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The Healthcare Brand Persona

A nurse treats a young patient

The healthcare brand persona is the new archetype marketers are creating to fully articulate their brand’s voice, tone, and feel. 

“Cura te ipsum.” It’s Latin for “Heal thyself” — a proverb physicians have told themselves for thousands of years. The idea is that you can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself. Well, in today’s hypercompetitive healthcare industry, we think healthcare organizations (HCOs) should take this to heart as well: “Scire te ipsum,” or “Know yourself.”

If you’re a healthcare marketer, I’d wager you have an audience persona or two hanging out in a folder. And for those who don’t, my colleague Michael Adkins and I have written extensively about the value that these tools bring to just about every area of your organization. However, most overlook the need for a brand persona. Let’s look at how marketer’s can “Know yourself” more deeply and create a brand persona that connects, resonates, and drives action. 

What is a healthcare brand persona? 

If your brand were a person, how would they look, act, talk? What words do they use? What vibe do they give off? Why did they get into healthcare, and why should patients trust them? And, perhaps most importantly, how are they different from the personas your competitors are creating? 

These are big questions, and like any good movie or book, the richer the detail you can infuse your brand persona the more opportunities you give your audiences to form a connection. A brand persona is an articulation of the answers to these questions. A brand persona is essentially building a realistic story around the type of brand you want to be.  

Step 1: Create a brand persona foundation 

Michael Adkins wrote an article about brand archetypes, and I can’t think of a better place to start when thinking about your brand persona. In essence, Michael argues that a brand archetype can not only help you understand who your brand is but also who you want it to be. Is your brand a Caregiver, offering empathy, trust, and support? A Sage, the wise, academic researcher? Or perhaps the Everyman, a reflection of the audiences you serve? Or perhaps you’ve veered into other archetypes that may not quite fit the character and culture you want your organization to represent.    

Step 2: Build detail into your brand persona 

Let’s say you go through the archetype exercise and determine that the Caregiver is the archetype of choice for your organization. Great choice! Now, let’s break that down further using an old standby in the development of stories: who, what, when, where, why, and how.  

  • Who is this Caregiver? Where do they live? What do they do for fun? Do they have kids, a job, pets?  
  • What does this Caregiver do? What makes them a Caregiver? What characteristics do they display that makes them empathetic or supportive? What do they do to build trust with your audiences? What does “caregiving” mean to them?  
  • When and where does this Caregiver provide care? Are they providing care only at your organization? Out in the community? For their families? Are they providing care all the time or at  certain times? Are they providing care for the disadvantaged or for marginalized communities?  
  • How are they providing care? We looked at what caregiving means to your persona, but let’s take that a step further and look at how they provide care. For example, are they focusing on preventive care and wellness, emergency care, urgent care, or education? Or perhaps a mix of all? How do they deliver that to the community?  
  • Why are they a Caregiver? Ah, perhaps the most important one of all. Brands need to be able to speak to their why, and your brand persona needs to have a strong perspective on why they are in healthcare and taking on the Caregiver archetype. Simon Sinek has done a lot of work on helping people and organizations articulate why brands do what they do, and this quick video from his TEDx talk is a great primer for uncovering your organization’s why.  

Step 3: Look no further than your own staff members to inspire your brand persona  

If digging into the ”who, what, when, where, why and how” is challenging, or if you simply want to verify some of those detail you’ve build into your brand persona, your staff members can help. Every organization, and just about every department, has those employees who are the rock of the group. They’ve been around, know a lot, and embody the best that the organization has to offer. They are the culture drivers (and, most likely, they are called on to interview prospective employees or mentor new hires for that very reason).  

Find those folks, and take them out for coffee. Ask about their who, what, when, where, why, and how. Odds are, they are a very close match to the brand persona you are creating. And their knowledge and passion will help you infuse your brand persona with realistic nuances that give your persona personality.  

Step 4: Introduce your brand persona to the organization

Now that you’ve built your brand persona, don’t keep it to yourself. Pop it into your style guide, make sure your content authors are familiar with who they are embodying with each word, let HR use it as they are speaking about the organization to prospects, and give it to your front-desk folks to inspire them as they are greeting each person that walks through the front door. Finally, make sure that your digital front door embodies the spirit of your brand persona.  

Our Digital Healthcare Strategy team helps healthcare and life sciences organizations better understand their audiences and create memorable digital experiences that connect and convert. Contact us today for more information.  


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Marlana Voerster

Marlana Voerster is a Senior Healthcare Strategist at Perficient, where she works with providers and MedTech, pharma, and digital health organizations to build brand loyalty and enhance the patient experience through customer-centric digital experiences.

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