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Awareness Campaign Takes Advantage of Community Participation

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, June 16, 2010

After a successful certificate-of-need bid resulted in 800 letters of support and, ultimately, a new hospital being built, Franciscan Health System wanted to thank its community and reignite excitement about the new facility. St. Anthony Hospital, an 80-bed facility in Gig Harbor, WA, opened in March 2009, five years after the health system received regulatory approval. Although the community was emphatic about building a new hospital nearby, it wasn't top of mind for many people when the doors were finally about to open.

To reignite the initial excitement, the health system created an integrated ad campaign featuring the community members that helped make the hospital become a reality.

Working with GA Creative, a Bellevue, WA, agency, Franciscan built an awareness campaign that consisted of print, direct mail, TV, radio, cinema, and online elements. Search engine marketing and pay per click tactics were also used.

"Since this is the first full-service hospital in the area, the goal of the campaign was to introduce the hospital while giving the community a sense of ownership," Wagner says. "We wanted to not only let people know the brand new hospital was now open, but to educate people about the emergency, medical, surgical, and critical care now available."

Marketers also wanted to communicate the human side of the hospital and empathize that it was more than bricks and motor.

"Because so many people wrote letters in support of the new hospital, it inspired the creative idea of featuring community residents in the campaign," says Marlice Gulacsik, account principal for GA Creative. "The images portray a variety of real-life neighbors, from the mayor and policemen to high school students and members of the Fishermen’s Club—all holding signs welcoming St. Anthony Hospital to town. We wanted to develop a home-town feel."

Creative also featured key messages, such as information about the new facility, its 24-hour emergency care, its outpatient center, and its convenience.

Evidence of the campaign first showed during the grand opening events—more than 1,000 people attended the public event and 1,400 attended the employee event. In its first year, St. Anthony served nearly 19,000 people, including 16,487 ED patients. The hospital reached break-even financial status in March 2010, its first anniversary. Financial and patient volumes are ahead of projections, Wagner says.

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