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Caring for the Truth in healthcare communication

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The world of communication as we know is transforming rapidly. Gone are the days when a brand could rely on unidirectional communication to a captive audience. Consider an average Joe out there. Today he is exposed to over 2500 pieces of advertising in a day. How many does he remember? How many choices does he make based on the advertising he gets exposed to?

The same scenario plays out in a doctor’s office. In the daily grind between patients, reports, educating themselves on new therapies and medicines, and pharmaceutical reps, doctors are indeed not left with sufficient mind space to evaluate each communication, and therefore end up deferring to familiarity. This action is not quite a reflection on their brand loyalty per se but instead is a comfort bias at play, that if something has worked in the past, it will also work in the future.

In a world where we get only one chance to make an impression, how do we differentiate our messaging among this information overload? Simple. We need to talk to the Person in the Doctor, not the doctor in the doctor. We need to talk to the person in the patient, not the patient in the patient. In essence, we need to reach out to our ‘target audience’ as people, and not as consumers. More importantly, we have to try to understand them empathetically. And, empathy can only be built from a place of trust and truth.

At McCann, we have pursued this philosophy for more than a century and been on an incessant pursuit of Truth. We call it the ‘Truth Well Told’ – finding out a human truth and telling it well to change behaviors. And this ‘truth’ is nowhere more important than in the healthcare marketing communication, where every decision made potentially impacts lives.

Whether we are talking to a doctor, a patient, or any other stakeholder, creating a behavior-altering communication happens when we understand its three distinct pillars – connectivity, context, and experience.

Connectivity stands for understanding people at a deeper, more emotional level. Most of the healthcare communication is fact-based because marketers assume that people will make a factually correct decision every time. But people are not like that. They are emotional creatures, and till the time we do not solve a larger conflict in a person’s life, we do not become relevant to them.

Context is about understanding the situation in which the communication is being consumed. We look at doctors as white coats dispensing information and medicines. However, they are also the consumers of a lot of medical and non-medical communication. Rather than expecting doctors to shift roles when we are around, we have to empathize with their context and make ourselves relevant to them.

Experience is about understanding how a brand does not just talk but walks the walk. While engagement is to ensure that our consumers are connected to us, experience is about ensuring that they see us in a way we want them to see us, through every communication and touch point.

So, the next time you come across a difficult to communicate healthcare message, try finding out the truth. While science is still the basis of everything in healthcare, let’s not forget that understanding the truth behind a person’s behavior will make the science more meaningful in their lives. Because only when we care about the truth, we will have a real chance to care for the people.

Amar Urherkar, President, McCann Health Americas

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Amar Urherkar

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