Healthcare content marketing guide

Content that puts people first

Healthcare content marketing is a key channel for engaging clinicians, service users, patients, and the public. We’ll show you the principles for creating person-centred content.

Digital technologies have transformed how we use healthcare services. The way we interact with healthcare providers has changed, with digital-first solutions a priority for the NHS. 

As well as being able to access services online, we expect our healthcare providers to have a strong digital presence. They should provide advice, guidance, and information that can help us make the best – and most informed – healthcare services.

Healthcare content is critical to the patient journey. It informs and guides clinicians, patients, and the public through the journey – using information to improve outcomes at every stage.

Healthcare content marketing includes healthcare blogging, but it’s more than that. Successful healthcare content strategies include all touchpoints, including your website, social channels, printed materials, and even PR.

Having a strong healthcare content marketing strategy is critical for every healthcare provider. In this guide, we explain what healthcare content marketing is and what it isn’t. We look at the fundamental building blocks of an effective healthcare content strategy, explain the importance of digital marketing for healthcare, and answer your FAQs.

What is healthcare content marketing?

Healthcare content marketing is the strategic use of content channels (including your website, social channels, and physical media) to engage your audience. It’s a structured way to share information about your services. It can inform them about changes, help increase access, ensure you’re reaching everyone in your area, and

Organisations are adopting digital marketing strategies used by some of the world’s leading businesses to improve the user- journey. Giving people access to the information they need can have a positive impact on service delivery through:

  • Providing clear information on service opening times and availability
  • Offering advice on common healthcare conditions
  • Launching a new healthcare service, pathway, or facility
  • Promoting a new healthcare app
  • Supporting them to make better healthcare decisions
  • Breaking down barriers and ensuring equity of access to healthcare services

Content marketing is a critical way for healthcare organisations to create connections with their audience. Some of the organisations that can benefit from a specialist content marketing strategy include:

  • NHS primary care and secondary care providers
  • Commissioning organisations
  • Charities providing healthcare services
  • Independent care providers
  • Pharmaceutical organisations
  • Medical device manufacturers

To connect with your audience, you must develop a detailed picture of who they are. In an effort to make it as simple as possible, we can split the audience into three core groups:

  • Clinicians – We’re including core medical staff, as well as commissioners, and other stakeholders with a professional interest (local authority, charity heads, etc.)
  • Patients – This describes people who are engaged in a healthcare journey. This can include those visiting your website to book an appointment, someone receiving treatment for a long-term condition, or a service user.
  • The public – It’s a crude term, but it describes people who aren’t medical professionals or core stakeholders and not existing patients.

This is a basic way for us to segment your audience. You’ll likely have a much more sophisticated way of breaking down your audience. In the commercial world, before creating content, we develop personas. These are pen portraits of your consumer or user groups to help bring them to life.

Examples of healthcare content can include:

  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Patient communications materials, including leaflets
  • Whitepapers
  • Animations
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

As well as content outputs, like these, specialist healthcare content agencies like 42group can also help you to improve content production processes and internal capabilities through:

  • Tone of voice guidelines
  • Content production process development
  • Content production guides
  • Training & development

What healthcare content marketing isn’t

It’s important to draw a distinction between healthcare content and medical copywriting.

Healthcare content is information, advice, and guidance about healthcare services. It can also cover certain conditions, but in a general way.

Medical copywriting, in contrast, is an expert service provided by specialist agencies that goes into details about specific conditions and treatments. Medical copywriters are typically qualified medical professionals and/or scientists with a background in clinical research.

At 42group, we don’t provide medical copywriting services. We do provide healthcare copywriting services.

If you’ve got a brief and you want to chat about it, contact us. If we can help, we will. If you need a medical copywriter, we’ll put you in touch with some of the UK’s leading freelancers and agencies.

Principles of great healthcare content

We’ve worked with the NHS for over a decade, producing patient-first content. We’re highly familiar with the NHS Content Style Guide, which provides a clear and consistent instructions for producing exceptional quality content.

You’re probably familiar with them too, so we won’t go over them again, but what we can do is provide some principles of great healthcare content that we’ve learned from over a decade in the healthcare content business:

Tip #1          Put people first in your content

It sounds obvious, but too many organisations go into broadcast mode when creating content. By pushing their priorities, they’re failing to put people first.

You’ll have seen content like this yourself. It usually includes the words: we and our a lot. This makes a lot of assumptions. Are you sure that your priorities the same as the people you’re writing for?

Go back to your audience, and place them at the centre of your content production. People-first content (or patient-first content, if you like), is about structuring your content on what’s important to the person.

  • What information do your readers need and want? (They may not be the same thing)
  • What are the questions they will ask, and do we answer them?
  • Can we provide better, more accurate, and more meaningful content?
  • Does the content we provide make the patient or person journey easier?

