Are You Listening?

By Peter Steinberg

The origins of content marketing can be traced to the Stone Age, when men gathered around the fire to share details of the hunt. I gained this insight from a seminar hosted a few weeks ago by the trade publication Medical Marketing & Media.

Storytelling – the very essence of content marketing – has evolved over the ages, from epic poems by the ancient Greeks to totem poles carved by the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest (a visual tradition that has its modern equivalent in Instagram!).

Ultimately, storytelling is the product of our primal urge to share what happened and who we are, according to the keynote speaker, Alison Woo, director of Social Media at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Given this basic truth, the most compelling content is what customers regard as important. And the most important thing we can do is to listen.

Listening – through patient advisory boards, market research, or social media monitoring – can inform a healthcare brand’s content strategy. It is especially important in today’s marketplace, where brands essentially function as 24-hour news channels. The story belongs to the community, and anyone can be a journalist.

Simplicity in these ongoing conversations is important, especially in social media, where healthcare conversations are largely patient-driven. “Social media is not just a technology, but relationship-building,” Woo explained. As professional communicators, we can help companies join conversations and build relationships.

“In a regulated industry, a corporate brand is very important,” Woo continued. “It allows you to talk about your company’s commitment in a way that you can’t do with a branded product.” The conversation should relate to the patient’s journey, from the onset of symptoms to screening and diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. With good data on patient journeys and information on where they can go for help, we can develop meaningful conversations with the people we want to reach.

As Ron Winslow of The Wall Street Journal recently told an audience at the University of Tennessee, “The ability to find good characters to help illustrate complex stories is a skill that’s important for journalists—science journalists in particular.” When we truly listen to patients, we find those good characters who tell great stories.

Read more about patient voices.