I’ve managed many educational programs over the years, recently in the field of cardiology, predominantly attended by local clinicians. If you were to benchmark their success by attendance numbers alone, they’ve been quite successful. We always have a jam-packed audience of eager attendees who want to learn from our physician course directors, who provide updates on the latest technologies and innovations in heart-health and patient care. Many of our physician educators have national and global reputations, having authored best-selling books, traveled the media circuit, and given TED Talks and keynotes at annual meetings.
While closing the gap between current and best practice has always been our number-one goal, after sitting down with leadership, I’m now also challenged with closing the gap between local and national visibility for these remarkable cardiology programs. We want to make sure that not only local clinicians learn from our world-class docs but that folks from around the country are aware of our impactful education.
First Things First
To start, I took an introspective look at how I promote our local programs. As Northwell Health is a non-profit 501(c)(3), I have limited marketing funds and the budget in general is sparse. In fact, these programs are 100 percent self-funded; meaning I have to raise every dollar it takes to run them. At a minimum, my goal is to break-even, but I always try to (and often do) exceed that. I’m resourceful, and we have established an incredible following of benefactors; without them, our programs simply would not be possible.
Year-over-year, by building engagement with key corporate industry partners and donors, strategically designing price structures, creating sought-after offerings, negotiating favorable contracts, and reducing spend, I’ve managed to not only break-even on our conferences but to create a solid stream of revenues for other noteworthy initiatives, for example, our Heart Conferences App. (Read about it here.)
Now, charged with raising the visibility on a national level, I had to consider how to most effectively achieve it with limited resources.
The Aha Moment
To market our local meetings, I’ve developed at least 12 marketing channels, both free and paid, including postings on internal and external websites, brochures, and targeted e-blasts, but national visibility would require a different approach. Having run trade shows in the past for other health-related organizations, it dawned on me that this might be the most cost-effective solution. But which trade show should we attend?
Each year when I plan our conference schedule, I look to nine key organizations offering trade show and educational opportunities around the U.S. in the heart cardiology space. I review what they are doing and when to avoid planning our events in the same time frame, as that might hurt our attendance and financial support.
I reviewed each of the nine 2020 trade shows in depth and, working with a clinician leader, we narrowed it down to the American College of Cardiology 69th Annual Scientific Session & Expo, expecting approximately 12,000 attendees in March in Chicago. The key reason: ACC is partnering for the first time with the World Congress of Cardiology—a global cardiovascular umbrella organization representing more than 200 heart foundations, scientific societies, and patient organizations from over 100 countries. So, in addition to the national exposure we will get as an ACC exhibitor, there will be an added level of global exposure. I pitched the plan to leadership and was given the go ahead!
Showcasing Who We Are
There can be enormous costs associated with exhibiting. However, I asked the show organizer about (and received!) a special non-profit rate for our exhibit space. I also negotiated with the company who is building our booth and got an exceptional rate as a first-time exhibitor.
With that in place, we went to work designing the booth. The NWH logo is an array of multicolored triangles, symbolic of the depth and breadth of what we offer. Similarly, our booth is designed to highlight the entire healthcare team, with a focus on wellness and prevention. Healthcare is an inter-professional effort among medical doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, and others. At the booth, we’ll highlight a special addition to the NWH team, Chef Bruno Tison, the first and only Michelin-star chef hired by a healthcare organization in the U.S. Not only is he re-teaching and re-training culinary departments that provide food for our patients, I have engaged him in the planning of our menus for our 2020 programs. With growing evidence of an association between physician wellness and their ability to deliver patient care, we want to make sure we are delivering excellent heart-healthy meals for our faculty and attendees.
We designed our 20-by-20 booth to be open, airy, and welcoming, with educational materials on introducing Northwell Health, our 2020 cardiology programs, and our course directors and the inter-professional teams who host them. In addition, we built out the booth with a meeting space offering time-slots where show attendees can meet our world-class faculty.
To connect with attendees after the show, we will be working on building up our mailing list. We’re planning to raffle off, among other prizes:
• a beautifully packaged assortment of wellness-related items that are green and sustainable
• a spa package from our spa partner
• best-selling books by our very own physician educators
• complimentary registrations for our upcoming conferences
We are looking forward to an exciting 2020 that promises more national exposure for who we are and what we do.
Arlene Marie Karole, CHCP, CMP, MSA, is director, Office of Academic Engagement, Education and Communication, Cardiology, at Northwell Health.