"Care" is the Operative Word.
We all know that marketing is about sales, but as a marketing professional, I feel good about that because I'm lucky enough to work on brands that can actually make people's lives better. That makes me want to create the best content I can and connect with my audience.
When content connects with its audience, it addresses a need or desire. Connecting with people makes content relevant to them. These Pepto Bismol ads, which were placed on real washers in a public laundry facility, instantly connect with anyone who's experienced the (quite literal) pain point that Pepto Bismol works to relieve. One look at that sloshing tummy almost creates a need for the product!
This instant feeling is empathy, and it's a powerful way of creating connections. Because health care marketing speaks to an audience often facing painful, uncomfortable, or sensitive issues, empathy is both extremely important and not always easy to create. It can be tough to put yourself in your audience's shoes and really understand what they need and want to hear, but I've found a few exercises that will help.
Converse. Talk with representative members of your target audience, if you can. Chat them as people, about their needs and wants (as they relate, directly and indirectly, to your product or service). Listen to the language they use, and their tone. Are they hopeful? Scared? Resigned? Observe their fears, hopes, what seems to help, even what they think is funny about the situation.
Listen. Read blogs written by members of your audience and interviews of people with the condition. Listen in on relevant Twitter conversations using hashtags. Find Facebook pages or community forums where you can see what people are saying and how they're feeling.
Extrapolate. If you can't communicate with or observe people in your specific target audience group, find a similar group and try to glean some insights there. For example, I write content for people who have hemophilia, a pretty darn rare disease. While I can't talk with those people specifically, I follow other rare disease communities on Facebook. Although the diseases may vary, the communities have a lot in common, and I can learn from all of it.
Get Creative with Character Development. Create an imaginary character in your audience and jot down a sort of "day in the life." Write a quick story about him or her, with dialogue and thoughts, to get inside the character's head. Don't worry about plot; you could even rewrite a classic story. Character development is the important part: you will learn something about your audience by getting involved in this character.
All in the Family. Imagine it's someone you love who has the health condition you're concerned with. Dig deep. Get a pen—not a keyboard and not a pencil; you want this to feel permanent—and write down, for example: "My brother, Adam, has type 2 diabetes." Write down all of the ways Adam's life would be affected. What about Adam's wife and Adam's kids? Pretend Adam is the person who's going to be reading your copy.
The team that created this ad for an Alzheimer's organization clearly empathized with the suffering of Alzheimer's patients. The image and copy work together to create emotion, immediately connecting with the audience and communicating the message in a striking way.
While it's obvious that this ad was created with empathy, it also creates empathy in its audience, giving everyone who sees it a little insight into Alzheimer's Disease.
You can really feel that.
Images via Ads of the World.