Content marketing can build healthcare brand awareness, increase patient acquisition, and drive ROI. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Frankly, there are many barriers to overcome, and doing so takes extra time and effort.
We’ve been helping healthcare clients share their stories for more than a decade. In that time, we’ve heard just about every reason why organizations “can’t” share unique content. But each of these barriers can be overcome with thoughtful, integrated strategies and the right team.
We’ve compiled the six most common content marketing barriers below, as well as the strategies we recommend to overcome them. Let’s get started.
1. Our doctors don’t have time
Unique content keeps your organization top of mind and keeps patients coming back. But to create effective, unique content, you shouldn’t simply Google the topic and whip up a post. You have to talk to your doctors and other subject matter experts.
Often, it’s not the doctor saying they don’t have time – it’s the marketing team assuming so or trying to safeguard the doctors’ time. A few of the reasons marketers feel they “can’t” get on their doctors’ calendars include:
- Doctors are busy seeing patients – they’re only available before and after clinic hours.
- They don’t have stories or don’t want to share them.
- Marketing already asks for a lot of the doctors’ time for other projects.
The first step is to overcome the fear of asking for your doctors’ time. Doctors are busy, but most understand that marketing is important, even for a necessary service like healthcare. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that many physicians are eager to talk about their work and help their practices grow.
If your physicians truly are available only before and after clinic hours, make yourself available as well — and bring coffee. The physician’s opinion is what makes your content unique and marketable. Without that element, content often ends up sounding generic and won’t stand out from your competitors’ stories.
Remember that it’s possible to get more out of your physicians in the time you’ve already booked with them. With a little planning, you can get four to six stories out of a one-hour interview. Consider recording your interviews to make sure you don’t have to take notes and can instead engage in the conversation. You can further maximize your SME’s time and expertise by publishing the content across several media, from digital to print.
2. Our doctors want to write, but their style is too technical
Some doctors are excellent writers for a lay audience. In fact, many of the doctors we work with have been published in journals and are frequently tapped as media resources. However, many doctors write to a level that is more appropriate for other physicians, which is too high-level for the average person to engage with online. Also, that type of writing typically is not optimized for SEO.
First, be grateful that your doctors are eager to participate. Next, show them data about how people search and read online. Physicians are data-driven by nature, and there is plenty of existing research about the importance of appropriate reading level, proficiency, and emotional connection through content.
Next, offer to ghostwrite for them. Web writing is a whole new ball game compared to the academic writing to which many doctors are accustomed. They may welcome your help.
Third, remember that search engines function with the user in mind. The advent of voice search technology means people search for “what’s wrong and how to fix it” rather than specific medical terms. When you need to use complex terms, define them so people can find and engage with your content.
3. We don’t have the bandwidth
This is a huge problem for marketing, communications, and web teams. You’re busy with day-to-day work – how can you possibly squeeze in content creation for blog articles, social media posts, video campaigns, etc.?
This is where we start to see teams fall victim to excessive vetting and unnecessary approval processes. All of these issues crop up as teams scramble for reasons not to publish, instead of seeking reasons to share their content. The best content marketers find a way to publish.
You don’t have to recreate the wheel for every channel. If you’re writing a blog article, break it down into snippets to share on social media. Reuse the content in e-newsletters or as a basis for a live chat on social media. If you recorded the physician interview, you can create videos or podcasts for your website and social channels.
Approval barriers and excessive vetting are among the toughest issues to overcome. Every person who reviews a piece of content likely will find something to change because they feel like they must. Establish a rule that editing for preference is not allowed – “not how I would do it” is not the same thing as “wrong.”
No organization needs 10 people to vet or edit content, even if this the historical process. Digital content is alive – it can be updated on the fly and is almost never set in stone once it’s published.
We recommend as few levels of approval as is feasible:
- Internal editor
- Physician subject matter expert
Occasionally there will need to be a higher level of approval for touchy subjects, but don’t fall into that habit for everything you create.
4. We’re afraid of annoying followers with too many posts
Many organizations have a fear of frequency. Every time I talk to clients, they ask, “Won’t followers get annoyed if they see the same post twice?” No – unless they’re trolling you, but these people aren’t your idea audience, anyway.
Cleveland Clinic shared at a 2016 conference that they post to Facebook 16 times per day with very few unfollows because their content is unique. If you publish educational, entertaining, and informational content, you won’t annoy your followers.
The best way to underutilize a piece of content is to post it only once to social media. Instead, distribute your content in a strategic way. On social media, that means redistributing your posts in a cycle rather than one-and-done posting.
Remember: Not everyone will see every post you publish. Social media moves fast, and with so much content pushed to people’s feeds – and some not making it to all feeds due to certain algorithms – it’s unrealistic to think every follower will catch every post.
Consumers come and go – they don’t simply hang out on your social media pages. Consistently talking keeps you top of mind, so when the need for care arises, they’ll remember you.
5. We don’t know what will resonate with the audience
Healthcare organizations often struggle to balance what they want to talk about with what audiences care about. The overlap is the sweet spot for content initiatives.
Monitor which topics your audience engages most and create more in a similar vein. All the social platforms offer real-time analytics. Analyze reading and conversion trends to determine which topics and types of content are most effective.
Think of this as digitally “asking” your audience what they like and don’t like. Also, consider actively surveying the comments people leave on social, via email, and offline – these are great sources for timely, relevant content topics.
6. We’re not sure the effort is worth it
Implementation is far and away the most difficult barrier for organizations to overcome. We hear marketers say:
- It’s too hard to measure ROI for content
- Past attempts have failed
- Too many people (or too few) want to be involved
Healthcare content marketing is a cycle of tests, adjustments, and measuring what matters. Think beyond shares and link clicks and consider what visitors’ do after they land on your site. What pages are they visiting? What are their next steps? How can content adjustments help them convert when the time is right?
When properly implemented, content marketing works. Start your strategy with best practices, then adjust based on the results.
Content is cumulative; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Short-term wins (spikes in followers, popular posts, etc.) feel good. But the long-term benefits of brand lift and patient acquisition/retention often take six months to a year to surface. The key is to hang in there and keep publishing unique, relevant content.