The Blue Room opens window on emotions

In Examples by Peter Gearin

Bupa Australia’s brand newsroom approach is designed to appeal to customers’ hearts and minds, and change perceptions.

Christal has lived in an aged-care facility in Sydney’s west for three years. Although she didn’t really have a say in where she would live, she seems contented enough. She sleeps for much of the day and is one of the most loved residents at the Bupa Aged Care centre in Windsor.

Sweet, silver-haired Christal features in a popular video that appears on Bupa’s content marketing site, The Blue Room. The video tells of the role that dogs play in helping boost morale and improve the quality of life of aged care home residents. So Christal is happy. As is Christal’s owner, Rosemary, who requested that her lovely little dog should move into the aged care centre with her.

“We welcomed that,” says Lisa Myers, general manager at Bupa Aged Care in Windsor, in a video and accompanying story that appears on The Blue Room website. “Christal was very much a part of Rosemary’s life, and I feel that has kept Rosemary young.”

Bupa Australia is part of a global healthcare group best known for providing private health insurance – not an industry recognised for producing cute puppy videos. But the “Cuddle Power” story has been one of The Blue Room’s most popular, and its message goes straight to the reason Bupa created the site in the first place.

As well as providing insurance, Bupa runs aged care and specialist medical centres across Australia. The Blue Room was launched in May 2015 to generate stories that raise awareness for all of Bupa’s healthcare services by focusing on four content areas – “Caring”, “Families”, “Healthier” and “Manage & Recover”.

Freelance journalists, subject-matter experts and bloggers and Bupa’s own health professionals are the main contributors, and many of their family-related stories tug at readers’ hearts and minds. Recent stories include “Phil’s story: the day my daughter saved my life”, “Chop up the grapes! Five ways to help prevent your child from choking” and “The signs and symptoms of hearing loss”.

No stories “sell” Bupa’s products and services directly, although many of its experts are quoted when their knowledge is needed. All stories, however, reinforce the message that Bupa is more than a big, impersonal health insurance company.

Bupa’s pain points

Jane Power, Bupa’s director of Brand & Health and Care Marketing, says establishing The Blue Room was an overtly strategic act. She says most customers see private health insurance as a “grudge purchase”, and this left Bupa in a difficult position. Research showed that most people didn’t know Bupa offered healthcare services.

“We saw that we really needed to do a better job at communicating the breadth of what we do, but we also needed to have conversations with customers away from the product,” she says. “Customers are having lots and lots of conversations in varying communities around varying topics – online baby hubs, parenting sites and all the rest of it. We needed to be where customers were and try to be part of that conversation. We saw content as a way we could do that.”

Power says The Blue Room raises brand awareness by being helpful and relevant. While families are the main topic area, women are clearly the site’s target market. “There’s been lots of research that talk to the female being the key decision-maker [in the family],” she says. “We want to engage with [women] and do the best job we can at helping them navigate this massive healthcare system.”

The site carries recipes, practical health advice and stories to help mothers deal with a range of issues, for example “How to work out safely in pregnancy and beyond” and “Looking after yourself after a C section”. Men were targeted in a content initiative last year called The Bupa Nightwatchmen, which helped promote an offshoot project for new parents called “The First 1000 Days”. It included Australian cricketers Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Nathan Lyon sharing their parenting experiences.

“Imagine if [Bupa’s] 80,000 employees shared just one beautiful piece of content every week?”Bupa's Jane Power

Similarly, an article that scored a big reaction on social media, Power says, was about prostate health. “You would think it would not be particularly engaging or emotional and lots of people would find it really hard to face [this conversation], but it was hugely read and shared and had a massive impact. I think there’s a category of beautiful ‘Caring’ stories that talk about things like having to care for someone or having to make decisions about keeping them in the home. Or, what do you do if you think your mum or dad might have dementia?”

What is consistent is Bupa’s desire to reach people emotionally. “What surprised us is the impact that we can have when we talk to customers about what happens in our aged care,” she says. “And you can see it in the sentiment. You read your feed on Facebook and comments are like, ‘Wow. I didn’t realise Bupa did this’, and, ‘Wow, I feel really differently about Bupa now’. It’s a really great engagement point for us.”

What success looks like

According to a recent article in Marketing magazine, more than 2 million unique visitors have entered The Blue Room, which has published more than 900 original articles and 150 videos. It’s claimed that research shows that these visitors are about 79 per cent more likely than non-visitors to believe Bupa “has healthcare expertise”, and three times more likely to consider buying its health insurance.

As well as counting the number of unique and return visitors and time on site, Bupa says it has a goal of reaching “constant velocity”. Power explains that this is the hard-to-track measure of “stickiness” – holding people who come to the site via social media to stay for a while and read two or three other articles. It’s about readers finding stories on The Blue Room that will help them across a range of family-related issues.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong,” she says. “The reason that you engage customers is you’re trying to showcase what you do so that you’ll get more purchases. But, at the end of the day, we’re still hoping to win the hearts and minds of customers so they consider us for really important decisions like, ‘Where do I put mum when she needs to be in an aged care home?’

“We’re running a business and I guess we’re in a lucky position that we don’t have shareholders. Yes, we’re for profit, but we invest that into being able to provide better services and products for our customers and better information on healthcare.”

Brand newsroom intelligence

Power offers four pieces of advice for brands looking to follow Bupa’s lead in developing a newsroom approach:

  • Start slowly and be patient – “Concentrate on one social media channel and do it really really well”;
  • Don’t use your content initiative to push products or services – “If you’re just really courageous around finding ways to understand what the customer is looking for and what their needs are, then you will win over time. If you start with your number one objective being to sell stuff, you’re going to fail”;
  • Make it easy for staff to become contributors and brand champions – “Imagine if [Bupa’s] 80,000 employees shared just one beautiful piece of content every week?”;
  • Create content in specific categories that will be most useful for your audience – “We had to hold our line on that a number of times – it was a challenge. But if we tried to create a Blue Room with 24 categories we would’ve ended up with two articles per category and that’s not really creating value for people.”

Links & references

The Blue Room website

The First 1000 days

Marketing magazine story on The Blue Room

Kitty cat rice crackers video

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