These are just some of the questions to ask, and there will likely be more specific ones, depending on your healthcare product or service.

Tip #2          Treat your audience as customers

Treating readers as customers is concept is widely used already, and it’s effective. You can learn from the content marketing skills of commercial businesses, using the same tricks and techniques as commercial businesses.

To achieve this, you have to understand your audience’s pain points. These are the triggers that will get them

For patients, this could literally be a pain that they need to ease. For clinicians, this could be a problematic process or 

Finding out what’s causing frustration can help you structure your content, engaging your readers in a dialogue as you work toward a conclusion. For more on that, read below.

Tip #3          Layer complexity into content

Too much healthcare content is complex and confusing. While details are critical, the best content builds things in layers. Start with a simple explanation and build from there.

This is a hard concept to convey without a live example, but if you can imagine a pyramid that can help. Your first sentence conveys everything you want the reader to know. Underneath that, you layer complexity, stratifying messages in order of importance.

The pyramid principle is well known in commercial content production, but it’s not universally applied in

Tip #4          Make content conversational

The core strength of any healthcare organisation isn’t its facilities, tools, or technologies – it’s the people who work there.

When we speak to a doctor, for example, we’re engaged in an explorative conversation as both sides learn more and more about a symptom or problem, to identify a cause and a solution.

This process of shared learning and exploration can be applied to content – and it’s highly effective.

Take the NHS’s Health A to Z as a shining example. When we look at conditions such as cancer,  it builds layers of complexity (see above) and works in the same way as a consultation would.

It’s also beautifully written in a conversational tone of voice that’s crystal clear, but easy to understand. If you can apply these principles to your content, you’ll have an impact.

Tip #5          Answer questions

When searching about our health (and pretty much everything else) we use questions. “Where is this hospital?” or “How long will it take to get an appointment” or “What the hell is this spot on my leg?”

The best content understands what SEO experts call the search intent to create content.

Answering questions is a really effective way of ensuring your content delivers value for the reader and leaves them better informed after engaging with your content. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.

You’ll also find that content that answers specific questions ranks better than bland and unfocused copy that satisfies nobody.

Tip #6          Edit and optimise content

Content production is all about writing, of course, but there’s another (arguably more important) stage of the process: editing and optimisation.

Editing is self-explanatory and something you’ll do as part of the process (if not, let’s chat).

Optimisation is an ongoing process of improving the quality, relevance, and quality of content. Optimisation includes the following steps:

  • Checking all content is relevant and matches the search intent
  • Content delivers value and answers questions
  • The structure is logical, simple, and the headings contain keywords
  • All links work and take readers to authoritative and accurate sites and documents
  • All phone numbers, address, email addresses and details (such as opening hours) are 100% correct

Make content accessible to everyone

Healthcare content must be accessible, engaging, and open to everyone. When creating content, we must consider that anyone could read it – and write accordingly. Of course, if you’re creating a technical whitepaper this is less relevant, but the principles of content accessibility can benefit all readers.

This isn’t about dumbing down content but about ensuring equitable access. The strategies above (using the content pyramid, layering complexity, and judicious editing) are all ways to simplify content without making it simplistic. The challenge is to ensure that the meaning of your content and the messages you want to convey is achieved as quickly and efficiently as possible.

One of the main purposes for creating accessible healthcare content is that doing so increases engagement with you and your organisation. If you’re promoting a service, it can increase uptake. If you’re providing patient information, it can increase adherence.

The growth in translation software and its use by people who speak other languages means your content must be accessible. To achieve this, you should use short sentences with a single point you want to convey. Avoid complex sentences with multiple clauses, as these can be hard for translators. One great trick is to read your content aloud. If the sentences flow naturally as you read them, you’re doing the right thing. If you find yourself struggling with the syntax, then it’s time to edit.

Beyond these technical considerations, there’s a moral one too. If you’re providing care services, you have a duty to engage everyone from any background. Ensuring your content is accessible can help you engage the widest possible audience and deliver the biggest impact.

The power of healthcare blogging

For most people, content marketing is all about blogging. In 2023, are blogs still relevant? The answer is yes. In fact, they’re probably more important than ever.

Blogs provide a connection between your organisation and the people you want to speak to. Shouldn’t your website do that job? Yes, but bogs work in a slightly different way.

Blogs enable you to delve into detail on subjects that matter. Every new piece of content helps to boost your organisation and brand with your readers. The best blogs are professionally written pieces that answer the questions your patients or stakeholders may have.

In addition to answering questions, your blog can also function as an extension of your customer support team, helping to connect people with the answers they need.

