"Let’s be honest – there’s a lot of content out there that isn’t great," Cecilia Dominici, digital strategy and content director at WE Communications, told the audience at PRWeek’s PharmaComms conference. "As communicators in the health and pharma industry, we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to actually make a difference in people’s lives – and our content should reflect that.
"We need to make sure the stories we tell aren’t just adding to the digital landfill. How do we cut through the noise and make people pay attention?" She revealed her five key principles for creating content that really sings on digital and social.
1. Make it relevant
Creating content that’s relevant to your audience means thinking about what they’re already searching for and spending time reading, says Dominici. "What do they want to know? What have they engaged with previously? If we look at our own analytics and see that people are hitting ‘like’ and commenting on certain types of content, we have to investigate what resonated and build on that."
When it comes to choosing a platform, don’t be swayed by the latest trends. "Everyone’s talking about TikTok these days, but if we’re targeting a 60-plus demographic, chances are TikTok is not the right platform," Dominici says. "However, if we want to raise awareness of a certain condition or cause within a much younger demographic, then it could be; and so could working with influencers."
2. Timely content is powerful content (so don’t get hung up on polishing it)
"I like to think about timeliness versus timelessness," says Dominici. "The power of putting something out that is timely and responds to what’s happening right now (such as debunking misleading press headlines), or something in the zeitgeist, is amazing."
With this kind of content, she believes that getting your message out quickly is more important than finessing the perfect wording or an elaborate graphic: "It doesn’t have to be super polished, which is something that often stops us from doing timely content."
On the other hand, some of your content may be of the timeless, evergreen variety, which in the health sector might mean patient advice. "We need to think: what stays true about this condition? What are the challenges that patients have? How can we create resources for them that they’re going to want to access?"
3. Know your platform – and optimise your content for it
Once you’ve got to know your audience – where they spend their time, their interests, their media consumption – and chosen your platform based on that, you need to tailor your content to that specific platform.
"We have to think about optimising the content based on the platform, and that might mean length, format, audio," says Dominici. "For example, the majority of people on Facebook watch content without sound, so we have to make sure we have subtitles, otherwise our points are going to be lost. But on Instagram Stories, people tend to watch with sound."
"On YouTube, people often want to find answers to their problems or learn how to do something. Some of the most popular searches start with ‘how’," she continues. "People want to learn, so you might be able to optimise your content that way."
At-a-glance infographic, or 2,500-word feature? "Short- and long-form content both have their place – we have to think about the audience and what we’re trying to say," says Dominici. Whatever kind of content you’re creating, she points to the fact that the brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text, so it pays to make it as visually enticing as possible. "That’s not to say there is no place for the written word – absolutely there is – but we have to think about how to draw people in with compelling visual content: video, infographics, photography."
4. Harness the weird power of storytelling
"Storytelling does something to us as humans, in terms of primal response," says Dominici. "Following a story activates the brain in interesting ways. But often it’s quite hard to create a story about science, because people perceive it in a cold, unsexy way."
She advises healthcare PRs to tell the compelling human stories behind the science – which might mean people within an organisation (such as the medical researcher working through the night to get to a breakthrough) – or patients themselves.
"Let patients tell their own story," advises Dominici. "Sometimes it’s scary to relinquish control, but letting people speak in their own words is incredibly powerful – and so authentic that it’s impossible to artificially recreate." As she points out, studies show people tend to trust this kind of content more, and user-generated content consistently gets three to seven times more engagement on social media than any other kind.
5. Engagement is meaningless if it’s not effective
"We don't want to create engagement for the sake of it, that doesn't mean anything, or do anything for your brand," says Dominici. "Engaging on social media is easy sometimes – you can copy the most popular formats, you can do fun things. But it has to be connected to your purpose and the story you’re telling as an organisation. Otherwise you’re going to lose your voice and your mission as a brand."
Her top three tips? "Listen to what our audiences are telling us: what are people saying and searching for? Analyse what’s working well, and not so well. Some things are going to bomb, and that’s okay – fail fast, and learn from them. Finally, make compelling visual content that people will want to engage with. And don’t be afraid to experiment!"