Podcast #100

Innovative Marketing in Addiction Treatment: Insights from BrightView’s Kevin Dugan

Unlock the secrets of effective channel mix and content marketing strategies in the latest episode of Ignite! Kevin Dugan, an industry leader in addiction treatment and Director of Content Marketing at Brightview, joins CEO, Alex Membrillo to share decades of experience in B2B and content marketing. Explore Brightview's compassionate, patient-centric approach, breaking stigmas and fostering community connections. This episode offers tactical insights and heartfelt stories that inspire and inform marketing professionals and those passionate about making a difference. Don't miss out on this compelling conversation that's changing the face of addiction treatment marketing.

Episode Highlights:

Alex Membrillo: All right. Your job’s content marketing. I know how it always starts. Any time we’re looking at content marketing, you don’t just start writing, filming, creating, posting, right? Basically, where do you advise content marketers to start?”

Kevin Dugan: “I would say this is where qualitative and quantitative research comes in. One of the things I did was analyze the blog articles on [BrightView’s] site, just to see what we had available. It became obvious there that we are trying to fill the funnel. There’s a lot of search content there…

After looking at the blog… I typically try to look at search data and social data. Search data tells what content people are looking for, and the social data shows us what content people are sharing. I took a look at that, I did a little bit of a competitive audit to see how folks were paying attention to it. That was when I quickly started to realize, ‘Okay, there’s definitely a need here for more patient-focused [content] once they’ve started recovery, after day one when they’re in the thick of it.’”

Episode Overview

Embark on a journey into the realm of addiction treatment marketing! In this insightful discussion, Kevin Dugan from BrightView, shares his wealth of experience in B2B and content marketing with Cardinal CEO, Alex Membrillo. Gain fresh perspectives on performance marketing, education, and the transformative power of content as the two explore the intersection of these key elements.

Discover how BrightView’s patient-centric approach is reshaping the landscape of addiction treatment, breaking stigmas, and fostering vital community connections. Whether you’re a seasoned marketing professional or someone driven by the desire to make a meaningful impact, this episode is tailored for you. Packed with tactical insights, heartfelt stories, and a commitment to changing the face of addiction treatment marketing, it’s a conversation that will inspire and inform.

Learn how content marketing, when executed with empathy, can not only attract but also retain patients by treating them as individuals rather than mere numbers. BrightView’s holistic approach extends beyond medication, addressing the unique challenges individuals face on their path to sobriety. 

Tune in to explore the intersection of AI and storytelling, and gain insights into the future of content marketing and patient care in 2024.

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: What’s up everybody? Welcome to Ignite. We are in for a treat here, because we aren’t just going to talk about performance marketing like we always do, at least, not in the same way. Something I want to reorient the world of healthcare marketing too, as performance marketing requires education, or requires a longer sales cycle because your patient gets educated over time, even though she may make the decision in a day.

We’ve got Kevin Dugan here from BrightView. Kevin, I want you to give a quick intro, give a 30-second on who you are, what BrightView is, and what your purview is there, and then we’re going to dive into some specific stuff.

Kevin Dugan: Awesome. That’s great. Thanks for having me by the way. BrightView, has actually been offering our addiction treatment program since 2015. We have grown to just over 100 locations, counting leases that aren’t open yet in seven states, and our focus is on outpatient. We’re completely outpatient. We use medication for addiction treatment, so MAT, and it’s part of a comprehensive program for us that involves, obviously medical, and then it gets into psychological, as well as social.

We have case managers that are our unsung heroes. I think addicts, once you’ve taken that medication to begin the recovery process, you start to realize how much it’s impacting your life, and that’s where they come in and help. My background is fairly interesting, in the sense that, I’ve been doing this for, I’m just going to say multiple decades, but it’s been in business-to-business, client side, agency side quite a bit.

I’ve worked on startups, blue chip. I’ve always been interested in technology, which has helped to influence the type of clients I used to work on, but also marketing as a whole. I started blogging in 2002.

Alex: Before it was cool.

