Do you write healthcare content for “them”—demographic clusters defined by age, geography and medical condition?
Or do you write for “you”—people you know and care about?
Your answer has a huge impact on your healthcare copy’s power.
In today’s cluttered, over-messaged marketplace you’re better off delivering no content than generic content. Irrelevant, organization-centric copy sends a negative message.
It says, “We don’t care.”
What a wasted opportunity. Because good healthcare copy can educate. It can connect. It can help empower and move people forward. It can point them to your services and products.
And yes, it can transform and save lives.
Feeling a wee pressured?
Breaking news: Healthcare copy needs a human voice.
Don’t worry. Writing effective, care-filled healthcare copy isn’t brain surgery. Much of it is common sense.
As with all copywriting, you need curiosity about people’s motivations and behavior. You have to muster compassion for their troubles. And you have to genuinely believe your products and services will better their lives.
How can you mine this emotionally-weighted information?
With six simple suggestions that help you dig dip and come up with copy gold.
But before you hurry off to write new content, first turn a critical eye to your organization’s current healthcare copy.
Does your copy treat patients like strangers?
Think about it: Every day you or someone you know collides with healthcare or pharmaceuticals.
That lump your best friend felt in the shower? Unfortunately, it’s stage II breast cancer. Your neighbor’s wheezing kid? Asthma. Your grandma’s sudden weight gain and social isolation? Her diabetes is worse.
These are people you know. People you care about.
But when the time comes to create content, you don’t write for your nearest and dearest. You write for a faceless demographic.
Put your medical copy under a microscope.
Most healthcare copy acts like armor. It keeps distance between its readers—your friends, neighbors and consumers—and your organization.
True, healthcare has special privacy and legal issues. But all too often they’re used to excuse copy that is…
Self-serving. Open a browser and go to your organization’s website. Very likely, content focuses on your facility, your therapies, your specialists, your services and products. Your patient and her problems, her fears and pressing concerns often don’t merit a nod.
A one-way conversation. Like that bore at a cocktail party, healthcare copy invariably monopolizes the conversation. Most medical content depends on static channels that don’t allow patients to ask questions, express opinions, give feedback or connect to another human being. Content leans on third-person usage, medical jargon and verbal puffery.
Irrelevant. Whether written direct-to-patient (DTP) or to physician audiences, healthcare content often misses the mark. Why? Because often marketers have no idea what their consumers need and want. They think they know, but healthcare marketers rarely ask: They don’t develop platforms that let visitors talk back nor create meaningful measures to sound their thoughts.
Rigid. Rather than attracting and pulling in people with dynamic, multimedia content and online communities, medical marketing’s static channels push out one-size-fits-all messaging. Patients desperate for human contact must content themselves with robotic autoresponders, no-exit voicemail loops and hyperlinks that open to irrelevant content.
What can you do about it?
6 simple suggestions that dramatically improve your healthcare copy
As a copywriter you don’t control your organization’s operations, customer service or philosophy of care.
On the other hand, you don’t need to overhaul corporate infrastructure to communicate with clarity and humanity. So as you approach your work, try to…
- Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. Don’t just imagine what people think. Find out. Seek out listening channels that help you understand patients’ needs, worries, pain points and obstacles. If you’re working with a hospital, you’ll hit gold by interviewing practice nurses, patient advocates and social workers. Other terrific listening tools: disease-specific blogs, social communities’ search and forums.
- Speak from your heart as well as your head. Rule of thumb: Focus content—and copy voice—on readers, not your organization. Lead with copy that speaks to your patients’ needs and considers their state-of-mind. Don’t hustle them straight to you and your solution, i.e., your product, service or facility. Speak with a warm, empathetic voice. Address your reader as “you.”
- Pay attention to your competitors. Who else provides services and products like yours? How are they speaking to patients? Are their tactics effective? Why? Why not?
- Build trust. People look to healthcare for hope and happiness, not hyperbolic descriptions of facilities, equipment, services and products. Patients won’t buy cancer care like they buy a direct mail offer. They don’t want to be sold. You establish trust and credibility by building relationship over time and across media, through word-of-mouth and by providing useful, free resources.
- Include features only if you can quantify benefits. When a patient is sick, she’s relieved to hear your value proposition—if it’s genuinely unique and beneficial. As a copywriter you’re drilled to stress benefits rather than features, but in healthcare copy strong features—especially quantifiable features—can reassure and sooth. But skip the superlatives. “Innovative,” “cutting edge,” “world-class” are trite phrases so overused they’re meaningless.
- Make material easy to skim and scan. Patients and families are as deluged with information as you are. Show you care by creating attractive, easy to consume copy. Use short words, sentences and paragraphs. Allow plenty of white space. Draft content in digestible bites with easy-to-skim subheads, bolded font, bullet points and text boxes. Whenever possible, show—instead of tell—with images, graphs, charts and tables.
Simple isn’t easy.
As fundamental as these steps are, they’re not always easy to follow. They take time and consideration—often in short supply in busy marketing and editorial offices.
But think about the stakes: Patients and their families often read your content at their darkest hour. As they type in a search phrase or reach for your brochure, they’re scared. They’re sick. They’re confused.
You can help them. With content that informs, supports and motivates. Healthcare copy that cares.
Need help crafting care-filled healthcare copy? Contact me.
Photo courtesy of Jo-h.