Writing well is hard work. Writing well for digital audiences, with short attention spans and low patience, is that much harder. Harder still is writing well for a healthcare audience. Good writers who do well in other industries often struggle with healthcare. And that’s in part because of a lack of the right soft skills.
As opposed to hard skills — the technical, knowledge-based abilities and talents one can learn on the job or in school — soft skills are more nebulous. These are the behaviors and personality traits that one develops during their lifetime. They have more to do with attitude and mindset than with a piece of software or a KPI.
The fact that soft skills are hard to learn and hard to measure makes them hard to find when you need to create or improve your healthcare organization’s content. But the quality of content they can yield makes them worth the effort. Let’s discuss four key soft skills you should require from content strategists and creators who will be shaping your content.
Soft skill 1: empathy
Empathy is a critical skill in healthcare content creation in particular. Before you can hope to convince your user to act (more on that in a bit), you must understand who they are and where they’re coming from. You need to know how they’re feeling. And you must ensure the content they find accounts for those feelings.
In many digital and e-commerce-focused applications, the mission focus means most users are going to be feeling eager to buy, annoyed at any inconvenience, unsure about a multitude of options — the list could go on. And healthcare does have to contend with those feelings. But healthcare content also must address feelings that get to the core of the human experience:
- I’m afraid of what’s happening to me now or what could happen to me
- I’m confused about what I’m being told
- I’m angry that this is happening to me
- I’m frustrated that I have to do this to get the care I need
The feelings your user is feeling may be all over the place. Personas and journey maps can help. By narrowing your focus to a specific idea of a user and what steps that user is likely to be taking as they’re encountering your content, you can be more aware of what they’re feeling and craft your content to address those concerns. And when you do so successfully, you can start minimizing those negative emotions and building trust in their place.
Soft skill 2: critical thinking
Once you understand your user and what they’re going through, you can start addressing how to give them the information they’re seeking. Strong critical-thinking skills allow you to take what may be mountains of information about a service or product your organization offers and boil it down to what your user wants to learn.
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Sometimes you have too much information for your users to comfortably comprehend. Between interviews with your subject-matter experts (SMEs), pre-existing digital content, marketing materials and more, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Just as important, though, is if you have gaps in your content that you’ll have to go out and fill, either to be more competitive in your market or to showcase your organization’s leadership in a service or product area. Being able to identify and address both situations is key.
Your user is probably coming to your website and interacting with your content to address three key questions:
- Can you help me with this? (If you have content about the subject, the answer’s probably “Yes.”)
- Why should I trust you over your competitors? (This is your value proposition. Providing this is a major factor in building trust with your consumer.)
- What’s some basic information about this topic to help me make an informed choice? (This also can help you build trust with your consumers, but too much can overwhelm the message you really want to share.)
Too many healthcare organizations get too caught up in answering number 3 in the above list and never get around to number 2. But a skilled healthcare content creator with strong critical-thinking abilities will help keep your content balanced and informative — while also advancing your business goals.
Soft skill 3: persuasion
Your consumer is looking for help making a choice about their healthcare — a provider, a procedure, a health plan, whatever. Your business goal is to encourage them to choose your organization specifically to address that need. You need content that helps you convert consumers into patients or members. And conversion requires persuasion.
Persuading the consumer to take an action can be delicate. They should want to take that action by this point in their individual journey. The action needs to feel like the natural next step for them. Do they want to:
- Make an appointment?
- Buy a plan?
- Call someone for more information?
- Watch a video?
- Sign up for an event or class?
Above all, persuasion in the healthcare space means couching the action in terms of the consumer’s benefit. You can’t just use an imperative sentence (“Learn more,” “Make an appointment,” “Buy your plan,” etc.) and hope for the best. What does the user want? And how will the conversion activity help them get it? (“Get relief from your symptoms. Schedule an appointment with one of our providers.”)
And, of course, your consumer has to trust you in order to take this next step with your organization. Ideally, if you’ve laid the groundwork with your empathetic content that speaks to their concerns, you’ll have built enough trust for the consumer to act.
Soft skill 4: communication
In this case, I’m not talking about the ability to write effectively and convey the required message — although that’s critical, of course. I’m referring to the ability to work within and as a part of your team. Your content creators are almost never the only ones working on your digital and marketing efforts. They must keep your strategists, designers, developers and others informed of their efforts and where there will be overlaps between their workstreams.
Communication skills are also critical for progress reports and information gathering from your service-line and product heads, managers, key leadership and more within your organization. Healthcare organizations, like any major enterprise, involve complex interdepartmental politics. Keeping everyone informed and satisfied can make the difference between a successful project and one doomed to the recycling bin.
Surround yourself with the skillsets you need
As the healthcare industry gets more competitive through consolidation and market disruption, it’s more important than ever to have content creators on your side who have these crucial soft skills.
We help clients across the country understand their healthcare content needs. And we create the kind of content that informs, motivates and converts. Contact us to learn more about our comprehensive healthcare content solutions.