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Unlock authenticity in your healthcare marketing

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

If content is king, then authenticity reigns queen these days.

That’s because you can’t read too far into any advice about marketing in 2022 without hearing you need to be authentic.

The trend toward authenticity isn’t new in 2022, but it is one that’s gaining ground. Search “authenticity” in Google’s Ngram Viewer and you’ll find the word has been on the rise since the 1990s, climbing ever so higher since the widespread adoption of social media around 2010.

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Authenticity has influenced every sector, from politics and nonprofits to enterprise businesses and even mom ‘n’pop shops.

Just this week, in Pennsylvania’s primary election, Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman was considered an unusual choice for the party that’s been accused of becoming too elite. He’s 6-foot-8, bearded and tattooed, and he doesn’t like suits.

Regardless of your political persuasion, what’s interesting is this quote from the NYTimes “The Morning” email from David Leonhardt: “The basic theory of Fetterman’s candidacy is that personality and authenticity matter at least as much as policy positions.”

But, where does that leave healthcare organizations whose very nature has always been privacy?

Privacy for patients, of course, is protected by HIPAA. But privacy for providers has always been understood as well.

No longer.

Today’s patient has choices and expectations. Among them is authenticity.

The way for healthcare organizations, from large hospital networks to small private practices, can show up online with authenticity is by being relatable.

Here are 2 ways to unlock authenticity in your healthcare marketing:

Show you know me

Identifying your target audience and appealing to them has always been an important part of marketing. Today’s digital advertising world lets you get laser focused. Your audience should be front and center in your copy.

Jonathan Wilson, chair and CEO of Global Health Marketing & Communications, says, “When consumers – whether that’s patients, healthcare professionals, or caregivers – look for information, they are not differentiating between PR, sponsored content, or advertising. They’re looking for content that resonates with their unique experience.”

In an article on how even pharma is jumping on the authenticity train, the writer points out that the stakes of NOT being authentic in healthcare marketing are high – and not just for your bottom line. “A lack of trust breeds suspicion that contributes to misinformation and even feeds into wider societal issues, such as vaccine hesitancy,” writes Amanda Barrell.

Showing you know your audience doesn’t have to be hard, but it does mean taking time to get to know your audience. Start by interviewing them about preferences, needs and challenges. Understand their experience with your practice, facility or organization both in quick, follow up patient surveys as well in more in-depth conversations with the people you serve.

This gif is me at my truest, most authentic self. — dan levy (@danjlevy) February 22, 2017

3 practical ways to show you know your target patients

Copy: Your copy should reflect THEIR words, not yours. A good copywriter talks to your audience directly to capture this.

Design: The design of your website, social media and any other marketing collateral should reflect the tastes of who you serve. Branding for your healthcare organization isn’t like interior decorating your house to suit your own needs. You’re instead designing a digital space where your audience feels at home.

Photos: This goes without saying, but too many healthcare organizations are still using boring stock photo images in marketing content. Your audience wants to see real people, who look like them. This can even be real people, with the proper HIPAA compliant release forms in place.

Show you can help

Once you’ve done the work to make your audience feel welcome, show them that you are the right one to help them solve their problem. Your job as a healthcare provider isn’t just to show empathy. It’s to provide solutions together with that empathy.

The easiest way to do this is to share your people’s stories. And by people, I mean your expert clinicians and your patients. Patient stories showcase your past success and offer those who need your services a window into what their life could look like if their problem is solved.

But your subject matter experts’ stories are a goldmine for your marketing. Your patients can find similar treatment somewhere else. What they can’t find is you and your team of experts, your exact approach, your process and your research. These are things that make you stand out. Show the human side of those experts while also featuring their careers. This is authentic healthcare marketing at its best.

Sparks of Marketing for healthcare podcast

Check out this week’s episode of the podcast for 3 spring cleaning tips for your content.

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