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Crisis, understanding, and marketing: A Q&A with UCLA’s Tanya Andreadis

Frontline workers rightly deserve the spotlight for their role in caring for patients. But providers have no monopoly on empathy. Workers in other roles are just as invested in the well-being of their communities.

To take one example, there’s Tanya Andreadis, Chief of Marketing at UCLA Health. For her extraordinary commitment to keeping L.A. safe, she’s one of the nominees for NRC Health’s Excellence in Human Understanding Award.

In this Q&A, Andreadis shares what drives her and what helped her navigate UCLA Health’s marketing team to a recent startling success.

What does human understanding mean for you?

This may be an unconventional way of looking at it, but for me, practicing human understanding comes from focus.

When you’re in any kind of large organizational environment, you have a lot of priorities to juggle. Health systems compete with each other and you’re constantly worried about market share, or retention, or the return on investment for marketing spend. The list goes on. The struggle is—with all that happening day-to-day—how do you keep the customer foremost in your mind? How do you keep your team focused on what’s good for the patient, for the community?

There’s no easy answer for that. Being very selective with your focus is, for me, the best place to start. And I try to challenge myself to focus on understanding and delivering on what the humans we serve need every day when I come to work.

How does this understanding animate your work in healthcare marketing?

Understanding is absolutely fundamental to what we do in healthcare communications. You need a well-developed sense of empathy to really understand what resonates with people—whether those people are your customers or your team members—and what motivates them to take action.

That’s especially true in the time of this pandemic. When there’s so much nervousness and confusion and even misinformation out there, people are really hungry for guidance. That guidance starts with our clinicians and our experts, but it comes down to us to give it reach and impact.

We have to really understand whom we’re communicating with, see those fears and anxieties, and steer our community toward a productive course of action.

How has UCLA Health guided its community through the COVID-19 crisis?

Our efforts focused around a new initiative called TeamLA.

It started at the beginning of the pandemic, when we observed a lot of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. At the time, the CDC guidelines were evolving all the time, so people were confused about what they should do.

So we decided to leverage our relationship with some of our city’s big institutions—especially athletic teams like the Bruins. Our driving idea was to get everyone in the city working together, as a team, to combat the virus and bring rates of transmission down.

The idea was to develop a singular, focused communications campaign to drive our community toward better health outcomes. We identified four pillars we wanted to focus on: Collective Resolve, Citizen Action, Empathy, and Gratitude.

On these points, we developed content for a variety of platforms—streaming services, social-media sites, radio, traditional media, the whole gamut. From the beginning, we wanted to ensure we reached as many people as we could.

What has TeamLA’s impact been for UCLA Health?

TeamLA really resonated with people. After three months of development, it generated more than 12 million unique impressions.

Aside from the metrics, we saw some other amazing indications of TeamLA’s success. In response to our messaging on Gratitude—about the heroic service of our frontline providers and the tremendous outpouring of generosity from the community, we received offers for more donations of clothes and food and monetary support.

We were also able to connect a tremendous number of people with mental-health resources, which stemmed from the Empathy pillar of the TeamLA project. We knew that many would struggle with feelings of isolation or despair, and we didn’t want them to struggle alone.

And that was just the beginning of the program’s impact. Taken together, all of this makes TeamLA the biggest expression of the UCLA Health brand that we’ve ever had.

TeamLA was a great institutional response to a crisis. But how do you stay inspired, when times get hard?

I’d say, first and foremost, I also center myself on one of those TeamLA pillars in particular: personal gratitude.

I feel so lucky to be where I am, doing what I do. It’s a hard time to be working in healthcare, but not everybody has been as fortunate as I have. A lot of people have lost their jobs; a lot of people have lost their connection to a sense of purpose in their work.

When I’m stressed out, all of that is a reminder that we on communications teams have really important jobs. We’re working for an important cause. This job is great because people need us. That’s an honor. So let’s live up to that honor.

Is there someone at your organization who has led the charge to bring more human understanding to your organization each day?  We want to hear about it! Share your human understanding story with us at mcharko@nrchealth.com to schedule your interview today.