Before joining the Wellmark team, my broad experience in healthcare communications included a stint as a writer for a natural healthcare brand.
To be clear, this did not involve writing about ‘woo-woo’ wellness therapies – there were no fish-slapping rituals or magical crystals. I created educational content about evidence-based nutrients for an audience of allied health professionals.
After gaining a deeper appreciation for this area of healthcare, I learned how to apply its general philosophies to my role as a communicator. So, here are three principles that I think have a place in developing powerful healthcare communications.
As you may know, a key feature of complementary medicine is taking an integrated view of health. Understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts can lead to a better understanding of patient management.
In other words, it’s important to treat the whole person – and the same principle can be applied to healthcare communications.
Marketing communications are most effective when they work together, i.e. when they are integrated to form a synergistic whole. This is why ‘integrated marketing communications’ was a founding philosophy here at Wellmark – and continues to underpin our approach.
As a healthcare communicator, it’s crucial to appreciate the role each piece plays in the overall communications plan. When you know how the various components align with and support the objectives of the others, it makes life a whole lot easier once you start the creative work in earnest.
There’s no question that an integrated approach paves the way for a better result. Understanding the work as a whole – and doing so upfront – helps ensure that your healthcare communications get the treatment they deserve.
Another principle of complementary medicine – and indeed healthcare more broadly – is that practitioners have an important role to play in patient education.
Similarly, part of my role as a healthcare communicator is to educate patients and consumers.
Health literacy is crucial in helping your audiences better understand the steps needed to achieve and maintain good health. So, when writing about a healthcare service or product, I specifically ask myself what information will help empower the audience to improve their health.
Of course, it can sometimes be tricky to communicate this information while maintaining the brand’s tone of voice and promotional imperatives – but that’s where the magic lies!
An educated reader is more likely to actively participate in their healthcare journey and respond to your offering. Therefore, if you’re aiming to promote uptake of your service or product, it pays to ensure that educational content is seamlessly integrated into your marketing communications.
In all forms of medicine, it’s best to identify and treat the underlying cause of a patient’s symptoms (if possible).
This principle can be extended to healthcare communications – if your communications are not having the desired effect, it’s important to determine and address the contributing reasons.
Of course, this may not necessarily be straightforward. Getting through to your audience during an era of ‘infobesity’ and wavering attention spans is easier said than done.
But to give one example, a potential underlying cause of poor engagement is plain-old audience boredom! So it’s critical (pun intended) to make your healthcare communications compelling and easy to read. Good healthcare writers therefore take an editorial scalpel to their writing and excise any offending material, such as unnecessary jargon or long paragraphs.
And as a mentor of mine used to say, it can also help to write as you would speak. The extent to which you can do that obviously depends on the context, but I think it’s a good rule of thumb. So let’s just say that I hope this blog post comes across as more like a conversation than an essay.
So those are my key takeaways for treating your healthcare communications holistically: consider how the parts work as a whole, teach rather than just preach, and address the underlying cause of any problems.
Adopting a holistic approach to your healthcare communications can help you treat your audiences better – and ultimately improve the health of your brand.