Kevin: They were angst-ridden teen journals at the time. People thought I was recording my deepest thoughts. Anyway, that evolved into social media, which has evolved into content marketing, which has lead me to today. I was really excited to make the switch. Like many people, most people, if not all, everybody’s been affected by addiction. I’m no different.

The ability to shift, do something new, and apply what I’ve learned, and learn something new, and help in a cause that I truly believe in, has been just wonderful. I’ve been at BrightView for a year, and I’m on a team of 10, and I lead the content team. I am Director of Content Marketing.

Alex: I often find in the addiction space, that there’s a lot of very mission-driven people. It’s cool. I enjoy chatting with people in the space, because we’ve all been through it. Very cool, Kevin. Content marketing man, it’s like what you said. It’s like it used to mean blogs, then it used to mean social media. Now, everything is content marketing.

Kevin: Right.

Alex: What is it? We know why you’re passionate about it. What is it about content marketing that you think helps BrightView?

Kevin: It’s funny, your point about how it’s evolved. I was even involved in it when it was still called custom publishing, right? Magazines, but how it helps BrightView? In many ways, it helps us with our referral partners in getting involved in our community, and becoming members of the community, and the locations that we’re in. It helps from an industry perspective, as you well know, behavioral health is not as far along as other areas of healthcare, right?

It helps us show that we are taking a very credible and proven path. I think that helps within the industry and outside of the industry, but with our patients, I realized, in addition to helping them find us, when I first got here a year ago, I started to realize there’s not as much, once we get them in the funnel, there’s not as much content, or there wasn’t as much content further down, as far as loyalty and whatnot. I can talk about that, how I got into focusing on that a little bit, but it’s helped us quite a bit, from finding us, building our credibility, to keeping our patients.

Alex: Yes. Loyalty is different in addiction, because you don’t want them coming back for more, but you do want them referring friends, so loyalty can mean different. It’s different–[laughs] [crosstalk]

Kevin: Exactly. We said progress, not perfection. Unfortunately, people do return to use, and then come back, but we’re always happy to see them. Honestly, I’ve been doing quite a bit of interviews since joining, and I finally decided yesterday, I’m like– One of our points of difference consistently in all our patient interviews is that, BrightView treats our patients like people, we see them.

I said, “It’s great to have a point of difference, but it’s unfortunate. There’s such stigma at so many different layers, and levels, and angles. It’s just unfortunate that becomes a point of difference.”

Alex: Yes. It’s weird. You would think that’s like permission to play stuff, treat them like people. Where do you think that comes from? BrightView’s hiring better, the culture’s better, core value’s better than others. I would say, probably, less money-hungry than some of these addiction treatment groups that I’ve talked to.

Kevin: Well, one thing I think we believe is, there’s going to be both top and bottom in any space, in any industry. You’ve got folks that are doing it one way, others in a not so great way. I think part of that is just due to the fact that our industry is not as evolved as traditional healthcare. I think that’s part of the issue. I think that it’s getting better now, unfortunately, as much as I’d trade COVID back in a second, the shift on mental health, and how mental health has become more acceptable, is really helping us.

I think part of it’s definitely hiring and onboarding, for sure. It gets back to the mission. When you have people that understand addiction is a disease, that makes a huge difference. They’re not going to look down on you. They understand that this is a fight.

Alex: Yes. They’re there to actually treat you, because they’ve been through it, or their mom, or their sister. All right. Your job’s content marketing. I know how it always starts. Any time we’re looking at content marketing, you don’t just start writing, filming, creating, posting, right? Basically, where do you advise content marketers to start?

Kevin: I would say that, this is where qualitative and quantitative, both research come in. One of the things I did is analyzed our blog articles on our site, just to see what we had available. It became pretty obvious there that we understandably are trying to fill the funnel. There’s a lot of search content there. As these things go, I feel like you have to be comfortable with the fact that there is search-focused content that was created for, machines and there’s human-focused content that was created for people. It’s the nature of the beast.