We work with several healthcare SaaS providers. When one customer experiences a problem (an inability to login on a legacy device, for example), they assume that others may experience this issue to, and use this as the basis for a blog. When users search online for this issue (which they inevitably do), the first search result they see is a solution provided by the company. This strengthens the brand perception and provides a speedy solution.

That’s the power of a blog – and the impact of a strategic approach to content.

Too many healthcare organisations use their blogs to broadcast content. Consider whether your latest award win or team away day means anything to your readers. (It doesn’t.)

An integrated healthcare content strategy uses every channel to engage your audience and provide answers t their questions. The by-product of this process is a boost in your brand among your key audience and stakeholders.

To be successful, your content strategy must put patients and people first.

Why is SEO critical for healthcare organisations?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking position of your website (or specific pages on your site) in Google and other search engines. The principles of great SEO aren’t dark arts or dodgy tactics, it’s ensuring that the content you produce is the best source of information about the subject.

Take cancer, for example. Type the term into Google, and the top search result is the NHS and not one of the many millions of other websites, treatment providers, patient blogs, or unproven testing technologies.

This, in a nutshell, is great SEO. How does this happen? Google doesn’t tell anyone (even Google Partners like us) how it works – but we know that the search engine giant goes through a complex process analysing the quality of content, alongside a range of other factors, including website speed, domain authority, age, and links.

When it comes to cancer, the NHS is going to come top of every one of these.

Healthcare SEO does two things: it promotes your organisation, and it provides people with the information they need from a source that they can trust.

We’ve written some fascinating guides on what SEO content is, why your content may not be ranking, and how you can use it to improve connections – so start there.

Optimising your content is essential in delivering the information that your readers want and need, from a source that they can trust: you.

Healthcare PPC and paid-for advertising

Healthcare organisations, including software providers and private businesses may consider paid-for advertising, including Google pay-per-click advertising, Facebook ads, Twitter ads and others.

Do they work? Absolutely. The algorithms that power search and social media advertising platforms enable you t pinpoint your customers with complete accuracy. Want to advertise a clinic to women over 50 in Cheltenham? It’ll take you (well, us) about 10 clicks and 10 minutes to set this up.

PPC doesn’t’ normally come under content marketing, but the content does. Digital marketing agencies may be experienced at creating and managing campaigns, but they’re rarely (if ever) able to create compelling ads and strong CTAs.

At 42group, we consider PPC ads and social media ads to be part of the content marketing process, and a service that we offer our clients.

A healthcare content that builds human connections

How do you find a healthcare content agency that can deliver an integrated and person-first content strategy? 42group is a leading healthcare content agency that works with clients in the UK, Europe, and the rest of the world.

We’re here to help your healthcare organisation build human connections through targeted content.


Get in touch

Your healthcare content marketing FAQs

OK, so we won’t be able to answer all of your healthcare content marketing questions, but we’ll answer as many as we can before we need a coffee.

What’s best practice in healthcare content?

The NHS shines out as a beacon of best practice in the healthcare content world. Specifically, the NHS.uk site exemplifies much of the advice and guidance in this healthcare content marketing outline. If you want to write like this, then follow the NHS style guidelines.  Even if you’re a private business or third-sector organisation, the style guide is a simple to follow set of rules for creating great content.

Does the NHS always follow its own style guide? You’d hope so, but it’s not always the case. In fact ,we’ve worked with several NHS organisations who had strayed away from the crystal clear content approach. Thankfully, we were able to get things back on track with some expert editing, rewriting, and optimisation.

Why is healthcare blogging important?

Healthcare blogs are a way that you can engage your audience directly. Your website is all about promoting a product or service, a blog enables you to dele into the details. The more specific you can be, the better the SEO impact. As we’ve explained earlier in this guide, your blog is a great mechanism to deal with customer questions, concerns, and problems – which can reduce pressure on your customer contact team.

But don’t blog for the sake of it, only create content if you have something to say…

How to create a healthcare content strategy?

We’re 3,000 words intis this guide to healthcare content marketing, and we’re not sure we have another 3,000 words in us. Briefly, a healthcare content marketing strategy is a document that pulls together all your content channels (website, social media, ads, etc.), your key messages, and content outputs.

The purpose of a content strategy is to ensure that your content marketing activities (whatever they are) contribute to the business’s overall objectives. It ensures that every piece of content or post has a defined audience, message, outcome, metric, and purpose.

Should I work with a healthcare digital marketing agency?

After reading this healthcare marketing guide, do you believe that you have the capabilities and capacity in-house to achieve your aims? If the answer is yes, then you don’t need an agency. If it’s no, then you should contact a healthcare content marketing agency – and there’s no better out there than 42group. We can support you to achieve your aims, working with you to develop a content marketing strategy that put your people and patients first. The answer is 42.

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