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Does your content have enough content?

Finding the balance in health and science communications

Emma GortonAs short, snappy communications designed for social sharing sites become more prevalent, creators are becoming increasingly challenged to produce content that is on the one hand complex but on the other easily accessible and concise. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of health and science communications, which requires messages to include detailed analyses of subject areas renowned for their intricacies. Is this focus on the concise helping us to get the message across in the most impactful way or are we losing the nuance and context of our story by over-abbreviating?

Current trend towards shorter content

Today content is generated at an exponentially increasing rate. Everyone is a content generator and has access to platforms where they can share their own views and experiences. Last year over 350 million photographs were uploaded to Facebook each day. This trend will only continue to grow and with it the ever increasing excess of content. There is, and will always be, more to read than can ever be read. Audiences are exposed to content from many different angles, from traditional news sources and advertising to digital channels and social platforms. In this world of over-bombardment communicators have had to adapt their style and format to ensure their content penetrates through this noise and is prioritised by the reader. Often the solution has been to create shorter, cleverer content which distils the message into as few words as possible or a single impactful image. This means less is asked of the readers in terms of their time and effort and therefore they are more likely to engage. This trend towards shorter, sharper communications has in turn led to an expectation and belief from readers that they can spend less time consuming content but still take more from it.

What does this mean for healthcare

In healthcare communications we have also been vying to find the balance between holding the reader’s attention and adequately explaining a complex situation. Enormous effort and skill goes into the simplification of medical terminology while still ensuring its scientific accuracy. This goal is especially valuable as we move towards a health model where patients have more of a say in their medical care.

The internet is a key source of information for patients regardless of the nature or stage of their condition. Providing online resources that are easy to understand and accessible enables patients to be better informed and ultimately make better choices about their health and medical care.

The same is true of materials for healthcare professionals. While they may be more familiar with the topics discussed they cannot be experts down to the last detail. With new research demonstrating innovation in medical treatments published every day there is a need for communicators to distil this information and make it accessible for medical professionals to quickly absorb this data.

Putting the context back in

In the effort to fight for attention we run the risk of overstepping the line between creating something concise and losing the relevance and contextualisation of the message. There are situations in which there is no replacement for providing the full detail of a situation. In some areas of medicine where there are a wide range of factors to consider, the results of a trial often cannot be explained with any real meaning in a few words. When discussing the significance of a trial the environment in which it was carried out and the limitations of the results must be understood to engage with the outcome. Only through investing the time in understanding the wider context does the reader become better informed. Without this information healthcare professionals are unable to make a knowledgeable judgement and make the right choice for their patients.

What is the right balance?

As communicators, finding the right balance will always require sound judgement. In the right circumstances, short, snappy content is the right choice. It forces writers to consider and pinpoint what it is they want to say and it catches the reader’s attention even if only briefly. However, there is still a need, and indeed a desire, for detailed analysis and longer form copy and content. While this style of writing and material may not engage as many readers, it will be consumed by those who are willing to invest their time - and they’re probably the people you were looking to target in the first place!

Emma Gorton is a senior account director at Hanover Health

In association with


21st August 2017

From: Marketing



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