Tufts Builds Brand With Online Video, TV

By Mar 22, 2010

Tufts Medical Center reintroduced itself to the Boston market in February with the launch of a TV campaign that drove prospects to a video heavy Web site designed to boost awareness for the healthcare facility.

The 451-bed hospital is the principal teaching facility for the Tufts University School of Medicine. “Our big marketing challenge was name awareness,” says Brooke Tyson Hynes, vice president of public affairs and communications. “We had gone through several name changes, and many people didn’t know what our affiliation was with the university. We wanted to make sure people knew what was available here.”

The hospital had a smaller marketing budget than many of the other larger hospitals in the Boston area. “There’s a ton of healthcare providers on TV in this market,” says Hunes. “This campaign, done with Partners + Simons, combines the best of both worlds —we’re online, where more people are going these days and we get the broad awareness of television.”

Rather than just creating a Web site that boasted about how great Tufts was, Hynes notes that instead the hospital wanted to give potential patients information they could use. This led to creating a library of videos on TuftsMedicalCenter.tv, featuring staff physicians talking about their areas of speciality.

“The patient can actually meet a physician before they walk in the door,” says Hynes, noting that doctors were very enthusiastic about participating in the campaign.

In addition to the TV spots and Web ad buys, billboards and radio are also being used to drive traffic to the Web site.

While patients can schedule an appointment right on the site, driving awareness was the first and foremost goal of the campaign, she says. ROI is being gauged by hits to the site, where those hits are coming from and which media buys are generating the most traffic.

“Today, hospitals need to start their campaigns where patients are beginning their research, the Web,” says Tony Cotrupi, president of Partners + Simons’ health practice.

In today’s economy, being president of a hospital can be one of the toughest jobs in the country, notes Cotrupi. “Forget about making money—just trying to stay afloat can be difficult.”

Many hospitals are being forced more and more into the role of marketing. Healthcare facilities would rather invest in their equipment, people and infrastructure, because those are the things that help patients get well. “But there’s so much competition for patients that they’re forced to think like marketers,” he said. “And they do it reluctantly, which is why some of them do it so poorly.”

Last year, Partners + Simons surveyed 800 patients in Massachusetts, and found that only 24% of the audience trusted their doctor completely to make the right decisions about where they should go to receive medical care. But only 58% of respondents felt patients and family should be active in deciding which hospital to go to.

“So there’s a bit of a disconnect,” said Cotrupi. “What we’re seeing is that increasingly patients are getting involved, and becoming more informed consumers about where they go to get their knee replacement, have their baby or God forbid, have cancer treatment.”

The idea behind the Tufts campaign was to create a place where patients who have been told they have a specific condition would start doing their research. “[When diagnosed,] the first thing you do is go home and Google the condition,” he said. “What we’ve done with the Tufts site is drive traffic through paid and organic search, and enable the patient to sit across the desk from a doctor. It lets the patient get to know the doctor a bit without even having to go to the hospital.”

Social media is being used as a component in the Tufts campaign, mainly to help the hospital perform better in organic search results, he noted.

“We think the campaign has a lot of legs,” added Hynes, noting she anticipates adding more video to the library and creating more social sharing capabilities for the site’s content.