6 Elements for Effective Thought Leadership in Healthcare IT Marketing

Andrew Moravick

Broadly speaking, seeing success from thought leadership in marketing takes skill. It’s not all pure talent. It’s not all pure effort. It’s a balance of both talent and effort as a refined skill. The “thought” part generally depends on talent – people with vision. The “leadership” part is usually where efforts yield the most returns. It’s having something worth saying, and doing the work to say it in ways that make a difference.

Of course, on any hypothetical list of the most challenging industries for executing effective thought leadership, healthcare (and  maybe even our specialized branch at HIMSS Media of healthcare information and technology) would likely rank among the top contenders. In most cases, marketing and thought leadership isn’t brain surgery. In healthcare thought leadership, though, brain surgeons may very well be in your target audience.  The professional standards and expectations for credibility in healthcare are just on a different level.

Still, if you want to be competitive with any marketing efforts in the healthcare space, thought leadership should fit somewhere into your marketing mix. So as challenging as healthcare thought leadership may be, here are six essential elements to have as much of an edge as possible in your efforts!

1. Build on Big Ideas for Thought Leadership: Healthcare IT Topics as Rallying Points

The basic premise of thought leadership is that big ideas can make brands a big or bigger deal to their buyers.  In healthcare, one of the larger, more enduring ideas also functionally sets the bar for how big ideas generally reach an appealing level. The Quadruple Aim is among the more venerable ventures in healthcare because it takes core pieces that fit together to make an even bigger idea.  Namely, the search for synergy between successful patient experiences, provider experiences, cost management efforts, and population health management. No one brand can own the Quadruple Aim for thought leadership, but plenty of marketers can explore and explain how their brands contribute to the pursuit.

Another big idea in healthcare, interoperability, hinges on the ability to integrate healthcare platforms for seamless, sophisticated data exchanges for far reaching and powerful insights. Again, something no one brand can own, but something many brands can build on.

Like high-reaching vines rising with the growth of greater trees, you can start small with healthcare thought leadership concepts, but still rise by wrapping onto the right ideas.

2. Richen Thought Leadership Engagement with Video

Of course, on the list of things you can do for healthcare thought leadership, there are dauntingly big steps, and small, doable steps. Video marketing has a little bit of both. If you’ve yet to produce any video assets thus far, it can be hard to know where to start. Thought leadership content on video, though, is about as simple a starting point as you could ask for.  If you have video efforts underway, perhaps you already have thought leadership content documented. In both scenarios, though it’s a clear, easy way to make a difference. You can showcase who is behind the thoughts you’re leading with. You can add voice, character, creativity, and any other unique elements inherent to your message in the medium. In a challenging space like healthcare, every advantage counts for thought leadership, and video is your opportunity to show people your big picture.

3. Who Are You Leading With Your Thoughts? Convene the Buyer Collective:

Another small but manageable win with healthcare thought leadership is in flipping the “big idea” dynamic. Instead of going for the biggest ideas, you can focus on the good ideas – the consistent vision of your organization, or the clear “here’s why it works” story – and double down on efforts to distribute them to the people with whom they’ll make the biggest impact. From a sales and marketing perspective, this is your buyer collective. By focusing thought leadership efforts on the buyer collective, you can lead with thoughts that connect key dots between members of the group. If you need a CTO and a Chief of Medicine to both contribute to, or sign off on, the purchase of your product, for example, tell stories of the advantages CTOs and Chiefs of Medicine can gain from working together. There’s synergy in the thoughts, and synergy in the needs for the process, which can make a big difference!

4. Reinforce Thought Leadership with SME Support:

Taking a step out of marketing and healthcare for a second, in history, many great leaders have distinguished themselves by knowing enough to NOT position themselves as the only or primary great thinkers. FDR relied on his brain trust (and coined the phrase for such advisors). Queen Elizabeth, a great thinker in her own right, wisely subverted the 16th-century patriarchal expectations of female capabilities with her Privy Council to maintain rule effectively.

Point being, of course, effective thought leadership isn’t about just being THE leader. It’s about leading by bringing together great thoughts. A great way to take your healthcare thought leadership efforts to a higher level is by sourcing or collaborating with subject matter experts (SMEs). You need to know what to look for in healthcare SMEs, but by pooling together your own brain trust of top-thinkers, you can go so much farther in your thought leadership efforts vs. simply going it alone.

5. Think Critically of Your Healthcare Thought Leadership

When it comes to barriers for thought leadership, healthcare, just like any other industry, is not free from the Pink Floyd problem, namely: “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control…”

This criticism is important, as thought leadership is NOT about thought control. It’s not educating buyers on what you want them to know; it’s sharing things they gain value from knowing. It takes care, craft, and often a little humility to keep an even keel in thought leadership efforts. It helps to always have a critical voice questioning, “is this what we want to say to them, or is this something that’s useful for them to hear?”

Marketing messages are always apt to sound like any and all other marketing messages. Thought leadership messaging, though, isn’t about the novelty of any old message sufficing. It’s about value. Whether or not your thought leadership perspectives are similar to or shared by others doesn’t matter. If they’re valuable, people will benefit from hearing it whether it’s the original note, or an echo resounding around an important point. It’s critical that such value is always there.

6. Tap Thought Leadership Wiggle Room Between “What” and “How”

“What’s the big idea?” It’s a loaded question – either someone’s looking for a revelation, or someone’s responding to a disruption. Not everyone comes up with a big idea. How to make an idea big, though, is another worthy angle. Given all the complicated tools, technologies, regulations, etc. in healthcare, there are huge opportunities to provide leadership on how to make things happen, vs. just talking about what big things could or should happen. Clear, achievable explanations, collaborative guidance, innovative workarounds or adaptations to common problems, these can all be just as useful in thought leadership efforts as the alluring epiphanies – sometimes even more so.

In fact, healthcare professionals are routinely exposed to plenty of big ideas – exciting things on the horizon – but the daily demands right in front of them can make even sensible, inevitable prospects like digital transformation seem out of reach. Great thought leadership efforts in healthcare, though, can simply, clearly explain how such bigger ideas can be pursued. Not lassoing it into implementation immediately, of course, but step by step, laying the paving stones that will make a path passible over time.

For more on how HIMSS Media can help you with your healthcare thought leadership efforts, you can submit a strategic content request here!

About the Author

As a Senior Marketing Manager for HIMSS Media, Andrew Moravick leverages extensive B2B & B2C marketing experience to oversee and optimize HIMSS Media's content marketing and demand generation efforts. In previous roles, Andrew has worked for Aberdeen Group, Snap App, PUMA, and Eloqua.

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