There’s an immediate and urgent need to advocate for cancer research and for services for families affected by the disease. Fortunately for patients and caregivers, there are innumerable national and international advocacy groups dedicated to cancer research and support (see a partial list at the end of this article). But each of these groups faces the challenge of fighting through multichannel clutter to reach, engage, and persuade their government, academic, and public audiences. A Google search for “cancer advocacy groups” returned 19 million potential links. To succeed, advocacy groups must apply state-of-the-art communication strategies and tactics.
From the patient’s perspective, advocacy groups provide intuitive, informative content that helps them and their caregivers find and coordinate the best available care. For a family in crisis with a new diagnosis or recurrent disease, answers and solutions must be accessible and at their fingertips quickly and without struggle.
Supporting patient and professional advocates
Advocacy groups have their work cut out for them, which is why Arteric works with them to enhance their digital marketing capacity.
For the second year in a row, I had the good fortune to be invited to lead multiple workshops for advocacy group representatives attending the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. The 2017 workshop, titled SEO: Exploring the Boundaries of the Possible in Online Patient Advocacy, was designed for staff leaders with responsibilities in digital marketing, communications, and Web channels.
Prior to the workshop, attendees completed a questionnaire about their organization’s online marketing strategy and website assets, including competitor information, to ensure that the workshop addressed each organization’s real-world challenges.
What the audiences learned
Throughout the sessions, the audiences learned best practices and strategies for leading-edge digital marketing, Web development, and SEO. We reviewed each organization’s goals for its Web presence and assessed how effectively its website aligns with these goals. After spirited and insightful conversations, I worked with each organization to help them align their goals with their website tactics and reviewed how to quickly and effectively identify issues that may degrade their sites’ performance in search results. The conversations ranged from YouTube and video search optimization to the implementation of an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven chatbot care navigator.
What I learned
Similarities and differences
These workshops exposed me to a broad spectrum of advocacy organizations — some with 30-page websites that attracted 200 visitors per month, others with thousands of website pages and millions of annual visitors. Their questions were similar:
- How do we draw more traffic?
- How can we outrank our competitors?
- How can we more effectively engage our visitors?
- How can we make our content easier to navigate?
- How can we structure and execute on our content strategy?
- How can we use analytics to decide what kind of content to develop?
The differences lay in each organization’s digital marketing and communication maturity, its available resources, and its vision for how it can best serve its audience. What was consistent was the workshop participants’ commitment and enthusiasm. Their questions drove us to discussions about how to set goals for digital marketing, how to measure progress, what innovative/transformative technologies are available to deepen their engagement, and practical next steps. I was deeply impressed by what small organizations can accomplish with limited resources and how much they’ve learned and progressed from year to year.
I believe that the biggest area of opportunity for small patient advocacy groups is to clearly define their content mission and the measurements they will use to determine if their strategy is working. Then, every 90 days, the group should review both the execution of their content strategy and their key performance indicators, adjusting what they are publishing online based on how well the content is performing. This analysis should be combined with insight mining of their pay-per-click (PPC) performance, search-terms report, and query data from Google Webmasters Search Console. I suggest this analysis because the data often provide inspiration for content that should be published and because Google offers advocacy groups PPC grants based on their status.
I was impressed by the willingness of the exceptionally large and successful advocacy groups to consider new ideas and technologies. Specifically, they have an opportunity to leverage their large content sets (thousands of pages) to build automated/guided experiences for visitors who are seeking answers. Thousands of user-generated discussions about disease, quality of life, and treatment create unique and interesting data sets to train AI. One discussion included the question “Do we hire a team of chat operators to interact with visitors or do we hire a team of chat operators to supervise a chatbot that is being trained to interact with visitors?”
Personally, I find it deeply frustrating to chat with a person online. I send my question. I wait 2 to 3 minutes while the person looks up the answer. I lose interest, switch to another window, waste the operator’s time, and the session dies. I prefer to ask the AI a question, get a pretty good answer, and then have the option to trigger a live chat session if my question wasn’t answered. It’s faster, and I prefer to fail faster.
My day with our advocacy partners reminded me about the breadth and depth of the challenges that they face, as well as the need to provide a variety of tailored solutions to their problems. It inspired me to think deeply about how we can do more with less and about the symbiotic relationships among consumers, advocacy, and brands. I was reminded that our healthcare system relies on a balance of partners — and, that patient advocacy and professional advocacy are essential in connecting stakeholders to the health information patients need to live longer, healthier lives.
Lending a hand
Working with advocacy groups that educate patients, caregivers and professionals is a privilege, but it’s also a natural fit for Arteric for two reasons:
- Arteric’s mission is to connect patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals with the health information that patients need to live longer, healthier lives
- Arteric has seen firsthand the challenges that advocacy groups face — and we’ve used smart Web development and advanced SEO to help those groups meet those challenges
I’m pleased that Dr. DeVita feels that the medical community is gaining the upper hand on cancer and that we are moving toward a world free from cancer; but for the foreseeable future, people affected by cancer will need advocates on multiple fronts. Arteric will continue supporting these organizations. If you want to join the effort, check out the domestic and international advocacy groups listed at the links below.
Push your digital engagement to the max
For two decades, Arteric has developed digital marketing strategies, websites, mobile apps, and Web applications that drive growth for healthcare brands and advocacy organizations. If you’d like me to lead a workshop for your organization, or if you would prefer to schedule a 15-minute conversation to discuss how Arteric can maximize the impact of your digital communication programs, please contact me at 201.558.9910.
Cancer Support Advocacy Groups
- The growth of the cancer e-patient and their thirst for control. The growth of the cancer e-patient and their thirst for control. info. January 2014 survey. Blog article available at https://www.patientpower.info/blog/2014/04/04/the-growth-of-the-cancer-e-patient-and-their-thirst-for-control. Infographic available at https://www.healthworkscollective.com/cancer-patient-use-internet-medical-information/. Accessed July 9, 2017.
- Katz B. Launch planning in a new customer reality. Decision Resources Group. Page 12. Available at http://www.drgdigital.com/ebooks/launch-planning-in-a-new-customer-reality?NoGate. Accessed July 12, 2017.
- DeVita VT, DeVita-Raeburn E. The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable—and How We Can Get There. New York, NY: Sarah Crichton Books, 2015.
- Cancer Statistics. National Cancer Institute Web site. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics. Updated March 22, 2017. Accessed May 17, 2017.
- World Health Organization Web site. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/. Updated February 2017. Accessed May 17, 2017.