Hospital's Marketing May Help Fill Beds

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Shriners Hospital, an orthopedic children's hospital in Springfield, MA, is conducting a marketing campaign to establish a new brand image.

The campaign targets the general community as well as medical professionals to increase awareness of Shriners' specialty medical services. The hospital chose Stevens Design Studio, Westfield, MA, to devise a campaign that would invite children from around the world to its facility.

"Tina Stevens was the creative force behind this," said Bernadette White, public relations director at Shriners. "We already had a relationship [with Stevens Design Studio] and were in need of a temporary campaign that would take a stand, and she provided us with that."

The campaign incorporates visuals of children running, jumping and playing to show a positive image of children reaching their physical potential.

"Through using a lot of color and positive imagery, we are able to show parents the end result of coming to the hospital where the kids have no disabilities," said Ms. Stevens, principal and creative director at Stevens.

The effort began with targeted inserts in Healthcare News, Your Health 2006, Guide to the Pioneer Valley and Ronald McDonald House booklets. Posters appeared in trams at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT, and billboards throughout New England.

Doing the campaign on a local level instead of as part of the entire Shriners system was the biggest challenge, Ms. White said.


"A full hospital is a better hospital" --

Tina Stevens, Stevens Design Studio


"We needed a new approach, look and feel, and the biggest problem in doing that was our budget," she said. "Nonprofits only allocate so much money, so we were fortunate to get billboard space at no cost and to just pay for the production. We also needed good negotiating skills."

The campaign also received free airtime on local television and radio stations, while Shriners' main headquarters provided public service announcements. Shriners followed up on the ads with telephone surveys and focus groups and found the campaign to be a success.

"We determine success by the number of hospital patients," Ms. Stevens said. "We also determine success by an increased awareness of the hospital and the quality of medical services it provides, and a positive change in the perception of the hospital both internally and externally."

Now Shriners' main hospital in Tampa, FL, is working on a national marketing campaign that will be finalized in November, inspired by the work of the Springfield facility.

Shriners Hospital treats 20,000 outpatient and 1,000 inpatient children yearly. It is also a teaching hospital affiliated with Boston University School of Medicine and Albany (NY) Medical College. It researches children's orthopedic conditions. Children are treated at no cost through the Shriner Endowment Fund, the Shriners fraternity and public donations.

Stevens Design Studio develops and executes campaigns including the design, production and development of marketing materials and packaging, Web site development and online campaigns.

"A full hospital is a better hospital," Ms. Stevens said. "With a busy staff, everyone can go home sooner because of improved medical care, and that would allow the hospital to treat even more kids."

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