What It’s Like to Be a Healthcare Marketer During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted on March 20, 2020 by in Healthcare/ Hospitals

This is a guest post from Jen Brass Jenkins, Web Content Writer for University of Utah Health. She’s sharing her experience as a healthcare marketer amid COVID-19.

I woke out of a dead sleep on Wednesday, March 18, to the tinkle of perfume bottles and a sashaying bed. My brain made the connection a few seconds later — this was an earthquake.

Coronavirus Communications — oh, and an Earthquake!

I had to be at the hospital communications command center in an hour and a half, and we were having an earthquake? For the previous two days, I had sat (acceptably socially distanced — six feet apart) in various conference rooms at the hospital. As a web liaison, I was ready to post, edit, update, write and generally be a content-girl-Friday for whoever needed me.

A global pandemic was in the works, and I was happy to help. It was difficult, however, to keep priorities straight during the hours following the original quake near Salt Lake City as 50+ aftershocks kept rocking the party. It seemed important to go back into the hospital, but I wondered where this new wrinkle left us. (Most of Utah was also wondering the same thing. There were huge lines at the gas stations. Why? Where was anyone going if there were fault lines and buckling roads?)

Flashback two weeks prior, and I had been at a gala fundraiser. Sure, coronavirus was on the horizon, but this was our last meal — we were eating, drinking and majorly making merry before the epidemic made its way to Utah. A few days after that, it was a pandemic. A couple of days after that, we were working remotely from home. I had to ask myself again, where did that leave us?

What’s the New Healthcare Marketing Game Plan?

I work at University of Utah Health as a web content manager. Most of my duties consist of supporting 30K+ webpages across multiple subdomains. I get to collaborate with various teams, each focused around a different audience. I write, edit, audit, analyze, strategize and categorize all the things.

What to do, however — and I know you are all wondering the same thing — when your entire game plan goes out the window? We have campaigns that were finally delivering results, internal stakeholders we had wooed back from life as rogue agents, Gannt charts and editorial calendars, and content briefs. While I’m sure we won’t be throwing that all out the window, what will we do now?

I was pretty impressed with Erika Held, host of a weekly Twitter #Contentchat. She adapted to #pandemicpanic with panache and changed Monday’s topic to crisis communications (remember, that was pandemic day — the day it got official).

I’m also impressed with our marketing and communications department. Everybody, whether sequestered at home or onsite, is pulling it together. And watching emergency management from the communications command center is pretty wild.

Supporting the Front Lines

When you are at home, working remotely, it’s easy to get bored. You can keep a sense of humor, make some memes and critically evaluate the leadership.

On the front lines, however, it’s a whole different ballgame. (And I was in the backseat!) It’s kind of hard to reconcile the different points of view. For now, that’s the insight I’m taking away from this — how starkly different our points of view can be.

While a lot of America was mourning toilet paper or on a scavenger hunt for hand sanitizer, administrators and management were organizing volunteer lists of qualified providers to handle treatment and planning how to sanitize soiled/exposed work uniforms. They are counting supplies and re-evaluating testing. (At University of Utah Health, we now have in-car testing or evaluations for COVID.)

Time to Rethink Brand Messaging

So, in marketing and communications, we’re circling and figuring out our new game plan. We’ve created content at the moment — blogs, infographics, internal messaging (so much internal messaging). And we are figuring out how to deal with the after-effects of earthquake aftershocks.

Long term, however, we have to rethink everything, including starting at square one with our brand messaging.

Meanwhile, I can’t forget how different the situation looks at home vs. at the providers’ side on location. There are many different viewpoints, and to understand those, we need to step outside of our self-imposed boundaries. But keep it safely socially distanced! We’re in a pandemic after all!

Be Clear During COVID-19

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About Jen Brass Jenkins

Jen Brass Jenkins

Jen Brass Jenkins is a web content manager for University of Utah Health. With her team she supports numerous content initiatives for clinical services and academic schools and colleges. She has written content for apps, ‘zines, white papers, trade journals, websites, and other stuff. On the home front, she answers to two felines—Ampersand and Apostrophe—whom she has to remind on occasion who pays the mortgage. Devoted bibliophile, she also collects perfumes and assorted accessories and sundries. Find her online @chrliechaz.

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