Timing Promotion for Maximum Impact

As part of the initial planning of your promotional campaign, one critical consideration is the timing of your activities. Most health care decisions that can be influenced by comparative quality reports happen for different people at different times.

When there is a clear timeframe for decisionmaking, such as open enrollment periods for commercial and Medicare health plans, the promotion and distribution of your report needs to coincide with that timeframe. More frequently, however, your promotional campaign needs to be timed to maximize both the frequency with which you “touch” potential users and the extent of your reach.

This page discusses what to do at these four key points in your project’s timeline:

  • Before your report is issued: letting people know it is coming.
  • When your report is issued: letting people know it has arrived.
  • After it is issued: reminding people that the information is there when needed.
  • When it is enhanced or updated: going through the cycle again.

Learn about scheduling a report’s distribution in Timing.

Before Your Report Is Issued

Some sponsors start spreading the word about their efforts very early in the process: as they are getting off the ground or once they have made a decision to issue a particular kind of report. Others think it will be frustrating for people to hear about the report when they can’t look at it. On balance, you can start too early, but it is critical to set the stage right before the rollout of your report with the goal of creating a receptive audience.

Starting a few weeks before your report is scheduled to be released, let your audience know that it is on the way. Use this opportunity to communicate important information, such as:

  • The report’s title.
  • Its focus and purpose.
  • Its benefits, stated in terms of what your audience will gain by using it.
  • When it is coming out.
  • Where to find it.

Begin using the key messages you hope will lead to positive attitudes and beliefs about your report. If possible, tell stories about real people from your audience who are looking forward to using the report and how they plan to use it. You can even share stories from efforts in other communities about how a similar report was of value.

When Your Report Is Issued

The public release of your report is the time for a big promotional push. Press releases and press conferences are very common in this phase of the work, but there are several other promotional activities that can begin at this point. Learn about Using Multiple Promotion Strategies.

At this point, expand your communications:

  • Add content about what you want people to do: find the report (remind them where), spend time looking at it, and use it. (Learn more in Affect the Behaviors of Health Care Consumers.)
  • Validate the trustworthiness of your report by having a variety of respected groups and individuals endorse it and encourage its use. (Learn what you can do to Build Trust in the Report Sponsor.)
  • Use personal stories here as well, ideally around the specific data in your report, what it shows, and how people are using it to their benefit. (Learn how you can Tell a Story To Engage Users.)

Although it is important to focus on the use of the report by consumers making decisions, it is also valuable to describe how individual providers or plans are using, or planning to use, your report to help guide quality improvement efforts. If you have done a “dry run” by distributing comparative data to providers or plans before releasing it publicly, try to identify and tell the story of a provider or plan who has initiated important improvement efforts, or even achieved real improvements, before the report became public.

Learn about sharing data with providers or plans before making it public in How Will You Gain the Trust of Providers or Plans.

After Your Report Is Issued

Since you cannot predict when your report will be most relevant and useful for specific individuals, your promotional efforts must be ongoing. Ultimately, you want to “brand” your reporting effort. But branding almost always takes a while, typically years. An ongoing promotional campaign is essential to the creation of your long-term brand identity.

The worst mistake you can make is to sit back once you have finished your big push at the time of the rollout and wait for people to access the report. They won’t come unless they are repeatedly reminded:

  • That the report exists.
  • Where they can get it.
  • Why they should take a look at it.

As commercial advertisers well know, repetition is key. You may find it boring, but your audience needs to have the message reiterated over and over again until it begins to feel comfortable and “normal.”

On the other hand, the same old stories can get stale, and the media in particular are always looking for “new news.” An important aspect of your longer term promotional efforts is to balance constant repetition of a few key messages with the presentation of new messages, new stories, and new information. One useful tip is to look for and push stories about how the report is making a difference to individuals, families, the community, or health care organizations.

Finally, an important element of your ongoing promotional campaign is to assess what is and is not working so you can make changes and improve over time, and put your limited resources where they will have the most impact. Learn how to evaluate your reporting efforts, including your promotional campaign, in Assess Your Reporting Project.

When Your Report Is Enhanced or Updated

Over time, you will likely be adding information to your report. You may update the data for the same measures, add new measures, or add comparisons for different entities. Whenever you make these kinds of changes, the cycle of promotional activities begins anew.

Each enhancement or update is a chance to redefine or expand your audience, refresh your messages, build new partnerships, and try new strategies. It is also a chance to consolidate your brand, expand your reach, and become a more integral part of your community. You may want to add an option to a Web-based report that allows users to sign up for e-mail updates that alert them when new information becomes available.


Also in "Promote Your Report"

Page last reviewed March 2016
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: Timing Promotion for Maximum Impact. Content last reviewed March 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/talkingquality/disseminate/promote/timing.html