Why Storytelling is the Best Way to Engage Health Care Audiences

Business2Community.com, August 21, 2013


Relying on numbers at the expense of human judgment and experience, no matter how reassuringly extensive the latter, can lead to poor decision making that has far-reaching consequences (see our recent post on the limitations of “big data”). This was underlined by the Berwick Report on patient safety in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), published this week (download the full report).

Professor Don Berwick, a global authority on patient safety, found fault not with NHS staff but with a dysfunctional system of “incorrect priorities” overly focused on “naive or mechanistic targets.” Among the report’s key findings is its recommendation that quantitative targets be used with caution and that “such goals…should never displace the primary goal of better care.” The principal focus on patients, and by extension on the staff charged with caring for them, had been systemically degraded by a narrow focus on numbers and not people, the report found.

In marketing as in health, it’s vital to go beyond the numbers to build a true picture of the people you’re engaging with. This means collecting and consolidating all existing research—and supplementing that with primary quantitative and qualitative research where necessary—to develop a holistic understanding of the audience, whether health-care professional, carer, buyer or patient or all.

Stories—human beings’ primary method of communicating anything more complex than hello—are the proven means of sharing any idea or concept that is interesting, memorable and motivating. Stories win a disproportionate share of an audience’s attention, says Jonathan Mildenhall, vice president of advertising and creative at Coca-Cola (watch Coca-Cola’s 2020 Content Excellence strategy video here):

“The conversation model…begins with brand stories. These brand stories provoke conversation; then we need to act and react to those conversations 365 days a year…. Through the stories we tell, we will provoke conversations and earn a disproportionate share of popular culture”.


Subjects Covered: medicine

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