Dan MartinDan Martin

Today’s healthcare landscape is continually changing, shifting and striving to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and improve quality of care for patients. At the heart of this is data, analytics and overall digitization, a true convergence of healthcare and technology to drive innovation.

Industry statistics show that VCs poured a total of $99.5 billion into all companies in over 5,536 deals in 2018. Specifically, within healthcare, there’s no shortage of money flowing into the market. Investors continue to fund digital health at a steady clip. According to Rock Health, digital health companies raised a total of $4.2 billion across 180 deals through the first half of 2019. If this pace holds steady, the sector is on track for an $8.4 billion year in 2019, which would beat 2018’s record-breaking annual funding total of $8.1 billion. Within the life science sector, the pace is similar, making up 14.6 percent (approx. $13.9 billion) of all venture deal flow in 2018, according to Venture Monitor.

O'Dwyer's Oct. '19 Healthcare & Medical PR PR Magazine
This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '19 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine.

What does this mean for brands and marketers? Competition is fierce, there are many players—both emerging and established—looking to capitalize on the momentum across the industry, differentiate themselves amongst a sea of competitors as well as non-traditional big brands entering the market and capturing mindshare (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and others), tell their stories and create the right awareness and visibility with key stakeholders to help them move the needle. And, there’s tremendous pressure from the executive team and/or board of directors to increase the brand’s valuation, secure funding or take the next step in its growth trajectory.

There are many ways in which to accomplish these goals and add value to the company’s overall mission. However, two tried and true strategies can achieve sustainable results to give your brand —and the people driving it—a nice lift: thought leadership and influencer relations.

Using thought leadership effectively

Thought leadership has been around for a while, but the term has made a recent comeback. In fact, according to Forrester, thought leadership content has a greater impact on lead gen than all other forms of content marketing.

For the sake of this article, let’s define thought leadership as a methodology that utilizes the talent, experience and passion inside your company to consistently address the challenges and pain points of your target audience via multiple channels and formats. Simply put, it’s the answers to “what keeps the decision makers at your customers and prospects up at night?” These answers will vary depending on whether you are a virtual care, population health or consumer directed healthcare provider, or a biotech, life sciences or biopharma services company—and that’s the point; tailor your thought leadership program and pillars (key messages or story lines) to your industry and your ideal decision maker.

So, where should you begin?

Analyze and assess brand credibility

Consider your social media presence, how much earned media is gained, Share of Voice and how/if your brand is being recognized and mentioned in conjunction with top influencers and analysts. Not sure how your brand is measuring against its competitors? Think about a visibility assessment to help identify green space for thought leadership. Define your brand’s purpose and intent as it relates to thought leadership before making any moves. Then, you’ll have a clear roadmap to success.

Solidify brand messaging and positioning

Reputation and authority within your specific healthcare segment is based on a blended mixture from key stakeholders, advocates, employees, prospective talent, haters and yes, even competitors. That’s why it’s so important to solidify messaging and positioning from the start. Determine your brand’s competitive differentiator, define and develop foundational brand language, test and assess positioning and messaging with your audiences and channels, personalize and segment thought leadership efforts to align with buyer personas and train your executive thought leadership team for success across earned, owned and shared initiatives.

Now you’re ready to build your thought leadership program and, subsequently, increase awareness by partnering with brand advocates. We all have knowledge, experience and a point of view. But ultimately, thought leaders need to inspire customers to act. You can break it down into four categories: Subject Matter Executives, Employee Advocacy, Voice of the Customer and Influencer Marketing.

It’s important to note the integration point here between influencers and thought leadership. Amplify thought leadership content by leveraging brand influencers and advocates and associate your brand with industry influencers to establish credibility and create content.

As with any marketing program, your department will be challenged with measuring the success of thought leadership efforts. Skip the vanity metrics and go right to the results that matter most. Rely on Google Analytics and social media/influencer marketing tools like Audiense that will share insights that highlight which content is driving traffic, which content might need some SEO improvement, time on site and share of voice “SOV” compared to competitors. Other metrics that are more predictive of how thought leadership is aligned with top-line revenue goals include: how well your brand is received at industry events, ease of decision on selling products, increase in deal size, shorter sales cycle in comparison to your competitors, thought leadership driven leads and MQLs that result in sales.

Thought leadership in combination with content marketing will establish your brand with a solid reputation that will be defined as innovative, futuristic and trustworthy.

Key components of a successful influencer marketing strategy

According to Social Media Today influencer marketing budgets have nearly doubled in the last year. That’s why starting, or enhancing your existing strategy, should be at the top of your marketing “to do” list.

But, where do you begin and what do you do? Here are a few key components to a successful program:

Set your goals. Remember that influencer marketing is all about how ideas move from one influencer type to the next. At the end of the campaign, what do you want influencers to say about you?

Creating SMART goals, KPIs or setting a predetermined ROI for your influencer campaign will help you determine how much to budget, whom to target and what to measure.

Discover your influencer network. Find influencers for whom your brand is a natural fit. Influencers aren’t necessarily celebrities who have millions of followers. They’re influential because they have some degree of expertise in a topic, validated by the number of relationships they have built in the space.

Engage with your influencers. Remember that influencer marketing is a person-to-person exercise. Engage with them and add value to their efforts before asking for something in return. They will be judging your credibility as much as you are assessing theirs, so keep that in mind as you establish contact.

Develop paid, earned, owned strategies

Select the right influencer for the right goal for each channel.

Earned influencer strategy. There’s a great deal of synergy between PR and earned influencer efforts. Think of influencers as members of the media who use social as their broadcast channel.

Paid influencer strategy. When entering into a paid engagement, use sites such as Audiense to validate an influencer’s reach or to develop your influencer network. Remember to be transparent!

Owned influencer strategy. There are several options here, each of them presenting their own unique opportunities: Employee advocates: Subject matter specialists who are passionate about topics relevant to your audience. Thought leadership: Pre-existing in your organization in the form of executives, managers, customer service reps, board members or salespeople. Align to specific content needs and support with a social strategy. Owned content channels: Use blogs, social media pages and websites to generate organic shares from influencers.

Measure the impact

Early and often, measure key analytics to determine what’s working and what’s not, so you’re able to effectively steer your strategy. How do your ideas move over time? Monitoring where each idea is on the trajectory of influence will help determine next steps and measure success.

By utilizing strategic thought leadership and influencer programs, healthcare marketers can set their brands and executives up for success, whether that be a financial event (M&A, IPO, next funding round), new partnerships, expanded national or global footprint, or more awareness and visibility to drive sales. When used effectively and in an integrated manner with PR and marketing initiatives, marketers can rest assured that they are increasing the reach and frequency of their messages with key decision makers for positive business impact.


Dan Martin is Senior Vice President of PAN Communications’ Healthcare Practice.