Behind the Scenes of The Cleveland Clinic’s Content Marketing Strategy

Behind the Scenes of The Cleveland Clinic’s Content Marketing Strategy

By Brianne Carlon RushDec 2 /2014

Cleveland_Clinic_Content_Marketing_StrategyThis past August, the Cleveland Clinic was highlighted as one of the top hospitals in the nation to “align patient needs with online capabilities.” Additionally, over the past few years, the Clinic has often been referred to as an example of successful content marketing in the healthcare industry. 

Amanda_TodorovichTo get a better understanding of the Clinic’s content marketing strategy, best practices and lessons learned, we chatted with Manager of Digital Engagement Amanda Todorovich, and we are giving you a peek behind the scenes so you, too, can implement an effective healthcare content strategy.

Read on for insight into how one of the top healthcare organizations is winning at content marketing.

At the Cleveland Clinic, what is the driving goal behind your strategy?

Amanda Todorovich: Our biggest goal in our content marketing initiative is national brand awareness and affinity. Our overall strategy is really around content that helps people anywhere in the world, whether they're our patients or not. Our strategy is to write not just about clinical conditions and treating people when they're sick, but also around preventative medicine. We want to show we're there for you, even in those times. We want to be useful, helpful and relevant every day.

That's a struggle for most companies, being relevant every day.

AT: That's actually a really good point about health. People think about their health and have to think about their health every single day. When they're choosing what to eat, when they're choosing to work out or not, when they're choosing what to feed their family, or what to do with their free time, it impacts so many different decisions they make throughout the day. We have a unique opportunity to help them.

What tactics do you have going right now for your content?

AT: The biggest is our Health Hub blog. It's the home and anchor of all of the content we're pushing out to a consumer audience. We launched the blog in April of 2012, and it's grown to more than 3.2 million visits a month. We're posting three to five times a day on the blog, so we're creating a lot of content.


We use that content in so many different ways now. We post on Facebook six times a day, seven days a week. About 99 percent of those posts are driving back to Health Hub content. We've got 1.2 million Facebook fans; about 65 percent of our traffic to the blog comes from Facebook alone.

We also use multiple other social channels, as well. Twitter is a growing part of our strategy. Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn are becoming increasingly important, too. 

We really try to get the most out of every piece of content we're using. It's not like we publish it on the blog, post it on Facebook, and we're done with it. We bring back content repeatedly. We will revise it and rework it to make it relevant again. That seems to really work for us.

Like I said, we're doing three to five blog posts a day, but we're posting six times a day on Facebook. So obviously, not all of the content we're posting on Facebook is new. But we are trying to put content in front of people at the right time. So when we post in the morning, we post about breakfast foods or how to get the most out of your morning workout. At midnight, we post about sleep apnea, insomnia or midnight snacks. It’s not just relevant—it’s extremely relevant.

We're leveraging the content in really meaningful ways on every channel. We don't do this in a way where we're posting on our blog and then blasting it out on all of our channels all at the same time because we're recognizing our audiences are different. There are nuances on every channel. They're not all using the channels at the same time in the same ways everyday. We try to marry the best times of day on each channel with the best content and what people are using those channels for. Not everything gets posted on every channel we're on. We’re trying to, like I said, be really relevant to the people who are engaging with our content on the various platforms.

We also syndicate our content and have relationships with other partners. Because our goal is really around brand awareness, it's always focusing on: How do we get more eyeballs on the content? How can we take advantage of audiences that exist that might be interested? We formed partnerships that help in different kinds of ways where brands and media outlets are using our content. It's all about maximum return on investment, on time and on energy and resources.

How big is your team that focuses on content?

AT: I have three fulltime people on my team. I have two contractors who are basically fulltime. I have multiple agencies involved. There are people all across the enterprise who are contributing to our content strategy: writers, designers and a video processing team. We're really blessed at the Clinic to have that depth of expertise in health, and so it's misleading to say it's just 19 that focus on it because it really is a broader enterprise marketing team helping us do this.

None of this would be possible without the participation and involvement of all of our physicians and experts we use for the content, because on Health Hub, we have about 40 expert bloggers. Those are physicians, dietitians and other experts who commit to posting with us at least once a month. Every piece of content we put out has either been written by, reviewed by or revised by a medical expert.

