Public Relations 101: For the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare is a broad umbrella term, and managing public relations within the industry can be challenging. Our PR strategy for healthcare has a direct impact on people’s wellbeing, so it is essential to build trust, maintain a positive reputation, and disseminate factually correct information – if the last three years have been any indication! 

In this blog, we will explore the key strategies and tactics that public relations professionals and healthcare organisations can use to reach the right people and effectively communicate key messages. 

Understand your audience and meet them where the spend time 

The first step in navigating a public relations approach in the healthcare industry – or any industry for that matter – is to understand your target audience. This includes digging deeper to identify their pain points,concerns, and the media channels that resonate with them. 

By doing this, you can tailor your communication strategies to meet their needs, and build trust. For example, if you aim to establish your organisation as a clinical research and thought leader, targeting mainstream media and publications with a B2B industry focus is the way to go – rather than focusing on lifestyle publications. 

Social media can be a powerful tool, too, of course. Platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can and must be used to share news, updates, industry insights and thought leadership – but it requires  planning and preparation to ensure your message is getting across in the right way,for each platform. 

In Singapore, TikTok has emerged as a key content consumption channel, with government officials, news publications and healthcare experts using it to wield their influence. 

Having said that, it is important to remember that different demographics  consume information online differently. For example, the young (and young at heart) are more inclined to obtain their news from video-centric platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, while Gen X folks might feel more familiar clicking through links on a Facebook feed, or reading about corporate movements on LinkedIn. 

As communications professionals, we need to understand the unique strengths and user demographics of each platform,  adjust our tone and style accordingly, and plan a pipeline of platform-differentiated content.

Be transparent to establish trust

In healthcare, transparency, clear messaging, and honesty are key. Building trust can be done in different ways, but if your message isn’t perceived in the way you intended, you’re unlikely to create meaningful impact. 

Be as open as possible about any challenges or issues that you’re facing, as well as sharing information about your products and services in a clear and concise manner. By being transparent, you can build trust with your target audience and demonstrate your care. 

Raising awareness is also key to establishing trust – your audience may not know your ongoing projects, research and efforts. Find creative ways to showcase these lesser-known aspects of the industry, be it through profiling staff or highlighting innovations through media pitches, which can all play a part in reassuring patients, caregivers and the public that you are working to provide them with the best possible care. 

Build relationships with key stakeholders 

Building relationships with key stakeholders such as other healthcare partners, patient groups, community partners and of course, media friends, is so important. This can help you to better understand their needs and concerns, and tailor your communication strategies accordingly. It also helps you to stay informed about changes in the healthcare industry, such as new legislation or regulations, which can impact your organisation. 

Healthcare is a very specific industry and it isn’t hard to identify key stakeholders. However, these relationships are contingent upon establishing trust and mutual benefit, to make our work much easier – not just in our day to day, but in tougher times too (ahem, crisis). These relationships might also open up new opportunities for joint public relations engagements. 

Monitor your online community in a timely manner

In healthcare, feedback and responding to consumers – often online – is an exercise in time management. Any issues or questions that arise are typically time sensitive, to ensure your audiences have access to the information they need.  Online feedback and comments can have a significant impact on your reputation, so it’s essential to monitor them regularly and quickly. By responding to feedback in a timely manner, you can demonstrate that you are listening and are committed to providing them with a solution and support. 

Always be ready for a crisis

Dealing with people’s health means that inevitably, at some point, you will be faced with negative sentiments and unforeseen problems. It’s important to have a communications plan in place to address these before they escalate into a full-blown crisis, which includes communications and clearance protocols for handling negative media coverage, standby media assets, and messaging for speaking to patients and the public. 

Last but not least, be familiar with the regulations in your local market

In Singapore, healthcare advertising is subject to the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (Advertisement) Regulations. These regulations require accuracy and transparency in all healthcare communications, so avoid misleading claims, and prioritise patient privacy and data protection. View these regulations not as limitations, but as guidelines that help us tell an educational, informative, relevant (and when needed, emotive) story.  

Drop us a line at [email protected] for assistance with your healthcare communications needs!

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