If you’ve scanned news headlines recently, you likely already know the current healthcare climate. While more discussion around issues that matter is a good thing, the recent attention proves one thing: healthcare isn’t cut and dry.
Despite the recent revelation that “nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated,” healthcare is, in fact, quite complicated. Yes, from a legislative perspective, healthcare is complex – but it’s also hard to navigate from the consumer’s perspective. From trying to figure out whether you need a referral to what costs are actually covered for a medical procedure to deciding if the side effects from a medication are worth it to which specific medical device is right for them, consumers are constantly trying to piece together the healthcare puzzle. There’s a reason why patient advocates and patient navigators are increasing.
Each consumer will likely have a different perspective or experience with healthcare. My experience is also a little different working in healthcare public relations. While I might be more in tune with industry trends, I’m definitely not immune to consumer frustrations.
At LPP, our job as communicators is to take these complex healthcare topics and break them down for the media and the average consumer. It’s both the most challenging part of my job and the part I love the most. How do you take a study and help people understand why it matters? How do you convey the benefits of a new medical device and its potential to make people’s lives easier?
Telling Complex Stories
As a consumer, knowledge is power – but there’s a big difference between knowing about a study or medical device and understanding why it’s important. When telling more complex stories – especially in industries as important as healthcare, where clarity and understanding are key – keep these three guidelines in mind:
Context Matters: When announcing a new product, study, or partnership, don’t assume that a press release will break through the noise and that journalists and readers will instantly deduce why something matters. Tying your story to a current concern or trend can be beneficial, and adding in statistics and quotes from executives can only help you better convey why an announcement matters and who should be paying attention. While all of these components are key to a compelling press release, none are quite as important as being able to share a patient’s experience or story, and how this news will impact them. Always keep the patient in mind when crafting your story – this will help you provide that extra bit of context that helps make the story more personal to the consumer.
Jargon Helps No One: ACA, EHR, CMS, value-based care, interoperability. Between acronyms and industry buzzwords like these, added to key messaging from each company, there’s a lot of jargon in healthcare. While not fully avoidable, if a pitch to a reporter reads more like an advertisement about a company rather than giving a clear overview of why something matters, you’re probably not going to get the coverage – or even the response – you’re looking for. Take every opportunity to speak like a human and eliminate the confusing jargon to help that reporter create a story that consumers can understand. Become an expert resource by helping the media uncomplicate the language of healthcare while discussing topics related to your brand.
Keep It Simple: Simplicity – it’s a strategy that can apply to any business, but is monumentally helpful when crafting a healthcare story. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I switched from consumer to healthcare PR was to take a step back and read something from the lens of an average person. Would I understand this if I didn’t read the initial study? If I wasn’t familiar with the product? If I wasn’t familiar with this particular health issue? If the answer is no, try again, my friend. Good writing helps make things clearer; using short sentences, bullet points, plain but descriptive language and avoiding fluff and jargon lead readers through a concept much better than spitting back key words that hold no relevance to them.
The current healthcare discussion is going to persist and likely will become more complicated rather than less as it continues. The more we – PR professionals, journalists, and companies – can work together to create compelling stories and adjust how we talk healthcare, the more accessible healthcare information will be for consumers.
Does your company have a complicated healthcare story to tell? Want to work with us? Check out some of our past work here.