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Get Real: Humanize Your Content to Turn Readers Into Patients

Health content communicators and marketers: How can you raise your content level from “resonating with the audience” to “motivating them to take action?”

You know your target audience: They have questions about their health and they’re looking to you for answers. You know how to reach them: Write empathetic, factual content that trumpets your brand’s unique offerings.

And, don’t stop there. It’s time to immerse yourself in the lives of the people you’re writing for, to create content that will convert users to new patients. Here’s how to humanize your content:

Don’t Make Assumptions About Your Target Audience

Health content communicators are a compassionate lot, imagining other’s experiences so we can create content that’s approachable and informative. Unless you have personal experience with the health issues you’re writing about, you’re going to make assumptions. And assumptions can fall flat.

These include:

  • People with cancer are “fighters”: Many people with cancer bristle at the terms “fighting,” “warrior” and “survivor.” People with serious illnesses often want to live their lives and not think about winner/loser analogies.
  • Pregnant women save their questions for their doctor visits: Most millennials bypass their doctors. First, they turn to apps, YouTube and other technologies. When they experience information overload (who wouldn’t?), they go to their mothers.
  • Wheezing goes hand-in-hand with asthma: Not all people with asthma wheeze. A persistent cough and chest pain can also be signs of asthma. And adults with these nontraditional symptoms often don’t receive the care they need.

How do you dig beneath these assumptions to genuinely understand your audience? Many hospitals use target market analysis and develop buyer personas to learn more. These actions are a step in the right direction. You can still do more.

Humanizing Is Not the Same as Having Personas

Personas are archetypes that provide insights about health-seeking behaviors. For example, Too Busy Tina needs convenient access to care and is willing to pay a little extra for it. Personas enable us to tailor content to meet users’ surface-level needs.survey for writing physician bios

Making content more human goes further because it considers the real-life experience of a patient who has a particular health condition. And when your content reflects these experiences, customers feel understood. They’re also more likely to turn to you for care.

Types of information to help you learn how to humanize your content include:

  • Insights about daily life with illness
  • Answers to common questions and concerns
  • Attitudes toward seeking care — do people need convincing to see a doctor?
  • Firsthand accounts of people who have undergone complex tests and treatments
  • What happens in the weeks, months and years following major surgery

4 Places to Look for Intel

You’d be surprised how easy it is to find this type of information — if you know where to look:

  1. Subject matter experts (SMEs): If you interview SMEs before you start writing, ask them what’s on their patients’ minds. Are there common concerns or misconceptions you can help dispel?
  2. Digital health communities: For example, The Mighty offers crowdsourced content on more than 600 health topics, including autism, cancer and rare diseases. Subscribe to a news feed, and you’ll receive helpful insights on the regular.
  3. Disease-specific blogs: Bloggers include people living with an illness, moms of children who have an illness, caretakers and adult children whose parents are ill. Google “[condition name] blog,” and you’re golden.
  4. User comments: Any time you read online health articles, take a peek at the comments to see what people are saying. Maybe they’ll offer a personal anecdote or share a different point of view on that topic.

More Resources for Content that Connects

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About Laura Bloom

Laura Bloom, MBA

A 20-plus-year veteran of the healthcare industry, Laura’s previous work includes technical writing and project management roles at UnitedHealth Group, WebMD and a federally funded quality improvement organization. Laura has a passion for helping consumers make informed decisions about their care, which is why she became a content writer.... More >