10 Tips for Choosing a Healthcare Content Agency

Google the phrase “content writing,” and your search results will be full of agencies proclaiming they are the best at writing <<insert buzzword>> content for any industry. But how do you know which agency is best for your healthcare organization? How do you find experts who will make your content work for you?

After working solely with healthcare clients for more than a decade, we’ve heard horror story after horror story of content projects gone wrong because vendors just didn’t understand the healthcare niche. The next time you want to refresh service-line content or launch a content marketing project, use these 10 tips to choose a partner that gets healthcare content and the unique needs of your target audiences.

1. Hire writers who don’t write about cars and clothing.

Avoid content shops that “specialize” in several industries. This type of claim means their writers dabble in many topics but aren’t experts in any of them.

Retail industries can use a wide tone and voice range – their products are sexy, entertaining, and often not too serious. Healthcare topics range from wildly exciting (new babies and life-changing technological advances) to incredibly painful (stage 4 cancer and aneurysms).

If writers try to make your content sound flippant or sexy, they’ll open the door for your audience to walk out angry and offended. Striking the right balance between fun and authoritative is a skill that is developed with experience and thorough market research, not overnight as many one-stop agencies claim. Content that is on point for tone and voice will move your audience and develop a loyal audience of potential patients in the process.

2. Make sure their clients’ content doesn’t all sound alike.

It’s easy for agency writers to get wrapped up in one methodology: “This is the tone and voice we are comfortable using.” It takes expertise and skill to adapt to an organizational voice without losing sight of best practices.

A healthcare-focused agency is used to working with many clients in a single industry. These writing teams could write five articles about colonoscopies for five clients, and none will sound the same – they’ll be told in the voice of the subject-matter expert, not the writer.

3. Find out if they’re a writing team or an advice team.

If you want a writer who simply writes what you say, hire a freelancer for $50 an article. But if you want your content to drive conversions and impact ROI, collaborate with an agency, partner, or vendor that understands healthcare digital strategy.

Writers who are also digital strategists see beyond the words in front of them. They envision the visitor’s journey from the content entry point and drive visitors through the content and toward an action. While good writing is integral to an effective website, it’s not the sole component of an effective digital strategy that should be applied across the site and off-site channels as well. Which leads me to my next point.

4. Ensure they understand your content goals.

Campaigns should have goals. And I do consider content writing projects campaigns. Some articles are written for entertainment or education, some for conversion, and many for a conglomeration of both. Effective content writing will make the call to action strong and apparent without losing the person-centric approach to the topic.

And if the approach feels too markety or organization-centric, a solid content writing team will share that with you, because they should be digital strategists, too.

5. Determine if they’re data-driven.

Exceptional writers can make anything sound good, but writers who also are strategists make content actionable and searchable. Data-driven writers collaborate with dedicated search engine marketing specialists or may have personal experience in search engine marketing.

Ask the team for examples of keyword-rich content to ensure it reads naturally and not as if it was stuffed with SEO-favorable terms. If the team can’t provide examples, don’t hire them.

6. Find out how they deliver phased content.

Do the writers have a rigid “this is how we’ve always done it” approach? Or are they willing to work with your internal systems?

If you are working on a large content project with a lot of moving parts, an experienced team will deliver content in manageable sprints instead of in large batches. This approach protects your internal editors from feeling overwhelmed and helps keep content projects on schedule. Plus, it’s simply polite for partners to respect your time! It also allows teams to find opportunities to improve content before a lot of it has been created.

7. Look for a flexible set of content packages.

Many content shops offer an all-or-nothing approach, which is effective for them, but might not fit your specific needs.

Look for content partners that can deliver what you need within an appropriate budget or offer affordable service levels that effectively support your goals.

Keep in mind that the lowest cost or a slashed price often can signal an inexperienced partner – or one that does not understand the full scope of the project. But if your goals and priorities are aligned, the right agency will provide valuable ways to work within your budget.

8. Make sure they know how to talk to doctors.

Doctors have a language all their own, and it’s typically full of long, complex words mere mortals rarely dare to pronounce. But healthcare writers take these phrases in stride and effectively define them for the rest of us without losing the physician’s authoritative edge.

Work with content partners that use journalistic practices, such as getting right to the point, speaking to physicians and other subject-matter experts in their language, and developing good rapport with their interviewees. And make sure the writers have a lot of experience talking with doctors so they get good stories and don’t get intimidated on the phone or in person.

9. Check their ability to handle large projects.

This tip isn’t meant to disparage companies that are just starting out. Everyone needs their big break!

But there’s safety in experience. When other organizations your size have been the content team’s prior projects and come out successful, you can feel more at ease giving them your trust and budget.

If you choose to work with a company that has never taken on a large digital project, closely scrutinize their smaller projects, including timelines and workflow, to ensure that the team is capable of handling your project.

10. See if they report on successes after project is done.

Professional service relationships don’t have to end when a project is completed. A great content team will be as enamored with your successes as you are. They’ll continue to track your projects and rejoice over your success long after the relationship is over.

You can get a feel for your prospective agency’s relationship-building skill by watching their activity on social media. Do they frequently share or retweet former clients’ content? Do they congratulate former clients for successes in which they weren’t involved?

Do they include a follow-up meeting to report successes?

When you sign on a content partner, you should get more than labor. You should receive strategic advice, professional support, and content that you can trust to move your audience into action.

You’re choosing an agency to speak for you and represent your expertise. That’s an important decision. Make sure to find a partner that understands your goals and knows how to accomplish them with smart, effective healthcare content.

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