We still obviously create that as needed, but we’ve also started to look at the human focus, that content. After looking at the blog, after looking at search data, broader search data, I typically try to look at search data and social data. Search data tells us the content that people are looking for, and the social data shows us the content that people are sharing. I took a look at that, I did a little bit of a competitive audit to see how folks were paying attention to this.

That was when I quickly started to realize, “Okay, there’s definitely a need here for more patient-focused once they’ve started recovery, after day one when they’ve– They’re in the thick of it.” They’re going on with their lives, they’re going on vacation, they’re having to deal with the holidays, right?

Alex: Yes, that’s the tough part.

Kevin: Yes. All that good stuff.

Alex: Yes. Qualitative and quantitative. You look at all of the data. Kevin, this is where it takes lots of experience. Someone right out of school is going to struggle with it, because you have to look at all that, and then make your own determination based on, “Hey, it seems like bottom of the funnel, or we’re not really addressing.” It’s also, you’re not just creating content for the patient, you’re probably creating content for the family too, to know how to support them, and what are going to be the touchy times and subjects, and stuff like that, so very interesting.

Patient research, how do you do that? You see where the gaps are, and then how do you figure out what these patients care about in these areas? I’m curious about this. I want to start doing some of this for clients. Do you start interviewing? Is it possible to interview patients with HIPAA stuff? I guess, if you work there. [crosstalk]

Kevin: HIPAA is always something, our compliance team is definitely quick to remind us, not that we need it, but HIPAA is a big part of that. There’s definitely things to remember and consider with that. We start out in shadowing our call center. We have a call center, where all of our patients start their journey with us, once they’ve decided to talk more with us, and we’ll shadow calls there.

We have a lot of folks, we talked about the mission, but a lot of folks that are also in recovery themselves. I’ve spent time, if I’ve got an idea. For example, perfect example, if you’ve noticed, paid any attention in your beer aisle over the past couple of years, it’s gone crazy. [crosstalk] All the options are amazing, right? Including alcohol-free. I don’t drink, but I do drink alcohol-free, and it used to be, well, you have O’Doul’s and if you’re lucky, your O’Doul’s Amber. That’s one of–

Alex: [laughs] Heineken is actually running ads and paying for ads for 0.0 now. Much promise to–[crosstalk]

Kevin: Yes. That’s– I noticed that was becoming more of a trend, and started to realize, “Okay. Well, first, there’s a difference between being sober and being in recovery,” and a lot of people would, like Sober January, I think is his favorite.

Alex: Right. I did. [crosstalk]

Kevin: There’s people who are doing it similar to people that choose not to eat gluten, that don’t have the same issues as folks that are sensitive to it. They just decide, “Gluten is bad for me. I’m not going to do that,” which is fine. My friends at work were quick to remind me, “Hey, that’s good. I’ve seen that too.” Unfortunately, you don’t know if that could be a trigger for somebody.

More importantly, alcohol-free is not literally alcohol-free. We’ve eventually turning that into an article saying, “Hey, you’re hearing a lot more about alcohol-free these days, but don’t forget, that’s not truly what it means. You’re going to beware about that stuff. It’s not an acceptable opportunity for you, it could potentially lead you back to reuse,” which is unfortunate, so.

Alex: What I’m hearing, like some of the best research you can do, you don’t even have to interview patients, you can interview colleagues and people in the business that have gone through the same thing, whether you’re a [unintelligible 00:10:08] route, whatever, and talk about what are the pain points nobody knows about? What are the things you went through that you were too afraid to say, or nobody addressed, and you create content around that. That’s what sounds like you did.

Kevin: Exactly. Yes. We have been interviewing a lot of patients. Telling patients stories because we have BrightView TV. It’s similar to, conceptually, the platform as PatientPoint. when you go into your doctor’s office, maybe you’ll see content that comes up, typically, health related, when I got there, they said, “Well, PatientPoint’s, obviously, pretty expensive, and unfortunately, the content for addiction and recovery is not as relevant for us.” They really don’t have that content for us.

