Labor and Delivery, Creatively Speaking

by Taylor Bennett

The miracle of birth – whether it’s a beautiful newborn child or a long-awaited 85-acre hospital campus, it’s amazing to be part of the experience. Over the last thirteen months, we at MESH have been privileged to play a role in getting the word out about one of the most exciting developments in regional healthcare in many years and preparing the public for its highly anticipated arrival.

First, some background. The recently opened Woman’s Hospital at Pecue Lane and Airline Highway is the realization of a vision that began in 2005 after an internal study revealed that by 2012, the original campus would be undersized by more than 25% based upon the then-current and projected needs. Woman’s subsequently purchased land and began construction on a new state-of-the-art facility in one of the fastest growing parts of the city. In the summer of 2011, with the hospital’s goal of relocating just one year away, Woman’s marketing department tasked our team with promoting the excitement and anticipation surrounding the move and in turn, increasing patient commitment to the new location.

Because most of Woman’s patient traffic is in obstetrics, we began by developing a nine-month-plus marketing strategy that would play off the excitement and anticipation expectant mothers experience while preparing for their delivery day. The first phase, a comprehensive extended campaign involving outdoor, print, electronic, web, event, direct mail and guerilla marketing, was initiated in November 2011, and scheduled in a trimester-style format. In the first trimester, the campaign focus centered on the joy and excitement surrounding the announcement, while the second and third trimesters emphasized the emotional connections and sense of impending parenthood that accompany the later stages of pregnancy.

The first phase campaign was extremely well received by the community – due in large part to exposure on numerous social media and web outlets. Parents-to-be wrote to Woman’s saying that they had seen the countdown boards, were also due in June, and would be counting down with them. Expectant moms and dads used the outdoor boards as birth announcements, having their pictures taken in front of them and sharing them with family and friends via Facebook and Twitter.

So far, so good. Then it happened.

In mid April, everything was going according to plan as the new facility’s “delivery date” approached. But as sometimes happens during a real-life pregnancy, complications arose. An emergency meeting with the marketing department revealed that, due to unforeseen delays, the new hospital’s opening would be postponed by about a month-and-a-half. We had to act fast – VERY fast. Seeing that the city was dotted with billboards reflecting the original June opening date, the first thing needed was alternate messaging that could put, if not an altogether positive spin on the announced postponement, at least a lighter mood. Immediately following the meeting, we returned to the office, put our collective creative hats on and responded with a series of outdoor boards that acknowledged the revised opening date in a gentle, humorous way, still in keeping with the original concept. In less than 24 hours and with some timely assistance from the folks at Lamar Advertising, the new ads were up and running. The response was immediate and positive. Sometimes laughter is indeed the best medicine.

As July ended, construction wrapped up and on August 5th, the big day finally arrived. At 6 a.m. that Sunday morning., Woman’s closed the doors at their original Airline Highway at Goodwood site, and began accepting patients at the new location. The event marked the beginning of the next phase of the campaign – still ongoing – which serves as a transition from the old to the new by focusing on the lasting emotional connection that generations of area women have to Woman’s.

A 30 second television spot, supported with print ads in local magazines and newspapers, as well as a series of outdoor boards depicting women of various ages, serves as the centerpiece for this phase.

Around the end of September, the campaign will enter its closing phase, segueing into a more services-based version of the current messaging, with print, outdoor, TV and radio advertising communicating the wide range of resources available to those who choose Woman’s for their healthcare needs, while reinforcing the hospital’s reputation for compassionate, quality care.