Content Strategy can be challenging in any industry, but particularly, the life science sector faces challenges in the US market based on the nature of the field and the many legal regulations that must be maintained. You might be facing some of these challenges, and we're here to provide a few solutions for you:
Content creators likely don’t have the lived experience of a given health condition or the drug in question.
The most effective communications meet the reader where they’re at, which can be challenging to achieve if the creators do not have firsthand experience. This means creators must consider the channel a patient might prefer for a given communication, the challenges they might face along their health journey, and how they feel when interacting with your company.
Use experience research to learn from patients, and let those learnings guide your content strategy.
Doing experience research—in which you talk with actual patients and engage in design activities together with them—can help you better understand their experiences. It allows you to learn how they think and feel about their condition. Even more importantly, it can help reveal how they talk about their condition with loved ones and care teams.
These important learnings should not only be funneled into your content strategy and messaging but also communicated to regulatory teams so that the commercial organization can create compliant materials that are meaningful to patients.
Content is owned by multiple teams spread across different departments in organizational silos.
The life sciences sector is uniquely challenged in this area, given the need to create content for multiple audiences with very different needs, and varying levels of health literacy. Content for HCPs often exists across marketing, sales, training, and medical affairs. On the other hand, patient-focused content can sit in marketing, patient services, and patient access.
Content for these two distinctly different audiences is often created with little cross-audience view of how these audiences may interact with one another around a product or condition. And when teams have different goals, content can get out of sync fast. The result is a collection of content that lacks that cohesion and sounds like it came from many different “songbooks.”
Bring disparate teams together to create messaging architecture that can support all communications across audiences & business units.
A messaging architecture provides messaging priorities, communication goals, and overarching language to guide all content creation. This architecture should include elements like voice and tone and key terms/phrases to create content. It should be oriented first and foremost around the needs of the patient audience (which you’ve explored through experience research).
By bringing disparate teams together to create your messaging architecture, you can help ensure that you’ve created something that everyone uses when creating new content. This is a key step in creating a cohesive experience—no matter the audience.
Once this plan is in place, look to create a content management process that includes consideration of these guidelines and efficiently integrates with the regulatory process.
Strict regulatory requirements around the use of language hamper patient understanding
Strict rules for acceptable language ensure patients accurately understand product benefits and potential side effects accurately. But the fact is that too much medical jargon actually gets in the way of patient understanding. When confronted with too much jargon, most of us are likely to zone out. Many patients have lower levels of health literacy, and most are not adept at reading “medical-ese.” Remember, a person’s health literacy can also drop quickly in times of stress.
Partner with Medical/Legal/Regulatory (MLR) teams to co-create solutions for more patient-friendly language.
Health literacy should not be left to patients. Life sciences companies have an essential institutional role in supporting health literacy. And while FDA guidelines do pose challenges, content creators must work with internal MLR teams to find better solutions. Look for opportunities to share patient research learnings to show how language can help or hinder patient understanding.
Ideally, all patient-facing content should be written at a 7th-grade reading level or below. (You can use a free tool like the Hemingway editor to check reading level.) When legally required language makes hitting this goal impossible, consider how resources like glossaries, contextual definitions, and patient-friendly add-ons can be employed to ensure patient comprehension.
Information is presented in ways that are not welcoming and inclusive.
For too long, the healthcare system was built by and for a small subgroup of people. Too often, we do not account for a wider audience's varied needs and experiences. This can manifest in a wide variety of ways. For content, this can mean writing that centers one voice or perspective above others or using outdated and alienating language.
Ensure that content guidelines include recommendations for creating inclusive content.
Words have power, and the choices we make around them matter. Begin building inclusion from the ground up with inclusive language and imagery. This includes:
- Use person-first language - centering the person rather than their disease. For example, “a person with diabetes” rather than “a diabetic.”
- Default to gender-neutral pronouns - Whenever possible, use gender-neutral pronouns (they/them) and carefully consider when/if gendered pronouns (he/her/she/him) are necessary.
- Remove problematic language - Watch out for insensitive language that undermines equity and equality by upholding historic patterns of marginalization. For example, replace an outdated term like “addict” with “person with substance use disorder.”
- Accommodate multiple language needs - Look to your target audience to see what language needs may exist. For diseases that have a disproportionate impact on certain communities (such as diabetes or Alzheimer’s in the Latinx community), consider translating content into other languages to better meet the needs of these audiences.
- Learn from your audience - The most important consideration is to speak to and about your audience in the way they wish to be addressed and represented. Refer continually to your experience research to help guide the language you are using.
As you become more patient-centric: Remember that this work is ongoing. As the life sciences sector grows and changes with each new scientific discovery, so should your content strategy. Continue to look to patients to learn about their experiences so you can create content that speaks to their needs and challenges.
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