In 2018, the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities launched the Healthcare Ethics Consultant–Certified (HEC-C) program, a first-of-its-kind certification program for healthcare professionals providing specialized ethics consultations within their healthcare institutions. The story of how ASBH created and launched a certification program in less than 12 months is beyond the scope of this post and, thankfully, has been well-told by ASBH’s Executive Director, Mary Beth Benner.
In this post, we’ll focus on how AMC’s Creative Media Services team helped ASBH ensure their brand new and high stakes certification program was strategically marketed to both differentiate it from existing academic degree and curriculum-based certificate programs and build the inaugural and founding class of certified healthcare ethics consultants.
So, how did we help ASBH ensure their new program was adopted early and raise the profile of this critical specialized role in optimal health care? The aggressive timeline from the establishment of the Healthcare Ethics Consultation (HCEC) Certification Commission to the administration of the first exam required a marketing strategy that was efficient, targeted, measurable, and flexible. We developed an effective strategy grounded in the best available audience research, started with a detailed tactical plan, and used tried-and-true methods to concurrently and quickly raise awareness of the program, convince nearly 200 experienced professionals to become the first HEC-Cs, and build a pipeline of interested future HEC-Cs.
Strategy and Research
Before any of our work began, the entire implementation team agreed that the marketing campaign would be purely digital. Our aggressive project timeline meant having to prioritize swiftly building awareness of the HEC-C program and its credibility in the healthcare ethics community, generating new leads outside of ASBH’s current member and prospect lists, and ensuring that ROI was easily quantifiable and quickly calculable. We also took a step back and asked ourselves:
- Who are these individuals engaging in healthcare ethics consulting practices?
- What are their roles, responsibilities, priorities, and motivations?
- How do we drive home the importance of earning the HEC-C credential for endorsing their foundational knowledge and experience?
- How do we achieve credibility for a newly-established certification program that competes with curriculum-based healthcare ethics programs at large academic institutions?
To streamline our audience analysis and the upcoming execution, we created a content messaging guide for how to speak and appeal to practicing healthcare ethics consultants and seasoned and experienced leaders in the field. This helped us stay mindful of the segments that exist within our target audience so we could customize our messaging based on their varying needs and interests. One of our primary goals was to bridge the gap between those who would directly benefit from earning a credential that endorses their core healthcare ethics knowledge and leaders in the field who may not take part in the program themselves but might encourage their healthcare ethics committee members to do so.
We also were well aware that individuals within our audience might be at different stages of the conversion funnel, so it was important to craft targeted messaging that met individuals where they were. An individual who is still researching the HEC-C program may not be as responsive to a hard sell compared to someone who sees the merits of earning the HEC-C credential but is hesitant to submit an application. By having the content messaging document as an easy reference that breaks down our target audience’s motivations, we were able to ultimately craft an overarching value proposition that was weaved into all marketing collateral for the HEC-C program. This was instrumental in cultivating a credible and concrete image for the certification program so early in its inception.
Once we had a solid understanding of our audience, our next step was to keep them in the loop about the HEC-C program, sparking their interest in earning the credential by highlighting its benefits to their careers and the healthcare ethics consulting field at large, and convincing them to be a part of the inaugural class of HEC-Cs. There also was a crucial need to identify the most effective ways to expand our reach beyond those who were already familiar with ASBH.
Our messaging guidelines were first used for gradually building a dedicated certification section on the ASBH website. This web content would be the bread and butter of an all-encompassing marketing plan that blended inbound and outbound tactics for optimal audience outreach and awareness building. Speaking with ASBH members and prospects primarily involved strategically timed e-blasts and social media posts—two avenues through which this audience is used to receiving regular updates. This also involved collaborating with ASBH staff to boost overall activity on ASBH’s social media pages through content sharing, with the goal of further positioning the organization as a leading voice in healthcare ethics and laying a strong foundation for healthy engagement on certification-related promotional content.
We paired these efforts with external advertising avenues to cultivate a wider audience and generate a list of warm leads that expressed direct interest in the program. To do this, we directed individuals to a lead generation form on the HEC-C program landing page in all of our communications. To further incentivize completing the lead generation form and emphasizing transparency and credibility, anyone who filled it out would receive an automated “thank you” e-mail granting exclusive access to a summary of the Needs Assessment Survey and Role Delineation Study completed in 2017, which created the foundation of the HEC-C program.
As for our outbound marketing efforts, we ran a pay-per-click campaign through Google Ads to cast a wide net and boost the program’s presence to individuals conducting Google searches for professional development opportunities in healthcare ethics consulting. This involved intensive keyword research to identify the most relevant and cost-effective keywords for our search ads to appear through, categorizing those keywords according to where they may fit into the sales funnel, and crafting compelling ad copy that corresponded with those segments. Over the course of the Google Ads campaign, the ads were monitored on a daily basis to track their performance and make any necessary tweaks to our paid keywords and ad copy.
Additionally, we pinpointed several other healthcare membership organizations in fields that often intersect with healthcare ethics consulting, namely the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) and the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association (HPNA). We leveraged hospice and palliative care groups to more specifically target a smaller scale audience and to balance out the sheer breadth of individuals being acquired through the Google Ads and the inevitable competition associated with this particular medium.
We also learned that both AAHPM and HPNA send their members SmartBriesf, an e-mail update that curates top news stories from all over the web that are specific to hospice and palliative care topics. With ad space available for sale in both SmartBriefs and the HEC-C program being a new professional development opportunity unlike any other, what better opportunity to emphasize the program’s creation as newsworthy? We submitted a number of ads in AAHPM and HPNA’s SmartBriefs that were geared towards how the HEC-C program specifically benefits hospice and palliative care providers.
Ultimately, our approach was to focus our outreach on the most all-encompassing audience possible, both wide and refined, along with ASBH’s already-existing members and prospects. And as we discovered, that approach was very successful. In next week’s post, we’ll share the results of the campaign.
Jerrod Liveoak is a senior manager of content marketing and editorial, and Zeina Yacoub is a content marketing associate on AMC’s Creative Media Services team.
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