Healthcare and medical brands can easily dilute their brand voice if they don’t approach their content strategy with intention. Join Marnie Hayutin, Founder of Writing.Health, and host Michael Roberts as they discuss best practices for finding the best voice for your company based on your brand values or pillars.
Michael: Welcome to the Health Connective show. I’m your host, Michael Roberts, and I’m joined today by Marnie Hayutin. She is the founder of Writing Health. And we’re going to talk about writing strategy and some advice that she gave me about finding the right Venn diagram of topics for social media. It’s definitely something I’m referring back to quite a bit, and I think it’ll help everybody else out as well. Please check out her site at Writing.Health–got one of the cool new domains, so very excited about that–Writing.Health to learn about all the ways that she helps health care brands communicate clearly.
Marnie, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Marnie: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Michael: Very exciting. So just to kind of like get it all out there, we’ve definitely done some work together before. That was kind of like the first time that I think we really got to know each other at all. I was kind of actually doing some work where at Health Connective, we needed some portfolio pages developed, we needed some white papers developed. We were really trying to figure out how to get this information out there in a compelling way and not just say the same thing, because I’m sure that, like other companies and other brands can relate to this, this process where you’re so close to the projects and you’re so close to the work that you’ve done so many times, that it becomes really difficult to find how to say it in a way that’s going to appeal to somebody else.
So first of all, thank you, because the project went very smoothly for us and it’s been very useful for us. But I guess could you kind of talk to us a little bit about that kind of project, in terms of people seeing their own work so often that they can’t recognize what’s actually useful to other people out of that because for so many companies, it’s just work as usual. Right? So what is it that you do to kind of help pull that out? Here are the interesting aspects you should actually be paying attention to.
Writing from a Different Perspective
Marnie: Absolutely. What I think an outside writer can bring to this is that perspective where we can one, we’re working with other companies so we can tell you what you’re doing. That really is different, you know, because a lot of times people will talk about, you know, well, we’re very customer service oriented. Well, everybody says that. But I can listen to your story and ask questions to really uncover your process and things to really pull out what is very different about the way you do customer service or the way that that that you approach projects.
So I think that and just listening to the team and hearing them describe the process and being able to tell the story of the full process and asking the right questions, really knowing how to ask the right questions to find out, well, what did the client say about this and what were the things that they were most excited about and be able to tell that story in a really clear way, Because sometimes the inside stuff that you’re that you think you want to talk about is not the stuff. That’s really the most interesting part of the story.
Michael: And it’s interesting, you know, just going back to the project that we did, and this has been probably a couple of years, at least now since we did this project to get all this kind of this content up and live. And especially at the time, I was really just kind of moving over to the Health Connective brand and really kind of focusing in on what we’re doing over there. I really wasn’t as familiar with those projects. I wasn’t as familiar with understanding all the intricacies of it.
So the fact that you were able to talk to the developers, the designers, the people that worked directly with the project, you didn’t get any of that sort of marketing veneer or sales, you know, shine. Like you actually got to see like, here’s what’s really going on with the project. And people tell it very plainly in terms of this is really what happened. And this is really, you know, all the all the stuff behind the scenes. When you’re working with other teams, do you have to work to kind of get under that marketing layer, have to like try to get past all the sales speak to get to the real value of things?
Marnie: Yeah, very much so. Very much so. A couple of things. One, a lot of times marketers, one of the things and I find this with myself, you don’t always have to really understand how the product works because with marketing on the website, we’re not telling the whole story. We’re just kind of giving the easy version. So a lot of times the marketers don’t fully understand, well, how does that connect to this and how does that work? So it’s really helpful to get the developers on there with your team in particular, I really remember getting a lot of really good detail from the designers and the people talking specifically about, you know, this color doesn’t work well for you. Sometimes with accessibility issues and things, there are certain colors that you can’t see well, and your team was thinking through that. And so the really interesting parts of the story came from those kind of details. And the marketing team might not ever uncover that kind of thing.
Michael: It is fascinating to kind of get to see like really let everybody sort of expertise really shine through and really show off.
A Venn Diagram for Your Social Media Focus
This was something that you and I were talking about a few months ago. And I was saying like, hey, what do you think about sort of the way the social media is going? I was posting stuff about cycling and about marketing and about sort of anything and everything that struck my fancy. And I think one of the real dangers of playing to a platform. So if you’re trying to like learn that algorithm and really trying to play as to what will kind of hit big you.
