The studies are clear and conclusive: People overwhelmingly want to see healthcare organizations give back to society
But what kinds of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities can your healthcare or medical practice organization engage in? How can you use this as a part of your marketing strategy? How do you avoid cynicism and what are the powerful benefits you can expect?
If you own or operate a medical practice, or are in the healthcare industry altogether, you know that society expects that your organization is involved in some kind of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or philanthropic program. With doctors being in higher income brackets, as well as the extremely high cost of healthcare in the U.S., this is a reasonable expectation. If you doubt this, here are some statistics to consider (via Forbes and Cone Communications) :
- More than 88% of consumers think companies should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment
- 83% of consumers think companies should support charities and nonprofits with financial donations.
- 65% would seriously consider leaving their job if their company harmed the environment
- 32% would seriously consider leaving their job if their company gave no / little money to charity
- 78% of people want companies to address important social justice issues.
- 71% of Millennials want businesses to lead social and environmental change in the absence of government regulation, compared to 63% of all Americans.
- 87% of Americans say they would purchase a product because a company supported an issue they care about.
- 76% would refuse to buy from a company if they learn it supports an issue contrary to their own beliefs.
The above statistics represent a phalanx of studies that show a clear demand from society. In business 101, if there is a demand, those that supply that demand will benefit. So, if you are in the healthcare industry, why not supply this demand as an integral part of your medical practice's overall organizational strategy? In short, why not give people what they want?
This article will discuss the compelling reasons why your healthcare organization or medical practice needs authentic CSR as a part of its overall strategy. We will also review the four kinds of CSR initiatives that your healthcare organization can use. We will also talk about how to integrate these activities as crucial components of your overall marketing strategies, as well as how to avoid public cynicism.
What Can You Accomplish Through CSR? – Main Benefits
1. Enhanced Patient Loyalty
Patients must trust their physician and the clinic that attends to their needs. Once they do, they will be willing to recommend your business’ services to others. In the healthcare industry, trust is one of the most important currencies yet it is pretty hard to gain. If you want to earn loyal patients that trust your services, you must develop a strong and transparent emotional bond with each and every client.
Based on the statistics we provided at the beginning of this article, authentic CSR activities are a fantastic way to serve the greater good while giving people (your patients) what they expect from organizations, If your healthcare organization or medical practice can be a leader in this front, you will have a plethora of additional and highly compelling marketing messaging that will vastly improve your patient loyalty while attracting new patients to your organization.
2. A Strong and Effective Way to Retain High-Quality Employees
Studies have shown that there is a strong and clear connection between a company’s social performance and the loyalty and morale of its employees (again, refer to the statistics provided above). For medical practices, this aspect is vital because when staff members see that the management doesn’t apply ethical norms, or provide initiatives that serve the greater good, they will either quit, become disengaged, or even begin working against the best interests of your medical practice..
3. A More Efficient Use of the Clinic’s Resources
Implementing a well-structured CSR framework in your clinic will lead to an improved efficiency in the way you use your resources which can further help you lower the business’ costs in a significant manner. For example, creating a well-functioning waste management system lowers the amount of garbage while also ensuring the waste’s safe disposal.
In addition, the marketing messaging you put out will find a much more receptive and highly engaged audience. This is absolute gold, especially in where it concerns your digital marketing strategies and activities.
4. Achieving the License to Operate as a Medical Facility
Hospitals, as much as any other organization, have the responsibility to contribute to economic development that, among other things, also includes the following aspects: social and environmental initiatives. Clinics that don’t apply CSR are not acknowledging their responsibility. Therefore, they have a greater risk of being rejected by the community. Without a proper license and public acceptance, medical practices will never be able to function in both a sustainable and profitable way.
5. Reputation Management
One of the most serious threats that a medical organization faces is reputational risk. This has a negative impact on any business, but for hospitals it can be devastating. A bad reputation can easily and permanently ruin a business’ image for good. For the healthcare sector, a reputational crisis comes with significant consequences, like lost trust, the loss of client loyalty, and even legal costs. Once the company’s reputation is destroyed, it takes years to repair it as well as significant financial resources.
