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Jan 2016

Hospital Leaders Should Learn the Art of Trump-ing

Hospital leaders can steal a few tools from Donald Trump, HealthLeaders Media writer Marianne Aiello suggested. And none of them have to do with the presidential candidate’s notorious hair coif.

Aiello found four key Trump takeaways that are worth studying, no matter which side of the political aisle you fall.

1. Demand to be heard. Trump is a communications powerhouse, Aiello noted. He is the master of the five-second sound bite. He knows what raises heart rates in the public and media. And because Trump is spending his own money on the campaign, he is savvy when it comes to spending. Why buy ad time when you have free marketing on talk shows and news segments? Or better yet for Trump, why buy ad time when you can send tweets out that leave no doubt that Donald Trump is the one hitting “send”?

Hospital leaders should note Trump’s tenacity in making his name known. Despite having small marketing budgets, hospital marketers have to be tenacious to be heard by a less-than-caring media. There are multiple avenues to attract warranted attention other than advertising dollars. Social media, outreach stories that appeal to human interest, and grassroots involvement in your community are low-cost, high-return ways to reach the public and generate positive buzz.

2. Know your audience. While Aiello didn’t dissect the pool of voters Trump goes after, it’s clear that his messages have hit home with more Americans than anyone (other than Trump) could have anticipated. He understands his audience, which makes knowing what they want to hear easy. Then, Trump delivers the message to them … LOUDLY.

Aiello points out that to create a successful marketing strategy, a healthcare provider has to be as tuned in to its patients’ and community’s needs as Trump is to his supporters. That means going beyond an annual community needs assessment or the beat-to-death patient survey. It means having monthly focus groups, soliciting feedback from hospital staff from every nook and corner of the operation, and looking for and acting on trends on social media.

Once you have robust data, you’ll be better-equipped to get well-crafted messages out to meet patients’ needs and make them take notice.

3. Don’t be afraid to fail. Aiello noted that for all of Trump’s high-profiled business successes, which he is more than happy to discuss, there have been many crash-and-burn failures: bankruptcy, divorces, civil lawsuits and even his failed 2012 presidential campaign. However, a few of the risks he has taken have paid off with major dividends, often to the surprise of everyone not named Donald Trump.

Trump doesn’t stay in the right lane. Hospitals should look at his strategy to be bold and risky. Aiello suggested that hospitals experiment with new social apps such as Periscope to elicit strong emotions from the community, or play around with the traditional television/radio/print ad that often stays in the right lane for fear of a costly mistake.

Not every innovative marketing risk will pay dividends, but just one major success will likely cover for any out-of-the-box failures.

4. Take on your competition. No one can accuse Trump of holding back on expressing how he feels about nearly any subject. Aiello highlighted how Trump’s primary media relations strategy revolves around putting candidates and other high-profile figures on notice— well-deserved or not.

Hospital marketing requires a bit more tact and professionalism, but hospitals should not steer clear from tackling healthcare competitors head-on. That does not necessarily mean putting down the competing hospitals. A hospital may let its consumers know why it is superior just by hammering home key differentiators that distinguish your brand.

Finally, Aiello said, don’t be afraid to brag. There’s a time and a place for humility, but not in a presidential campaign run and not in hospital marketing. As Reggie Jackson once famously said, “it ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”

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