And get to have a very messy brand voice. And I was certainly guilty of that myself. And so what you advised was, hey, pick out three things that overlap and just talk about those, you know, don’t talk about everything else and that that may come through your mind, especially, I think on LinkedIn where there are definitely windows of visibility and opportunity on LinkedIn as opposed to something like Twitter or some of the others where you can just kind of rapid fire throw things out there. But LinkedIn needs to have more of a focus. So this Venn diagram of overlapping topics stay focused on those kinds of things. So could you kind of explain that concept a little bit more for us?
Marnie: This is something I started using several years ago to help clients be strategic about what it is that they’re talking about. Social media: yes, part of it is about community, and it’s about getting people to engage with you. And they’re definitely important strategies that people use to get engagement. But the other side of social media for companies is that we’re using social media to be our brand voice, our messaging to show who we are. And so if you’re kind of all over the place, then we don’t know exactly who you are and what you stand for.
So what I have is I sort of think in terms of three buckets. So each company, generally speaking, three works for each company. You have sort of three buckets of the things that you talk about.
So for myself, I talk about I’m healthcare, writing, and marketing. And what you want to do is make sure that anything that you share or talk about doesn’t always have to be all three of them, but it has to be at least two. And what happens is, is if you only talk about one. So if mine are healthcare, communication, and technology, if I were to only talk about healthcare, think about I could be talking about everything and then it gets really diluted.
If I’m weighing in on, hey, there’s new Covid vaccines or those kinds of things are Happy National Kidney Day or whatever, whatever is happening, then no one knows what I’m really all about. So I need to make sure it’s health care and writing or health care and marketing or some combination of those.
Michael: That’s awesome. I was just at a conference here in Nashville. It was Nashville Healthcare Sessions. And it was it was really fascinating because they were looking at how to sort of get past those silos. There’s such enormous silos going beyond just like marketing or whichever other department. But, you know, you think about like hospitals, insurance, med tech companies, like all of those kinds of silos that you’re talking about and just how hard it is to kind of get outside of that, to kind of come up with some sort of like, solution that really benefits patients. And so, yeah, to your point, like just talking about healthcare, man, you could spend all day just going through each of those silos and talking about, you know, whatever is the latest news or however to solve those kinds of problems.
I think this concept of like trying to overlap the few that you have, you know, those different buckets that you’re talking about is really an interesting concept. Even going back to your concept of like, okay, it’s kidney day or it’s whatever the latest Covid vaccine is. I guess like I’ve seen definitely some examples of how people will talk about, oh, the way that this pharma company announced that they have the new Covid vaccine is a really interesting way. So talking about writing concepts, marketing concepts. So are you ever helping companies kind of think through here’s the latest news and how to relate it to your Venn diagram, or how does that kind of play out on a day to day once you start working with clients around that kind of stuff?
Marnie: You want to kind of target your concept, but then in your post text is where you kind of bring it back to why you’re weighing in on it. So in choosing what you’re sharing, you look just at those Venn diagram overlaps, but then in what you’re saying about it, then you take that extra step and the post text comes from your deeper messaging document.
That’s something that’s I’m seeing a lot right now is that a lot of companies are rethinking their messaging, and we’re doing a lot of work with messaging. So in those topics, within your messaging document, these are the things we want to say. These are the things we stand for, this is what we’re all about. And when you’re sharing something, you go to your overarching messaging so that you’re pulling out a concept that says, we believe in this, or we’re all about making things simpler.
This is a story that shows simplicity in action, those kinds of things where you’re taking your own messaging and then putting it on top of that story that you’re showing.
Michael: Yeah. One of the things that I saw last week, specifically at this particular conference, there was a lot of talk around entrepreneurialism. It was funny because one of the kind of core components of it was this this whole concept around investing, right? And so all these different startups are trying to get going and they’re out there trying to pitch. And one of the things that they said was like, of course, every pitch they see now involves AI to some degree, like everybody’s an AI company all of a sudden. But one of the things that for the companies that are succeeding in this kind of process is that they’re very clearly identifying the problem that they’re out to solve.
