The Ultimate Guide to AI for Healthcare Marketers + Do’s and Don’ts Cheatsheet What You Need to Know
The Ultimate Guide to AI for Healthcare Marketers + Do’s and Don’ts Cheatsheet What You Need to Know

Clear language is essential to healthcare marketing. It makes health information easier to understand and is widely preferred by caregivers and patients.

But as a hospital marketer, patients aren’t your only audience. You also put resources into marketing to doctors for referrals and recruitment. Part of your job is knowing how to market to medical professionals.

At Aha Media Group, we’re no strangers to marketing to physicians, either. We had a hunch that doctors prefer plain language communication. We tested our theory and found that it’s true — 80% of B2B healthcare decision-makers prefer content written in plain language.

You may have already known this. But maybe you’ve had trouble getting stakeholders on board due to misconceptions about what “plain language” means. Let’s set a standard definition for plain language, bust the myths and convert your SMEs today.

Clear or Complex? The Business Case for Plain Language in Healthcare

Download the report to see how plain language impacts B2B buying decisions in healthcare. Read the Findings

What is plain language?

Plain language, or patient-centered language, is writing that is clear, concise and easy to read. Your audience can generally understand it the first time they read it without much mental strain.

Plain language is formatted to aid in reading comprehension (think short sentences and bulleted lists). It also avoids jargon or extra words and opts for accessible alternatives, like these examples:

Medical term Plain-language alternative
autoimmune disease disease where your body attacks itself
coagulate clot, set, clump together
hematological related to the blood and blood-forming organs
pathogen germ, virus, disease-causing agent
sutures stitches

Source: CDC National Center for Health Marketing, Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications, 2009

But language that’s plain to some readers may not be plain to others. Different readers bring different literacy levels and prior knowledge to each piece of content. Another way to consider plain language is writing that helps your audience:

  • Find what they need
  • Understand what they find
  • Use what they find to meet their needs

In short, plain language is written for the intended audience — patients, physicians or B2B buyers — and helps them make informed decisions.

Myths about plain language and marketing to physicians

Learning best practices for marketing to physicians is one thing. Getting stakeholders on board with those practices is another.

Doctors and healthcare executives don’t always see the use of plain language — especially when you’re writing to a B2B audience. The phrase “plain language” is poorly understood and leads to misconceptions. Let’s break down these myths.

Myth 1: Using plain language means “dumbing down” your content.

We hear this one a lot. Executives and doctors don’t want to “dumb down” their content, especially when it’s meant for a highly educated audience. We get it — we respect our readers too much to insult them by “dumbing it down.”

But using plain language isn’t doing that.

Remember, plain language isn’t simply about reading comprehension or literacy levels. It’s about presenting information in a way that helps buyers make decisions.

The more complex the decision, the more your audience appreciates easy-to-understand content. That’s why we advocate for plain language in B2B marketing to doctors.

Myth 2: Academia-style writing makes you look smarter

Have you ever sat through a meeting with Mr. Superior Thinking, the guy who speaks in acronyms, sounds like a walking encyclopedia and wants everyone to know his intellect? Let’s call that person Jake. You probably don’t like Jake.

People like Jake seem arrogant and untrustworthy. (He’s the kind of guy you’d expect to passive-aggressively cc you in an email chain with your boss … not the kind of guy you’d tell that you took a sick day to see Beyoncé.)

You don’t want people to think of you like they think of Jake. Your audience should trust you and feel like you understand them. Clear, accessible language helps you build that trust.

Myth 3: Educated audiences prefer “sophisticated” writing.

This one seems logical. People want content that matches their “reading level,” right? Actually, no. There’s an inverse relationship.

Research by a U.S. literacy professor and a U.K. linguistics consultancy found that even subject matter experts prefer clear language. In fact, “the more educated the person, the greater their preference for plain English.”

Even audiences who can read and understand technical, complex material still prefer plain language. Keep this in mind when marketing to physicians.

How to get doctors on board with a plain language approach

Now that you’ve explained plain language to SMEs and busted the misconceptions, how do you convince them to let you ditch the jargon — especially when you’re marketing to doctors?

Here are our tips:

1. Don’t call it “plain language”

This phrase is misunderstood. Your stakeholders may have opinions about plain language, so call it something else. Here are some synonyms we use for the term that your SMEs might be more comfortable with:

Speech bubbles with alternatives for Plain Language

2. Run your own tests

Having trouble getting stakeholders and SMEs to commit to a plain language approach for your healthcare communications? Propose a test run.

Perform split-tests of content with technical writing and plain language alternatives to let stakeholders experience the difference clear language can make. Track and present the metrics, then tie it to revenue (because you know they’re going to ask).

3. Show them the data

Numbers talk. Deliver your plain language pitch with research supporting its use in B2B marketing to doctors.

Our report (linked below) is packed with B2B marketing stats that make a case for plain language. Use our research as evidence and find more helpful stats in this healthcare content writing training video.

Clear or Complex? The Business Case for Plain Language in Healthcare

Download the report to see how plain language impacts B2B buying decisions in healthcare. Read the Findings

Want more tips for marketing to doctors?

We’re passionate about plain language in physician-to-physician marketing. And we have more tricks up our sleeves for marketing to physicians. Get tips in your inbox that will help you boost recruitment numbers and referrals.

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