HIMSS15: How-to Position your Organization as a ‘Snowflake’

himss-logo-175x175HIMSS15 is just a few short months away and organizations within the healthcare and health IT industries are in full planning mode for the annual event. As vendors vie for the interest of conference attendees, many are also focused on driving engagement and thought leadership targeting both media and analysts.

With this in mind, we wanted to share some quick tips for healthcare companies in attendance to set themselves apart as “snowflakes” amidst the fierce turf competition at HIMSS. Pardon our winter imagery in advance – the majority of the SHIFT Communications Healthcare Practice is based in Boston and, as a result, we are all too familiar with the white stuff.

While many organizations will pursue the tried and true approach of pumping out press releases and using their social properties to promote self-serving news just before the conference begins, we’ve found that this has been said and done far too many times. The following are four approaches for consideration to help your organization standout leading into, at and post HIMSS15:

Don’t wait to hit the trade show floor – One of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make is holding their news and engagement strategies too close to the chest and then attempting to let them all loose at the actual trade show. This often removes any opportunity to build momentum and ensures that your efforts are buried in the midst of the mass amount of news releases put out at HIMSS. We recommend a steady cadence of news starting in February and running at least through to May in order to maximize impact. We would also recommend reaching out prior to the event via LinkedIn to engage in HIMSS15 related conversations. The HIMSS group on LinkedIn has many followers, which are active and vocal within the group. Better yet, the HIMSS group includes members of the media, industry influencers and even potential prospects. This is a great opportunity to create and participate in industry conversations leading into, at and even post HIMSS15.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words – As briefly noted above, far too many companies rely on the press release as the main source of communication for news at HIMSS. While press releases are a valuable tool, it’s important to not merely hang your hat on just that. Instead, look for ways to amplify your news by tying it to a broader industry issue in a more creative fashion. One way to do that is to leverage industry data and/or data culled from your own organization and customers to tell a visual story that builds on or maps back to a key trending topic within your release. Typically, this type of visual content is more broadly shared within social communities – a win-win all around.  Looking for a way to get your creative juices flowing? Start here.

Play the role of the roving reporter – Mobile technologies have enabled marketers to capture decent quality video on-the-go. Instead of merely capturing video content of your own thought leaders or customers, consider taking a more thematic approach. One key industry theme from an industry perspective is the consumerization of healthcare. Another trending theme that will likely be a topic of discussion is cybersecurity. If your organizations’ brand and mission relate to either of these themes, consider doing video interviews with experts attending the conference they can speak first-hand to the consumerization of healthcare – from interviewing start-ups being showcased in HX360 to notable patient influencers like Regina Holliday. From a cybersecurity standpoint, take the same approach but target a media influencer such as Scott Mace.

Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint – We know how taxing trade shows can be in and of themselves, and the work leading up to them is nothing short of exhausting. Well worthwhile, but arduous to say the least! It’s easy to hang up the towel post-event and rest on a job well done. Don’t do it. Instead start thinking about your long-term communications strategy beyond HIMSS, and even beyond that next sizable trade show (ahem, ANI 2015). The key to any communications strategy is long-term planning. Your marketing and communications strategy need to evolve around a story (or stories) – one only your organization can own. And that story likely isn’t just mapping back to ICD-10, Meaningful Use or the SOFTWARE Act.  Consider topics others aren’t talking about and make a plan for a smarter and stronger communications approach that helps you stand out.

As we look ahead to HIMSS15, it’s important to consider going beyond the typical communications and marketing strategies at events. Think differently. Be sure to outline what success looks like from your point of view and communicate those goals and expectations to your sales, marketing and PR teams well before you head to Chicago. Lastly, after the event, do take time to celebrate your successes but also take pause and reflect so you can continue to improve leading into the next show.

Katie McGraw
Account Director, Healthcare Practice


*Note, SHIFT Communications is the agency of record for HIMSS. HIMSS hosts one of the the largest health IT conferences in the world.  The event provides an opportunity for vendors and industry leaders – from CIOs to physicians – to get face-to-face with the latest technologies and best practices aimed at driving quality, cost-effective patient care.


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