If you are in charge of marketing at your hospital, how do you make a case for your communications budget? Even if you are only a modest junior assistant, it's wise to know how to persuade senior management to fund the work you do. Here are six suggestions based on a conversation with a community hospital's financial vice president:
Number 1: Keep yourself well-informed about your hospital's goals and finances. Always study the annual report, of course, but find out where quarterly and semi-annual reports are and see what you can learn. If you don't know it already, find out what your overall marketing budget is. If finance isn't your strong suit, think about taking an introductory course at a local community college, in finance or in business planning, just to give yourself a foundation in concepts and vocabulary.
Number 2: Know your hospital's strategic plan, and tie your own plan to the plan's major goals. The plan should be available through your own supervisor, or on your intranet. The closer your own marketing plan is matched to your organization's goals, the more likely it is to get the attention, and the funding, you need.
Number 3: At the half-year point, if not more often, your hospital will evaluate performance, and adjust spending as needed. This means that you should be monitoring your own results so you're prepared to make a case for continued funding of your projects. Also have in mind where you can cut if you absolutely have to. In other words, set your own priorities, rather than having someone else impose them.
Number 4: Setting standards for return on investment can be a challenge for an advertising or communications campaign. One thing that can help: at the very start of planning a campaign, work to figure out some measurements, and then monitor them. For example, if your goal is to increase community involvement in your hospital, keep careful count of how many new volunteers you acquire, how many new names on your mailing lists, how many new Facebook friends. These figures aren't dollar results, but they are hard numbers that show your tactics are working.
Number 5: The emergency department and primary care make sense as activities to publicize, because they attract attention. If you are planning to publicize other departments, make your case for their significance to the hospital's goals. Patient surveys can be helpful in deciding what to emphasize in your marketing efforts.
Number 6: Be realistic about the significance of a small expenditure. From finance's point of view, $1,000 to beef up a mailing, or get help from a designer or writer, is a very small percentage of a typical community hospital's marketing budget. Don't be shy about demanding help for the services you provide for your hospital and, consequently, for your patients!