How to improve pharmaceutical copywriting 

Write better pharma content with 42group

Pharmaceutical copywriters (and pharma copywriters) are experts at creating content for websites, landing pages, email campaigns, marketing materials, and social media. They can use their specialist skills to build connections with your audiences, engaging them, informing them, and inspiring them to act—whether that’s clicking a button, using a service, or choosing a product.

Pharma copywriting agencies like 42group have deep industry knowledge and employ writers with exceptional skills to create content that delivers the 3Cs – clear, compelling, and compliant. 

In this guide on how to improve your pharmaceutical copywriting, we’re going to go through it all, from a basic description of what a pharmaceutical copywriter does to the key principles of effective pharma copywriting to help you write better copy.

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What is pharmaceutical copywriting?

Pharmaceutical copywriting is all about creating content that communicates complex medical and scientific information in a clear and engaging way for your audiences. Pharma copywriters aren’t medical experts and they’re not communicating clinical information to patients and professionals. 

The role of a pharmaceutical copywriter is to help you communicate more clearly and effectively with your audience. (We explore this further in our pharma copywriting guide.)

Pharma copywriters are skilled communicators who can use their talents to create copy for a range of formats and channels, including:

  • Websites
  • Blogs and articles
  • Whitepapers and reports
  • Case studies
  • Social media posts
  • Landing pages
  • Newsletter
  • Emails
  • Tone of voice guidelines
  • Brand packs
  • Product descriptions
  • Animations
  • Film scripts

This is a very basic list, and your copywriter may be required to do more. (People familiar with marketing terminology will rightly say that many of these come under the heading ‘content.’ While that’s true, we’re taking a broad approach to copywriting, reflecting the language of non-technical experts and those who aren’t as entrenched in the industry.)

How can copywriters create connections with your audience?

Copywriters can be considered as the mechanism for your audience to connect with core audiences. They can help your organisation find the right words, best channels and appropriate narratives and stories to build relationships that matter. 

Why would a pharmaceutical company need a copywriter? Here are four ways a professional copywriter who understands the pharma sector can have an impact on your audience:

  1. Educate and inform: Copywriters can provide detailed and accurate information about pharmaceutical products, treatments, impacts, outcomes and research findings in a relatable way. We know that educating your audience is crucial and by providing accurate, comprehensive and precise information to patients and other stakeholders, you can build authority. We’re not talking about clinical guidelines, patient instructions, or clinical trial write-ups; instead, copywriters can create accessible content and materials that build relationships with your audiences by educating and informing them.
  2. Build trust and authority: In a world where trust in brands is at an all-time low, copywriters – and the content they create – can play a key role in establishing your brand as a credible and reliable source of information. To achieve this, content and copy must reflect the latest scientific research and clinical guidelines and illustrate your commitment to accuracy and improving patient safety. You don’t need to do this alone. Copywriters can collaborate with experts and create case studies that bring products, services, and solutions to life, demonstrating positive impact and outcomes.
  3. Engage and retain: Successful engagement online involves more than just attracting attention; it’s about maintaining it. Copywriters can use storytelling techniques, case studies, and real-world examples to make content more relatable and interesting. In the online world, monitoring engagement metrics – like time spent on page, return visits and social shares – can help you understand what content resonates most with your audience and use it to your advantage. (Copywriters are often analytics experts, too.)
  4. Drive actions: Copywriters are experts at persuasion, using words to drive actions, whether that’s a click, capturing data or creating a connection. Every piece of content should have a clear call to action (CTA) that guides the reader toward the desired outcome. Again, data is your friend, so using analytics to track the effectiveness of your CTAs will enable you to refine your approach, iterating for continuous improvement.

What makes great pharmaceutical copywriting?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of pharmaceutical copywriting, let’s explore what elevates pharma copy from the mundane to the magnificent. Here are some of the core elements of great pharmaceutical copywriting. There are the things that make your audience stop scrolling and keep reading. (One tip from us is: You’ll know great copy when you read it, so bookmark it and benchmark your copy against it. Set your standards and stick to them.)

