Marketing is a critical business asset, whether you sell taffy, paint houses, or provide medical care. It tells your brand’s story, engages customers, and builds reputations. That’s all pretty clear cut – unless your business is saving lives, then it gets a little murky.
Healthcare content marketing is a tactic used to promote health and wellness services. When done right, it engages patients and healthcare consumers in a way that builds their trust.
Why Health Brands Need Content Marketing
Health professionals don’t always see what they do as a business enterprise. They don’t necessarily think about telling their brand’s story and all the other euphemisms that apply to social media campaigns and content creation. That’s part of the problem.
Healthcare marketing is different. It is less about selling a product or service and more about creating public trust. It’s that trust that gives healthcare companies, clinicians, medical practices, clinics, and hospitals their lifelong patients. Without patient growth, branding, and outreach, these health businesses cannot stay competitive.
Healthcare marketing is about education, too. It provides patients and the general public with the information they need to make informed decisions.
Healthcare organizations and wellness brands must deal with a unique customer base, though, and with legal issues that other industries don’t see. There are restrictions and regulations put on the healthcare industry by HIPAA, the FDA, and the FTC, for example.
Still, healthcare content marketing is the key to providing information that is both useful and engaging. Good content turns these healthcare brands into thought-leaders for the industry.
Types of Content That Connect
Once you understand why healthcare content marketing matters, the next question is: What is it, exactly?
What types of content should health brands use to connect with their audience?
Content marketing is an umbrella term that encompasses different kinds of marketing communications. For example, your content strategy could include a number of different types of content:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- White papers
- Print newsletter
- Patient Information sheets or guides
- Website or landing pages
These types of content marketing assets help establish health brands as go-to resources for potential patients or buyers.
A recent study conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 80 percent of internet users, that’s 93 million Americans, admit to searching for health topics online. Their most recent searches involved finding information about a specific disease or medical condition such as COVID-19, for instance. This study shows that there is a market for content that delves deep into different health and medical topics.
Some other topics listed in the survey include:
- Over-the-counter drugs
- Alternative treatments
- Health insurance
- Depression and mental health
- Details on a health brand, clinician or hospital
Healthcare consumers go to the Internet to find answers to their health-related questions and get more information about health and wellness issues they may be experiencing. The question is, are you going to be the one providing them with the answers and information they need? Without content marketing efforts, the answer is probably not.
Tips for Creating Engaging Health and Wellness Content
Content for wellness brands and healthcare providers should follow some basic rules that apply to most digital marketing content. Here are just a few of the universal best practices that health and wellness brands should follow when developing content marketing campaigns.
- Provide material in a way that is relevant to your audience. For example, a pediatrician would publish content that engages parents, not college students.
- Keep your content consistent and informative. Consistency is key. No matter how often you publish, make sure you’re publishing consistently across channels. And aim to only publish content that is valuable for your audience.
- Use analytics to track the performance of the content. To better understand what types of topics and content resonate best with your audience, track your content over time to see what is most successful. Create more of what your audience likes and avoid topics they are not interested in.
- Create a brand voice and make it consistent across all channels. Your brand voice is the tone and style of your content. Keeping this voice consistent across channels helps consumers and potential patients recognize when content is coming from your brand.
- Keep self-promotion to a minimum. Remember, your goal is to provide information and be an informative voice in your industry. This means prioritizing education and other valuable information above self-promotion.
In addition to these universal best practices, there are also some specific tactics that healthcare brands should focus on when developing content:
- Use data to support your content. Readers can go anywhere these days to find health content, but not all of it is pertinent or accurate. Data is what makes health brands bubble to the surface as experts in their field. Data will also get you noticed by other brands and possibly quoted. In this age of misinformation, nothing builds trust quite like authoritative data and evidence-driven content that empowers the reader. Not to mention, as other brands and publications link to your information as an authoritative source, you will work to improve your search engine optimization (SEO), making it easier for your audience to find you organically online.
