Today, it’s more important than ever to create powerful healthcare content in order to reach potential new patients, retain the ones you have, and establish your organization as a leader in the crowded medical marketplace. Recognizing how crucial it is to have a robust online presence, healthcare organizations large and small (from big health insurers, to hospital systems, to specialized physician practices) have jumped into the online marketing fray — with widely varying results.
So how do you stand out from your competitors? Fortunately, you don’t need an MBA to avoid the most common pitfalls in online marketing. I’ve found that healthcare clients who have the most success in engaging patients and building their brand online all rely on three straightforward strategies to guide their efforts.
Let Your Personality Shine Through
Let’s face it. If you want to establish a compelling online presence in the healthcare realm today, you won’t draw in readers with bland, just-the-facts health information. A new mom worried about her baby’s rash or a weekend warrior coping with a shoulder strain will probably go straight to the established big players (think: WebMD) for basic health information. So let them. Rather than devoting your time, resources, and money to posts about the signs of a heart attack or the dangers of smoking, look for ways to stand out that are true to your brand.
I advise our clients to start by doing a “personality” inventory and identifying what makes your practice or organization unique. Perhaps you are super-committed to patient-centered care and great doctor/patient communication. Maybe you’re on the vanguard of the value-centered care movement, with a premium on prevention and patient satisfaction. Or you might be carving out a niche for responsiveness by guaranteeing same-day appointments and 24-hour access to physicians. Pinpoint what makes your brand notable and then build your online marketing presence around those attributes.
So how exactly does this play out? Let’s say you really want to highlight the friendliness and accessibility of your doctors. Then you’d aim for first-person blog posts and videos that capture each doctor’s unique voice. Dr. X, an internist, could share her favorite heart healthy soup recipe and relate the five steps she takes to keep her blood pressure in control. Or maybe your well-loved pediatrician Dr. M offers tips for packing healthy lunches, in a blogpost about preventing diabetes in children.
There are major health stories breaking every day, in the form of headline-grabbing new findings and breakthroughs. But the news cycle is a short one. Identify your medical experts in advance so you can jump on trending stories with your organization’s expert perspective. Whatever the health story du jour — be it vaping-related injuries and deaths among teenagers or the rise in suicide rates among the middle-aged — you can capitalize on patient interest if you move quickly to publish your unique take on it.
While it’s important to be nimble in your content creation, it’s equally vital to take the long view in order to take advantage of seasonal health topics. I work with our healthcare clients to develop content calendars that go out at least six months, often longer, so that we can plan ahead for stories about allergies in the spring, for instance, or Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter.
As you’re doing your planning, don’t forget about health awareness months. While everyone these days knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, you probably didn’t know that January is thyroid awareness month or that April is irritable bowel syndrome awareness month. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together a year-long calendar of national health observances that can be very helpful for planning timely health content throughout the year.
Put a Primacy on Patient Stories
When it comes to reporting and writing about key health issues, it can be very easy to get bogged down in statistics and data. And while it’s important to buttress your content with context-providing figures (9.4% of the U.S. population today has diabetes, or 3.2 million teens have had at least one depressive episode in the last 12 months), you definitely don’t want dry facts to rule the day.
For the bulk of your content, I advise tapping into the power of storytelling. There’s a reason that stories have been used to hand down knowledge and learning for thousands of years: Stories are the way we understand and make sense of our world. And that’s truer than ever in the realm of health care. If you really want to engage your readers, be sure to make patients your star characters whenever possible — because that’s who your audience can relate to.
One easy way to do this is to pick a likable and articulate patient who has had a noteworthy, positive experience with your practice or organization, and then produce a video or blogpost that brings that experience to life in the patient’s own words. This strategy is particularly effective if you’re trying to increase patient referrals for a new procedure, for instance, or if your practice is out in front with an innovative treatment. You should also urge your doctors (and writers) to weave in anecdotes about actual patients whenever possible, or to use a particular patient’s experience as a vehicle for making a larger point (while always adhering to HIPAA privacy regulations, of course).
Following these three strategies will go a long way toward getting clicks for your health-related content in today’s crowded online marketplace.
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