6. Vastly Improved Bottom Line
How does any organization improve its bottom line? By increasing revenues and lowering costs! The above five points clearly illustrate that your healthcare organization or medical practice, through an effective CSR strategy, will more effectively attract new and loyal patients; create engaged loyalty with existing patients; reduce costs associated with higher employee turnover; better attract higher-quality employees; increased output from more highly engaged employees; reduced costs of operations etc. In other words, the business case for CSR is clear!
The Main 4 CSR Types that a Medical Clinic Can Apply
CSR has received plenty of definitions and meanings. The way it is implemented varies from one company to another and it relies on variables that differ for each country, organization, and field of activity. There are plenty of reasons why medical practices should be socially responsible while also taking care of their stakeholders’ interests. CSR highlights a clinic’s performance and it makes it more likable in the community.
There are four different kinds of activities that an organization can do that fall under the CSR umbrella:
1. Direct philanthropic giving
For a medical practice to properly apply CSR techniques, it must consider donations: donating its time, energy, efforts, resources, and money to serve a good cause: human rights, medical services in poorly-developed countries, clean water, etc. The most common method is by donating money to charities;
2. Economic responsibility actions
Through this type of CSR, a medical practice focuses on facilitating the business’ long-term development and organic growth while also maintaining ethical standards at all times, no matter the circumstances. Before making any economic-related decision, one must think about its overall impact on society;
3. Environmental sustainability initiatives
When it comes to environmentally friendly initiatives, there are two major areas that a business can relate to: lowering greenhouse gases and limiting pollution. For instance, a healthcare organization or medical practice could follow several steps to limit air pollution. This could include separating waste, creating dry and wet indoor environments, developing green laboratories, and many others. In fact, clinics are usually considered role models when it comes to these types of things;
4. Ethical business practices
This translates into providing fair labor conditions for all employees, as well as the staff members of your suppliers or business collaborators: equal pay regardless of gender, race, etc., fair wage compensations, and other initiatives.
Avoid Cynicism, Follow These Rules
If your medical practice chooses to embrace CSR as a part of not only its organizational strategy, but its overall marketing strategy as well, you have to face the fact that some of the population is weary of businesses promoting their philanthropic endeavors for the obvious reason that it may smell of self-promotion.
In order to circumvent this, you will need to follow the 100% Authenticity Ground Rule in order to reach peek effectiveness. We discuss this rule in more detail in our publication, Brand Juggernaut: A How-to Guide for Creating a World-Classe Brand Identity. For this article's purposes, you only need to keep in mind that your CSR activities need to be 100% authentic in order to be 100% effective. This means representing something special, or to have a greater sense of purpose intertwined with your CSR activities. In other words, you need to be involved in CSR for the right reasons. In addition to this, make sure to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Find 1-3 causes that you, your patients and your staff can believe in
- Play to the highest common denominator (not the lowest)
Yes, there will be the cynics out there (the lowest common denominator). But there are also the people who want to be inspired and believe in something greater than themselves (the highest common denominator). So, place your faith and focus on the latter, and not the former. After all, if you are always turning around to see who is judging you (the negative), you won’t be looking ahead towards the people who are cheering you on (the positive).
- Be goal oriented
- Be Subtle
- Be Consistent
- Invite others to get involved
- Show results
How to Integrate CSR into Your Marketing Activities
Once you have a clear understanding for why CSR is important, that you will use it as a part of your overall strategy and have chosen which initiatives on which to place your focus, you will need to have a plan for how to use your CSR in your marketing messaging. The following are the steps we recommend to ensure maximum effectiveness in communicating your CSR initiatives.
1. Start with your Staff first
Your Staff will be the primary carriers of your CSR messaging through their interactions with your patients. As such, it is crucial that they believe in, and are enthusiastic to, the CSR initiatives in which you will engage. In short, you will need their buy-in.
Nothing creates buy-in with employees more than personal involvement. This creates ownership of the process. To be clear, the ultimate decision for how to communicate CSR initiatives rests with leadership. That said, if you can involve your staff in the process, they will feel that ownership that is crucial to long-term success.
