Priory Consultant Connect

Interview with Matthew Atherton

Hi Matthew, thank you for taking the time to chat to us. Let’s start with the marketing team itself - can you tell us a little bit about marketing at Priory?

The marketing team is based in the grounds of Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal and there are 13 of us, working across Priory Healthcare, Priory Education and Children’s Services and Priory Adult Care. We are part of a wider department including the communications team based in London, and the customer service centre based in Darlington, where we handle many of the direct patient enquiries about our private healthcare services.

The team has evolved considerably over the last three years and now has a much greater focus on digital marketing and referrer engagement campaigns, which generate the greatest volumes of enquiries and referrals into our services.

The most important change over the last three years has been getting marketing closer to the business – working more collaboratively with our front line services, business development teams and operational colleagues. We’re a relatively small team for the size of Priory, so it’s essential that all marketing activity is meaningful and directly contributes to our shared goals.

There’s a lot more to do, but we’re on the right track. The next key step is harnessing the power of attribution data to ensure that we understand the return on investment from every pound that we spend, so that we can flex budgets to have maximum impact.

 What are the current challenges you face?

Google’s decision to suspend online advertising for addiction services in its search results, following a Sunday Times article about the practices of addiction referral agents, is a big challenge. Although this move made life harder for the referral agents as Google intended, it also causes us (and all other providers that advertise services on Google) a headache.

The strength of our brand name is a huge help at the moment, and we’re mitigating the impact by focusing on search engine optimisation and PR activity. We’re expecting an update from Google on their future plans later this year.

A daily challenge for us is ensuring that we stay nimble enough to respond to the needs of the business. When an occupancy challenge arises at a specific site, it’s ‘all hands on deck’ to support them, but at the same time, we need to sustain the day-to-day strategic activity that delivers long-term results.

Can you tell us more about the new healthcare website and why we are doing it?

The new website is long overdue – the existing site was developed six years ago, and whilst it’s been relentlessly optimised to a point where it performs very strongly in search engines, and delivers large volumes of patient enquiries, there are significant areas for improvement around the user journey and site design.

The new site will launch this summer and will be a massive step forward. We’ve had a lot of input from front line colleagues and the new design looks great. We’ll be using new photography and have developed much stronger individual location page designs. The site is nearing the end of the build phase – with over 2000 pages written and optimised for search engines – it has been a big task.

Will there be any new functionality on the new website?

A key development is having standalone homepages for the different parts of our healthcare division, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ homepage. This enables us to tailor the information much more effectively to private individuals and referrers, with stakeholders wanting to refer into our NHS services getting a totally different homepage. We’re also moving to more of a of a microsite approach for individual hospitals and wellbeing centre homepages, which enables us to present better location-specific information.

We’re also using improved profile page templates to better showcase our specialists’ expertise – by the time you read this, all consultants and therapists should have received a new template to complete for their expanded professional profile on the site. If anyone hasn’t, we can send a fresh copy over if they email

Anything else you want to share with us?

Improving the way that we handle enquiries and referrals into our private services is a huge opportunity for us. We’ve made positive first steps by delivering a more consistent private enquiry experience at our Customer Service Centre in Darlington, however, we know we’ve got more progress to make.

The next part of the customer journey – consistently getting patients who need our support into appointments swiftly and easily  – is an area we’re not consistently good at yet, so is a great motivator for us to continue improving. We’re committed to getting there – lots to do, so watch this space!