Healthcare Marketers: Don’t Forget About Traditional Media

I know. So many people think traditional media is dead – or dying at least. Newpapers are dead. Radio is dead. TV is dead. Everything is moving to the Web – social and digital is the future!

I understand the perspective: traditional advertising is getting hurt. More and more people are using social media. The Internet is becoming the primary access through which people get information and entertainment.

It looks like the Web is equalizing everyone: the big giant corporations are facing challenges from the little guy with a blog, a podcast and a ra-ta-tat-tat arsenal of tweets.

It not only looks that way, but it is…to an extent.

History has shown – repeatedly – that new technologies shift social relations and dynamics, upend traditional powers and create pathways for new models and powers to emerge.

History has also shown that powers – old or new – eventually either coalesce, or consolidate, or outright conquer and marginalize the the once-equal.

Advertising will never fade. It’s an inherent process of all communications systems. Life, in fact, is perpetuated by advertising: the peacock’s feather is copy for the species.

My sense – it’s just a sense – is that eventually dominant media powers will re-emerge. They probably won’t be the ones we grew up knowing. Oligopolies happen. Quite often, especially if the economics of attention permit.

So if you want to develop a communications or marketing or public relations strategy that works today, here are four points to bear in mind:

  1. If you build strategies based solely on traditional media, you forgo a long-term investment in the future;
  2. If you build strategies based solely on today’s media, you’ve already built obsolescence into the endeavor;
  3. If you dissolve the schism between traditional and new media, your ability to problem-solve just got sharper;
  4. If you spend on traditional media and add a little bit of ingenuity, you create an opportunity to dovetail those efforts with today’s technologies.

Healthcare marketers and communicators can and must use traditional media to make behavior changes. People still walk around cities. They still watch TV. They still listen to radio. They still go to hospitals and have plenty of opportunities to see the right stuff. They still go to doctors’ offices and encounter brochures as tortuous alternatives to boredom.

The problem isn’t the decline of traditional media. The problem is three-fold:

  1. The decline in the quality of the messages within the media;
  2. The incline of information overload, attention obesity and Internet addiction;
  3. The uncertainty advertisers have about the genetic re-engineering of their profession in light of the Web.

I can think of one simple tweak you can make to all of your traditional efforts that can amplify your no-nonsense return on equity.

Bonus: if you do it well (seamlessly), people won’t see you as an interruption – in fact, they won’t see you. They’ll see the solution to a problem they didn’t know they had.


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