Best Print Publication

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s magazine offers a clinic on health care content marketing

RWJUH’s quarterly marketing magazine, Breakthroughs, focuses on one subject: short, powerful patient stories, told without a hint of marketing-speak.

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Doctors, clinics, and hospitals have had difficulty shaking off the prejudice against health care marketing and PR, a prejudice that they themselves have shared with the public.

This stubborn bias makes soft-sell content marketing a natural for hospitals. Why haven’t they done a better job of it?

Answer: Many have done a very good job of content marketing. The proof is in the entries for this contest. They show an amazing sophistication of storytelling and marketing techniques.

One of them, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s four-color, 16-page, landscape-style quarterly magazine, Breakthroughs, was the clear winner of the Best Print Publication category in Ragan’s Health Care PR and Marketing Awards for 2012.

What makes the winner of this year’s prize so remarkable?

This: Breakthroughs is textbook health care content marketing. Patients’ stories comprise the whole publication.


What Breakthroughs can teach hospital marketers:

  • If you’re sincere about content marketing, tell patient stories first.
  • Trust that your stories will bring out the themes you must get across to the public more powerfully than any direct statement of your hospital’s merits.
  • Your main marketing persuaders will emerge from the drama, from the unexpected turns, even from the gruesomeness of patient experiences.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about patient fears in your stories about them, even about the terror of death in serious diseases. To pretend these fears don’t exist would do an injustice to the fighting spirit of your patients.
  • Content marketing is about making your points in stories of 600 words or less. The content marketing editor’s Golden Rule must be “Cut, cut, and cut again.”
  • Let the patient praise your doctors, your staff, your advanced technology. Your reporter should NEVER do this.

Patient stories in Breakthroughs bring out these crucial ideas about RWJUH:

  • RWJUH is nationally renowned in many specialties. Its care in these areas is simply the best.
  • Its doctors adopt the latest findings in RWJUH’s labs into their hospital practices as soon as it is prudent. No 17-year lag between lab results and changed clinical procedure exists at RWJUH.
  • It is a hospital of last resort for patients who’ve nearly given up hope.
  • Its specialist physicians take on “hopeless” cases. They bring fresh minds to intractable cases, and solve many of them.
  • Doctors’ willingness to rethink patients’ symptoms is part of RWJUH’s culture.
  • RWJUH is a teaching hospital, but patients are not mere teaching cases there—not even to specialist physicians.
  • RWJUH doctors resort to unusual, unorthodox, very new, or even heroic procedures to make patients whole again.
  • Communication between doctor and doctor, between technicians and nurses, between staff and patients’ families is unremitting at RWJUH. Team medicine is in their blood.
  • Patients and families are often surprised by the personal relationship between the surgeon or internist and the patient. This extraordinary empathy of RWJUH’s doctors makes a big difference in patient recovery.

These patient stories furnish some of the finest examples of content marketing that health care communicators will ever see—in any industry. Everything about them—writing, editing, length, diction, design presentation—is subtly, powerfully calculated to make RWJUH shine.

Kudos to Melissa Ruzbarsky, project manager of Breakthroughs, and her editorial staff: Lori DeMilto, Peter Haigney, and Zenaida Mendez, contributing editors; Tara Ramirez, design; and John Emerson, Alan Schindler, and Frank Veronsky, photography.

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