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The Influencer Effect, Part 2—How to amplify your influencer relationships

This is the second in a series on the effect of influencers in healthcare digital marketing. For Part 1, click here.


Influencer marketing is literally one of the oldest tricks in the advertising book. Celebrity connections have been a part of branding since at least the 1760s.

But the use of influencers has taken on a new importance in the era of social media. Thanks to the network effects of social-media connections, a well-positioned influencer can accelerate brand exposure exponentially.

This potential’s not lost on healthcare leaders. For years now, organizations have made the cultivation of influencers one of the cornerstones of their social-media strategy. How can they be sure, though, that they’re getting the most for their efforts?

This article, the second in a two-part series about influencer marketing, explores that question. It will show how two NRC Health partners, through careful planning and cultivation, have maximized the benefits of their long-term celebrity connections.

The connection: Children’s Mercy and a few homegrown comedians

Kansas City is an unexpected hub for comic talent.

Ant-Man’s Paul Rudd was born in the area, as was Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet. So was Horrible Bosses star Jason Sudeikis, The Hangover’s Rob Riggle, and David Koechner, who had an iconic role as Champ Kind in the comedy classic Anchorman.

In 2010, these comedy heavy-hitters wanted to do some good for their hometown, and they found a worthy cause: supporting the children’s cancer-care program at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City. They decided to come down together in June for a weekend of poker and fundraising. And so the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend was born.

That first year was a wild success, raising $120,000 for charity care and bringing some great exposure to the hospital. Since then the event has exploded, both in popularity and in scale. Over $8 million dollars has been raised so far, with $2 million coming from 2018’s Big Slick Weekend alone.

The lesson: Cultivate and magnify

That kind of success does not happen by accident. Children’s Mercy and the volunteers behind the Big Slick event have paid painstaking attention to sustaining the last eight years of growth.

First, note the cyber infrastructure behind their efforts. The Big Slick has an enormous footprint on the web. The event not only has its own site, but also active and content-rich accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. Each one of these represents a considerable commitment of both time and resources.

But the Big Slick team didn’t ignore the more analog marketing channels. They made sure to advertise in local papers and field external connections, notably with the Kansas City Royals.

Because of their efforts, the event won a slew of earned media appearances both regional and national, most notably on The Today Show with Al Roker.

NRC Health’s Market Insights results show just how much the Big Slick bolsters the brand profile for Children’s Mercy, every single year. In 2018, the percentage of patients responding with a brand preference for Children’s Mercy realized a statistically significant increase of 15.9%, to 24.6%. And top-of-mind awareness quadrupled following the weekend’s events.

The bevy of Kansas City comics deserves a lot of praise for this. But their work would not have gone nearly as far without work from the team at Children’s Mercy.

The connection: Bellin Health and the Green Bay Packers

Bellin Health, located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has a longstanding affiliation with the town’s biggest institution: The Pack. Green Bay Packers alumni have been helping Bellin Health fundraise since at least 2005, and in 2007 Bellin became the team’s official exclusive healthcare partner.

Since then, The Pack has made a point of helping Bellin Health improve patient lives. After a player’s tragic death from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the team’s management, alongside the hospital, sponsored free screenings for the illness in the Green Bay area. More than 1,000 teens and young adults participated.

Not every initiative was so grave, though. In 2014, Bellin Health staff and the Green Bay Packers sported pink exam gloves and danced together in an effort to win Medline’s Annual Pink Glove Dance Competition. They came in second place, raising $15,000 to fight cancer—and earning incalculable good will in the area.

The lesson: It starts in the community

All of these were dwarfed by the most recent Green Bay Packers–Bellin Health collaboration. In 2015, Bellin Health announced that it would be opening a brand-new 30,000-square-foot sports-medicine facility in Titletown, right next to the legendary Lambeau field.

This was a major step forward for Bellin Health’s presence in the area, and in the eyes of the Green Bay public, it cemented the organization’s connection to the Packers. The medical center became a nexus for several important community events that the Packers co-sponsored, including a Bike Rodeo, a Training Camp Fundraiser, and the annual Packers versus Cancer fund drive.

The Titletown facility even earned attention from abroad. It served as the meeting place for the international Institute for Healthcare Improvement, playing host to physicians and quality experts from around the world.

NRC Health’s Market Insights results show that this new construction was a major branding coup for Bellin Health. Since the announcement of the facility’s construction in 2015, Bellin Health’s brand-image score meaningfully increased. And the percentage of patients preferring Bellin Health saw marked improvement.

Don’t forget who’s on your team

Both Children’s Mercy and Bellin Health are instructive examples in deliberate influencer cultivation.

They show that building out an infrastructure—whether digital, like Children’s Mercy’s Big Slick site, or physical, like Bellin Health’s Titletown center—can significantly amplify the influencer effect on your organization’s marketing. That kind of deliberate planning, coupled with the savvy tactics from Part 1 of this article series, can help organizations seize the chance to bring their influencer connections to light.

But remember, these influencers aren’t just marketing assets. They’re people, too. And they’re perhaps the most effective way to put a human face to a brand.

So build relationships with them. Let them introduce a little humanity into your organization’s work. That will help engender the trust that every healthcare organization strives to cultivate.