Integrative Medicine is a Story, Not an Advertisement

By Glenn Sabin
Image of the words tell them your story
My longtime professional background in media and marketing started during the still-heady days of television, radio and magazines. Cable was just making its way into the world. There was no Internet— at least not a public one—nor digital social networks. Professionals created content while producers, program directors and editors were the arbiters of what the public saw and consumed.

Integrative healthcare was not as widely available back in those days.  While “alternative” health interventions were usually disparaged by the conventional medicine community, “promotion” of its beneficial value grew through a single effective channel: word-of-mouth. In other words: through very personal stories.

Advertisements Interrupt

When I was running my media company, if you wanted to reach customers consuming information from these channels, you had two choices: editorial or what’s called “earned media” coverage based on merit (specifically, on what editorial gatekeepers deemed  worthy or interesting to their audience)  or “rent” time: air or space in the form of an advertisement. Television, radio and magazine ads are “interruptive.” Companies and organizations buy ads to sell their products, their services and to influence their markets. Traditional ads interrupt and disrupt. Their objective is to essentially say, “Stop, look at me, look at me!”  Notably, these ads are surrounded by content—content that is largely conceived, developed, owned and controlled by media companies.

Now We Are All the Media

The Internet and plethora of television channels and social media have all combined to create  a sea change in how people consume and share media.  More profoundly, blogging, micro-blogging (think Twitter) and other aspects of digital information sharing have transformed consumers into content creators, tastemakers and influencers.  Large numbers of celebrities and non-celebrities alike have significant followers, fans and subscribers of their social media-expressed brands. Many individuals now directly control their own media relations activities, announcements and general public messaging.  During the decision-making process, consumers are starting to rely more and more on peer reviews and feedback via social media than on ads and other sources of traditional, “professional” media.

Storytelling Engages

In contrast to interruptive forms of advertising, content development allows integrative healthcare providers the opportunity to create thoughtfully crafted stories. Targeted and done correctly, storytelling engages. It has the profound power to connect on an emotional level. Regardless of the media channel, including experiential, nothing quite connects like a good story. And your clinic or center can control the storytelling process. Wondering what stories I am talking about? Well, the topics are endless, and, when presented in an appealing fashion, incredibly valuable to health consumers. Topics can address wellness, prevention, diet, supplementation, contraindications, exercise, the impact of integrative modalities on various conditions, the latest science across the spectrum of integrative healthcare delivery and so much more.

The Declining Impact of Traditional Media

Traditional advertising and marketing have proven marginally beneficial, at best, to growing integrative medicine services. Targeted local print media and radio have helped practitioners connect with the growing but still small number of people interested in holistic and alternative therapeutic approaches. Unfortunately, the full value of integrative healthcare is simply too difficult to promote through conventional media alone. Advertising campaigns are expensive and often hard to track in terms of overall effectiveness.  An advertising “campaign”, by nature, is just that, a campaign that includes both a start and end date.  Simply put, using traditional media alone is not an economically sustainable marketing approach to building meaningful growth.

Those Delivering Integrative Healthcare Need to Become the ‘Story-Telling’ Media

There’s no getting around the fact that businesses of all types and shapes have become publishers. Companies are developing useful, relevant content and delivering it with continuity directly to consumers. They are effectively surrounding their “brand” with trusted information.

Regardless of the size or type of your integrative medicine enterprise, storytelling via content creation has never been more important for building patient volume. Unfortunately, the healthcare delivery industry has fallen way behind here, and it has negatively impacted the growth of integrative medicine programs, especially those operating within academic centers and large hospital systems.

Surprisingly, the larger centers and health systems rarely publish anything on their sites other than the occasional news item, community program update or press release.  Over time you’ll see more and more health systems and private centers become “content marketers”.

Health institutions pioneering the area of content creation currently include:  Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser Permanente.  All of whom are bona fide publishers directly and consistently engaging patients and prospects across media and communications channels.

Digital Marketing is Transformational, But Old Media Still Has Its Place

If you are using specific print, broadcast, radio, or cable media outlets in your market to get your message out, and consistently, cost-effectively driving new patient volume, by all means continue.

Are you creating promotional print collateral material for direct mail campaigns, your waiting room patients, your community education program attendees, or local practitioners from whom you would like patient referrals? If so, that’s wonderful!  Traditional media and marketing approaches can still be very effective.  These viable core staples can help round out your comprehensive marketing mix.

The point is that you must enter and test the digital waters. Start by creating original content to achieve to augment and greatly strengthen your marketing prowess.

FON helps practitioners and centers establish thought leadership and increase engagement through the development of strategic content creation and distribution programs aimed at professionals and consumers. Contact us today to learn more.

[Related Content]

5 Reasons Why Content if King for Growing Integrative Medicine Services
Why Your Blog Strategy is So Important
Creating a Sustainable Blog Strategy for your Integrative Center

About FON

FON is a leading integrative health and medicine business development and strategy consulting firm. FON specializes in custom solutions for growing patient volume, developing programs, and increasing product sales. Our practical business models are driven by innovative marketing, clear messaging, and customer engagement via branded storytelling.

Contact us today to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your business development or personal brand needs.


Image of Glenn Sabin
Author: Glenn Sabin
FON’s founder, Glenn Sabin, is a nationally recognized thought leader with a reputation for successfully positioning integrative health organizations for sustainable growth. Combining media, marketing and business development expertise with an extensive professional and personal integrative health and medicine narrative, Glenn is deeply passionate about advancing the field as the new standard of care—accessible to all.
Read Glenn’s story.


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