Confessions of a Professional Health Writer: What Most Health and Wellness Brands Get Wrong About Content Marketing
I’ve been a professional freelance writer and copywriter for close to six years now, and nearly all the work I do involves research and content marketing for wellness brands. I’m also a former co-owner of a CrossFit gym on the east coast, where it’s not unusual to find multiple gyms within a few minutes of each other, let alone in the same town.
All this is just to say:
I totally get the challenge of a saturated market.
Because let’s face it, the global wellness industry is stacked. It grew by a whopping 6.4 percent per year between 2015 and 2017 (for reference, that’s almost double the global economic growth rate). In 2018, the wellness sector was valued at a cool $4.5 trillion. Clearly, you’ve got plenty of competition to contend with as a wellness brand.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you’ve been trying to boost brand awareness and make meaningful connections with your target audience, it’s understandable to sometimes feel drowned out by the influencer environment.
Now if you had to guess, would you say that creating and sharing more quality content is key for helping you stand out, connect, and convert?
Good, spot on.
But I see a lot of mistakes when it comes to content strategy for health and wellness brands, and I don’t want that for you—not if you’re out there sharing the good word of healthy living, which is basically my favorite thing.
Fortunately, these mistakes are supremely course-correctable, especially when you have a great content creation team in your corner.
4 Common Mistakes in Health Content Marketing
As a health professional and freelancer, I’ve got some decent insights into what health and wellness brands do wrong when it comes to content marketing. Here are the top 4 mistakes that health brands make when creating content:
1. Believing that Jargon = Credibility
Super technical and jargony content is a huge pitfall in wellness marketing. You don’t want your reader to have to work hard just to figure out what you’re saying. Using uncommon medical terminology when a more familiar word would do does not bode well for building trust and brand loyalty.
In my clinical practice, I am doing my best work when I can explain something to a patient clearly, concisely, and in a way that helps create that “lightbulb moment.” This almost never involves using convoluted phrases and ten-dollar medical terms.
In no way am I implying that your audience isn’t smart. Indeed, your audience is very smart, and they are often quite wise to tricks and tomfoolery (see point 3). They just don’t want to waste their time trying to make sense of your latest blog post.
People won’t trust you if they don’t understand you. Use simple language, even (especially) when discussing technical topics. This helps people learn and, just as importantly, it helps them get excited to share what they’ve learned with others.
2. Relying Too Heavily on One Form of Content
When it comes to digital marketing, you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin. But you also don’t want to overlook avenues that could help you connect with customers, either. This is why it’s so beneficial to use multiple marketing platforms.
I think brands often stray into the one-trick pony danger zone more or less by accident. They may have tons of success and conversion rates with their Instagram videos or blogs, but then they neglect other platforms that could be useful for enhancing organic growth, too.
Depending on your bandwidth, consider adding these types of assets into your content marketing strategy:
- Blog posts (including guest posts on other websites)
- Google ad campaigns
- Email marketing campaigns
- SMS marketing campaigns (I am verifiably shook every time I get a text message from Gary Vee.)
- Podcasts (a copywriter can be super useful for creating scripts and show notes, as I’ve done for one of my clients who currently has a 5-star rated show on iTunes)
- Social media marketing (Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest—gotta catch ’em all, right?)
Yes, visibility on social media does correlate with frequency. I’ve worked with a few clients who don’t get enough eyes on their wonderful product or service because they’re only posting on Instagram about once or twice per week. You’ve seen your feed—can you imagine how quickly those posts would get lost?
Remember not all forms of content are created equal. Newsletters and email campaigns can be great, but videos often fare better as far as engagement goes.
Did you know the average open rate for health and fitness email marketing is a smidge less than 22 percent, according to MailChimp? Meanwhile, a survey by Livestream and New York Magazine found that 80 percent of people prefer videos to blog posts. In other words, don’t just rely on words and captions, even when you’re on Instagram and Facebook.
Some of the best engagement rates I’ve seen for my clients are coming from those who are putting out multiple forms of content on multiple platforms. Call it a shotgun approach, but I think it’s pretty effective as far as providing value to multiple types of learners (visual, auditory, written, etc.).
I’ll give you one other example:
Consider that some members of your target audience could have impairments that render certain types of content inaccessible to them. I’m thinking of optometry clinics who ask me to write evergreen pages and blogs for their website but may not see (no pun intended) how these aren’t exactly useful to their patients with low vision or blindness.
3. Being Indiscriminate With Your Research
Phrases like “According to so-and-so” or “Studies say” are worshipped in the health industry. While I appreciate the intent—I am, after all, called to practice evidence-based medicine as a clinician myself—I think brands need to be more conscientious with how they use research to support their cause.
The thing is, these phrases are now so common they’ve tripped a lot of people’s malarkey alarms. After all, what kind of study said what? Was it an observational study? A randomized, placebo-controlled trial? A case report? How many participants were there? What was the drop-out rate? Who funded the study? Was the research done on animals in a lab or germs in a petri dish instead of humans? If it was done on humans, what were their demographics?
And while we’re at it, what do the results actually mean? Was that percentage listed in the headline referring to absolute risk reduction or relative risk reduction? Does the data prove causation (that X causes Y) or does it prove correlation (that X and Y are only somehow related)? Have the results been corroborated by earlier research?
I’m not saying you have to learn how to critically appraise studies, nor that you can’t use those phrases or even anecdotal evidence. I am saying you should always vet your sources, remain transparent, and be prepared to field questions like these from your readers.
As I alluded to earlier, it’s in your best interest to assume that your audience is smart and averse to being hoodwinked. Avoid cherry-picking to prove a point. Be open-minded and honest. This will position you as a trustworthy frontrunner among your competition, plus it’ll boost your own understanding of your field.
In case you’re interested in honing your critical thinking skills when it comes to reading research and news headlines, Ben Goldacre wrote a wonderful book about this subject called Bad Science. (I am a loyal library cardholder and I don’t buy books. I bought this book.)
4. Sharing Boring Content
According to a 2018 paper from the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (see what I did there?), education is a necessary but not sufficient component to behavior change. From a marketing perspective, just giving information may not be enough to get a person to visit your website, or buy your product, or implement your wellness strategy. And if the content is boring or unoriginal, your chances of conversion sink even lower.
It doesn’t mean you’re stuck only talking about high-ranking topics on Google. It just means you need to remedy boring content by helping it connect to your reader in a personal way. To use the classic marketing visual, you want to get your readers to nod their heads.
Yes. That speaks to me.
Make your content un-boring, sticky, and shareable for your audience by:
- Using empathy
- Making it actionable
- Showcasing your personality
- Learning what your readers are curious about
- Using quality writing (and/or hiring quality copywriters)
Successful health and wellness brands use content that helps people identify their pain points and then see how a product or service helps resolve those pain points. It’s not always efficient to just talk statistics or “educate.” You want to inspire action, too.
In the end, don’t share the “wrong” content for your audience. Feel free to talk about trending subjects, but don’t neglect the things you and your audience find interesting, too, even if they’re lower on the search engine hierarchy. The ultimate aim of creating wellness content is to help people, so don’t chase SEO at the expense of creating value for your readers.
Looking for a health writer that can help your brand take its content marketing to the next level? WriterAccess just happens to have some of the top health and wellness writers in the world right here on its platform.
Hire health writers today to create your next online wellness campaign.
Sara M., PT, DPT is a licensed and board-certified doctor of physical therapy. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Boston University. Sara is also a professional freelance writer and copywriter. She researches and writes almost exclusively within the health and wellness field.