Surgery centers can improve their outreach and marketing by focusing on techniques that have become more popular in recent years, including video stories and podcasts.

“The biggest thing you can do for marketing is video,” says Cheryl Zapata, chief development officer for Texas Back Institute in Plano, TX. “It is unbelievable what video has done in terms of the medical marketing side of the house.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are spending more time at home, giving them additional time to see videos on YouTube.

“People have more time to do the research they need to do ... and a lot of that research is via the internet,” Zapata says. Vivid visual elements are critical. On top of video, surgery centers also could include plenty of photos of their facilities online to illustrate their services.

Podcasts are another useful marketing tool. These are audio discussions of various topics in the informal speech tradition of talk radio. This medium also has become more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We understand why people want to watch video content, but our podcasting has increased significantly,” Zapata reports. “We ... converted a lot of our videos to podcasts to add to our library because [of rising demand].”

Typically, podcasts are longer than videos and are tied to the organization’s website blogging. For instance, a staff member could record an audio interview with a physician. The highlights of that interview can be featured in a written blog. Later, the entire recording can become a podcast. “It makes sense to use every media we have,” Zapata says.

Think of a podcast as something unedited and unscripted. “We don’t want physicians to be prepared, meaning we don’t want them to have studied what we’re going to talk to them about. We don’t always give them the questions in advance,” Zapata explains. “We tell them, ‘When you come in, we’ll talk to you about 3D printing and how it impacts spine surgery today.’”

Before the session, the interviewer might send the subject an article with up-to-date information for review. Beyond that, the idea is to keep a conversation casual.

“We like them to talk off the top of their head. It’s so much more natural when you are interviewing them,” Zapata explains. “During an interview, [subjects] constantly will say, ‘I forgot to say this or that,’ but if you are [simply] talking with them, it comes out anyway and flows much easier.”

Videos and podcasts help fill the void of quarantine. Without family, friends, and coworkers around, people may take comfort in hearing conversations. “I also think that people don’t just want to get caught up in watching content,” Zapata adds.

The goal for 2021 is to record a series of podcasts instead of separate, standalone content. “We will start doing things like a ‘Day in the Life,’ and follow our doctors and listen to them,” Zapata says.

Podcasts and videos help people understand who surgeons are and more about a facility’s mission. Such media can humanize staff and build trust. “We spend a lot of time ... making sure we’re building relationships through video and blogging,” Zapata adds. “In a video series, we work on not just what [surgeons] do and how they do it, but how they are. We’ll showcase them as a person.”