If there is one statement that causes an almost involuntary eyeroll for most marketing/PR professionals it’s some variation of being told “nobody knows about us” or “we need to raise awareness.” It’s easy to get annoyed and dismissive when this situation happens, but there is a better, more productive way to handle it. This article is the first of a two-part blog post on how to lead people from vague concerns to an actual strategy.
In the world of healthcare this situation is especially prevalent. When you move beyond primary care, much of what we do gets very specialized, very quickly. This significantly reduces the number of people who would ever need, or care, to know about certain procedures, equipment, specialty providers, etc. For instance, I once had a meeting with a hospital executive who was upset that his barber didn’t know that our hospital had invested in some sophisticated diagnostic equipment to treat specific patients.
This was clearly an instance of the executive not understanding that there was a misalignment between message and audience. Unless he was dealing with a diagnosis, why would the barber need to be aware of the hospital’s new medical equipment? He was much more likely to be thinking about the latest advancements in cutting sheers or a personal hobby. Maybe he was thinking about buying a new car or taking a vacation. Now, if referring providers in the community or the hospital’s own doctors were unaware of the equipment that would be a serious problem that warranted an immediate communications plan.
The best redirect and reframe strategy ever
A few years ago, a hospital planning executive gave me a good trick for helping people see this disconnect. Whenever he received a complaint about a lack of awareness, he would ask them, “So tell me, who has the best price on 20-inch truck tires in town this week?” The reaction would always be, “How would I possibly know that?” Exactly.
Today, people are bombarded by thousands of messages daily and have more ways to distract themselves than ever before. Unless you have an unlimited budget and a truly unique product that every human being needs, your audience will never be everyone. It will always be a subset of everyone, and often, it will be a very, very small subset of everyone. And that’s just fine. As long as you ultimately reach the right people who really do need to know or benefit from becoming aware, that is all that matters.
When dealing with someone upset about a lack of awareness, the initial step is discussing the fact that this “problem” is totally normal. The best approach is to drill into who your audience really is, where they are and what actions you want them to take. From here, the next step is building a plan by answering a few simple questions. That plan will be the focus of part two. Check back in a few days!