Site looks to include community

Westchester Medical Center (WMC) is a level-one trauma hospital, academic institution, and the primary tertiary care facility for seven New York counties. Thus, Serving a 5,000 square miles presented many challenges.

Westchester Medical Center (WMC) is a level-one trauma hospital, academic institution, and the primary tertiary care facility for seven New York counties. Thus, Serving a 5,000 square miles presented many challenges.

HLD/Blankman Public Relations and WMC reinvented its site as the center of constituent relations.

"This [is] an interactive marketing program driven by PR," says Julie Gross Gelfand, HLD/Blankman EVP and PR director. [The site is] a facilitator for ongoing dialogue between the hospital and various constituencies [and] a nexus for everything related to healthcare in Westchester County."

Strategy
"We are well-known for critical [care], but not as well known as a regional resource that people can take ownership of," says Kara Bennorth, the hospital's VP of marketing and corporate communications.

"Internally and externally the Web has become a very necessary tool - particularly in healthcare with increased savviness of consumers," she said. "Physicians, who are very Web aware, have been drivers behind understanding the importance of the Web. It's the perfect storm of bringing those two pieces together."

With seven centers and hundreds of sub-specialties, WMC has an enormous amount of information to manage and distribute to its constituents.

A site navigation plan was critical to ensuring all constituencies could find relevant information quickly and easily.

It was also important for the Web site to remain dynamic and evolve organically around expressed user needs.

According to Gelfand, the Web site is designed to engage the WMC community as a continuing daily resource.

Tactics
It took two years to fully develop the site. Disease and healthcare information, announcements, subscriptions, fundraising opportunities, and e-commerce help drive audience engagement.

"The Web site [is now becoming] the nexus of communications," Bennorth said.

The firm works with hospital staff to develop content, drive traffic, and create ways to capitalize on constituent relationships.

WMC monitors interest and captures critical user data while making more internal services available through the site.
Gelfand says WMC is creating a database that will allow it to customize information, which she said is a critical tool in building relationships.

Results
Since July, the site has seen a 19% increase in overall unique traffic while page views increased by 14% and organic search-driven traffic increased by 25%.

Compared to August, October averaged 25,000 unique visits (up from 21,000); 130,000 page views (up from 114,000); and three minutes average time on site (up 10 seconds).

Future
WMC will continue work with the agency on the program.

"We're excited about next steps, particularly in the search engine area and in refining the nexus concept," says Gelfand.

PR team: Westchester Medical Center (Valhalla, NY) and HLD/ Blankman Public Relations (Rockville Centre, NY)

Campaign: WorldClassMedicine.com

Duration: December 2004-ongoing

Budget: $350,000

PRWeek's view
Organizing and managing such vast and divergent information was no small feat. Success likely hinged on customization and easy access to relevant information. It was wise to use PR to drive the effort and allow the site to evolve based on user need since WMC's primary objective was to develop relationships.

SEO metrics would indicate that the long planning and labor-intensive process of building the site paid off.

Gelfand says WMC leadership is very enthusiastic about helping build content, which speaks to the benefit they derive.

As long as the team continues to monitor and address constituent needs and provide easy access to timely, relevant information, the site should continue to help WMC.

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