people and enable them to make an educated decision about what is best for their health. As such, the messaging and creative should ideally be sequential - promoting awareness, encouraging education, and ultimately guiding to action when they are ready.
PulsePoint Perspective — No matter the goal, it’s important that health marketers use data to understand their target audiences. Successful messaging strategies consider where individuals are in their journey and address their underlying needs and motivations. Communications that lead with empathy and compassion are key, particularly among vaccine-hesitant populations.
The use of storytelling and personal narratives from trusted sources can also be a great motivator.
When in Doubt, Err on the Side of Caution
It is, of course, critical to ensure that marketing teams are doing their due diligence to ensure that the strategic approach to healthcare and pharma marketing complies with the regulatory guidelines of HIPAA. However, that is truly the minimum standard of compliancy and there are still approaches to reaching your target audience that enter a grey area of ethics, ultimately having the potential to impact consumers’ respect and trust of the brand. In these cases, there is a very scientific way to evaluate if you should move forward with the plan - trust your gut and tread lightly. In all seriousness, if something “feels” like it is wrong, it probably is and you should go another route.
PulsePoint Perspective — The most common question we receive around HIPAA is how we comply with HIPAA to protect patient-level data. As health industry professionals, our responsibility comes with high standards.
Transparent policies, de-identified data, HIPAA compliance, and clear active opt-in consent & opt-out options have long been a part of PulsePoint’s Pledge to data transparency.
PulsePoint works with an expert third party partner to reinforce the separation of data and maintain HIPAA compliance when relevant. All data is de-identified prior to being on-boarded, in compliance with NAI, DAA, IAB, GDPR and CCPA standards and HIPAA regulations.
Review here for more details on our PulsePoint’s Pledge.
Everything we do goes back to helping people live better, fuller and healthier lives. But, as marketers, we have a dual responsibility: help direct people to the information that will help them and do it with the highest data privacy standards.
Our lives are multidimensional, our health is impacted by much more than just our bodies, making the causal relationship between our life and our health indirect. So while doctors have valuable data points from the one on one relationship between HCP and patient, there are other contributing factors that go beyond the information we share, and can improve health outcomes.
Pandemic notwithstanding, health marketers have always needed to be sensitive to the privacy concerns of health audiences. But that doesn't mean we walk away from technology and miss out on uncovering health insights that can be channeled towards the collective good.
*Internet Brands and WebMD, the leader in health information services for physicians and consumers, has entered into an agreement to acquire PulsePoint Inc. The acquisition is expected to close during the second quarter of 2021, subject to customary closing conditions, at which time PulsePoint will remain an independently operated company.
Author: Elise Stieferman, Coegi’s director of client strategy and development, alongside PulsePoint’s vice president of marketing, Maria Simeone
Coegi is an all-in-one premium marketing partner for media professionals seeking a streamline way to leverage programmatic and social solutions through the use of robust data and technology. The team partners with major players in the space, such as demand-side platform PulsePoint, to offer healthcare and pharma clients best-in-class solutions to reach both patients and providers across programmatic inventory.