This is the one thing that we’re specifically out there to do. And so they can kind of keep all their messaging around that, all of that kind of stuff. As you’re working with companies and people are trying to figure out how to articulate their message. Like the values that they have and all that. Not every company has like a single problem that they’re out to solve. When you’re a startup, yeah, you had better be laser focused and you’d better have just one thing you’re trying to solve. But as companies get more mature as they’ve been around for a while, like they’re going to do more than one thing. So I guess how do you sort of balance that desire to do more than one thing in your business and still kind of talk about the values that make it very clear about who you are and what you stand for.
Messaging Pillars for Your Company
Marnie: What companies will do is have several messaging pillars. So there’s usually four, sometimes five this year. These are the things that we want to talk about. We want to talk about transparency in working with companies. We really want to talk about integration or the way our integration works, the various things.
But you’ll make those pillars in advance. So that’s sort of how you would talk through the different things. That’s how you’d get to talk about more than one thing is you’re looking to see which pillar it falls under and you can speak about all five of those pillars, but you’re doing each of them in a way that that closely aligns with the three buckets that you always talk about. So you don’t veer off into research if that’s not what you do or some totally unrelated concept.
Michael: The whole concept around your values. I think so. I’ll be honest. I think I sometimes get stuck in this, this concept of, well, you have to define whatever number of values they are and then they have to be fixed. You can never change these particular values.
Just looking back personally as I kind of look at how my wife and I have like tackled different phases of our life, I think our values have sort of evolved or maybe they’ve had a different emphasis at different stages in our life.
You know, at this point, we have teenagers and a three year old. And so the life of a family at this stage looks dramatically different than when we got married very young. And we’re just trying to figure out how to pay the bills and that sort of thing. So, you know, when you talk about, you know, focusing on something this year as opposed to last year, do you see brands kind of shifting that those pillars on a regular basis? Or how does that kind of play out?
Marnie: They definitely do. You can have a pillar that’s just this year. There’s a big anniversary of a discovery, and we were part of that discovery. So this year, one of our big messaging pillars is going to be our impact on this particular pillar. And we can move on next year and have a different one. But it’s still always within the concept of we’re still never going to talk about it outside of our three buckets of the things that are our area of expertise.
Michael: So we’ve talked to them about like how these values can change and you’ve picked out these pillars and you’ve got this Venn diagram of sort of how to kind of make all these things relate. Now, what’s the next step for a company? What do they want to do to get these things out there and start making this into a part of their ongoing messaging in a way that doesn’t feel sort of like a Frankenstein effort? It’s all like actually integrated.
Marnie: The next step is to look at your assets that you have already, look at your website and see if those pillars, if that messaging is actually in there. You’ll be surprised how often it really isn’t. So a company will decide our pillar is we are the oldest organization in this space or we are the only ones focused on research. And if you look at the website, that’s nowhere. So step one, after you’ve aligned everybody on this messaging is to go back and make sure that it shows up in everything you do. So even those portfolio pages that we did, make sure somewhere we’ve structured it in a way that can communicate a message that you want to get out, which is we’re the most collaborative or we’re the ones who have certain expertise.
You’d be really surprised how often, even though you’ve aligned to all this messaging, it doesn’t show up in the white paper because the team that’s doing that white paper wasn’t handed your secret pillar that you want to have underneath. This is we want to make it clear this this messaging point. And a lot of times it doesn’t show up in there anywhere.
Michael: I was talking to a friend recently and we were talking about a particular marketing software and we were talking about just how sort of disjointed the whole process is if you’re trying to use this particular software. And I won’t shame them by naming it out or anything like that. But this is a very, very large organization. They have, you know, loads and loads of people in there. But keeping sort of that consistency in your product is so critical and so difficult. I’ll go from the opposite of that to say that the company that I work with, we’re very small company and you know, going back to this concept of making sure that that messaging kind of plays out all the way through, I may not be remembering myself to write copy that. That applies to every single point there. How do you see companies take this new messaging, take these new pillars and push it out in a way that becomes consistent?
Marnie: What is it that you can say? And you go back to the messaging and you look and you see what are the things that we want to say about our company and what’s our expertise and what are the points that we really want to make this year? What differentiates us? What do we want to make sure people know about us? And then look at that through the ChatGPT lens. What is. That we can say about AI. That’s just us so that we’re not writing the same thing about AI that everybody else is.
So, for example, for me, if I were to do this my white paper about this as a as a health care marketing writer, I would not start mine with ChatGPT is passing the MCATs. That’s health care. But it’s really nothing to do with communications. It’s nothing to do with writing. What I would do, for example, would be, there was an article about men’s health and how a men’s health article was written by ChatGPT and found to be full of errors. That is in my expertise. So that’s how you would take that topic and make sure that it’s within your expertise around.
