Novant Health is an integrated, four-state healthcare system of hospitals, physician clinics and outpatient centers. It serves more than 4 million patients annually through its network of 1,200 physicians and 24,400 employees working in nearly 500 care locations. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Novant Health is committed to making healthcare remarkable for its patients and improving the overall health and wellness of its communities.
ABZ and Novant Health have enjoyed a marketing partnership that has spanned the better part of 25+ years. This familiarity has elevated ABZ as an easy choice to assist in critical, strategic Novant Health initiatives, such as the creation of a brand journalism hub.
Content, content, content. The word is on the lips of every marketing manager, public relations specialist and social media strategist. It’s long been recognized that content is king. Brand journalism, when done well, is the panacea for a whole host of marketing ills. Brand journalism leaders such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Mayo Clinic have proven time and again how well-executed brand journalism creates a powerhouse pipeline of quality content for every marketing outlet – media, PR, social and more.
The question for every other organization now becomes, “How do we get started? Where is all this content going to come from? Who produces it? How do we keep track of it all? How do we keep feeding the beast?”
Novant Health leadership already recognized brand journalism’s intrinsic value to stay viable while creating streamlined synergy between social media, public relations and media content. They needed help hitting the ground running. That’s where ABZ came in.
ABZ was hired in September 2014 with strict marching orders to produce a well-oiled brand journalism machine that’d be ready for prime time in a matter of weeks. ABZ met with Novant Health’s internal brand journalism team and began working on their personal transition from marketing professionals to true journalists who happen to work in the marketing department.
This required a colossal shift in mind-set and focus. Marketing team members suddenly had to turn content on tighter deadlines with backups in place. Overnight, stories were evaluated for their journalistic value vs. marketing value. The writing style was different. The expectations were different. And adapting quickly was a necessity.
ABZ established rolling editorial calendars while also taking existing, marketing-focused content and repurposing it with a news focus for brand journalism use. Content was created for various target categories – health tips and trends; health news; remarkable patient stories; remarkable stories of care provided; and insights into the healthcare industry. The goal in these early stages was to get online as soon as possible, making use of what was readily available while actively working on new content that used expert sources from across Novant Health’s four-state system.
We led weekly team meetings to strategize, pitch and assign content. ABZ wrote and edited stories while furnishing images to accompany all posts. We interfaced with the Novant Health IT and web teams about site design and functionality, Herculean feats since the site is the first of its kind for the organization.
Each successful step came with even more questions about how to tackle future growth. ABZ advised on content and audience strategy (media pickup vs. the public at large?), story tagging, embedded story videos and other multimedia, establishing brand journalism advocates within Novant Health as an organization and more.
By the time an in-house Novant Health editor was hired in December 2014 to assume leadership of the hub, the site had more than 70 active stories.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Novant Health’s Healthy Headlines brand journalism site is regarded as one of the most exciting things to happen to the organization’s marketing department in decades. The excitement is palpable at every meeting – from internal leadership to members of the media who exclaim, “You guys have already done my job for me! This is amazing!” The site has been a big win internally and externally. Internally, the site has provided organized, quality content for every marketing stream with increased communication across marketing, PR and social teams all working toward common goals. And external success is already evident in strong media coverage and social media stats.
ABZ continues to be involved in content and site redesign planning, as well as adding to the site’s content and multimedia offerings – from infographics and embedded video to B-roll downloads for the media.