Effectively Marketing a Palliative Care Program
The marketing plan describes how the palliative care program will promote services to the proper audiences and position, promote, and communicate effectively over time.
To market a palliative care program, advocates need to:
Each of these are described below. To see what some exisiting programs are doing, go to Marketing Tools and view sample tools that help programs define and promote their services to various audiences.
The following are components of an effective marketing plan:
- Target Audiences: Defines the various audiences for palliative care, including hospital leaders, nursing and social work leaders, case management leaders, clinicians, potential referring physicians, community agencies, and patients and families.
- Marketing Objective: Describes, by audience, the action or result that will be achieved if successful.
- The Services Offered: Details what benefits the services offer to each audience.
- Cost Exchange: Defines the costs to each audience and considers how to make a program seem worth the price.
- Communications Plan: Outlines for the message strategy for reaching each key audience. Defines the types of communications activities to be employed (e.g., including personal relationships, presentations, mailings, newsletter articles, advertisements, public relations, etc.) and associated budget.
Execute the marketing plan by creating promotional materials such as brochures or fliers. Not only does each audience require different messages (and therefore unique materials), but also the method of translating into physical materials will need to differ.
- Decide who the brochure is for.
- Start from the patient’s vantage point rather than beginning with a definition of palliative care or launching into a description of the program.
- Emphasize the immediate benefits that palliative care can offer such as what patients and families seek in the face of serious or life-threatening illness.
- Talk about the specific elements of a palliative care program in concrete, everyday language – avoid jargon.
- Provide a clear action the audience can take to get palliative care -- a phone call to the program, a drop-in location, a request for a referral to their primary physician, etc.
In addition to brochures or printed matter, there are many other ways to reach the palliative care program audiences. Consider these other communications outlets:
- Grand rounds
- Hospital brown-bag lunches
- Department meetings
- Continuing education programs
- Board meetings
- Board orientation materials
- Hospital newsletters, both internal and for the community
- Hospital-sponsored community events
- Health care system and partners community events and materials
The marketing plan will specify the timing of activities, so the palliative care program can ensure that marketing supports each critical step in program development. Distribute communication materials and use hospital communication channels ahead of the program launch, through the launch, and as the program continues.
The marketing plan and marketing efforts need to be reviewed and renewed over time so as to reflect the evolving clinical and fiscal context of the palliative care program. The reasons why various audiences will support or need a palliative care program are likely to change, as will the demand for services. The methods and messages used to market palliative care should adjust accordingly.