Was it difficult, back in 2012 when you were launching, to sell this idea to the executives?

AT: When we started our blog, it was an experiment. We really, truly did not launch it with all of the social channels in mind. There was a lot of thought that we would get most of our traffic from organic search and that it was just going to be like this supplement to our .org site. It has truly taken on a life of its own.

To get all of this involvement, I think the trick for us and the absolute key to that level of success has been sharing the data across the enterprise. Showing the success, showing them the time they spend with us to contribute to this content is worth it, that there's a return there, that we're reaching people, and that we're getting engagement. Now, it's really not even a question. We've got doctors and experts who are coming to us asking, "How can I get on Health Hub?"

Wow. Can you give me an example of some key performance indicators you use to show the growth or worth of your content?

AT: Sure. There's so much data available to us—that's the beautiful thing about social and digital. Say our overall objective is really around national brand awareness. The Clinic has been measuring brand awareness for many, many years with quarterly surveys. The impact we've had there has definitely proven that social and content are helping us achieve those goals. It's also about getting granular with traffic data to the site. We were always pushing to hit the 1 million mark, then hit the 3 million mark. Those were concentrated goals.

It's also about the social reach. We're looking at those follower numbers and Like numbers. Are we growing the audience? Are we reaching more people? Because at the end of the day, when your goal is around awareness, the only way the needle moves is if you are reaching new people. Looking at the analytics and seeing that breakdown of new and returning visitors, looking at how many people are actually coming to the site month after month after month. Are we using the relationship because, ultimately, it really is always about brand awareness.

What do you think attributes to the Clinic's success with content?

AT: I think the biggest thing is we're not doing rapid social media, and we're not producing content that's all about how great we are. It's not about we won this award or this is happening at the Clinic today. We think about content from our patients’ and from consumers’ perspective. What do they want to know? How can we help them live healthier lives? How can we help them if they have a condition? Every piece of content does not say "make an appointment" in it.

It's really, again, going back to the strategy. Being useful and helpful and relevant because social media and content marketing are really, at their core, about relationship building. The only way you do that is if the people engaging with your content feel like you care about them, feel like they can trust your content and they can come to you again and again as a resource. That has really proven itself for us.

What tool for content marketing could you and your team not live without?

AT: That's a hard question. First and foremost, I would say Google Analytics. We couldn't live without data because it drives every decision we make. We're constantly testing, constantly evolving, constantly looking at new ideas and new things we want to do.

Beyond that, there's also a newer tool  we've started using just this year, but it's become a really interesting part of our project. It's called Atomic Reach. It explores your content while you're writing it and tells you if it is aligned toward optimal engagement on your social channels by leveraging data from your own social media audiences. It even suggests edits. It's been a big part of our writing process since we've implemented it, and we've definitely seen an increase in engagement because of it. Could we live without it? Yes. Would I want to? No.


Finally, what would your advice be for other content marketers in the healthcare industry?

AT: It doesn't have to be big right out of the gate. It's OK to take baby steps, but I think the biggest thing is to make sure you're measuring. Make sure there's data to help you not only make decisions about future content, but to support the cause and the case for doing it. Anybody can write articles, but it really does take an emphasis and a focus on the actual marketing part of the content marketing—making sure it's aligning with business goals and that you can show results and impact even if it's just with one piece of content, let alone your overall program. Measure, measure, measure and then share the data. Share the data with everybody who has a stake in it. That is absolutely how we obtain the support to grow our content marketing. Show them what's working and show them the bad. Show them what's not working so we don't repeat those things. 

Thank you to Ms. Todorovich for her time and insight, and we hope this behind-the-scenes look will help you develop a strategy for your content marketing.

Still not sure where to start? Our free guide will help you create content for the highly regulated healthcare industry, as well as measure your efforts. Get it here.

Photo credit:

Wellness Marketing Content Strategy


The Author

Brianne Carlon Rush

Brianne works with Fortune 500 clients to strategize digital marketing efforts that help sales teams close deals faster. Additionally, she focuses on Kuno’s sales and marketing alignment and employee empowerment. Prior to Kuno, Brianne helped market OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, and was the youngest person to be promoted to managing editor position at MacFadden Performing Arts Media in NYC.