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Core Exchange: Powerful Patient Storytelling

Find out how an experienced creative director helps healthcare marketers capture authentic testimonials

Angi Krueger, Core Creative, discusses with fellow employee, Jerry Higgins, his role (and passion) for telling authentic patient stories that shine a positive spotlight on healthcare providers.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.

  • Core Exchange | Creative Direction

Episode Transcript:

Angi Krueger: Welcome to Core Exchange, the healthcare marketing podcast. I'm Angi Krueger, our vice president of marketing, from Core Creative. This week we are welcoming our Creative Director, Jerry Higgins, to discuss his role and observations, healthcare marketing from a creative perspective. So welcome, Jerry.

Jerry Higgins: Hello.

Angi Krueger: It's fun to have Jerry here because, here at Core everybody loves Jerry. Our clients love Jerry too because Jerry's been around how many years here now?

Jerry Higgins: I've been here for 14, going on 15.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. So, a big part of the creative process, I think, is really about connecting with our audiences and Jerry does such a great job of that, especially in the healthcare space. So that's why we wanted to bring him into the room today so our audience gets to know him a little bit better and kind of hear and understand the insights from that creative side of the desk, when we’re working in healthcare marketing. So Jerry, why don't you just tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your background and your current role here at Core.

Jerry Higgins: I'm Creative Director here. I lead a very talented team of writers and art directors and digital people. And I work closely with strategy and with our video production arm of the business and with client engagements. So, working on creating really cool stuff that people connect with and it's particularly in healthcare and how we can get people to love our health systems that we work for. So that's my role. I've been in the industry for close to 40 years and I've worked on everything from mining equipment to tools to healthcare devices to now healthcare systems.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. I think that's what's interesting, especially on the creative side, taking all that experience from past lives and even other clients that we currently work on, not in the healthcare space, to just really draw upon some things that other industries are doing to help elevate creative in healthcare specifically.

Angi Krueger: Speaking of healthcare marketing in particular, what parts of healthcare marketing do you enjoy most as a creative director?

Jerry Higgins: I really like the chance to interview people about their stories. And when I say interview, I mean like if we're creating a video or a TV spot, a lot of times I will be in front of the camera or behind the camera interviewing some of the storytellers or the patients. And I really enjoy getting to know them, hearing their intimate stories and really connecting with them. I feel like if I can connect with them that they will then eventually, in the work that we create, connect with our audience.

I also like the idea of making a difference and not just selling widgets. I've worked for companies that make little products or whatever, but there's something about making a difference in people's lives that really appeals to me and really appeals to the entire agency and the process of coming up with ways to truly connect with our audiences. It's a really gratifying thing to work with the art directors, the writers, and kind of discover what's important to our audience and how we can make our healthcare customers that we're working with relevant to our audiences.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, that's so important. I mean, I know I also actually come from the creative side of the desk originally too. And so coming from that side of it, I think it is a talent and an art to get that out of people. A lot of storytelling that we do for our clients and trying to get those patient testimonials and all of that. It's so much about really empathizing with them and getting to the heart of their story and getting that out of them and not making it feel scripted or unoriginal or unauthentic. You really have a talent for doing that. And that's so critical in healthcare right now just because consumers can see through that transparency if it's staged or fake and a lot of what you can do in that process is just making it real, which I think is so helpful.

Jerry Higgins: I mean, even if we are doing a say a TV spot that calls for a script and let's say we want a doctor to read a script. We will also not only have them read the script but also ask them questions that will lead to some of the same thinking as what's in the script. And then sometimes we'll mix and match. And if they're really good, we just use what they say in the script. But a lot of times we can augment what that script is with words that are more believable and more authentic.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, it's interesting the challenges that you come up with when you're dealing with physicians in those kinds of situations. Let's talk a little bit about any special challenges of healthcare marketing specifically to you and your creative teams.

Jerry Higgins: Yeah. Speaking of doctors, doctors that think they're creative.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. We could probably do a whole podcast on that and I'm sure any of the healthcare marketing professionals out there could attest to that.

