- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On April 6, 2015
- Online reputation management
On the Internet everyone is a publisher. Everyone can make their voice heard. They can say what they feel about your hospital or health system. They don’t need to ask for permission. They can be published without any filtering or editing. It’s a true democracy.
This is not the most reassuring thought for every hospital marketer.
Do you know what people are saying about your hospital and your physicians? Do you have a plan in place to listen and respond? Do you have a proactive plan of how to take control of your online reputation and maximize it?
As a hospital marketer it’s important that you do. In it’s 2012 research, The Digital Journey to Wellness: Hospital Selection, Google found that reputation is the #1 factor that patient’s consider before selecting a hospital.
Here are some ideas of how to build a strong online reputation for your hospital.
Be aware of your reviews
In the Google study 26% of patients reported using online review sites when considering a hospital. In a 2014 study published in JAMA, 19% of consumers said that online reviews of physicians were “very important” and 40% said they were “somewhat important”. Although these percentages are relatively low now they are growing fast.
Patients are using sites dedicated to rating physicians like ZocDoc, Healthgrades, RateMDs and Vitals but they are also using websites like Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yelp and Superpages to review hospitals.
As a first step in taking control of your brand it’s a good idea to search for your hospital (and key menbers of staff ) and see what ratings and reviews have been posted.
Responding to negative reviews
But what happens if you see a negative review? It’s human nature to want to jump straight onto the review site and respond to the reviewer that they are so wrong. Of course, this is not the correct thing to do.
With our hospital clients we have found an approach similar to the one detailed by Hootsuite works well. That is:
- Pause: don’t rush into responding to a negative online review. Sometimes you need to cool off first.
- Look into it: Before you respond it’s worth knowing the facts behind the negative review. See if you can track down some answers internally.
- Apologize: It’s a classic customer service tip but it works here too. Just apologize. Let the reviewer know you understand their feelings.
- Go offline: To really fix the situation you need to leave the review site. Take the conversation offline, preferably to the phone (email has plenty of communication challenges.) I’m amazed at how often seemingly intractable problems can be solved by people when they talk to each other.
Use your home base
The good news for hospital marketers is that 83% of patients look at a hospital’s website as part of their research before booking an appointment. But what do patient’s see when they visit your site? Does your website enhance your brand?
A great tool for enhancing your brand on your website is a blog. A blog allows you to easily publish content that shows the expertise of your staff. It allows you to feature patient stories that will appeal to prospective patients and provide evidence of your hospital’s ability to provide superior services.
But strikingly our recent research shows that 60% of hospitals do not have a blog. (We researched 935 hospitals and found only 375 with a blog.)
Make sure your home base is found
In it’s research Google found that 43% of visits to hospital websites were driven by search. Your website can only give a great impression of your hospital if your prospective patient finds it so you need to consider your SEO strategy when considering how to bolster your online reputation.
Most prospective patients that find a hospital’s website start their search with “non-branded” terms. In other words they don’t type in the name of your hospital. Patients’ biggest search categories are symptoms and departments (38%) or conditions and diseases (37%).
The easiest way to generate Google-friendly content about symptoms, departments, conditions or diseases is to set up a blog. Blogs make it easy to create fresh content that features keywords related to these areas.