- Tell a story that inspires the reader. Health and medical content can sometimes be a bit dry. But storytelling creates connections. It establishes the fundamental human experience that people will remember. Share patient stories about real people who beat the odds for motivational content. Just make sure you remain HIPAA-compliant.
- Add interactive elements to the content. Quizzes, educational games, and polls are great tools to attract your audience’s attention and engage them. The more you can engage your audience and get them thinking, the more likely they will be to remember your company when they need your products or services.
- Support a cause. Supporting a cause that your business is passionate about allows you to spread awareness of the issue while adding a human element to your content. You can help raise awareness and support the cause you care about by adding videos, social media hashtags, infographics, and inspiring stories about the cause.
Common Healthcare Content Marketing Mistakes
Now you know what you should do as a healthcare marketer but what about the things you should avoid. Sometimes understanding the consequences of mistakes will help you avoid them in the future.
The most significant marketing error in healthcare is to focus on increasing visits instead of patients. Health and wellness businesses thrive on long-term relationships. It’s not just about getting patients or customers through the front door. You want them to make you a member of the family and that requires content designed to build trust. You must focus on their long-term needs by providing quality information that impacts their lives.
Forgetting About Shares
Not working on getting shares is second of the list of common healthcare marketing errors. Word-of-mouth is the most effective and least costly marketing for health brands. If you post content that engages your audience, chances are they will share it, retweet it, or like it on their favorite social media channels. This helps your brand expand its reach and help even more patients or customers.
Oh That Medical Jargon
Producing content that rambles on with medical jargon is the third most common mistake that healthcare marketers make. Stun your readers with your marvelous detailed and verified facts, but make sure they know what you are talking about when you do.
Stay away from the buzzwords that make your content sound less than authentic like:
- Innovative – It’s an excellent word for most industries but not for healthcare. If you want the reader to consider you innovative, tell them why in plain language.
- Breakthrough – It’s another one of those words that doesn’t mean much in healthcare. Get to the details, so you don’t leave them wondering.
- Qualified – It sounds good, but it is a little vague. Most in the medical profession work hard to become qualified. It’s more impressive to share the details about how they got there than just to drop the word.
Not Staying Consistent
It’s important to maintain a consistent publishing schedule if you want to build your audience and foster patient or customer relationships online. Letting your accounts lie dormant wastes their potential and ensures your audience will forget you.
Reputation Management via Reviews
If your patients or customers take the time to leave a review on sites like Yelp or Healthgrades, then you need to take the time to respond. Responding to reviews is especially important when they are negative. Addressing negative reviews publicly can reduce their impact, according to a survey conducted by Software Advice. Reviews are a critical part of brand awareness in healthcare, so pay attention to what people are saying about you online.
Give the 411
Finally, make sure your audience knows who you are and how to contact you. It seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how often companies forget to give contact information in their content, and that leaves the reader frustrated.
Calls-to-action are a staple in content marketing. “If you or someone you love needs help, give our office a call today!” It’s more than an invitation; it’s a promise that you will be there if they need you.
Examples of Health Marketing: Who Does it Right?
The most effective way to learn about marketing is to look at the people who got it right. Here are some of my favorite examples of health marketing at work:
UMassMemorial used storytelling to pluck at the heartstrings of readers all around the world. Their Everyday Strength campaign put health care workers in the spotlight to share their positive stories from the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.
They make it interactive by inviting others to share their stories and photos on the website. They also give readers a chance to send an e-card to a hero in their lives or to post one on their social media and blog pages. That’s clever and memorable.
It’s a combination that inspires trust in the industry, makes people feel better in a time when that’s not always easy, and celebrates real heroes. At the top of the page, of course, readers can learn more about UMassMemorial.
Children’s Hospital Colorado
The Children’s Hospital Colorado proved it’s possible to get inside the head of your target audience to build trust. They launched a campaign aimed at giving parents advice on how to keep their kids safe and talk to them about the pandemic.
One of their tools is a series of kid-friendly videos on their YouTube channel that has an infectious disease expert answering questions from children about COVID-19. By design, it is engaging to both their patients and the grownups in their lives.
