Perhaps more than any other business type, medical practices need to earn the trust of prospective clients or patients before people will do business with them.
A proven way to build this trust is to publish and share thought leadership content. This content demonstrates expertise and empathy, which will help engender trust—it’s also a great way to show that a practitioner is staying up-to-date with current medical advancements, proving to patients that they can expect the latest in care. Thought leadership content can also help you stay connected with current clients and interest them in new services.
Many medical practitioners get thought leadership right. Others miss the mark. This article explains what you can do to develop, publish, and distribute thought leadership content that demonstrates credibility and builds trust with potential (and current) patients.
What Is Healthcare Thought Leadership?
Medical organizations use the term thought leadership to refer to many different marketing and communication activities, often in error.
A reasonable definition of thought leadership for doctors is the strategic and properly-planned delivery of well-researched, compelling, purpose-built content to engage current and prospective patients.
In the end, you want to position your business as an authority on the type of medical support it provides in a research- and knowledge-based— not promotional—way. Thought leadership isn’t a single social post, infographic, medical demonstration, or blog article about a medication, supplement, or treatment. It’s bigger, broader, and more extensive than that.
Thought leadership must be based on novel research, insights, or concepts. It can’t be regurgitated messaging that people can find somewhere else. In short, it must set your practice apart—including the way it views healthcare and how it practices medicine—from all the others.
For example, a doctor who specializes in weight loss could publish and promote a blog post that reveals ten tips to lose weight. While this content could be viewed by many who want to shed pounds as valuable, it’s not thought leadership. Instead, if the physician and his staff took time to interview people in the local area to find out why they have weight issues and worked together with other practitioners in the community to find unique ways to solve them, a podcast presenting the results of that work could be considered a form of thought leadership.
How to Develop Meaningful and Consumable Medical Thought Leadership Content
Well-planned and well-executed thought leadership campaigns educate prospective patients on healthcare trends relevant to them. The content must provide information that changes how they think about the medical care they receive or how they manage their personal health. Alongside these lofty ambitions, the material must be presented in ways that are consumable and understandable to busy people.
For example, a large pharmaceutical company may produce a 50-plus page paper on a new drug and the condition it improves. However, if a physician leverages that information and puts her spin on it, and recombines it into another 50-plus page document, it’s unlikely busy prospective patients will read it. However, if she produces a series of short videos or podcasts, her audience may make it step-by-step through the content and eventually reach out to her to learn more.
An investment in thought leadership is significant. You must select topics that appeal to the broadest number of patients you want to reach and attract to your practice. The most amazing, forward-thinking, and complete piece about an arthritis cure won’t get read, watched, or listened to by young people who don’t have the condition. However, if your practice is targeting seniors, it could bring in a large number of leads and new clients. It could also help you stay connected with current patients experiencing the condition and may spark a conversation with you.
Format Thought Leadership Content Properly
Medical professionals tend to be readers. They must consume a lot of content to make it through medical, nursing, or other professional schools. However, prospective patients may not be avid readers, especially if they’re younger or often busy.
Don’t assume thought leadership must be presented as an official-looking long-form PDF report. Instead, package this content in ways prospective patients will find engaging. For instance, thought leadership can be shared at in-person or virtual events where you can connect directly with prospective patients. You can also parcel it out in video format, which many younger people and older ones with vision issues prefer. You might also break up this content into interconnected blog articles or “chapters” that people can work through at their own pace. Many today appreciate podcasts because they can listen to them while doing other tasks.
Here’s a guide that connects different media to a range of ways people consume information:
Visual: infographics, animations, data visualization, videos
Aural: podcasts, audio interviews
Reading: long-form reports, short-form content, written opinion pieces, case studies
Kinesthetic: webinars, events, conferences, workshops
If you’re unsure of how to package or present your content, ask your current patients what media they prefer—it could provide a sound basis for reaching similar people.
All your thought leadership content should live on your business website. You can drive social media, email, conference, and advertising traffic to a landing page or individual asset. Visitors can then explore all your thought leadership material in a single place. Plus, having people explore a significant amount of quality content on your site will send positive signals to Google, which could earn you substantial organic traffic through the search engine.
Check it out: Proven ways to market a medical practice.
How to Find Your Medical Thought Leadership Space
How can you create healthcare thought leadership content that will stand out from other available information?
Start by considering your objectives and audience, what makes your practice unique, and what you want the people you’re targeting to do after interacting with the content (most likely, strike up a conversation or make an appointment).
Once you figure these details out, you can bring together a team to consider the ideal messaging and positioning, trending themes, and potential new ideas worth exploring.
In short, do creative brainstorming to identify the empty space your thought leadership content can fill.
Finally, Thought Leadership Isn’t Once and Done
Clearly, good thought leadership takes a significant investment in time, money, and effort. It doesn’t make sense to do all the work only to have it fade away.
That’s why it makes sense to come up with a big, overarching idea you can extend over time.
The most successful healthcare thought leadership campaigns are long-term, multi-year experiences. They present new and relevant concepts based on a single theme over time. For instance, if your practice takes a unique approach to allergy relief, your thought leadership content theme could be based on it, and over time, your materials could cover the dietary, environmental, and other aspects of this topic.
When you take the time to identify your topic areas, conduct research, and produce multiple quality content assets, the thought leadership you produce will be more likely to attract the attention of prospective patients. It may even get noticed by other medical professionals, who could share it with their patients, and maybe even get them to refer new business to your practice.
Thought leadership takes a significant investment in time and effort, however, it’s worth it. In a sea of junky, same-old healthcare content, high-quality medical thought leadership will rise to the top, helping you attract new patients and clients and retain them for the long run.
Want to learn more about thought leadership? Check out this helpful guide.