Six ways healthcare comms professionals can be more ambitious on women’s health

The pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on the lives of women, so how can we, as comms professionals, ensure that health is not part of the predicted generation of progress lost among women?

'Women' are not a homogeneous group so reflect that in your comms, advises Emily Thomas
'Women' are not a homogeneous group so reflect that in your comms, advises Emily Thomas

Engage women on their terms

Paradoxically, by talking about ‘women’s health’ as a collective you automatically, yet unintentionally, create barriers. Women are not one homogenous group, but experience the world in different ways. We need to understand the different groups of women that we want to talk to, uncovering their motivations and barriers to engaging with their health. Only then can we address the problems in a way that is relatable and realistic using people, platforms and channels that are trusted and relevant in their lives.

Straight talking wins

We need to talk to women authentically in a tone and language they use. This means ditching the euphemisms or over-sanitised phrases that detract from the message. And by doing so we need to push back to the social media platforms whose algorithms often reject ads containing words like vagina, sexual health and pelvic floor, perpetuating the confusion and embarrassment about perfectly normal things relating to women’s health.

Avoid message whitewashing

Repeatedly delivering a clear, simple message enables you to engage with the widest group of people in the shortest space of time. However, there is a danger that this type of approach can become wallpaper to busy women who already struggle to make time for their health. Telling a range of more personalised, even polarising, stories that connect more strongly with different women will elicit a greater response.

Celebrate the imperfections

In a filtered world where pressure to confirm and ‘be your best self’ can often be intimidating and demotivating, sharing honest, genuinely diverse and uplifting stories of the highs and low of an imperfect life is far more believable and appealing. You only have to look at iconic campaigns like Dove's 'This girl can' to see how transformative this approach can be.

Open opportunities for social camaraderie

Brands can play a powerful role in opening the door to conversation, but it’s often the voices of girls and women, informally and organically sharing support, encouragement and reassurance, that strike the loudest chord and affect change. We need to create opportunities for comradery and community and be willing to let the corporate voice play second fiddle.

Tackle the guilt

Central to all of this is tackling the guilt that enables women to put themselves first for once – or at least on the same level as the rest of the family. This means brands need to be more sympathetic and encouraging about finding the time and giving access to support in shorter, accessible formats across channels – online content for the commute, podcasts for the school run, mobile for the weekends. It’s time we fitted into their lives, not vice versa.

Emily Thomas is managing director of Health & Wellbeing at Brands2Life

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