Telling stories in your healthcare marketing content is advice that’s so common, it’s practically cliche. Yet many healthcare organizations and individual clinicians still aren’t heeding the advice. Those that are, aren’t always telling stories well.
Clinicians who share stories in content can help exponentially more people
Just this week I spoke to a midwife about sharing content to promote her new practice. She claimed to have "no idea what to post." Later in the conversation she mentioned she's pregnant.
A lightbulb went off when I told her, that's what you post to social media!
As marketers representing our own business or a large hospital network, we work hard to help our audience feel we understand what they're going through. But someone who's been through it? How fortunate is that business owner or marketer.
A clinician who is comfortable sharing a story or health journey not only shows empathy toward their current and potential patients, but they are educating and supporting people who may not otherwise have access to that information.
For example, clinicians who are sharing their personal stories of long-COVID are helping others recognize those same symptoms in themselves. Patients are then able to raise the issues with their own physicians about a condition that doctors and researchers are only just discovering.
In an article I wrote for DrTalks.com, Jessica Drummond, DCN shares her lingering symptoms and treatment from long-COVID. As an elite athlete and clinician who treats chronic disease, Drummond is uniquely positioned to help others by sharing her personal story. For example, she recommends waiting to return to exercise – something that Drummond knows firsthand is challenging for athletes.
More recently, Rupa Wong, MD shared a very personal story from the hospital where she was undergoing surgery for fibroids. She decided to share it on her practice public Facebook page because she says, “This is why the information that digital content creators create is so, so important. It makes it so that you don't have to have a best friend who is an OB/Gyn to get educated about your body. The information is available to everyone.”
Powerful stories don't have to come just from chronic diseases or surgeries. Sharing a day to day moment that you experience can help your audience connect to you and what you do.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to generate powerful stories for your healthcare audience
Was there a moment when everything changed? (Connect that to how you can change something for your audience)
What was some important lessons I learned and when was the moment I learned it? (Connect that to how you help your audience learn or practice this lesson)
What was something important you accomplished and what did it take to do it? (Connect that to how you help your audience get there)
What was something you hard you still managed to learn and what was that like for you? (Connect that to how it helps you show empathy)
What was something really special for you as a kid and why? (Connect that to a way you make an experience working with you more pleasant)
When was a time when you didn’t have the right tools you needed? (Connect that to how you ensure your audience does have the tools they need)
When was a time someone went out of their way to help you? (Connect that to how you help others)
When did you feel most proud to be doing this work? (Connect to how you are grateful to your audience)
When did you feel you were meant to do this? (Connect to how you help others)
How to share stories so they resonate
Once you have a story, it’s important that you describe the moment in time so that your audience can picture the scene. Share small details like the name of the teacher, the car model or the breed of the dog you found. Then, tie the end of the story to an important message for your audience. You can usually find a few messages that work for each story so that you can reuse the story.
Here’s a framework for how to tell a story:
Open with something to draw in your reader or listener. On social media, you only have a line or two to draw your reader in, so use an opening like…Has this ever happened to you? Can you relate to this? Imagine this: and then set the scene. In a blog or an email, you have more wiggle room to start a story out with an opening that paints a more detailed picture.
Next, share the actual story. You can change details for privacy, but share a few actual details so your audience can visualize your story.
Tie your story to a message. For example, the message can be that they’re not alone. Or that their objection doesn’t have to be a stumbling block.
End with a call to action. If the story is more sensitive, you can encourage people to check our services or learn more from something on your website. But if your story is more benign about a frustration in traffic or spilling coffee, then you can ask people to respond if this has happened to them.
Brands can reach and support more people through storytelling
Storytelling in content isn’t just for individuals. It’s a powerful tool for healthcare brands, showing their ideal audience just some of the following:
That they’re not alone
That the healthcare organization empathizes with their patient’s problems
Where others like them have sought and found treatment and support
The women’s postpartum brand, Frida, did this famously when they produced a video that was rejected by ABC and the Oscars. The documentary style video showed the raw reality of dealing with a newborn and an entirely new body in those first few nights home from the hospital. Women who’ve given birth can’t help but see their former selves in that tough reality, which is one most people never talk about.
At Driscoll Children’s Hospital in the Houston area, I wrote two recent articles that showcase the hospital’s care and services through the experience of one family. In one article, we shared the health story of one patient who recently graduated high school in spite of the fact that she wasn’t expected to live more than a year. In another feature article, we shared the news of a major gift to the hospital school through the lens of the head teacher, who lost her own son at the hospital and dedicated her life to teaching other kids there.
Both articles do more than brag about the hospital’s excellent care. They help families going through the same challenges feel seen and supported.
Storytelling for B2B marketing
Even B2B healthcare businesses can use storytelling to engage their audience and create memorable content. In a recent whitepaper on falls that I wrote for a business serving senior living communities, the story of one subject matter expert’s personal story of how her grandmother’s health declined following a fall stood out among the trends, statistics and expertise we shared.
Formula for successful storytelling
Key to powerful storytelling in healthcare content is to use the story to highlight your organization’s services. It’s also crucial to balance the story with subject matter expertise and supporting data.
For every healthcare blog, white paper or feature article, I recommend including all of the following elements:
Story: A compelling story tends to be the most memorable part of any content you write.
Empathy: Tie the story to your physicians or subject matters experts. Tell how they contributed to the positive outcome. Or tell how they themselves have experienced something similar to how your audience struggles.
Data: Support your story with data that shows the big picture. A good statistic can normalize what your audience experiences or showcase your success rates in treating a particular illness. For example, in a blog about chronic urinary tract infections, I shared that 50 percent of women experience one UTI in their lifetime. This stat normalizes a potentially embarrassing and frustrating problem. There’s misery in company, as they say.
Services: Your goal in telling stories is always to use them as a way to highlight your services so that you can help more people.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center does an excellent job of combining all these elements in their blogs on their Health Blog (go, Bucks!). The blogs read more like a magazine feature article that would rival those in major publications.
The articles draw the reader in by telling an in-depth story of one physician. They’re then able to highlight entire departments within that main feature. As sidebars, they include frequently asked questions and information about how to access those services. This article on the physician who’s served as the lead orthopedic physician for the football team for the past 30 years. Fans of the team can’t help but be intrigued by what it’s like to watch 400 games from the sidelines.
When healthcare brands, as well as clinicians, tell powerful stories in their marketing content, all of us are better off for it. Access to health information is a key element in staying healthy, as an individual and as a community.
Tell your stories so that others can benefit. Your audience and your business will be better off for it.
Let's talk if you want help telling powerful stories in your content for your healthcare organization.