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Helping Northern Light Health Navigate COVID Communications

Carol Quinn, account service co-director | 

Helping Northern Light Health Navigate COVID Communications

On March 15, 2020, the governor of Maine declared a Civil State of Emergency, recommending, among other things, the postponement of all non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments at hospitals and health care providers across the state until further notice.

As one of the largest healthcare providers in Maine, Northern Light Health (NLH) needed to act quickly to connect with their patients during the pandemic.

That’s where Karsh Hagan stepped in.

The first step for our integrated, cross-departmental team was to develop a messaging strategy grounded in our existing “Maine Made Us” campaign, reinforcing to Mainers that we were in this together, and that NLH would remain present in their lives, no matter the circumstances. 

We quickly developed new ads to remind Mainers how to be safe and take precautions during the “stay at home” order. We were able to leverage existing images and footage, as the underlying communication didn’t change: Northern Light Health is here to help keep you healthy and living the Maine lifestyle. Messaging spanned print, digital, social, and video advertising, and was in the market as quickly as March 22.

Maine Made Us

Providing Care from the Comfort of Home 

As it became clear that the pandemic was worsening, NLH was anxious to expand and promote a somewhat unknown service that the system offers – Telehealth. 

Telehealth allows patients and their physicians to communicate via secure video chat, providing patients with the care that they need from the comfort of their own home.

Again, the Karsh Hagan team quickly developed messaging around this innovative tool and its benefits. 

Though Mainers were being asked to stay home, NLH reinforced the importance of ongoing care – and delivered, not only with remote healthcare options, but also (and again) helping Mainers with the resources to keep living their lives. Telehealth ads were produced for print, radio, video, digital, and social channels, and went live in mid-April.

Maine Made Us

Re-opening the State

On May 1, the governor announced a phased approach to re-opening the state of Maine, with the first phase allowing non-emergent but essential medical procedures and a return to some routine medical appointments that had previously been put on hold. Now we were faced with a new question: how do we encourage patients to return to Northern Light Health facilities when, just weeks ago, they were asked to stay away?

A Data-Driven Approach

Recent consumer mindset studies told us that patients are wary to return to healthcare facilities, for a number of reasons: Will it be safe? Will I come in contact with COVID-19 patients? Will I be “stealing” appointments from those in greater need? 

Fortunately, research also told us that physicians and other healthcare professionals are currently among the most trusted sources of information.

Leveraging those learnings, plus the understanding that consumers were overwhelmingly looking for straightforward, no-fluff communication, we shifted gears and developed a new campaign specific to the current situation. Rather than featuring the beauty of the state and the love of the Maine lifestyle, we focused on facts.

Grounded in Northern Light Health’s DNA 

The resulting campaign is “Our Promise.” We haven’t left “Maine Made Us” behind, but we use it as a closing thought, versus the lead. The straightforward and no-nonsense disposition of Mainers comes across here, as we very clearly lay out Northern Light Health’s points of promise for a safe return to their facilities – while reminding patients that their care shouldn’t wait.

The Art of Remote Production

Though Karsh Hagan has produced countless campaigns, “Our Promise” was a first for us, as we made it remotely.

We weren’t able to attend the production in person, given travel and other COVID-related restrictions, but we found a production partner in NLH. They  have a talented videography/photography team on staff, and they were happy and willing to lend their services to this effort. 

Within a few days of kick-off, the NLH team visited and captured assets at five different locations within the system. The Karsh Hagan team was able to review footage on a daily basis and provide feedback and direction from afar. It was a true demonstration of integration and teamwork.

The “Our Promise” campaign launched across the state on June 8.

Looking Ahead

And our work doesn’t end here, as we’re diving into messaging and strategy development for the next phase of communication – continuing to welcome patients, assuring them that NLH is here for them with flexible care options, and reminding them that together, Maine Made Us Stronger.

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