MEDICAL COPYWRITING - MAKING GOOD COPY GREAT
The 5 do’s you can’t miss

Chiara Degasper

“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”
Howard Gossage

The healthcare market is one of the major areas of growth within the world of advertising. I took the first steps in the industry 2 years ago, when, after graduating, I realised that working behind the lab bench was not my cup of tea. Entering the world of healthcare advertising as a medical writer meant embracing a dynamic professional community that fosters creativity and innovative thinking.


But marketing is not all plain sailing. Every day, we are exposed to an increasing number of ads - more media, more websites, more newsletters, more emails. This information overload has obvious consequences - only those who grab the reader’s attention pop through the clutter. What do you do when you find a flyer in your mailbox? Do you read it with eager anticipation? Probably not, even if it is selling a product that may be of interest to you.

The healthcare industry is not immune to the principles of good advertising

Standing out from the crowd of advertising is not easy, and this is particularly true when it comes to a serious industry like healthcare. How can a creative mind produce compelling content in an environment that is subject to heavy compliance regulations? The answer is not easy, and the art of writing a great slogan cannot be reduced to a formula. Every material is different, and so is the target and objective of each communication effort. However, healthcare copywriting is not immune to the principles of good advertising, summarised in the diagram below.(1) 

Whether you are new to medical writing, or an established medical communicator taking the first steps in the world of advertising, below you can find a few principles worth considering when developing promotional materials.

Choose the right headline. A well-thought headline is a key ingredient for a successful ad. According to David Ogilvy, author of "Confessions of an Advertising Man", on average five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.(2) But what makes a claim a great slogan? It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that a clever or funny play-on-words would be enough. But put yourself in the shoes of your customer. What would convince you to buy the product? Being amused by the shop assistant or feeling reassured that you are getting high-quality merchandise? The answer is clear.

The headline is the first and perhaps only chance you have to impress the reader – think it through.

Keep it simple. “To be or not to be?” These are without doubt the most famous and powerful lines William Shakespeare ever wrote. Only six words, and none of them is over three letters long. Nevertheless, they have been resonating for hundreds of years. The lesson? Keep it simple. One useful tip is to choose muscular words (for example “achieve”, “attain” and “perform”), possibly favouring verbs over nouns. Writing short paragraphs can also help you communicate your message more effectively.

Good copy is written in clear, concise and simple words that get your point across.

Stick to the data. When developing compelling content, getting the balance right between creativity and accuracy can be difficult. Writing deceptive or misleading messages can affect the credibility of a marketing campaign and weaken the bond between the brand and its customers. As a medical writer, you must ensure that your claims are fully substantiated, scientifically sound and compliant to all relevant regulatory frameworks.  

Make sure your messages are accurate and balanced.

Put the reader first. As with everything you do in marketing, you need to understand whom you are speaking to in the first place. Do you speak to your grandmother the same way you speak to your closest friend? The answer is no. Similarly, whether you are writing for a healthcare professional, a nurse or a patient, you must ensure that your content and the way it is presented are appropriate for your target audience. Think of your reader. Then write to him.

Ensure that your message can be easily understood by your target.

Stay true to the brand’s voice. Every brand has its own personality, with distinct traits that make it recognisable in the crowded world of advertising. The brand’s voice resonates with its customers and is intentional in both its tone and style. Elevating these unique features across materials allows you to develop a focussed communication story, consistent in the language you use and the story you tell.

Let the brand’s identity resonate across materials.

If you want to learn more about the techniques used to turn bland copy into persuasive content, have a look at the “Complete Guide to Copywriting” by Neil Patel.

References
1. Albrighton T. The copywriting infographic. 2012. Available at: https://www.abccopywriting.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Copywriting_infographic.pdf. Accessed May 2019.
2. Bly RW. The copywriter’s handbook. A step-by-step guide to writing copy that sells. 2006; Holt Paperbacks.

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