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Virtual Call to Action Rallies Community Support

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, November 9, 2011

Garnering community support can be a difficult task for hospital marketers—it's often hard to track, tricky to maintain, and is considered a soft metric by many CEOs. But when it comes to Certificate of Need applications, community relations take on a new, vital life. One Illinois health system's ongoing CON campaign has sparked overwhelming support in an underserved community with strategies any hospital marketer can learn from.

Two-hospital system Centegra filed a CON earlier this year to build a 128-bed hospital in the small northern Illinois town of Huntley, right around the time Mercy Health Care, a three-hospital system, filed a CON to build a hospital in nearby Crystal Lake. With a future hospital on the line, Centegra marketers wasted no time creating a community awareness campaign.

The campaign started out much like CON efforts used by other healthcare marketers. Centegra solicited volunteers to make cold phone calls informing community members about the organization's plan for a Huntley hospital. Marketers also made lawn signs available for residents who wished to publicly declare their support.

What sets this campaign apart from many like it is that Centegra marketers took the campaign online early on. A dedicated website makes a succinct and engaging argument for a Huntley hospital.

The site is home to eight "Our Community, Our Hospital" videos featuring Huntley residents, from businessmen to working moms to a former mayor, who each tell about a positive experience they've had with Centegra and explain why a hospital would benefit the community.

"Centegra has been very, very good to my family," says local resident Eileen Breitzke in one of the video messages. "My husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. Everyone went above and beyond and we just felt very, very comfortable there. I loved the doctors at Centegra."

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