For the past two years, Colorado Healthcare Communicators (CHC) has asked me to be one of the judges for its annual Gold Leaf awards program. CHC provides a variety of networking and educational services to professional health care communicators in Colorado. It also likes to identify, publicize, and celebrate superb work through the Gold Leaf awards.
I’ve spent approximately two full working days evaluating and scoring 45 communication projects that were launched in the healthcare industry in the past year. That includes everything from insurance exchanges to dental care to “Mommy blogs” to traffic safety campaigns. It’s a lot of fun to see such creative work.
So what campaigns get the awards? Here are some of the common features of campaigns that I recommended for awards:
Listen before you talk – many of the best campaigns mentioned that they had identified members of the target audience and then polled them in one way or another. The goal was to find out what they know and what they need to know. Then, and only then, did they start to craft key messages.
Measurable metrics – on the whole, the best projects had measurable goals. They did not aim simply to “increase awareness” but to “increase awareness by x% as measured by XYZ.” They could easily tell if they were on plan or not.
Simplify – healthcare and healthcare insurance are very complicated topics at the moment. The best campaigns simplified the complexity. They used infographics, interactive websites, and relatively few words to guide the reader through a minefield of complexity. I could almost judge the campaigns by word count. Fewer words = better campaign.
The simplest way to simplify is through stories – some of the best projects told stories. Some were fictional; some were real. But they all helped me connect with core messages.
Design for the medium – the best thing about websites is that they’re interactive. The best thing about video is that it can create powerful emotions. The best thing about print is that it can convey a lot of information quickly and economically. The best campaigns took advantage of the medium. If they used more than one medium, they redesigned to take advantage of each.
Measurable evaluation – the best campaigns followed up with specific and quantifiable evaluations. They knew how many people had received the message, what they absorbed, and why.
What I’ve just written is a fairly standard description of how to develop an effective communication campaign. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll probably get my vote for an award next year. A nice bottle of wine might help as well.