by Michelle Guillemard
If you’re a health & medical writer who produces sales and marketing content, chances are you’ll be marketing to doctors at some point during your career.
You probably already know that, before you even think about beginning to write, it’s important to familiarise yourself with your local guidelines.
Country-specific codes and guidelines for marketing therapeutic goods and medicines exist. In Australia, for example, they aim to ensure that the marketing and advertising of these products is “conducted in a socially responsible manner that promotes the quality use of therapeutic goods and does not mislead or deceive the general public.”
If you’re selling a product to doctors and it doesn’t fall into these categories, though, there may not be any guidelines. Yet there are still techniques you can adopt in order to write quality content for your doctor audience.
Marketing to doctors – doctor’s orders
I was recently involved in a generic food-related health copywriting project for one of my clients. Before I began writing, I spoke to one of my most skeptical doctor friends about what would make him take notice of a message that was about encouraging patients to eat a certain type of food. I’ve included his thoughts – as well as my own reflections – in this post.
As an aside, I believe it’s useful to have a network of health professionals from across the medical profession you can turn to when issues like these arise. This will help to take the guesswork out of a lot of your writing. Often what you think doctors are looking for in high-quality writing may not be the case.
Ethical considerations when marketing to doctors
Doctors are a desirable target for marketers, yet when ‘selling’ anything to doctors, it’s important to ensure that your content:
- Is truthful and not deceptive or misleading
- Doesn’t degrade any competitors
- Doesn’t discriminate
- Is clearly identified as promotional material
Get the tone right
While writing for the general public generally involves writing content that a 14 year-old can easily understand, writing for doctors is more complex.
The tone for doctors should be naturally more serious, scientific and, of course, evidence-based. Come across too “light and fluffy” and you’ll risk alienating your audience (and winding up in the bin).
Doctors require different facts to the general public – so aim to write in a way that appreciates and respects their medical education and scientific understanding. For example, explain study results in detail. You may also need to elaborate on biological mechanisms/medical terminology and highlight other scientific concepts that a lay audience wouldn’t need to know about.
Understand what you’re writing about
You’ll probably be aiming to point out why your product is beneficial for a patient’s health – and one of the most convincing ways to do this is to demonstrate how research supports the benefits of your product.
You’ll need an angle, or a newsworthy hook – which is often related to the newness of the product, or some new good quality evidence that supports the product.
What if there’s no evidence?
Without evidence, it will be very hard to convince a doctor that your product is beneficial for patient health. The higher quality the evidence, the more convincing the benefit will be.
Writing for doctors – don’ts:
The following scream alarm bells and should be avoided at all costs:
- Big-claim headlines
- Excessive punctuation – many exclamation marks, for example
- Exaggerated testimonials from individuals in the context of product promotion
- Sensationalist language usage – words like miracle, super food, cure
- Implying 100% certainty – avoid words like guarantee, prove, best, only, number one
- Lack of balance – where every single sentence is positive, and there are no caveats
Writing for doctors – do’s:
- Advocate a healthy, balanced diet – and show where the product fits in context of this (if it’s a food)
- Cite evidence – include high-quality evidence to back up your statements, and describe the evidence – explaining the result of a clinical trial, the medical journal it was published in and the same size is more convincing than writing ‘research suggests’
- Respect the guidelines – get to know your local guidelines and use these as a guide, even if you don’t have to legally abide by them
- Include evidence that dispels a common misunderstanding about a negative aspect of the food, if applicable – for example, some people might think nuts are bad for you because they contain a lot of fat/oils
- Include a list of references – if the doctor wishes to look up your statements, always include the full links and, if you’re writing online content, a link to the abstract on PubMed or similar – doctors often like to see the title of the paper and the journal it was published in
- Make your content look attractive – just because you’re writing serious content, doesn’t mean it can’t be made to look pleasant with nice imagery and delicious recipes
Do you have any suggestions for credible, authentic marketing to doctors? Share your tips below.