Patient stories are undeniably one of the most influential ingredients in the success of a healthcare brand. Individuals who share personal experiences about a treatment or technology can have a powerful influence on consumer decision-making. According to an article published in Health Affairs, those facing health issues mine real-life stories “from family members, friends, and the media when making health decisions in exam rooms, hospital rooms, and living rooms. Through multiple channels such as patient stories…narrative shapes our approach to health decisions.”
The good news is that, in our experience, patients and caregivers are often eager to share their knowledge to assist others. However, leveraging real stories can come with complexities. This is where a skilled marketing communications agency can provide valuable assistance, ensuring that these powerful stories are effectively showcased to enhance a healthcare brand’s success.
Individuals who share personal experiences about a treatment or technology can have a powerful influence on consumer decision-making.
Here are six important factors to consider when leveraging real patients in your marketing and communications efforts:
This will help determine how best to utilize their stories. For example, if you are using individuals in earned media, someone with a distinctive experience or a timely hook would make the best option. In controlled opportunities, such as a MAT release or other sponsored content, there is more flexibility. Additionally, an interview can help you ensure that potential spokespeople are comfortable speaking publicly and provide valuable insight to the way they tell their story and talk about their experience with your brand.
Unfortunately, some stories are not fully utilized because their potential to reach different audiences and support the brand is overlooked. Stories can be shared in various formats (written, video, images, etc.) through tactics like media outreach, marketing materials/websites, internal programs (sales meetings, lunch and learns, office signage), external events (meetings with the FDA, physician talks), clinical trial recruitment, ambassador programs, social media, and so much more. Make sure you map out all the possibilities in alignment with your business goals and marketing/communication strategies.
Establishing relationships must be done carefully and in accordance with HIPAA regulations. Typically, working with a client’s sales representatives to identify individuals recommended by physicians is a common approach. Once a potential spokesperson is identified, detailed coordination is required to ensure HIPAA compliance while also being mindful of the relationships involved.
Incorporating real people into PR and marketing campaigns adds human interest and relatability, making them more appealing and memorable.
Ongoing training and support, including public speaking and messaging training, can prepare them for various opportunities. They should also be aware of compliance guidelines for speaking about the brand and know what steps to take if they hear of adverse events while at an event or other engagement. Another way to support your spokespeople is by continuing to check in with them – sharing their story is very personal, and it’s important to ensure they feel supported and aren’t being stretched too thin.
While celebrity spokespeople bring a built-in fan base, there are pros and cons to consider. Depending on the campaign goals, alternative options such as micro-influencers may also be worth exploring. Pros of well-known spokespersons include exposure to bigger audiences, increased brand credibility and awareness, and standing out from competitors. However, cons such as cost, changes in the spokesperson’s image, limitations on their power of influence, and the potential overshadowing of the brand or campaign should be carefully evaluated through a risk/benefit analysis.
Expressing gratitude through words, special celebrations or other means goes a long way in reinforcing your brand’s focus on people. It also helps to keep patient spokespeople engaged for future opportunities where their stories may be leveraged, such as one-off media requests or new PR campaigns.
Overall, patient stories are a powerful ingredient in making healthcare brands successful. Incorporating real people into PR and marketing campaigns adds human interest and relatability, making them more appealing and memorable. By following these considerations, healthcare brands can effectively utilize stories to connect with their audience, aid in consumer decision making and build a strong reputation focused on consumer needs.