Once you present which CSR initiatives in which you want to engage to your staff, get their feedback in terms of:
- Which initiatives they find the most compelling and engaging
- With favorite initiatives, what kind of language do they use to A) Talk about Why you are engaging in CSR (tie this into your organization's values); B) Describe the Problem that you want to solve C) Present the Solution(s) that will to solve the Problem; D) Highlight the Result(s) that your CSR activities deliver. Keep in mind that you are only looking for patterns in which descriptive adjectives, verbs, nouns and or strings of words appear to be most effective at creating engagement for the above.
2. Run your initiative(s) by your Patient Personas
As you did with your Staff in #1 above, do with a handful of individual patients, each of whom fit a specific Patient Persona. You could do this either through an online survey (Survey Monkey) or focus groups.
3. Boil down the most effective messaging
Once you have feedback from your Staff and Patient Personas, it is time to boil down the messaging. Look for patterns as far as on which CSR initiative your Staff and Patient Personas find the most engaging. Then look for pattens on which wording is used most consistently.
Once you have this information, create a CSR proposition document for the favorite proposed CSR initiatives. Boil down the language that your Staff and Patient Personas find most compelling and engaging. Each proposed CSR initiative should be on one sheet of paper (no more, no less). You should have no more that 3 CSR propositions.
4. Present to Staff, Patient Personas (make adjustments if necessary)
For final feedback, present your CSR propositions to your staff and the patients who have taken part in the information-gathering stage for final feedback. Make any adjustments in structure and wording that are necessary.
5. Subtly integrate activities into messaging
You are now ready to communicate your CSR activities to your patients and the public. In keeping with the guidelines for avoiding cynicism, make sure that you announce or communicate your CSR activities in a very subtle manner.
In doing so, you will want to talk about Why you are implementing your CSR activities (your organization's mission and values); the Problem that your healthcare organization or medical practice intends to solve; The Results of your activities; Open the door for your patients, and general public, to get involved.
As far as communicating your CSR initiative(s) over time, and on conventional or digital media channels, always make sure to remind the public Why you are doing what your are doing (your organization's mission and values), how this has led to quantifiable Results.
For digital media communications specifically, we would recommend using the following, which is based on our publication The Ultimate Digital Media Guide for Medical Practices:
- A section on your website
- Occasional blog posts (if you have a blog)
- Blurbs in eNewsletters
- Occasional posts on your social media channels
As we stated at the very beginning, the public overwhelmingly wants organizations to be actively involved in CSR activities. The statistics are clear and legion. This goes even more so for healthcare organizations and medical practices. So, if there is this kind of demand, why not supply that demand to the significant benefit of your medical practice's brand, and your financial results overall?
Depending on your healthcare organization or medical practices's needs and capacities, you have the ability to engage in four different kinds of CSR activities (Direct philanthropic giving, Economic responsibility actions, Environmental sustainability initiatives and/or Ethical business practices).
While there is a very clear business case for integrating CSR into you medical practice's overall organizational strategy, there is also the risk of triggering cynicism with your activities if done with the wrong intentions. You can circumvent this by following the recommendations we made above, and in doing so create an even stronger brand than without CSR activities. at all.
Once you have resolved to integrate a clear CSR component into your healthcare or medical practice's overall strategy, to ensure its efficacy you will need a clear communications plan. To create this plan, you need to get your staff and patients involved in the process. This is to clarify not only which CSR initiatives are the most compelling for your patients and staff, but to ascertain which language will be the most effective at triggering and sustaining long-term engagement.
Finally, once you have the above figured out, you need to utilize your preferred communications channels to transmit your CSR messaging. In that messaging, it is critical to reinforce Why your are engaged in CSR activities (as a part of your medical practice's mission and values), the Problem(s) you intend to resolve, the Results that you seek to achieve and to Open the door for your staff, patients and general public to get involved.
If you can do all of the above, your healthcare organization will experience increased patient loyalty, increased ability to attract and retain higher quality employees, decreased overall costs, improved reputation and overall enhanced bottom line. In short, your medical practice's brand will be a far more compelling value proposition for existing and prospective patients, which will solidify the strength of your market position in an already crowded landscape.
About Arrow Northwest
You will love how your communications feel. You will be thrilled with the results. Begin the journey today!