In 2020, Americans were hit with an overwhelming wave of complex health updates and medical research. To make sense of it all, people needed clear, timely guidance on testing, policies, vaccines, side effects, and more.
UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider and insurer, already had a robust archive of content spread across two destinations: Its main corporate site and HealthBeat, its content hub that features more editorial storytelling. But when the pandemic hit, UPMC needed to pivot. Prior to the pandemic, content approval could span as long as five months. With people trying to understand how to protect their families, UPMC needed to produce high-quality, helpful content in a matter of days — or hours.
As the pandemic continued, the company also needed vetted creatives who could produce new content in batches and refresh existing content for SEO.
“It required us to be very responsive to what was going on, what was happening on the clinical side, in real time,” said Jenna Hanrahan, digital content manager for UPMC. “There was a seismic shift for us internally.”
Using Contently’s content marketing platform, UPMC revitalized its review process so it could publish much faster. The digital marketing team developed detailed story briefs, new workflows in the platform, and templates for everything from landing pages to email newsletters.
Working alongside Kat Lisciani, Contently’s enterprise content strategist, the team also tapped into Contently’s talent network to add a team of go-to freelance contributors who could complement UPMC’s internal writers.
“The lion’s share of our content comes from Contently writers,” Hanrahan said.
With the revamped system, UPMC was able to prioritize COVID content, bringing in internal experts right at the planning stage, and, in some cases, publishing essential health content in as little as a few hours to keep up with the speed of news.
“Our clients in clinical marketing have been really pleased with the fact that they can go to one place and find the story and make the edits that they need to do in real time,” said Jessica Henry, UPMC’s senior manager of digital optimization.
UPMC’s content strategy was a mix of art and science. Their foundation was a sophisticated SEO strategy based on keyword research and competitive analysis, as they locked in on timely search terms oriented around COVID-19 conditions and treatments. Take the HealthBeat article “How Do Vaccine Trials Work?” which breaks down a vital topic using data, expert quotes, and a 75-second animated explainer video.
Longform content that tackled complex medical info also thrived on the main corporate site. Before the pandemic, “monoclonal antibodies” was a little-known term with almost no search traffic. But when it emerged as a possible COVID treatment, searches spiked. UPMC responded with a detailed article that includes multiple videos and graphics. The link now appears on the first page of research results for the term.
By answering some of the public’s biggest COVID-19 questions like this, UPMC’s organic search traffic surged. The site’s content regularly shows up as the top Google snippet for a given term.
Most impressively, UPMC’s main site and HealthBeat combined for over 23.6 million sessions. Users across the two sites took over 144,000 actions to call a doctor, schedule an appointment, or find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine.
The result, as the metrics show, was a hugely successful content marketing program that elevated UPMC’s status as one of the most trusted sources in healthcare content.