Value-based healthcare operates on a simple premise: Better outcomes for all come from giving individuals the right treatment at the right time. Health marketing navigates a similar path—success comes down to precision, in getting the story right, telling it at the right time, and in the right spaces—all so that decisions that improve outcomes are made.
Strategic marketers understand this. They know that meaningful and timely content acts as a connective tissue, supporting decision-making and offering clarity along the continuum of care. It sounds simple, but after 30 years we are constantly challenged, and continually curious. And the lessons we’ve learned can apply to everyone in healthcare today. Try out these six learnings and see where it takes you.
1. It starts with a story.
Neuroscience shows that humans—physicians and patients alike—are emotional decision-makers wired for storytelling. As creatives, we’re thrilled by the opportunities this opens to delight, educate, and motivate audiences. Tapping core emotional drivers helps all audiences receive and digest clinical data in a meaningful way. It’s all about the art of marrying data and emotions.
When you empower your audiences to see their choices more clearly, you immediately establish trust with them—an essential first step in forming an emotional connection to your offering. And because health marketers often face regulatory barriers to accessing user data, leveraging your brand as emotionally intelligent can help bridge that gap.
2. Invite early, avoid drama later.
A lot of friction can be avoided if you start your content efforts by bringing together a cross-functional team to the table at the start. Think outside the marketing department—bring in engineers, product owners, legal/regulatory, and sales teams. As agency partners, we love to act as unbiased facilitators establishing early alignment on goals, objectives, barriers, drivers, priorities, and measurement.
For our busy clients, these workshops create space for cross-divisional conversations they don’t have often enough. It’s invigorating, clarifying, and if done well—fun. And as an agency, it allows us to go capture insights we don’t find on briefs that can move the needle faster and more smoothly for our clients.
3. Take the holistic view.
Health decisions are made by multiple people along a chain of influence. That requires a shift from traditional segmentation and to more nuanced calibration. Why? Because we’re now talking about a chain of influence that has expanded to include not just patients, but also caregivers. Content has to honor that expansion by having a more holistic view of how physician, patient, caretaker, provider, and payer all intersect with the other. So, yes: Craft distinct messages to your audiences and amp up the technical details for the clinical audiences, but unite them all with a finely crafted narrative that shows them where they play in your offering’s greater purpose.
4. Map it out.
If you start with a powerful, unifying story, your content has the potential to spark conversations and enhance experiences. That requires planning to know where the most effective placement of content should be. It’s the time and space where creative and strategy meet head to head. When we develop personalized content strategies for our clients, we begin with a traditional customer journey mapping to fully understand the chain of influence and experience.
But there’s a twist—our journey maps have multiple players to include in the chain of influence and can identify key moments—particularly ones where clinicians and patients intersect—to understand the emotions they’re feeling at those times, the conversations they’re having with clinicians and caregivers, and identify the emotional levers that matter in those moments. This allows us to begin creating themes that map back to that journey as well as take our learnings from positioning and messaging workshops to a deeper and more relevant level.
5. Weave your thread thoughtfully.
Your story and these content efforts need to be woven across channels—folding in new trends, while looping in the tried and true. That requires a channel agnostic mindset that prioritizes the target audience’s journey. So while we will always go to bat for a strong digital strategy that incorporates video as the best bang for your budget, we also honor the intensity of the moment when a physician hands over a printed pamphlet to a patient and begins a potentially difficult conversation.
The key is to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of each channel and know that every one of them has the potential to spark emotion. Even a PowerPoint. Maybe especially a PowerPoint if you’re talking to investors. Every channel has the potential to tell a powerful and compelling story.
6. Above all, commit.
Whatever the format, no one piece of content should aim to do all things for all audiences. Watering down messages in an attempt to please all never leads to success. In a time where millennials are getting older and making more and more healthcare decisions—brands that take the time to take a stand shine bright. Your brand’s purpose needs to be clear and your presence bold if you want to inspire the kind of brand loyalty that comes from developing emotionally connected, personalized content. Because these days, there’s no shortage of content—just a serious shortage of meaningful content, delivered at the right time.
We’ve found, time and again, if you commit to intentional storytelling, the reward is worth the perceived risk, or initial discomfort, it may take to get there. The true risk is in not personalizing your content, not prioritizing your audiences or distribution, and underestimating the emotional power of storytelling to make yourself stand out and be the spark that makes the world a healthier place for more people.
Case Study: The Medela Moms’ Room
Empowering moms to breastfeed with confidence.
For more than 30 years, Medela has been the trusted breast pump brand of hospitals, doctors and, most importantly, moms. No other company has championed the power of breast milk quite like them. In an effort to engage Gen Z and Gen Y moms earlier in their journey, Medela asked StoneArch to develop personalized content for a campaign to connect moms with Medela before, during, and after birth. We worked closely with our client-partners—collaborating with their lactation experts, product managers, and digital marketing team to develop a well-crafted content strategy and digital campaign that went beyond email to fill the gap in reliable, accessible, personalized breastfeeding support.
The Moms’ Room launched in August 2017 to offer free stage-specific education, tools, and services that empower mom to breastfeed confidently. Supported with a landing page, paid media, and social, the campaign’s cornerstone was a 40-email series following mom along her major pregnancy and breastfeeding milestones.
On the breast milk feeding journey, drops of knowledge and a circle of support can make a world of difference. The Moms’ Room gives moms the assurance and confidence they need to breastfeed the way they want, for as long as they want.
Through thoughtful, consistent, and concise content, moms gain insight they won’t find anywhere else because Medela is the primary breastfeeding resource she can trust—and the brand she chooses for all her breastfeeding needs. By delivering the right information at the right time, moms are empowered to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies.
The Moms’ Room is Medela’s opportunity to delight, educate, and inspire moms, while helping them connect with services—and each other. It’s the space they turn to for advice, encouragement, and affirmation that mom is exactly where she needs to be in her breast milk feeding journey—and that Medela is here for her every step of the way.
The Moms’ Room provides the education she needs to inspire her to prenatally advocate for the right breast pump and refer her friends and family to The Moms’ Room. And the clinically based, real-life inspired content doesn’t just strengthen Medela’s bond with moms—it helps moms strengthen their bonds with their babies. From the day they discover they’re about to become a mom, to the day they decide to wean, The Moms’ Room lets moms know there’s no one right way—and that’s more than okay.
Opt-ins exceeded Medela’s overall signup goal early in the first month of the campaign. But more importantly, The Moms’ Room helped show mom that Medela is there for her throughout her journey—supporting her in breastfeeding how she wants, for as long as she wants.