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Driving behavior change through influencer relations

Driving behavior change through influencer relations By Lindsey Thompson
posted Apr 27 2021

Have you ever made a purchase decision based on an online recommendation? So have 93% of Americans.

Have you ever made a purchase decision based on an online recommendation? So have 93% of Americans. 

Data shows that word-of-mouth remains one of the most trusted sources for both products and services. In healthcare, word-of-mouth is even more critical, Many consumers choose their doctor based on referrals, and many B2B decisions are made because of expert recommendations. What if you could intentionally grow your referral marketing program by rethinking influencer relations?

Building trust and driving behavior change

We’re talking about more than Instagram follower campaigns that use celebrities as bait … it’s about connecting consumers with true value by getting them the information they need from the messengers they trust. 

Health system marketers have recognized this truth for decades — delivering public health guidance and heartfelt stories on their websites, social channels, and newsletters. But in a time where tensions run high, and trust runs low, we must take it a step further.

We must consider partnerships with individuals who have built a personal brand and followership within specific priority audiences — for example, religious figures, well-known community leaders, and trending authors within lifestyle affinity groups. These influencers know their audiences and can deliver your messages with the specificity that mass advertising can’t.

Launching your influencer relations strategy

Now that we’ve made a case for influencer relations, we’ll tackle how health systems can put influencer relations into practice within the context of what today’s consumers care about. Here are a few launching points for a broader influencer relations strategy.

  1. Helping people identify healthcare issues: Preventative screening and routine care volumes have plummeted throughout COVID-19, leaving many with neglected and worsening health conditions. Health systems can counter this dangerous trend by partnering with influencers who have moving stories related to their health or a loved one’s health. After all, health issues are even more real when someone you care about or identify with is diagnosed.
  2. Championing issues or equity: In addition to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion, health systems should align with influencers who are welcomed, trusted information sources within hard-to-reach communities. With the right advocates vouching for the integrity of your system’s efforts — and, even better, joining the efforts your system is championing — marketers can maximize the impact of their messages.
  3. Promoting COVID-19 vaccine uptake: We know there is no “one-size-fits-all” message that will convince skeptical or staunchly opposed Americans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Influencer relations allow us to take our targeting a step deeper. For instance, our report, “Who is the COVID-19 vaccine for?” shows that factors such as income and race impact receptiveness to COVID-19 vaccination. 
    The report shows that “privileged” people were advertised to get the vaccine first, therefore alienating those who perceived themselves as “non-privileged.” To more effectively reach these resistant audiences, health systems should consider partnering with influencers who carry more credibility within smaller, precisely-defined spheres and tailor messages specifically for niche different segment’s reservations and concerns. 

Multiplying the impact of influencer relations

Partner with influencers on an ongoing basis by maintaining steady connections with several ambassadors and advocates. These connections offer health brands the reach and authenticity they need to truly thrive in today’s consumer-first world.

When a family member, friend, or colleague raves about the quality and effectiveness of a high-value service provider, you’ll probably be more inclined to use that same service provider. If peer-to-peer referrals carry such significant weight, imagine if the multiplier effect of partnering with people with “rave-worthy” experiences – and tens of thousands of trusting followers. Arguably exponential. 

In need of proof-of-concept and a bit of inspiration? Check out these success stories that drove behavioral change on a national level.

  • The MTV Music Awards used the power of influencer relations to increase inbound calls to the National Suicide Prevention Line by 50 percent. The Awards promoted the message, “You are not alone,” by opening the stage to Kesha to deliver a powerful introduction to the song, “1-800-273-8255” (the number for The Suicide Prevention Line) by Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid.
  • According to a 19,000-participant survey, a shocking 2% of women knew all the signs of breast cancer. The Know Your Lemons Foundation launched education programs to challenge barriers related to literacy, emotions, and social taboos. Know Your Lemons offers women the opportunity to become influencers within their communities, resulting in a nearly 40% drop in Stage 4 cancer diagnoses amongst program participants. 

Healthcare influencer relations is just one part of the macro channel mix and content ecosystem, but it’s been proven to be a highly effective one. After all, seeking care for physical and mental health issues is a profoundly personal one, and a referral from a trusted source is highly validating and influential.