On the surface, it comes as no surprise that the website for Johns Hopkins Medical Center saw an explosion of traffic in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, this was a global crisis and Johns Hopkins is one of the most prestigious names in medicine.
But nothing happens without good planning and appropriate levels of risk-taking.
How Johns Hopkins did it
In January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was taking a backseat to other prominent news stories. International observers knew what it was doing to the Chinese, and people who closely watched their evening news reports might have picked up the scent, but it was far from a headline story.
It was at that time that senior content leadership at Johns Hopkins was floating the idea of writing an article on the coronavirus. That quickly turned into more articles and eventually a content tsunami.
Operating on the fly, Johns Hopkins created a complete Resource Center that Time Magazine called “the best invention of the year.” The medical center created a dashboard enabling people to track the spread of the pandemic around the world.
The internal team at Johns Hopkins did this by having daily “huddle calls.” The communications team did *not* speak strictly amongst themselves, but worked with staff across all departments. They identified the best and most relevant information to use for content creation.
The results? Johns Hopkins’ traffic numbers ran 4x ahead of expected growth, to 38 million users. Traffic from social media increased 370 percent.
What can you take from this?
A person at a small medical office can’t be blamed if they read a story like this and think something along the lines of “Sure, this is an interesting story. But it doesn’t apply here. We don’t have Johns Hopkins’ resources or brand-name prestige. We certainly don’t have cross-department collaboration. There’s only 3 or 4 of us even involved in content.”
That’s all true.
There are still vital lessons for small medical offices to take from the Johns Hopkins success story.
1. Trust your instincts
If the team members at Johns Hopkins that wanted to pursue this story in January 2020 had ignored their instincts—or been ignored by leadership—they would never have been in a position to capitalize on the eventual global demand for this type of content.
Anytime you try and get out ahead of the curve of current public trends, there’s a risk that you’ll end up wasting your time. Yet the worst thing that would have happened is that an article or 2 that didn’t draw traffic would have been online. So you move on. The best thing that can happen is…well, it’s exactly what did happen.
If there’s a topic you think is going to be important in 6 months that no one is talking about now, then produce some content about it. This means having confidence in your instincts and your medical education, and assuming the role of leader rather than follower.
2. Take time with your team
In one way, you actually have it easier than the people at Johns Hopkins did. For them, cross-collaboration meant conference calls and Zoom sessions multiple times a day, every day of the week.
For your office, it might mean gathering the staff together once a week for a half-hour and asking them what they’re hearing and seeing from patients that needs to be talked about on the website.
3. Arm yourself with patience
We aren’t promising that the first time you step out in front of the public opinion curve, your website will be overloaded with traffic within a month. We aren’t even saying that your first idea will be a success. Digital marketing doesn’t work that way.
What we are saying is that if you make the above strategy—communication with staff, trust your own judgment and put yourself out there—you’ll find more successes than failures over the long haul. And you’ll be proud of your contribution to the community.