Children’s National in Washington, D.C.
Children’s National in Washington is using humor to engage their audience. They introduced a virtual flash mob on their social media channels with healthcare workers dancing to the Backstreet Boys. Humor is maybe the best balm available in marketing.
The video not only provided kids and their parents with a laugh, but it also introduced them to the various departments at the hospital and showed them a friendly, fun, more human side of healthcare professionals.
Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent
The Ascension marketing campaign in Indianapolis was so good that it won top honors in the 2019 Healthcare Marketing Impact Awards. The content featured specialized pediatric healthcare provided by the hospital.
The video featured Peyton Manning himself as he moves through the hospital to offer his expertise to some special patients. Manning goes from place to place, trying to help. With this content, the marketers used humor to show kids that hospitals are not really that scary.
Oregon Health & Science University Foundation
The Oregon Health & Science University Foundation used some whitehat marketing tricks to bolster their year-end fundraising campaign. The content features touching, real-life stories of children’s lives saved at the hospital—the effort brought in more funds than they saw the previous year.
This Australian aural implant company used a straightforward concept to tell consumers about their services. They asked the question: “Does love last forever?” The feature asset of the campaign was a video of the various sounds people hear around the house like the tea kettle and a clock. The goal was to show that hearing impairment can happen to anyone.
Macma Breast Cancer Awareness
One of my personal favorites is Argentina’s Movimiento Ayuda Cancer de Mama. That’s Macma Breast Cancer Awareness campaign for those who don’t speak the language. They wanted content that highlighted two essential pieces of information—one that men can get breast cancer and, two, how to do a breast exam.
They ran into a difficult problem, though. Women can’t show their breasts in public in most areas. Their solution was ingenious. They had a woman do an exam on man boobs. The campaign was accurately titled Man Boobs for Boobs.
What About Health Blogs?
Most of these winners focused on video, but what about blog posts? Let’s look at some great blogs from the healthcare industry:
- The Brigham and Women’s Hospital Health Hub covers everything from health topics like prostate cancer to inspiring personal stories.
- Rothman Orthopedic provides wellness tips, nutrition information, and focused orthopedic content.
- Another great example is Altru Health Center, which provides a variety of content, including patient and staff stories, mental health information, and easy ways to stay fit.
- The Arnold Plamer Hospital for Children Content Hub offers an intuitive layout and covers all things kid-related.
- The Indiana University Health hospital blog wins on name alone – it’s called Thrive.
One of my favorite health blogs is The Health Nexus from Jefferson University Hospitals. Their blog is both physically and mentally engaging. It comes with bright colors and brilliant graphics along with topics that jump off the screen like “How to Manipulate Brain Waves for a Better Mental State,” and “I didn’t Get a Colorscopy Until I was 61, but I didn’t Need to Be So Scared.” Who wouldn’t want to read those?
Of all the industries, health and wellness brands probably have the toughest time creating effective content marketing for their audiences. The topics can be complicated, and the regulation inflexible — there are so many potential pitfalls.
But health content marketing is also the most rewarding. It gives those who dedicate their lives to the service of others just one more way to reach out and help more people. Healthcare brands are in the business of saving people, and effective content marketing helps make that happen.
If you don’t have the team on staff to create informative, engaging content for your health or wellness brand, consider outsourcing this work to a professional health writer. At WriterAccess we have many freelance writers who specialize in creating health and wellness content that meets the goals of your brand while keeping in mind the unique challenges of content marketing for healthcare brands.
Need help finding a writer? Check out our list of the top health writers on WriterAccess.
Darla F. is a full-time, internationally-published freelance writer, editor, award-winning author, and professional artist. Over the last decade, she has ghostwritten memoirs for a successful entrepreneur and created byline pieces for USAToday, Jillian Michaels, USARiseUP, New York Times — About.com, Multibrief, MedCity News, LiveStrong, and AOL. She is also one of the top 10 health writers on WriterAccess.