Short form messaging dates all the way back to the earliest cave drawings and hieroglyphics, when people used images and short bursts of text to tell stories and give directions. However, as access to information increases and accelerates here in the 21st century, it now consumes incredible amounts of our attention, challenging our ability to identify what is important and meaningful.
In response to this challenge, there has been a resurgence of short form storytelling for successful marketing and communications. In fact, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube are now at the heart of a tightly-integrated stream of short form messaging.
While most marketing teams have at last begun to address this challenge, it has not been easy for them to adapt to the always-on short form messaging environment. This transition has been particularly challenging in the healthcare space for a number of reasons:
- Therapeutic approaches are becoming increasingly complex
- Healthcare messaging is difficult to condense
- Regulatory constraints and uncertainty
- Lack of trained staff and budget
- Slow creation and approval processes
- Benefits are not easily measured
- Increased demand for multi-lingual formats
Despite these challenges, some key strategies for using short form messaging in the healthcare space have emerged:
1. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
A simple, well-conceived illustration or infographic can successfully convey many layers of complex and nuanced information in a manner that both patients and physicians can quickly understand. It is important to note that some photographs or more complex images can have the opposite effect—adding to patient confusion. Therefore, it is critical to carefully design for simplicity so that your materials gain maximum impact as a short form storytelling tool.
2. Sometimes Less is More — Focus on What’s Most Important
Too many facts and figures increase the likelihood of confusion. Thus, it becomes critical to identify and highlight the single most important items as stand-alone elements. This focus will allow viewers to quickly digest the key messages, and also makes them easier to share. As difficult as it is for marketers to admit, everything cannot be the Number One priority.
3. Use Whatever it Takes to Tell Your Story — Numbers, Words, and Pictures
A lack of essential facts and figures can also create confusion. While streamlining and efficiency are key guiding principles, your story cannot be trimmed back so far that the message is watered-down or open to interpretation. Just as physicians aim to administer the “minimal effective dose,” when developing short form messages you need to administer just the right mix of images, words, and numbers to efficiently convey your story with maximum efficacy and minimal side effects.
4. Break It Down: Tell Your Story Over Time
Oftentimes, when first presented with medical information, people have a difficult time processing the details of the message due to their emotional response. Fortunately, we can improve their ability to understand, retain, and act on the information by chunking the message over time. By delivering the right information at the right dose at the right time, we can significantly increase the impact and relevance of our messaging. This requires a clear understanding of where patients are in their overall disease state journey. For example, have they just been diagnosed? Are they considering treatment options? Have they just been discharged? At each point in the journey, certain short form messages will prove more effective than others.
5. Monitor What Resonates
It’s usually difficult to predict which messages will resonate within the short form storytelling ecosystem. Therefore, it is very important to define what success will look like for your particular campaign, and then monitor how various messages are performing in various channels. For example, maybe your infographic will get good traction on Facebook, or maybe even more traffic on Pinterest.
As medical interventions become increasingly personalized, and more complex, the challenge of clear healthcare communications is going to grow increasingly critical to the overall functioning of our already stressed healthcare system. To meet this challenge, healthcare educators and healthcare marketers not only need to learn how to communicate using short form messaging—but need to lead the way by employing visual storytelling, breaking stories into bite-sized pieces, focusing on just the essentials, using multiple channels over time, and monitoring the results.
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