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Be a mirror: Elevate experience and transform healthcare interactions

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Healthcare leaders who understand that people need to feel validated, supported, and loved will have more meaningful healthcare interactions.

“It’s so important to understand how our people are feeling, and it doesn’t matter who your audience is—whether you’re doing marketing and its consumers, whether you have a business to move or an agenda to move or progress to move,” says Mindy Adams, Chief Creative Officer, BPD, speaking at the recent NRC Health Pediatric Collaborative.

“In order to move any of those things, you first have to move people. It’s just a fact. Even when making healthcare decisions.”

Check out the full presentation from the 2024 Pediatric Collaborative.

Be a mirror, not a microphone

Adams says that people get thousands of messages thrown at them all day because brands and companies are being microphones. They’re telling you why they’re the best, why they’re amazing, why they’re good—and there’s no differentiation at all. 

“I would argue that the most dangerous thing we can be as marketers or communicators is forgettable,” she says. “And that happens far too often because we’re playing it safe or talking about ourselves, and we’re not thinking through that lens of empathy that is so important.” 

Adams asks, what if instead of being a microphone, we were a mirror reflecting the people we’re talking to back to themselves? 

“Being a mirror is so important,” she says. “It’s so multifaceted and dynamic. A mirror is not just about inclusion, although that’s number one. It’s about showing everyone themselves across cultures, backgrounds, stages of health, and ages. People need and want to see themselves reflected in your messaging and work. But it’s also about honesty. Consumers, people, us—all of us—I think we’d all agree we’re a little bit cynical. We’re a little jaded. Being a mirror is not just about showing consumers literally, it’s also reflecting an honest, authentic emotion.” 

How to reflect authenticity

Use stories to elevate challenges. How do you introduce what medical complexity looks like?

“We’re really celebrating the fact that a kid is a kid,” Evangelista says. “You all strive every day in the holistic care you provide in your hospitals to ensure children’s that development and fun doesn’t stop just because they need to be served in a children’s hospital. We really have started to weave in what medical complexity looks like.  

“We had a story about a Ukrainian refugee whose mother used to be a doctor in Ukraine, and whose child’s hearing was restored at one of our hospitals,” she adds. “How do we make sure, again, that these small and big miracles happen daily?” 

Use stories to share your mission. AdventHealth’s campaign “Never Underestimate Human Spirit” illustrated the importance of communicating your commitment to whole-person care amid the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Through authentic stories of patients and providers, AdventHealth championed the human spirit, showcasing real moments of care and healing.  

The unscripted nature of the campaign added to its authenticity, resonating with the community and the organization’s staff.  

AdventHealth created a comprehensive, organic narrative that reflects its mission and engages audiences across various platforms by incorporating music and diverse services offered. Through localized storytelling, they further connect with communities and celebrate the diverse ways they care for individuals. 

“The human spirit lives in all of us, but it also moves between us, and we only need to see it in someone else to realize it in ourselves,” says Mindy Adams, Chief Creative Officer, BPD. “And as our community continues to show us, there’s no way to measure its power or impact. This campaign officially champions the human spirit in our patients and our care team, providers, doctors, and experts. We were pure about using only real patients and real providers.”

Use stories to motivate audiences to action. Through collaboration with the American Hospital Association and the CDC, the Children’s Hospital Association addressed vaccine hesitancy, aiming to create a distinct conversation amid pandemic fatigue.

They leveraged the expertise of children’s hospitals in holistic and specialized care to craft a campaign centered on the theme of “Making COVID-19 History.” 

Real-life stories of families, including those with medically complex/immunocompromised children, were featured to underscore the significance of vaccination for community health. They employed authentic storytelling using a localized approach to prompt discussions and encourage vaccination dialogue with healthcare providers.  

The campaign utilized diverse channels, including television commercials and a dedicated online platform, to reach varied audiences and facilitate informed decision-making regarding vaccination. 

Use stories or mirrors to make your product relevant. When looking at the sea of sameness, what can you do differently to express how amazing your product is?

One example is turning Human Understanding into a visual metaphor and creating art. Jayce Hall, a micrography artist, creates pictures and designs from tiny written words. He wrote his story hundreds of times to create a self-portrait.  

While it is quite literally a mirror, the metaphor is that every patient has a story, every detail matters, and it all makes up who you are. 

“When providers and care teams are listening and involved in every single detail and see the person for who they are—not a media target, not just a woman in her forties, but actually who they are as a person—it makes all the difference,” Evangelista says.  

“There’s not a person who hasn’t been touched or doesn’t know someone who’s been touched. And I have to say, 99 percent of the stories I hear from children’s hospitals are positive miracle stories and gratefulness. But what do you do with that? How do you take that to your next level and ensure the advertising you’re doing, the message, and the advocacy are authentic enough to meet the mission and the huge responsibilities that your organizations and you all take part in?” 

Evangelista and Adams say that by using storytelling and creating marketing that acts as a mirror, you’ll showcase and reflect what is really important to your consumers. Here are four tips to help you maximize your storytelling capabilities: 

Four Tips to Access Your Inner Storyteller 

  • Continue investing in audience data at the individual patient level 
  • Build an empathy strategy 
  • Spend time with your audience IRL 
  • Measure performance against both emotional and rational metrics 

Click here to view the entire presentation from the NRC Health 2024 Pediatric Conference.