Their platform’s not as relevant. We’re creating our own. We’re using digital sign platform and streaming of video into all of our locations. I mean, when I was doing research around this, we had just started it before I got there, and then I– It was, the reins were handed over to me. I started to find out in the centers that, everybody has TV in the lobbies, but Deal or No Deal, and maybe one or two other game shows are the only ones you could probably play, and know that there’s not going to be something triggering.

Keep in mind, the first time somebody enters that lobby, they’re in a bad way. There’s a very, very delicate window during which they decided to stop taking drugs, and get help, so they’re going through withdrawal, so anything can be triggering. We have to be very conscious, super conscious of that. As part of BrightView TV, we’re trying to show them that there’s hope.

Other patients have gone before them, here’s been their experiences, that’s part of the content. As a result of that, one example, I started to hear many patients, and this was still anecdotally, but many patients started to realize they were making progress, because they would look at themselves in the mirror. They realized in hindsight, that they were avoiding looking at themselves in the mirror.

I’m like, “It just reinforced the levels and layers of stigma, including self-stigma.” We created a self-stigma article based on that, and are looking at ways to serve that up as well on BrightView TV. The evolution to be video first, print second, we’re still in process there. The good news is, as we’re creating content, we’re literally conducting research in some fashion or another, but we also do test-based surveys. We’ve done a few of those. We use [unintelligible 00:12:26] platform to do that, to execute that. Then, we’ve done a couple of focus groups, too.

Alex: Yes, you’ve done it all. You know what they’re going through, and the types of– Let’s talk about the journey that leads them to that clinic, where they’re going to see the in-clinic educational series. How do they get there? Have they been inpatient? Have they been to AA already? Have they been diagnosed, and been given naltrexone? What’s the journey? Then, where do you start with your content?

Kevin: I would say that all of those are potentials. I’ve been humble. When I was earlier in my career, I would say, “Okay, well, search engine, if your content strategy is good and you know what your target audience is, and understand what you offer them, search engine should just happen.” Then, obviously, I learned quickly that’s not the case. You need to take a lot of special considerations.

Then, once you’ve taken them, they change the rules, and you have to take new ones, which is fine. That’s how it works. I’ve been impressed, though, in this job, even more so than previous. What I’ve learned is that, the patient volume really almost lives and dies on Google. It’s one of the reasons why a lot of our spend is dedicated to search like other providers.

For awareness and attraction, search results, outpatient rehabs near me. Then, we tightly monitor and we’re ranking in those markets. Google has started to make it so that you don’t really even have to leave their site. Now, with generative AI, if you ask it a question, it will serve up links that will answer them. It will also serve up the answer. It’s meaning that you really have to be on your game and attentive, and spending a significant amount of time with Google.

That includes Google business profiles. We spend an inordinate amount of time with those, getting patient reviews on Google, 20% of our patient volume is actually driven just by those reviews.

Alex: No way.

Kevin: That is an element of content marketing that I’ve always known about. I’ve spent more on more recently in my life than previous. Now, it’s definitely– Like I said, you get comfortable with knowing that there is a search component and a story component, and both are critical. I compare it to the fact that marketing is art and science now. You make something better combining the two.

If you over index on one data, say you’ll get the infamous 73 things you need to know about Christmas. You won’t believe number 72. There’s the over index on the data, the over index on the [unintelligible 00:14:49] You’re going to have a cat video for an addiction treatment provider. It goes totally off reservation. They thought the cats would be attractive. Together, it’s better. Same with search and content.

Alex: Yes. It’s like you said, to really be great at content marketing, effective in a business that you got to know SEO, or at least know what Google’s looking for, right? Then, hopefully, the chips will fall where they should. What I found with the algorithm over time is that, it is not easy to game it anymore. Spammy, stupid ChatGPT content that’s just pushed out, that stuff doesn’t work.

Just FYI, everybody create great content, MD-reviewed, unique first person authors, and you’ll be fine for the next few years. At least, as long as Google’s the main source. We’re getting more leads in. I said, “How do you hear about this?” He says, “ChatGPT is scary to me. You can’t optimize for it.” Anyway, so Kevin, so you created a bunch of content on the website that it borders between SEO-friendly, and user friendly.

