We’ve been working with a leading healthcare brand to build an organization at the forefront of innovation. Every conversation throughout the company, from corporate strategy to office design, anchored on evoking its innovative spirit. It all appeared to be a unified effort until our senior client, to her frustration, read the company’s most recent newsletter. The featured article: the benefits of Kombucha.

From a conversion standpoint, it was the best article they had ever written. But what did kombucha have to do with their business? “I get that the metrics look great”, our client said, “but what we’re trying to do is lead innovation in healthcare, not help with your diet.” Our client isn’t alone in her frustration—healthcare is struggling to embrace content marketing in an increasingly content-driven world.

When done right, content builds trust between healthcare entities and their audiences, and encourages patient satisfaction, referrals, and other positive behaviors. If developing content were so easy, though, every healthcare entity would be doing it. So what is really stopping these organizations from embracing content marketing? From our work in content strategy across healthcare as well as other industries, we’ve identified two underlying reasons.

Healthcare companies see privacy and compliance concerns as an insurmountable barrier to data-driven content.

Building content that meets PHI standards and HIPAA compliance is so high effort, most firms avoid using robust data all together. Instead of creating relevant, data-driven content, healthcare companies stick to what they know is safe. Yet, some companies, like Novant Health, have challenged this notion. The hospital system uses aggregated and anonymized data to segment patients based on their behaviors and approach to care. The system then tailors its marketing and digital content to be relevant to these segments, allowing for personalization while still safeguarding their patients’ identities.

To comply with regulations, healthcare companies have overbearing, overcentralized governance structures.

This can make content production a long, cumbersome process. By the time content gets approved, it’s often no longer relevant. Content creators in this environment aren’t inspired to develop new ideas, and over-centralized governance also prevents content from expanding beyond marketing to other functional groups. Prophet recently helped a major academic health system streamline a governance model so that it no longer burdened executives or made physicians feel voiceless. We helped our client identify what roles, steps, and resources were essential, and together, restructured governance with the right processes and people. As a result, the health system was better equipped to create content and build digital connections with its physicians.

Breaking these barriers requires an integrated content strategy that enables data-driven content to meet compliance. Here’s a three-step approach to help get you started.

1. Drive better insights from your consumer data by aggregating multiple sources and assessing segments

Develop consumer / patient segments to tailor your content using aggregated and de-identified personal information. Through these segments, deliver relevant, tailored experiences without raising legal or ethical concerns. Segments work harder when they come from robust data, so it’s important to compile data from multiple, disparate sources. Look across departments and functions to get a holistic view of your consumers, stepping away from basic demographics and towards a more immersive understanding of consumer attitudes.

2. Use aggregated consumer insights to understand customer needs and preferences, and then determine your content’s common vision and role

The common vision anchors content in strategic goals. It ensures every piece is working towards a higher purpose. The role determines what content should do for you and your readers – and should always be driven by your audience’s needs. Using the content archetypes identified through Altimeter’s research is a good mechanism to anchor content in what’s important for your audience, ultimately leading you to the most effective formats and types. For example, if your audience are healthcare professionals who may be motivated to join your health system, providing “Content as Currency” that underscores your expertise and academic thought leadership might be the right strategy. If your audience are patients or caregivers deciding where to obtain care, then “Content as Support” into how your health system’s employees, practices, and culture come together to create a stronger patient experience may be more appropriate.

3. Restructure your content approval processes to maximize content and streamline compliance.

A good first step is to shift your approach to governance from centrality to unity. In a central governance body, one entity—usually the marketing department—handles all content decisions. While this helps with quality control, it stops other branches of the organization from making content work for them. In a unified content governance body, content can come from multiple functions, enabling them to make the most of content’s capabilities.

There are three ways to ensure your content in a unified, decentralized system meets the right standards. The first is to assess the team. Content requires the right resources, talent, or dedication, so work with your team to understand project management needs and address them accordingly. The second is to properly communicate the common vision, roles, and content rules across departments. This will align departments on the general guidelines for content. The third is to streamline compliance. Software solutions, such as Veeva Vault, can automate the content approval process and drastically reduce the time it takes to properly vet and approve content.

Final Thoughts

Healthcare faces more barriers than other industries when it comes to producing content, but these barriers shouldn’t stop companies from embracing the movement. An integrated content strategy with the right vision, data-use, and governance, can help drive your content’s effectiveness and be a transformative lever across your marketing, sales and experience. Make the most of the data available, set up the right processes, and you will be surprised by the value your content can unlock.

Prophet has content strategists ready to support your enterprise. See our content strategy framework and contact our team with questions or further inquiries.