Writing healthcare marketing content is a bit of a tightrope act. You want to be intriguing enough to attract people’s attention in order to share important information about their health and about how you can help. The content must also be very respectful, factual and clear. Whether your audience is prospective patients for a medical practice or healthcare colleagues for referrals or internal communications, the tone of the piece, the authenticity of the material and the straightforwardness are key elements in getting your message across.
Tone of Voice in Healthcare Writing
Even if you can’t quite put your finger on why, you know when you are reading or hearing someone and their approach seems out of line with the situation. A presenter might curse at a business event. Or the language in a solicitation letter is so formal you can’t quite grasp what they want from you.
You need to imagine who exactly you want to talk to and how you want to come across to be in alignment with your brand, the purpose of the piece and the business goals. For example, an invitation to the open house of a new wellness center could be a bit whimsical. But if your target audience is women ages 35 to 55 who are interested in pain management and may be open to yoga and other approaches, you don’t want to use messy metaphors or give off a “dude, let’s party” vibe. You can be warm and even casual without using excessive slang or way too many exclamation marks.
Facts and References
You definitely can’t play loose and fast with the facts when you write for the healthcare or medical market. Even healthcare web content should be held to a higher standard regardless of whether or not you add references for any factual statements or newsworthy posts.
Obviously, if you are writing a white paper or summarizing research data of any kind, you need to keep careful notes on source material and reference it accurately. Links to journal articles or footnotes that follow the appropriate style manual all need to be in place and carefully proofed.
Non-scientific pieces like informational website content or factsheets should offer factual data to support the key points. A web page we wrote for a sleep medicine clinic explained “hypersomnia” or excessive sleepiness and its symptoms. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 40% of people have some symptoms of hypersomnia from time to time. That factoid was included to reinforce how widespread the condition is which helps put it in context for readers.
Get to the Point
Some industries and professions do well with more storytelling or preamble. Unless you are writing for a lifestyle publication or blog, a more direct approach is always better for health and medical content. You may still want to add an anecdote to personalize and draw the reader into the piece. But take care not to let it run on. People are busy and if they have health problems to solve, they probably don’t want your preamble to go on and on like some recipe bloggers.
Plot your content in bullet format or even a fully-fledged outline if the piece will be longer. Following the journalistic style of writing, you can even structure small pieces in the inverted pyramid which is to put the important information first, followed by supporting info in order of decreasing importance. Or use that essay writing shortcut we (maybe? probably?) learned in school: Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them. Structure and repetition.
You can experiment with these writing tactics to a certain extent. Social media in particular provides several options to test copy and links and track the impact they have. More importantly, take time to copyedit the final piece carefully while keeping those three elements in mind. You can keep the balance between being clinically accurate while being genuinely compelling.