  1. Clarity: Pharmaceutical content should be free of jargon and complex language unless the audience consists of healthcare professionals. Use plain language and define necessary medical terms. Clarity ensures that your message is understood by a broad audience, including those without a medical background. Breaking down complex information into simpler parts and using analogies enhances comprehension. Visual aids like diagrams and charts also help clarify complex concepts.
  2. Accuracy: Ensure all information is accurate and up-to-date. This is critical in maintaining credibility and preventing misinformation. It is essential to regularly review and update content to reflect the latest research findings and regulatory changes. Providing references and citations enhances credibility and allows readers to verify facts. Fact-checking and peer review are important steps in ensuring the accuracy of your content.
  3. Engagement: Engaging writing captures the reader’s attention and keeps them interested. Use storytelling techniques like anecdotes and real-world examples to make content relatable and compelling. Varying sentence structure and incorporating visual elements also enhance engagement. Asking rhetorical questions and addressing the reader directly creates a more interactive experience. A conversational tone makes complex topics feel more accessible and engaging.
  4. Persuasiveness: Use persuasive techniques to encourage action or change in perspective. Clearly articulate the benefits and significance of your products and findings. Including testimonials, case studies, and success stories provides real-world evidence to support your arguments. Addressing potential objections or concerns strengthens your persuasiveness. Strong calls to action (CTAs) guide readers toward the desired action.
  5. Compliance: Adhere to ethical and legal standards in your writing. This includes accurately representing findings, avoiding sensationalism, and respecting intellectual property rights. Transparency about potential conflicts of interest and funding sources is also important in maintaining trust and credibility. Following ethical guidelines for pharmaceutical communication ensures responsible and trustworthy content. Regularly consulting with legal and regulatory experts helps ensure compliance.

The pharma copywriting process: From initial approach to implementation

When clients approach us at 42group with a problem or a project, they typically have a predefined endpoint in mind. That could be a website launch date, product push or campaign deadline. We use these endpoints and work backward, building a project plan that incorporates the following steps. 

This is how we, at 42group, take your project from the initial approach to implementation. This is the way we work, and it’s not standard across the industry. We can’t provide firm timescales here, because the speed of delivery depends on the size, scale and complexity of your project. 

  • Initial discussion: We’ll pick up the phone, switch on the camera, and chat about your project. The purpose of this is for us to meet and to learn about your audience, campaign and expected outcomes. This isn’t something you can easily do over email, and investing the time early on can have a huge impact on overall success.
  • Project brief: Everything should be captured in a clear, concise, and agreed-upon brief. For an example of how this can work, check out our guide on how to write a content marketing brief. This brief and our terms and conditions provide context for our relationship. And yes, at this stage, we’ll also discuss costs.
  • Audience research: Everything in your project should be defined by your audience, their needs and wants. We’ll spend time understanding who your audiences are, their pain point, priorities and preferred content channels. 
  • Set KPIs: Copywriting is creative, but KPIs make the impact tangible. We’ll work with you to define the metrics that matter. For a more in-depth explanation of how this works, check out our guide to content marketing KPIs.
  • Project plan: After we’ve done the research, defined the audience, and created the KPIs, we’ll put together a work package and project plan. Our established process provides a solid foundation and framework for creative copywriting.
  • Content delivery, optimisation & improvement: Copywriting and content can split opinion and it’s almost impossible to get things right the first time. When working on a large project like a website copy edit, we’ll work up several samples and then work through them to identify a tone of voice that works for you and your audience. Once established, we’ll run that through all content. We always build in time for optimisation (ensuring content is clear, accessible and delivers SEO impact) and improvement – testing, assessing, and refreshing it according to audience feedback.
  • External checks & validation: Pharma copywriters and pharma copywriting agencies like 42group aren’t medical experts. We rely on our customers to apply checks to content, including legal, medical and corporate checks to ensure accuracy before publication. (Don’t worry, we’ll apply any recommendations, changes and improvements that your checkers recommend or demand.)
  • Project close, bill & next steps: Phew! All the hard work is done and it’s delivering impact. We’ll send our bill and we’re done, right? We always do a project wash-up where we explore next steps in the project. This may or may not include us, but is aimed at giving you clarity in how you use the content we have created to benefit your business and build human connections.

Finding your tone of voice: pharma content writing principles

Every organisation, copywriter and campaign is different – but there are some fundamental principles of pharmaceutical copywriting that should be applied across every campaign. 

While you can – and should – find a unique tone of voice to create effective connections with your audiences, here are some copywriting principles you should always put into practice:

