NASHVILLE, TN • MAY 7 - 8, 2018
Health IT MarketingSummit

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May 7-8, 2018 | Nashville, TN

A Health IT Marketer’s Guide to Data-Driven Brand Authenticity

A reflection on years of bootstrapping health IT social media and content marketing initiatives – a primer for the BrandHIT Health IT Marketing Summit.

By Michael Gaspar, Program Manager, Social Media, HIMSS Media

Marketing leaders are inherently required to operate at the juxtaposition of serving an audience while also serving the overall vitality of their organizations. Too often, these priorities diverge and pull marketing teams apart in the process – professionally, structurally, and emotionally.

I am functioning under the belief most marketers are fighting the good fight – trying to find the harmony between ROI and powerful brand experiences. Yet, consistently shifting business priorities and audience evolution can leave marketers distracted, overwhelmed, and pressured to check boxes rather than influence strategy.

I’ve seen this happen in my own projects and  from colleagues across industries, but am still searching for the answer. However, I’ve found consistent exercises in data-driven marketing strategy can empower marketers to creatively solve some of the industry’s greatest challenges, and some of their own in the process.

Another approach I find beneficial is a focus on authenticity. This is an earned perception resulting from a consistent symbiotic and relevant relationship between a brand and its audiences. This relationship is nurtured over time through remarkable brand experiences and content. It is with this definition in mind that I explore three ways brands can lean on data to humanize and see returns on their digital marketing strategy.


New research from HIMSS Media suggests health IT marketers need to look beyond the single C-level decision-maker title when building engagement strategies for their audiences. In a soon-to-be-released HIMSS 2018 Health IT Buyers' Journey Report, organizations indicated that they, on average, have up to nine organizational influencers involved in making health IT buying decisions. 36 percent of all responding organizations indicated that the number of decision-making influencers has increased in the last two years.

Takeaway: The buyer persona is changing. Shared decision-making within healthcare organizations is on the rise and marketers will need to engage with all members of these teams to drive advocacy. Leaning on industry research and audience behavioral data can set the stage for creating a more intuitive, human marketing strategy.

Three Strategic Questions to help brands identify who their audience is and hone in how to serve them:

  1. Who influencers the health IT buyer in making a final decision?
  2. How does your brand serve the needs and expectations of EACH member of the health IT buyer collective – through mission, content, product, etc?
  3. How do these influencers typically collaborate and communicate with each other?


The HIMSS report also shows that 97 percent of all respondents took an engaged buying action within three months after seeing valuable content from or about brands. Additionally, a strong majority of decision-makers, ranging from 61 to 75 percent, indicated that they classified content as valuable when it was:

  • Educational versus promotional
  • Demonstrated product value obtained by others
  • Sourced from someone trustworthy
  • Taught them something new about the industry

Takeaway: Data-driven content strategy is the new normal. Strong content strategies can move decision-makers and influencers to act, but must first serve audience needs and be empathetic to the challenges they face on a regular basis. Strong analytics programs can help track these trends to ensure brands keep a pulse on how to engage their audiences with relevant, relatable, narratives and content.

Three Strategic Questions to ask in developing a content strategy that builds deeper relationships with audiences and helps understand their digital preferences:

  1. What are the pain points of EACH member of your buyer collective, and how can you help ease those pain points with relevant content and brand experiences?
  2. Who inspires, moves the members of the buyer collective?
  3. What is the best way to engage this audience with your content – email, social, mobile, face-to-face, etc? And, what formats do they prefer – news, blogs, whitepapers, video, podcasts, ads, etc?


As health IT marketing operations leave behind a trail of “digital exhaust,” marketers have the opportunity to identify, capture, and analyze metrics that shed light on the who, what, when, where, why and how they are engaging audiences and, ultimately, how those engagements are driving business value. This narrative can be paramount in:

  • Winning new budgets
  • Justifying new marketing investments and resources
  • Influencing brand culture shifts
  • Achieving alignment between business leaders and marketers

This internal value narrative can often carry with it the fate of any marketing initiative. Today’s executive now expects “ROI” calculations when allocating marketing budgets. The right alignment on expectations, relevant and agreed upon key performance indicators, a clear map back to organizational goals, and an established feedback loop with leadership can ensure a promising marketing initiative gets the opportunity to become a successful one.

Takeaway: Always be inspiring. Marketers have a responsibility to tell relevant stories both internally and externally that inspire action. A strong data culture within a marketing team can help improve the consideration necessary to tackle budgeting, resourcing, and cultural challenges that otherwise leave many marketers forced to “go back to the drawing board” on great ideas.

Three Strategic Questions to help create and communicate an internal, relevant, data-driven narrative that demonstrates value and justifies investment in marketing programs:

  1. How do budget owners define success, what metrics can help you communicate that success story, and how often will you share these results? 
  2. What executive sponsorship can you lean on to champion marketing programs using this data?
  3. What future initiatives, investments, innovations will be made possible with returns from these programs


You’ve heard it all before in case studies and catchy social media videos: Digital marketing leaders are telling us that storytelling, and being more authentic are good for business and there’s transformative power to humanizing your content. What they can’t tell you is your own willingness to invest in and listen to the people you want to serve – or if you really want to serve them at all. That’s up to you – and data can help you make this the narrative and see it through to fruition.

What do you think? How is data changing the way health IT marketers build meaningful audience relationships?

Connect with me (@MichaelGaspar) more on this topic on Twitter via the #BrandHIT hashtag.

Join me as I moderate the #BrandHIT Twitter Chat on April 12. The chat will unpack how marketers and organizational leaders can harness data, strategy, and best practices to better serve their audiences and their brands.


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