Content is king, some say. Except the content universe has no respect for royalty: it's pretty much a meritocracy. To rise above its glut, a marketer has to make certain they're pulling out every stop in driving awareness and content consumption.
That's especially true in healthcare and institutional medical marketing, I've discovered after a recent immersion in the oncology space.
Some shun applying the label "marketing" to promoting stories of survival, human hope, medical breakthroughs. It's a schismatic word. Within many hospital or medical research organizations, there's a policed separation between "communication and awareness" and "marketing."
Now, if the baseline objective of a blogpost, white paper, social media outreach or other tactic is to cultivate awareness and drive donations, or patient acquisition, or achieve other goals, that looks an awful lot like marketing to me.
But whatever we call it, there's an ROI goal attached. To reach that ROI, or KPI, content has to be effective. How can we make content - especially content that's long-form, that needs to tell a bigger story - more effective?
By taking advantage of every available best practice in content creation and publication. If it's not optimized for multiple screens and platforms, if it doesn't engage and illuminate by leveraging what modern digital design offers, if it's not syndicated properly, then it's running the race in shackles.
That doesn't just do a disservice to a medical marketer's objectives. It also doesn't do justice to the human stories at the heart of healthcare.
A content design comparison: 2 stories of survival
Here are two "survivor stories" showing what you might see above-the-fold on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Each takes a slightly different approach to grabbing the reader's attention.
I'm not being totally fair in this comparison, of course. The story at left is a feature from WIRED magazine, which devotes terrific design and writing resources to creating the stickiest possible content. The middle is an online survivor profile from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, no slouches at getting their mission across to the public.
To get the complete user experience delivered by each story, please click on the links above.
One of these organizations is interested in selling advertising and subscriptions. The other is focused on driving awareness, donations, grants, patient queries and referrals. But they both want to arouse meaningful engagement and social sharing by presenting content that supports them as a category leader.
Why it's fair to compare
Let's cut to the chase: The WIRED story wrings the absolutely most out of its opportunity to engage readers, thanks to superb writing, excellent use of mobile-friendly formatting, and excellent design and photography. It doesn't even use all the weapons in a content designer's arsenal, but it doesn't have to.
"But that's a slick online magazine," you might object. "You can't compare it to the other one."
I'd answer with a question: If you're targeting inbound engagement and social media reach, trying to buff brand image and reputability, and ultimately aiming to convince patients, donor and physicians alike that your hospital or institution is the ne plus ultra in its field, why would we duck the comparison?
If WIRED or another well-designed e-zine represents the apogee of content design, capturing hundreds of thousands of eyeballs, why wouldn't a healthcare brand follow suit and make its own content more readable, more accessible, more entertaining and buzzworthy?
Digital consumers are making comparisons every day that affect how their perceive brands. They're unconsciously making value judgments about you based on whether or not the user experience you gave them is seamless, contemporary, optimized.
Even the St. Jude profile is mobile-friendly, acknowledging of the way people consume content nowadays, even if they're doctors and other healthcare professionals. Or grant writers.
Content: the new foundation 0f healthcare engagement
The fact is, healthcare content marketing is still behind the curve and has a lot of ground to make up. At the pace of change that's underway, with the growth of online "shopping" by healthcare consumers, marketing automation and Big Data personalization, a provider who slips too many steps behind will be at a deadly disadvantage.
Listen closely enough and you'll still hear the old complaints about how these approaches aren't suitable for the healthcare category, that's it somehow denigrating to apply digital engagement techniques to, for example, explaining a disease state.
But the argument doesn't hold water. Why? Because institutions and even physicians no longer run the game.
Whether they're looking for survivor profiles to reassure them of a hospital's competence or trying to understand complex conditions or treatments, healthcare consumers are calling the shots.
So delivering content clarity, personalization, crisply-written text, superb infographics and useful interactions will separate leaders from also-rans, same as they do in other content categories. If a medical marketer is still mired in the mentality that walls of arcane text are the "content" audiences will embrace, they're making a fateful mistake.
The authenticity and interactive engagement found in the best healthcare content takes full advantage of the new ways healthcare consumers want to relate to providers.
By designing an optimal content experience for users, we strengthen our relationship with them by proving we're invested in making them have a clearer, better understanding of the choices available to them.
If that's "marketing," then it's the kind we can be proud to provide.