Jerry Higgins: No, I'm just kidding. A lot of times they have really good input. They have a real good feel. Some don't, but we listen to them and because they're connecting with patients day in and day out if they're good doctors. So why can't we take a cue from them and listen to the doctors to see how they think that we can communicate with the patients or with the community. Other challenges, I mean, a lot of it is same as other clients. Tight deadlines. Sometimes I'm safe thinking is something that we hear a lot and it's these ... Healthcare systems have so many people and sometimes they have a lot of layers to get through with creative. And maybe as it goes up the line from layer to layer the approval process, they seem to. Sometimes the ideas can get safer and safer and a little water down. So we have to be very careful that we are talking to the decision makers at the right time and actually include them in the conversation. And then I think once we do that, they feel like they're a part of the process and they can hear the whys and wherefores of why we're creating something and why we think that what we're creating will connect with the audience. Another challenge is learning the different markets and personalizing the messages from what goes on. In one area of the country can be very different from what our messaging can be in a different part of the country. So there're different communities, they have different needs. We have to personalize the conversation and the messaging depending on what the people are like in the area.

Angi Krueger: Right. Now, that's very important. And a lot of that really comes out in that discovery process and why we try to get in and just do a deeper dive rather than just say, "Hey, we're going to do another service line campaign. Oh, we've done it before for 10 other health systems. Let's just stick with that." That's so not true, right?

Jerry Higgins: Yeah.

Angi Krueger: I mean you like to your point, you have to speak to that audience in that demographic and in that region. Their hot buttons might be a little bit different.

Jerry Higgins: Yeah. I'm sure there's agencies out there that have packaged programs that could probably work in one health system and then work in another health system somewhere else. But we really at Core really take each individual as an individual and take that into account when we're creating strategies and creative.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. So important. I know here at Core we just really want to push the envelope and push our clients as much as we can because we really need to reach and make an emotional connection with that healthcare audience. And in order for that to be effective, it has to be, creative but provocative creative. Give us an example of what that means and how our creative team aspires to it and really how it benefits our clients.

Jerry Higgins: I was going to ... When you say provocative creative. I think I know what it means, but let me just give it a shot.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, go for it.

Jerry Higgins: To me, provocative creative means it's interesting. The creative is intriguing. It's interactive and not in a literal sense, interactive, but figuratively. We do stuff that people can relate to and their minds interact with. We do creative that our audience can aspire to, that they can learn from. I think there's some education and dare I say, maybe they can look forward to some of the work that our health system sends out into the community.

Jerry Higgins: I think proactive creative is a commitment to doing something different. And I don't think that it's just the creative department. I think we need to have commitment from the client as well. Commitment to do work that is above and beyond, to have the time to do that. Maybe the budget to do that, but I don't think it's budget driven as much as it is ... If we want to do something special, we need time to think because we're not machines. And there's also a commitment from the client engagement side of Core Creative to do that as well.

Jerry Higgins: To give us the time to communicate to the client that we need time to think and to maybe raise expectations a little and say, what we expect from Core is different than what we have seen in the past. So be ready for it.

Angi Krueger: Right. Yeah. I mean, I think there's just that common theme in healthcare where, especially from a creative standpoint, everything starts to look, feel and sound the same. It's the family running through the field with holding hands. And then there's the infamous billboards with doctors standing there with their arms crossed. And I mean there's definitely a time and a place for that and when it's appropriate and on strategy, things can make sense. Words and pictures work together to send a message.

Angi Krueger: But I think that being provocative, in how you were describing it, is really how we need to approach healthcare marketing these days. Because really, at the end of the day, healthcare marketing is truly a customer service type industry and it's more and more retail and people want to be connected to and not necessarily sold to, right? So I think that higher level creative is so key and so important.

Angi Krueger: Well, thanks so much for your time Jerry. I'm sure we'll come back to and talk to you once again. But it was great chatting with you about creativity because that's my favorite topic in healthcare. So thanks again, Jerry.

Jerry Higgins: No problem. It was my pleasure.


Angi Krueger is the Vice President of Marketing at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.


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