Then, you hope, like I imagine the majority of your time is then spent on education, trying to differentiate BrightView once they land, educate, nurture, is that accurate? “Hey, the accurate thing, we got to do the right things.” Then, you care more about educating than the rest of the [unintelligible 00:15:58] groups out there. You think they’ll prefer–[crosstalk]

Kevin: Definitely, yes. The folks at the other end of the spectrum with Matt, the folks that give make our job a little bit tougher are the ones that are just trying to provide meds, check the box. You come in, you get your meds, you can leave. We don’t need to talk to you. We’re just moving through the line, and talk to a lot of patients. That’s again, that’s one of the reasons why I just– Being a person with them is such a response, because they’re not used to that.

I mean, even to the point that, in our rural markets, we realize that one of the reasons we start to offer our medication on site is that, there’s a stigma even with going, especially, in rural areas, going to your pharmacist, and they might say, “Well, we don’t take those kinds of insurance claims” right? They don’t want to fill it because they think you’re a certain person in their store. They want you in their store. It’s ridiculous at different levels.

We offer medication on site. It’s one way to get them through their appointment faster, get the meds to them faster. We try to offer very low threshold. Medicaid, even if you don’t have Medicaid, you can come in, as long as you’re in by a certain hour in the day, you’ll leave that day with medication, and information about your next appointment. A result of that though, now, we also are trying to make it universal throughout all of our centers that we can also provide you with your medication as well.

Alex: Yes, very cool. The business has like these unique differentiators are very helpful. Then, it’s your job to like tell the story and get people commit like, “Hey, choose BrightView over anybody else.” It’s like you’re telling the story of the business differentiator, so important.

Any specific, okay, creating an onsite video, that’s like a big lift. Most teams will say, “I don’t have time for.” BrightView’s a 100 locations. What does your team look like? How do you get all this stuff done?

Kevin: Yes, it’s always a challenge, but our team is really collaborative. We use technology as well. [unintelligible 00:17:54] done as a lot of prioritization. Back in the day, there were annual plans. We basically will organize ourselves, but then, it’s a quarterly, reoptimize it. I call it optimization versus reorganization, but you’re making sure that the business is still moving in a certain direction, and we’re still supporting that effort.

That’s probably above the moral north star. Then, from there, we use monday.com in the weeds level, weekly meetings, and teams, it’s a little bit of everything. We’re a hybrid team.

Alex: How many people are on the team?

Kevin: 10 people.

Alex: 10 people on the [crosstalk] content team?

Kevin: No, sorry. Marketing as a whole.

Alex: Okay, so you have an SEO–

Kevin: Three people on the content team, but our designers are helping us create content. We have a unique person in our PR manager. He actually worked in TV, and worked nationally at national CBS in New York, won a Edward R. Murrow Award. He’s our video person. He helps us create, he’s a really good storyteller. The other thing we’re starting to realize, and this is a little bit off topic, but it’s more than just telling the patient stories.

There’s a way for us. they call the lobby, the waiting room in any doctor’s office. It implies, you’re waiting for your appointment to start. We saw the fact, that there’s a way, it sucks being in the lobby, even if you’re not in withdrawal, you’re waiting to get there, get done, and get out of there. We started to realize that our mission is to compliment that appointment.

We’re also looking at things and adding prompts like, “Hey, what do you guys want to talk about in group today?” Just to get them mentally prepared to go into group, and group discussions, for example. How do we get it all done? We have a person on my team that is a little bit more experienced with social media. Then, we’ve got somebody who’s more clinically an SME.

She’s actually– Used to be a counselor, and I’m a [unintelligible 00:19:43] manager. At the end, I’ve got resources with graphic designers, PR. We all have a strategy that we’re following, and changing, and evolving. Yes, a lot of prioritization. Sure.

