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Healthcare Writing Training: 5 Ways Your Content Team Can Benefit

It can seem like training is never-ending in the corporate setting — particularly in the healthcare industry. You’ve got compliance training, processes training, training from corporate leadership, onboarding training for new team members and more. But there’s one more type of training your healthcare content strategists and marketers need that you’re (probably) not doing: healthcare writing training.

Whether you’ve assembled a team of young, hungry writers fresh out of college or a seasoned team of experienced professional marketers, it’s useful to have training specific to the nuances of healthcare content creation. Let’s walk through some of the many ways your team will benefit from this kind of training.

1. It’s not a return to middle school English class

Good training in how to write for healthcare consumers on the web should assume your content professionals can write. (If they can’t, you have other problems.) What they may not have, however, are the skills needed to succeed in writing for a healthcare audience.

I’ve written before about how hard it can be to write for healthcare consumers. The skills that often are part of successful digital marketing in other areas of commerce don’t always translate exactly to healthcare marketing. That’s especially true on the provider side, where consumers don’t like to think of healthcare as a thing they buy in the same vein as they would a TV or a car. In addition, your own internal style guides and reference materials may be outdated or providing guidance that doesn’t resonate with today’s healthcare consumers. For example, we’ve worked with some clients whose internal reference materials still insist on “he/him/his” or “she/her/hers” pronouns, despite “their” coming into wider usage for its greater inclusivity.

If someone is trying to sell you on training that focuses on sentence diagramming and verb conjugation, that should be a hard pass. (And I say that as a word nerd who loves diagramming sentences and conjugating verbs!) But good healthcare writing training should help everyone on your team get on the same page before it’s time to start filling those pages with content.

2. Healthcare writing training helps your team drive conversions

Too many healthcare content strategists and content marketers get caught up in an academic or informative approach to their writing. We see this all the time with clients whose websites read like a mix of Wikipedia and “The New England Journal of Medicine.” They have gobs of educational content about what conditions are, what treatments are, painstaking explanations of procedures and so on.

That kind of content has its place. Some high-profile, well-respected academic medical centers and healthcare organizations have carved out a strong niche there. But, as we tell clients often, you’re never going to be able to compete with them for traffic or interest. Whether you license content from a health library or write your own, people already know where to go and whom to trust for the educational content. And it’s not you.

But that’s OK! Because it’s not what your users want anyway. What they want is threefold:

  • Emotional information: How do I feel about you? How will I feel as your patient? How will you treat me?
  • Information about your value proposition: Who are you and your care team members? What makes you different? What makes you better?
  • Information about next steps: How do I move forward with you?

When you learn as a team about how to optimize your content to address these three concerns, your content stops being simply an educational asset and a net liability. And it becomes a conversion engine and a net driver of revenue.

3. Healthcare writing training teaches you how to write toward healthcare personas

Too many healthcare organizations go through the trouble and expense of creating healthcare personas and journey maps and then never touching them again. But that should just be the first step. Your content strategy and content marketing professionals should be using these personas every time they put their virtual pens to the virtual paper.

Good healthcare writing training gives your team members the skills and strategies they need to write toward the specific needs, desires, motivations and emotions of your specific user personas. It helps your writers learn to write for these personas as though they’re actual people, rather than marketing demographics. We call this “writing like you’re in the room.” If you write to your audience members as though you’re sitting down with them at their dinner tables with them, you’ll connect and resonate with them. Write like you talk — and, more importantly, how they talk.

Which brings me to an important point …

4. It helps you take back the conversation from physicians

This is a big one for most healthcare organizations — particularly provider organizations. Inside politics and deference to subject-matter experts often mean an organization-centric, academic-minded style of content.

We’ve seen many organizations with content that is rooted in their internal hierarchies and departmental structures. And it may be an obvious point, but it’s worth noting for posterity: Consumers don’t care about that. Like, at all. Not to mention the fact that getting in the weeds in your own internal hierarchies can confuse and intimidate consumers if they can’t intuitively understand and navigate your content. But it often takes an outside trainer’s perspective to give marketing teams the tools and political ammunition to take an approach that resonates better with consumers, rather than physicians.

5. Healthcare writing training teaches you how to write for healthcare SEO

True search-engine optimization (SEO) is important. And it should be its own separate activity, managed by SEO experts. But good healthcare writing training should marry SEO best practices with your content strategies. Your team members should know and understand how to:

  • Properly nest headers
  • Optimize their use of keywords (as given to them by their SEO colleagues)
  • Write for readability guidelines
  • Include inline links that drive engagement
  • Incorporate Google’s EEAT (experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) guidelines into blog articles and other suitable content

The result should be content that reads naturally and encourages conversion while also bringing consumers to your site from Google and other search engines. This again gets everyone on the same page, rather than working at cross-purposes.

Class is in session. Are your content team members ready?

We customize our Writing for the Web training to our clients’ unique needs to give your team members the tools and resources they need. Are you looking for the basics for those newer team members who are just starting out? Or are you looking for more targeted guidance for experienced team members who need some help connecting and resonating with your audience?

Whatever you need, we’re here to help. Contact us to learn more about our content strategy offerings.

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Michael Adkins, Senior Content Strategist, Digital Health Strategy

As part of Perficient's Digital Health Strategy team, Michael partners with healthcare organizations to create informative, conversion-centered content for a variety of applications, including websites and blogs. Michael writes content that highlights clients’ service-line offerings, expertise in unique treatments, differentiators in competitive markets and additional factors that are important to patients.

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