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“Ugh, who wrote this?” (The Marketing Content Voice)

As someone who both writes marketing content in healthcare and who advises companies on their content strategy and messaging, one of the most persistent and complex questions I come across in my work is the question of voice.

Look at it first from the patient perspective. Patients want content that is clear and easy to read, first of all, but as your content comes closer to the context of care, it must also be warm, friendly, empathetic, serious, educational, and persuasive all at once. That’s a lot to manage in a page of just a few paragraphs at most, even with images to convey additional tone.

Then, look at it from your group or hospital perspective. You want content that stays on message, that meets clinical and legal guidelines, that achieves a range of business goals from patient acquisition to patient retention, and that deepens your group or hospital’s relationships with patients.

Then, finally, look at it from your own personal perspective. You want to be authentic, to be true to your own values around improving patient well-being, to be a good storyteller, and to be a master of the craft of writing. That’s what gets you up and to your desk every day.

On a good day, the end result is a chorus of voices, all in unison, a harmonious balance of the three perspectives I discuss above. But when going gets rough and when the content just doesn’t flow, you often find yourself with a draft that sounds like no one and achieves nothing in particular. When you take a second look at it, you ask yourself, “Ugh, who wrote that?”

And as for how you can avoid having to ask yourself the question, I find it’s often just taking that mindful step back to look at the content through each of these three lenses, and even developing specific checklists prompting you to deliver each of the traits above.

  • Is it easy to read?
  • Have I used the right tone words?
  • What does it persuade patients to do?
  • Is it on message?
  • Does it hold up to our group/hospital guidelines?
  • What business outcome does it target?
  • How does it establish or extend relationships?
  • What story am I telling?

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