#PRAwards 2021 highlight: How The Medical City pioneered an effective pandemic response

The Medical City, a healthcare organisation headquartered in the Philippines, earned the gold award for Best PR Campaign: Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's PR Awards 2021 for its effective promotion of its hospital as safe for those needed to visit it, while encouraging the public to remain home.

Challenge

As COVID-19 began spreading in the Philippines, The Medical City quickly realised that healthcare organisations had a part to play in encouraging the public to stay home, potentially reducing the load on the healthcare frontline.

At the same time, The Medical City had to reassure people that it would be safe to visit a hospital to seek treatment for COVID as well as for other reasons. The organisation saw that if people avoided hospitals when they needed urgent treatment, they would only become part of a second pandemic with illnesses that might have been resolved if treated early.

The Medical City had to decide what it could say, and how to say it in ways that would change minds.

Strategy

The Medical City is committed to being transparent and authentic in all its activities, and brought that ethos to its communications for pandemic-related campaigns, including:

1. A unified approach to the COVID-19 pandemic

The Medical City mustered support from other leading hospitals to advocate for a COVID-19 strategy to designate specific hospitals to receive COVID-19 patients when individual hospitals were full. The government agreed.

2. “TMC One Complex, Two Hospital Systems”

The hospital’s new normal hospital operation provided patients with clear-cut processes and division for COVID-19 patients in isolated areas and separate safe access for non-COVID-19 patients.

3. A drive-through scheme for COVID testing

The Medical City launched drive-through facilities for two types of COVID-19 tests, with results emailed within 24 hours.

Execution

The Medical City achieved both goals through:

1. Support for the front line

The Medical City was the first hospital to publish a tally of COVID numbers and other relevant statistics, a practice that was soon adopted by other hospitals. This created a sense of urgency for people to stay home and obey health protocols.

Following through with authenticity, a video was shared of staff serenading COVID-assigned nurses. This went viral and was The Medical City’s first-ever video to generate a million views in a matter of hours.

2. Reassuring the public

The “Back to Health, Back to Hospital” campaign was launched to assure the public that the hospital is safe and continues to run as normal. Videos and social posts highlighted the higher-than-standard protocols the hospital had put in place to convey the message that the hospital is even safer than malls or other establishments.

The Medical City covered all bases with different video content. Various videos included actual tours of the facilities, as well as testimonials from doctors and patients. The message was that patients’ health, wellness and safety are of top priority for The Medical City, and that delayed care could lead to more problems. These were complemented with hashtags such as #PatientPartners and #TMCBackToNewNormal.

The Medical City also added to its brand reputation not only through driving the call for a unified approach to COVID-19, but also through the introduction of innovative services such as an online screening app, teleconsultations, teletherapy, and the provision of medical certificates as a travel or work requirement. Its drive-thru COVID Test made the front page in almost all the dailies in the Philippines when it was launched in July 2020.

Results

Through its PR efforts, The Medical City had the largest share of voice out of the top five leading hospitals in the Philippines in 2020, amounting to 48% of the pie. In terms of pieces of content published in 2020, it out-performed three of the top five put together, and left its next-closest competitor a distant second.

Online engagement scores for 2020 were at all-time highs, too. Some of the record-breaking numbers for The Medical City include 1.8 million minutes of COVID content viewed, 40 million in reach, 507,000 of it new, and 66,900 new unique conversations generated. An impressive 91,365 highly qualified leads were captured. The Medical City has also seen a slow but steady return of patients, from 24,125 in May to 66,721 in December 2020.