Make your product the star with medical storytelling

The best content tells a story, and medical writing is no different.

Stories make us sit up and take notice, they help us remember, they provide connections between simple facts and spark creativity in our minds. In medical communications, this means going beyond listing product features and data points to give clinicians and healthcare managers a more rounded view.

Think of your drug or medical device as the main character, and all the ways the product can affect hospitals and clinicians as the stories to be told. Storytelling is the key to creating awareness among customers, delivering value to them, positioning you as an expert, and connecting and engaging with current and potential customers. Read on to find out how.COM0043-2015121. Create awareness
There’s a reason oral storytelling survived so long — long enough, in fact, until the printing press was invented, and we could start recording those stories, many of which still survive today (think Grimm’s Fairytales). That’s because, quite simply, the human brain craves stories. In fact, research has demonstrated this time and again — our brains have to work to decode the meaning of data but, when they processing stories, the brain can skip the work of decoding and go straight to the retention of information. Therefore, it’s far easier for potential customers to remember information told by stories than that conveyed as a list of cold, hard facts, however well-organised. What’s more, 92% of consumers say they want to internalise information via stories. Leading consumer brands such as Coca-Cola have successfully adopted this method of marketing, and medical device and drug-makers can, too.


2. Deliver value
When you tell a story, you’re not just describing the ‘what’ of your device or drug. That is, it’s not, ‘Once upon a time, after many years of R&D, a product was developed.’ Rather, you’re taking the facts about your device or drug and communicating to hospitals and clinicians why the product matters to them. Author, business consultant and university professor Simon Sinek originated this concept, which he calls the ‘Golden Circle’ as a sales and marketing approach. When you focus on the ‘why’ of your product, your marketing plan must be multi-faceted. Journal articles and conference posters alone won’t cut it. You have to extrapolate that data — doing the work for the customer’s brain — and provide avenues by which to implement the desired change (i.e. buying your product) and convincing reasons for doing so. Therefore, your marketing plan should include health-economic data, clinical decision-making mechanisms (such as pocket guides and apps), downloadable tools for education and cost-efficiency calculations, and more. These kinds of medical communication, though slightly outside the norm, add value for customers while going beyond a list of product features or data to create the whole story of your product.

COM0044-2015123. Position yourself as an expert
Do you want to be ‘just’ a device- or drug-maker, or do you want to be a partner to hospitals and clinicians in the delivery of high-value healthcare? When you focus on storytelling and start creating value-added content for customers, you demonstrate that you share their concerns — and that you’re not just in it to sell, sell, sell. Of course, no one goes into business to not make money, and everyone knows that. But custom storytelling actually helps you make more: it’s ‘92% more effective than traditional advertising at increasing awareness, and 168% more powerful at driving purchase preference.’ That’s because, when customers have a problem, they think first about potential problem-solvers. With a story-telling approach to marketing, that would be you.

4. Connect and engage with customers
Storytelling gives you more space to answer your customers’ questions, and lets you be nimble enough to address new issues in healthcare as they arise. For example, adding a regularly updated blog to your website gives you the flexibility to tell various aspects of your drug’s or device’s story on an ongoing basis. Instead of trying to get all the information into one, long document, you can focus on bite-sized topics — such as how your product helps manage changes in healthcare regulations, enhances patient safety or solves a clinical problem — that customers can digest in a quick read. What’s more, because you’ve positioned yourself as the expert, they’ll become engaged with the content you’re delivering and return for updates. In addition, clinician experiences and patient case studies help you connect with customers, because they’ll see themselves in the content and have a ‘character’ to root for. Clinicians want to know how the products work (clinically, time-wise and economically) for people like them and patients like theirs, and storytelling helps you achieve those aims.

Building your strategy
When you consider how to put together all the parts of your drug’s or device’s story, it’s important to take a step back to determine your goals. Sometimes, the perspective of a neutral third-party can help pinpoint your aims — and how to achieve them. can help you craft the components of your product story, delivering storytelling that is straightforward and insightful about your product and industry, that adds a personal touch, and that ensures your audience will want to come back for more.

Visual Content Marketing: Illustrate the Point

The internet brought power back to the word but, somehow, the pencil got left behind. But now, it’s making a comeback. People are beginning to understand the importance of visuals in their content marketing and are illustrating their words with drawings, animations and infographics.

Visuals are important in not only getting your audience’s attention, they’re critical in getting them to remember you. There’s study after study which show we retain and comprehend information far better with visuals than we do with text alone.

One study has shown that we remember 65% of visual information, but only 10–20% of written or spoken information. YouTube is the perfect example of this as it’s the world’s second most popular search engine – clearly showing that we want to see our information.


Learning recall related to type of presentation

Presentation Ability to recall
After 3 hours After 3 days
Spoken lecture 25% 10-20%
Written (reading) 72% 10%
Visual and verbal (illustrated lecture) 80% 65%
Participatory (role plays, case studies, practice) 90% 70%

Adapted from: Dale 1969.


All this holds true for your content marketing. Yes, sharp copy is necessary for thoroughly conveying the details of research and other information, but if you neglect to include drawings, animations and infographics, your message may never get across. It’s time for a new rule of content marketing: Don’t tell, show.


More than a trend

This preference for visual communication is leading to more and more hand-drawn explanations, or ‘whiteboard animations’, on YouTube. One of the most well known, and most viewed, was created by The RSA, based on Dan Pink’s speech, ‘The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us’. It has a not-insubstantial 14.5 million views to date.


“When words and visual elements are closely entwined, we create something new and we augment our communal intelligence … visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’—the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.”   – R.E. Horn, Stanford University


One study’s results showed that adding just one image to text improves comprehension by nearly 90%. That’s why infographics are increasingly finding their footing in visual content marketing. Infographics convey statistics, facts and processes, making content easier to digest by reducing the amount of text – or highlighting the key points from dense text – and balancing the black-on-white with visuals. Check out this example below:

11 Fascinating Facts About the Human Heart

human heart facts

We’re beginning to add illustrations to our content marketing, because they are shown over and over again to improve retention and comprehension. BUT. There’s another reason too.

Visuals delight.

Surprise and delight your audience

One company, despite interacting with billions of us every day, still manages to surprise and delight us with their use of illustrations: Google and their Google Doodle.

Who else is a little bit intrigued, a little bit surprised, when they see a Google Doodle on an otherwise-random day? Who hovers over the doodle, curious to see what special day it is, which discovery we’re celebrating, or whose birthday it would have been. It’s different. It’s interesting. It’s fun.
Untitled-2-02 copy

Taking an illustrative approach

Illustrations capture our interest and our imaginations. They help us to see beyond the words to truly grasp information. Illustrations complement content by aiding the reader in understanding and retaining what is being said, making the entire content package more effective, more interesting and, most important of all, more lasting than text alone.

Try illustrating your content and see if it helps you to illustrate the point.

Ready to rethink your content marketing? Here are some things you may want to consider:

1. Ask yourself the question: Would the reader understand more clearly what I’m trying to explain if I added an illustration?
2. Consider the content, the media and the illustration type. Some illustration types are better suited for some media and content than others. For example, a highly detailed medical illustration can perfectly capture a complex concept, or an animation could illustrate a lengthy process far better than a flow chart.
3. Think about what your words can’t do – however well they paint a picture. That’s what your visuals are for, and what their conception should be based on. know how to take complex medical and scientific information and turn it into understandable illustrations. Our medical illustrations range from hand-drawn drawings, computer graphics, mode-of-action videos and animations. If you need help putting pencil to paper, you can find us here:

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