by Cara Levinson
As an Account Planner, the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is understanding what makes individuals tick—what motivates, excites, saddens, and offends them. I want to understand the problems they have and the deep-seeded emotions they carry. I want to know why they feel the way they do and how these emotions impact their lives.
As marketers, it is critical to know these things so we can help connect with individuals in the ways that are most beneficial to them while helping to solve their problems, not ours. Of course, in healthcare, these issues are very personal and as you might expect, the marketing solutions we offer ought to be personal too.
Storytelling is not just the latest buzzword, it’s core to everything we do as humans. It’s how we get to know people on a deeper level (by listening to their stories) and connect with them (by sharing stories that are meaningful to them.) Our campaigns are most compelling when they are telling a story, when they are empathetic and not just touting the benefits of the product.
Our campaigns are most compelling when they are telling a story, when they are empathetic and not just touting the benefits of the product.
Marketers are better at producing meaningful and impactful work the more we are able to dive into individuals’ stories. Take Dr. P. for example, who feels as if he has lost the autonomy to prescribe as he sees fit because of the outside pressures on the day-to-day management of his practice. Or Dr. M., who is energized because with the new drugs that are now available, she can focus her energies on helping patients live well the life they have left rather than focusing on how they are going to die. We are better because we get to know Lorenzo, who has suffered the highs and lows from schizophrenia but still sees the world as a place of beauty, and Joe, who is searching for meaning and grounding as he and his wife face her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis.
When I have down time at work (albeit not very often) I read blogs—patient stories, physician blogs, any authentic means I have of staying close to people navigating the healthcare system and dealing with disease today.
This is the lens through which I view all aspects of the world—seeking understanding through the stories people share.
Storytelling is not just the latest buzzword, it’s core to everything we do as humans.
But over this last year, with all the horrors 2020 has wrought, it seems harder to hear these stories of individuals. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, every day I would find myself reading stories online and in the news about people who lost their lives to the virus—the details of who they were, their accomplishments and what they were known for, and who they left behind. Now we mostly talk about the numbers, astounding as they are—62 million global confirmed cases, 267,000 US deaths, etc. Each of those people lived a story and each left behind family and friends who have stories of their own. It’s on each of us to hold on to the humanity, find and acknowledge the stories, and not let them get drowned out by the sheer enormity of the numbers.
The pandemic has also hamstrung our ability to connect meaningfully with our friends and family, many whom we haven’t seen since March and some of whom we have no idea what they, themselves, are living through and how the virus has affected their stories. Between health-related, socioeconomic, political, personal issues—you name it, the assaults come on all fronts—individual stories are often being drowned out by larger societal concerns and as a result, it’s vital to double our efforts to find the common ground that allows us to hear and speak to the individuals’ stories once again.
This is true in our work lives too. We need to get back to story-telling, and more importantly story-listening as a means of understanding and providing solutions for the problems of the here and now. The world is very different than a year ago. The situations of doctors, patients and consumers are unlike anything we could have imagined. Story-listening will help us understand what it is like to walk in their shoes so that we can provide solutions for the new and very real problems they face. That is a foundational and imperative element of successful marketing today.
Story-listening will help us understand what it is like to walk in their shoes so that we can provide solutions for the new and very real problems they face.
I challenge all those in the business of healthcare marketing to find one story this week of a patient or healthcare worker relevant to your business and listen closely to the details of what they choose to share. Take a walk around the block in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. You might be surprised at what you see, and maybe even at how it influences the way you consider interacting with and supporting them in the future.
Interested in learning more about modern storytelling? Check out our blog on how world renowned statistician, artist, author, and professor, Edward Tufte, approaches storytelling and data visualization.