Alex: That’s cool. SME is important. I want more people to focus on that, guys, your content needs to be different. If it’s just ChatGPT blog article, that was everywhere. Now, it’s not going to rank, it’s not going to convince.

Kevin: Exactly. Anybody that spends time reading what they’ve created in ChatGPT, I’ll call it a productivity enhancer. I would call it like a– It’s creating a thick outline for you. If you’re into editing, that’s great. If you’re not, you’ve got even more work ahead of you. You’re not cutting and pasting, especially, in our world where accuracy is critical, HIPPA.

There’s so many different considerations that you need to take. It’s a great brainstorming tool for sure. [crosstalk] Something where it helps you get the things done, but it’s not giving you the ability– What is it? What’s the– Fast, cheap, or good, pick two, right? It helps you with the cheap and the fast, but not the good.

Alex: No, not at all. It’s just like creating an ocean of sameness out there. Like, “AI is going to take over the world, just like the internet did,” but man, it’s a decade away after I’ve seen. Don’t put emojis in your LinkedIn posts, guys. It’s the quickest way to figure out that, that’s ChatGPT.

Kevin: Is that really the indicator? Because I’ve actually tried to start using those. [laughs]

Alex: The obvious reason, it’s the quickest giveaway. Kevin, this has been good. I want to leave with one more thought from you. 2024, what’s the big thing everyone wants to know? Content-wise, it doesn’t have to be innovative or different, but what is the thing that has generated great results you’re going to invest more in time, or money in?

Kevin: I would say a couple things. One, is just the alignment of shared experience and storytelling. In the past, it used to be your SME, there’s this credible expert, this stigma, stereotype around expertise. [crosstalk]

Alex: Journeys.

Kevin: Expertise is, you’ve lost family members to addiction, you almost died. That alignment really is exciting for me. I will say, though, that there is AI opportunity with video, but we’re putting some of our videos for tools like Opus just to see how it might pull pieces from that. Again, even in those instances, it might be a guide versus, we can just post it right to social from there. We’re also working with a platform called CPO AI to help us with, potentially, getting some influencers making content for us. Influencer relations–

Alex: How does it help with that?

Kevin: The front end of influencer relations, I’ve done this in the past as well, and we spent an inordinate amount of time using technology to first find a universe of folks that were relevant to your topic, but then you just had to spend a lot of time going through their blogs, making sure that their brand aligned with you, and they didn’t go off-topic.

Alex: This tool will find all the relevant people, analyze their content, spit back an analysis, and like he’s talking– [crosstalk]

Kevin: It cuts that time out of it, but still gives you credible– Then, we’re using it as a platform to ultimately handle the relationship, and get the content back and forth to each other as well, so it’s almost like Monday.com or Basecamp, plus the AI on the front end. We’re hoping that, that will help us do more with less, and that’s some of the tech that we’ll be investing in for sure next year to see how that goes.

Even in that instance, they wanted us to talk about it like a year agreement. We said, “We’ll give you three months, and we’d like to do a year, but we’re not going to commit to a year.” That’s just the nature of the beast these days.

Alex: Yes. Guys, you heard it from Kevin. If I could take one more thing away, it’s AI is a productivity-enhancer, not a replacement for your own thinking, or personality. Kevin Dugan, this has been fun. Guys, while that decision on getting care may be made in a minute on search, it’s influenced over months. Then, it’s not just what happens in that moment for the outreach, it’s how do you nurture that patient to make sure they continue with their plan of care, and they actually get well.

You won’t just try to get them in the door. You nurture, you educate, not just them and their families, make sure they never come back, but tell their friends about you. That is the best way to help patients get care you can. Kevin is fighting the good fight. Thanks for joining us on Ignite.

Kevin: Thank you, sir. Yes, thank you. This has been great.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

Healthcare Marketing Insights At Your Fingertips

Listen and subscribe to Ignite wherever you get your podcasts.

Get Started

Ready to Grow?

Great partnerships start with great discoveries. We start with your business goals and budget, and then help you find the right digital marketing strategy to fuel growth.

Fill out the form to get started!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.