Episode 34: The Power of Storytelling

Guest: Manny Rodriguez Chief Marketing and Experience Officer, UCHealth

It’s not easy to get a breakthrough marketing strategy off the ground; it’s even more difficult to kick start a new idea in a highly regulated industry. This roadblock didn’t stop Manny Rodriguez, CMO of UCHealth, from developing an eye-opening campaign. Through patient-centric storytelling, he managed to help the university hospital network invigorate its message. This tender approach isn’t just business for Rodriguez. He is a leukemia survivor who underwent many of the types of treatments his team now promotes.

Manny Rodriguez discusses how UCHealth embraced the power of storytelling on the Renegade Thinkers Unite podcast. If you’d like to listen to the episode, click here. If you don’t have time to listen, you can read the notes below for a summarized account of the interview.

Rodruguez’s healthcare marketing philosophy goes against the grain. Hospitals and clinics often showcase their technologies and services in advertisements, much to Rodriguez’s chagrin. “I just believe healthcare marketers in general have lost sight of what matters,” he says. “We’ve gotten away from the fact that what we do is about the patient.” Instead of explaining how great UCHealth’s treatments are, Rodriguez set out to reach patients on a more personal level.

Rodriguez wanted his UCHealth’s advertisements to focus on clients and their experiences. Being a leukemia survivor, he understands the pain patients have to deal with. Rodriguez says, “Most health care brands look at themselves as the hero. We believe that our patients are the heroes.” UCHealth decided to let its heroes tell their stories from their own perspectives. The result was a series of heartfelt video testimonies given by actual UCHealth patients, like this one:

You can’t help but cry during these 90-second flashes of affection. As Rodriguez notes, “You really feel, hear, and sense the heartache and the emotion and the feeling in the story.” Although the scripts are written internally, the patients themselves deliver the lines. Who else could?

One of the biggest challenges Rodriguez has faced is advertising services that have such a negative connotation. “Nobody wants what I have,” Rodriguez says. “Nobody is sitting there going, ‘I can’t wait to have my liver removed or my heart surgery!’” The UCHealth marketing team remedies this problem by delivering what Rodriguez calls a “lifestyle brand.” The CMO continues, “I want to provide you [with] content and resources, and talk to you in a way that prevents you from being broken more than selling you a service when you’re broken.” Warmth is at the heart of the strategy, giving patients hope and comfort in UCHealth’s message.

Enhancing patient experience plays a big part in the brand’s marketing strategy. When someone goes to a hospital, obviously the biggest goal is to leave healthy. For Rodriguez, the peripherals of a hospital visit also matter greatly. Elements like staff friendliness, parking accessibility, and cafeteria food quality make a difference in the patient’s experience. “It’s the softer side of healthcare that I think we’re looking at as an organization—How do you build the softer side?” Rodriguez wonders. UCHealth answers this question by staffing itself with sympathetic employees. While health remains the top priority, patient experience is still important.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Rodriguez, as his own encounter with terminal illness has driven him to help other patients in need. He says, “Being a survivor of ultimately a disease that takes many lives is a motivator for everything I do.” Rodriguez recalls the personal experiences he’s had with medical professionals—some great, and some not so great. Ultimately, those instances have given him the drive to connect with patients through heartfelt passion and understanding. (These show notes were prepared by Jay Tellini.)

Meet the Guest

Manny Rodriguez isn’t just a great healthcare marketer; he’s also a survivor of terminal illness. After successfully battling leukemia, Rodriguez is eager to help others who suffer from terminal illnesses. He carries out that goal as the Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at UCHealth, a network of hospitals and clinics anchored around the University of Colorado Hospital.

Rodriguez’s diverse background has equipped him with a unique skillset. He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry, the energy business, and in financial services before joining UCHealth. Rodriguez is also a family man. When he’s not developing a new storytelling campaign at work, he’s cheering on his seven-year-old son at soccer and baseball games. In life—as well as in his job—Rodriguez puts people first and business second.

What You'll Learn

  • How to embrace the power of storytelling.
  • The value of being bold.
  • How to develop creative campaigns in a restrictive atmosphere.
  • How to make your campaign revolve around the customer.

Quotes from Manny Rodriguez

  • Let’s not focus on what we think individually but focus on what we know from research, and really implement the research to push us forward.
  • Most healthcare brands look at themselves as the hero; we believe that our patients are the heroes.
  • No matter how great something is, people are not going to like it. People are going to wish you would do things the old way…You [have] got to have tough skin.
  • You have to fight for [your] idea, and don’t give up...Persevere. Keep fighting. Keep pushing forward.

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