Honoring Diversity in Marketing Communications

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." At Banner Health, we have long been committed to this ideal by striving to combat inequity and lack of diversity in both how we deliver healthcare and how we communicate to the public about health and the availability of health services. I was delighted to see that the ANA recently named "diversity" as its 2021 Marketing Word of the Year.

Inequality and diversity issues in health manifest themselves in many devastating ways. Racial and ethnic minority groups experience higher rates of illness and death across a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma and heart disease, compared to their white counterparts. And COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minority communities nationwide, with higher rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths.

Across Banner's six-state territory in the western and southwestern United States, the Hispanic/Latino population is the largest minority community we serve. Banner has taken concrete steps to be more representative and inclusive in how we communicate about health to this very important and growing demographic. We began our diversity marketing journey with the help of the ANA, in particular the ANA's Association for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), which has been a valuable guide to our work.

Reflecting Diversity in Content

Content is king when it comes to marketing communications. To this end, Banner has created a robust and growing library of Spanish-language content.

In our headquarters state of Arizona, Hispanics represent more than 40% of the populations of Phoenix and Tucson, with roughly 70% of them speaking Spanish at home. So, we started by building a Spanish-language website, blog and social platforms. The website has attracted more than 3.5 million visitors with Spanish-language content, mostly driven by Google organic searches in Spanish. Six of our 10 most visited blogs are in Spanish. We also launched Spanish channels on Instagram and Facebook, which together generated more than 12 million impressions and one million engagements in 2021.

An estimated 85% of healthcare decisions start with information-gathering via online search. So, it is essential that robust, accurate content is available in native languages in order to help fight health inequities. This was particularly important early in the pandemic, when the Spanish-speaking community struggled to find reliable, timely updates such as where to go for testing or treatment. Banner's brand personality is the "wise guide," conveying vital information with simplicity, clarity, trustworthiness, understanding and heart. With that approach, we created an authentic voice to reach Spanish-speaking communities with content that resonated with them. The result has been significant growth. Spanish language web traffic in 2021 rose 345% over 2020, and social media engagements with Spanish-speaking audiences are up 90% compared to the same period last year.

Visual content is equally important in reflecting diversity. Therefore, another major step in our inclusivity marketing efforts has been to refresh our entire image library and our casting requirements. Now, visuals in all Banner communications reflect a diversity of lifestyles, communities and ethnicities.

Diversifying Outreach

Content, however, is only part of the equation. Outreach, in many forms, is needed to communicate effectively with diverse communities.

Since news coverage is an important source of health information for consumers, Banner added native Spanish-speakers to its media relations staff. The result has been a stronger presence for Banner in Spanish-language news media. In 2021 (through early December), 550 Spanish-language news stories had featured or mentioned Banner, reaching a potential audience of more than 734 million.

To shape outreach to our own workforce around diversity, equity, and inclusion, we launched a new internal branding identity: "Here for Everyone."

Our diversity and inclusion team has worked closely with the communications team to support our employee affinity groups and reshape our recruiting communications. The results speak for themselves: positive perceptions of Banner among Hispanics are now higher than among non-Hispanics in Phoenix and Tucson, two of our largest markets.

Evaluating Effectiveness and Responding to Feedback

To evaluate our efforts, Banner is an enthusiastic user of AIMM's Cultural Insights Impact Metric tool, which identifies the impact and effectiveness of cultural insights in ads and programming, and also gauges the extent to which culture can lift brand growth against the overall industry norm.

We monitor feedback to our communications with diverse audiences by scanning social platforms -- "listening" to more than 50,000 calls per week with our Natural Language Programming tool and processing 350,000 surveys each year. Twice monthly, the communications team reviews the feedback from our entire diverse customer base and then draws on those insights to refresh our communications.

The results from this journey have been both empowering and inspiring, but it is far from complete. We will continue to listen,change, and improve. There' so much more to do to address equality and diversity issues!

This article was written by Alexandra Morehouse (pictured right), Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Phoenix-based Banner Health.

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