  • Concise and direct: Cut out the waffle, avoid unnecessary words and get straight to the point. This approach to lean copywriting is particularly important in pharmaceutical communication, where clarity and precision are paramount. We find that concise and clear writing ensures that messages are easily understood, even when communicating about complex subjects. Breaking down complex information into simple, accessible and relatable parts makes it easier to understand, maximising its impact. In terms of style, using bullet points and lists, clear headings and incorporating images and other media elements can improve readability and comprehension.
  • Formal and professional: Pharmaceutical companies are often billion-dollar businesses – which means a conversational tone of voice may cause dissonance among your readers. Always maintain a professional and respectful tone in your copy, especially when writing for healthcare providers and regulatory bodies. While patient-focused materials can be more conversational to establish a connection, avoid using slang or colloquial language and ensure that all medical terminology is used correctly and appropriately. Formality – when done properly – conveys authority and expertise, which is vital in building trust and respect.
  • Engaging and relatable: Commercial copywriters use bold language to impress and inspire readers. In the pharma world, we need to stay grounded, but we can use analogies, metaphors, and real-world examples to make complex concepts more understandable and build connections. Storytelling techniques can play a role in making content more compelling and realistic. 
  • Clear and precise: When communicating on complex topics like medical conditions, treatments, impact and outcomes, always use clear and precise language to avoid misunderstandings. Take the time to clearly define any technical terms and provide explanations for complex concepts and ensure that your writing is clear and precise to reduce the risk of potential misinterpretation. 
  • Objective and balanced: Again, trust is at an all-time low, so present all information objectively and avoid bias. A balanced approach in copywriting enhances credibility and trustworthiness. It can be beneficial to provide multiple perspectives and acknowledge limitations and uncertainties to give readers a fair and accurate representation of information, research and treatments. Of course, copywriters should avoid sensationalism and exaggeration to maintain the integrity and reliability of content. Including references and citations for sources supports the objectivity and credibility of your writing and is an essential part of what a pharmaceutical copywriter will do.

It should go without saying (but we will anyway) that all copy and content must be medically accurate, referenced and checked by qualified clinical experts. All content should also be checked by legal experts who can advise whether it contravenes any regulations. Finally, all content created by external writers or agencies should be reviewed by in-house teams to ensure compliance with tone of voice guidelines, corporate style and any specific constraints you have.  

SEO for pharmaceutical copywriting

Pharmaceutical companies need to get serious about search engine optimization (SEO). We’re guessing you probably know all this stuff, but SEO is about increasing the visibility to your website and digital channels to increase audience awareness and engagement. SEO for pharmaceutical companies uses commercial techniques (that we use for clients like Halfords, Monster and Lenovo) to capture clicks and drive more traffic to your site.

Contemporary pharma copywriters (at 42group, at least) understand the fundamentals of SEO and how to apply these to the content and copy that we create. 

Here are some basic fundamentals of SEO to help pharmaceutical copywriters create content with impact.

  1. Keyword research: Start by identifying relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience is likely to search for. Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help find popular and relevant keywords. Incorporating these keywords naturally into your content improves its search engine ranking. Including long-tail keywords and variations captures a broader range of search queries. Regularly updating and refreshing keywords based on current trends maintains and improves SEO performance.
  2. Quality content: High-quality content is essential for SEO. We all know that search engines favour content that is informative, well-written, and valuable to readers. Ensuring content is accurate, up-to-date, and thoroughly researched enhances its quality and relevance. Including original data, insights, and perspectives makes content stand out. Regularly updating content to reflect the latest research and developments maintains its relevance and SEO performance.
  3. Meta tags and descriptions: Get the basics right. Use meta tags, including title tags and meta descriptions, to provide search engines with information about your content. These tags should include relevant keywords and accurately describe the content. Crafting compelling and accurate meta descriptions attracts more clicks and improves visibility. Ensuring title tags and meta descriptions are unique for each page improves overall SEO performance.
  4. Internal and external links: Ensure Google can see your content to boost SEO. Use internal links to connect related content on your site, and include external links to reputable sources. This helps search engines understand the context and relevance of your content. Internal linking improves navigation and user experience on your site. Including external links to high-quality and authoritative sources enhances credibility and SEO performance. Regularly checking and updating links ensures they remain relevant and functional.
  5. User experience (UX): This isn’t the job of a copywriter, but it’s a process they can play a crucial part in. Work with designers to ensure your site is easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and fast-loading. Providing a clean and organised layout, clear headings, and intuitive navigation enhances the user experience. Ensuring content is accessible and readable on all devices, including smartphones and tablets, improves user satisfaction and SEO performance. Regularly testing and optimising your site for speed and performance maintains and enhances SEO rankings.

These things are the basic elements of SEO and doing them will give your content the best chance of ranking. These rules can be applied across your website content, blogs, articles, whitepapers and more.

Commit to better pharmaceutical copywriting

Pharmaceutical companies should use commercial copywriting tactics to create connections with their audiences. This isn’t about manipulating or misrepresenting what you do, it’s about understanding how the best copy (and copywriters) can change opinions, create connections and drive actions. 

Putting into practice the fundamental aspects of great pharma copywriting outlined in this guide will be a good start, but the best businesses are restless – they commit to constantly reviewing, refining and improving copy and content. And you should too.

Connect with a pharmaceutical copywriter

42group is one of the UK’s leading pharmaceutical and healthcare copywriting agencies with a wide range of clients, from the NHS to organisations like Pfizer, Roche and Merck. We’re ready and waiting to learn about your latest project, so get in touch today.

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