6 Insights From Work on a Large Health Network Project

Huge Healthcare Organizations Face the Same Content Challenges as We All Do.

Insights from the Big Guys

Insights from the Big Guys

16 hospitals, a host of clinics, thousands of employees. I was beyond thrilled when I signed up to partner with a dynamic digital marketing agency redesigning a large health network’s multi-layered website. Working on a team of writers, we were assigned to craft style, reimagine voice, and research copy that connected to a very wide range of users…and continue to reflect the organizations brand.

I want to share these 6 project insights so you can apply them to your own health communications strategy.

#1: First thing, call out your audience. “You want to…” should be a concept or a phrase used straight out of the gate. When a user lands on a page, they want to know they’re in the right place and that you’re talking their language.

It’s not just okay to address your health audience specifically, it’s absolutely necessary. “You want to be heart healthy.” “You want to know how to prepare for surgery.” “You want to learn your bill paying options.”

Don’t try to address every reader on every page, those who don’t find what they’re looking for will go elsewhere, hopefully within your site if the navigation is clear and your design considers the readers’ needs at all stages of their journeys.

But if they do see themselves immediately on the page, recognize they’ve got something to learn there, and that you are going to share something with them, well, you’ve just made a meaningful connection with relevant content.

#2: Ask the questions. If you are truly connected with the mind of the health consumer as you write, you can anticipate their questions as they finish a section of content. Ask it for them. Seeing their questions reflected on the page confirms that they are not the only ones wondering, but also that you get their needs. “What are the warning signs?” “What can I do to prevent this?” “How do I find a doctor?”

#3: The same voice can tell different stories. Readers entering a website on the Healthy Weight Loss Tips page, connect differently than those landing on the Bariatric Surgery page. However, though these users enter your health website in different places, they may still navigate to the same content, though at different times. This is precisely why it’s so important to stay with a core style of conversing, but deliver the content needed at each point of the user’s journey a bit differently.

Think about how you communicate in these different day-to-day scenarios: chatting lightly with your partner on the patio, having a serious conversation about budget, or dividing out weekend chores; you are still you, even though you communicate to match the needs of the differing situations. It’s the same with your brand voice. Your voice stays consistent throughout the user journey, but takes on a different tone, delivers the appropriate depth of information at different points on you health website, and selects language carefully to match.

#4: Focus on what readers need, not what you feel is important for them to know. Maybe it’s the same in your health company, there are often many stakeholders in a brand. Maybe you work with doctors, managers, products, boards, institutions, or all of the above. It’s easy to forget the needs of your audience because everyone has an interest in the information they feel is important to deliver.

Is it important to the user that this is part of an institute that is comprised of x researchers with x technology with x fellows? At some point, maybe. But if you construct your site to meet users at all points of their journey, you’ll get them to that information if it’s important to them by strategic calls to action and navigation. But if you try to shovel information that’s important to entities within your health organization before the user is ready to get there, you’ll lose them and never get them where you want them to go.

Save the lingo and the credentials and the research for further down the content funnel, or your stake holders might be happy, but your audience will forget all about you, no matter how many stats and letters you have to support what you do.

#5: The whole story can’t be told in words. I’m a writer. I love words. I adore a compelling story and lap up every last complex sentence and strong verb. But in your digital health communications, you can’t rely solely on the written word. Strategic calls to action that entice a user to drill down further. Images that link to related content. A navigation menu that is clear. And content that links to other pages on your site. Long pieces of content are not bad, if they relate to the user at that point in the journey, each word is weighted with meaning, and the reader can easily scan the page for the nuggets that catch their eye. Online, content is not just the written word. Story is not only found in a paragraph. The entire page is a chapter in a story the user chooses to unfold in a way that is meaningful to them.

#6: Keep it positive. “Don’t, won’t, shouldn’t, can’t, never.” These are all words I would plug in to search and replace when editing content. “Don’t eat fried food,” can be replaced with “Select foods that are baked or broiled, they’re low in saturated fats and can be delicious as well.” People like options, they like to feel encouraged. Being negative connotes shame and doubt. Likewise, strike references to fear or overwhelming statistics. “Millions of people worldwide suffer…” connects less to individuals than “In our Toledo community…” And “1 in 5 people will die from…” does less to move the needle than “You can take control of…” Scare tactics may motivate instant actions, but do little to impact lasting change.

You want a long-term, loyal community. They’re looking for you too. You can absolutely, positively find one another with a health content strategy that considers these simple insights learned from the big guys.

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