AI and Your Content Writing
Michael: This whole idea of AI and writing this keeps coming back up in the news cycle and keeps being the thing that people love to talk about. Again, this conference that I was at again, everybody talked about AI at some point in their conversation, I will say to their credit, the people that we’re talking about AI, we’re doing it at a level that was far, far above what I’ve heard before. I think that they were definitely I mean, we had people there from like Google Cloud and from, you know, these kinds of levels of service where, yeah, like it’s not the typical, oh, throw in a prompt and see what you get back kind of, kind of conversation.
But the point there being so much of what I’m seeing around this whole idea of AI is we’re all going to move to sort of this bland middle of the road. Nobody really stands out kind of content without this the sort of personality that you’re talking about. Are you seeing that with any, I guess, like clients or different health care companies that are starting to get out there? And hey, we thought this would be okay, but oh, shoot, now we need to come back and clean up.
Marnie: What I’m seeing is that there were for a short time I had a lot of clients that were as part of assignment letters. They were running the ChatGPT prompt process and handing it over to me. And then when I was looking through it, they were quoting their competitors, which had to be weeded out or, you know, all kinds of things that like weren’t going to make it in any way. But that kind of stopped. So it felt like maybe there was a flurry of that activity and then less of it. I will say that I’m getting fewer assignments that are those blog posts and shorter things like that. So I feel like maybe us as marketing writers were getting used in a different way. So I’m doing far more of this deep messaging than I was two years ago, where a lot of people just wanted to crank out blog posts.
Michael: Do you think that people could take some of that messaging stuff and try putting that in as like, “Hey, I want to write a blog post about whatever the latest topic is, but here, make sure that you reflect these kinds of values?”
Marnie: I would think that that could be possible. What I think ChatGPT probably won’t ever be able to do is really interview your team and pull out that kind of knowledge. And so I think we’re safe in that respect from ChatGPT. But I do think you probably could and it’s getting better all the time. Crank out some basic writing and just feed in prompts of where you really wanted to go to make sure that they’re not pulling really homogenized copy from competitors or whatever. But it would probably, if you could get better with prompting that way, I’m sure it would work. We’ll find out. I guess one of the.
Michael: Things that that I keep trying to balance back and forth and you know, we’re a technology company kind of at heart, right? Like that’s who we are. And so trying to find the ways to embrace technology that’s out there and yet not lose the humanity that’s so critical to making any of these businesses kind of kind of succeed. And so I like the concept of looking for where we can try to use these kinds of tools. I use Jasper. There’s certainly no paid sponsorship or anything here that I have to disclose in terms of Jasper sponsoring the show or anything, but I use the Jasper AI system and you know, I’ve had it do some things like write up landing pages for us and that’ll be the first draft of it. And it’s certainly not something I’m going to keep. The first draft is the one that I’m going to use just going along again, sort of along like how to sort of enrich the process more.
One of the things that Jasper in particular can do is you can actually get brand voices as a part of your system. And so we actually took some old podcast transcripts and I’ve actually used old blog posts as well and have used them to kind of say, this is the style that Michael writes in. Now use this as like the way that you’re writing this kind of copy. There are interesting things around sort of how these tools are developing. But I really like this concept of how companies are using marketing, writing in a different way, I guess, Like when did you kind of really notice that you were talking about that a little bit this year, but has that just been like a gradual thing or is that kind of all of a sudden 2023 is the year of deeper messaging.
Marnie: It’s really moving quickly. I can remember that. I think we started hearing about ChatGPT like last November. So this whole thing is going really fast anyway. So it was like this really rapid increase in the winter of all of a sudden everybody wants to try using ChatGPT and then it was falling off. But yeah, it’s I do think it’s just kind of this year all of a sudden everybody’s really focused on. Messaging. And it may be because of because of the trial and error. Or the other option is that it could be because ChatGPT is doing a good job on some of these blog posts and things like that that they’re able to crank out. The simpler content, mastered it at this point and are able to leverage writers in a more strategic way.
Michael: This is, I guess, more of a personal fulfillment in terms of like the work that you do kind of thing. But is the strategic work more rewarding for you? Because it seems like it would be it’d be more exciting to do that kind of work.
Marnie: It really is. It involves a lot more conversations with the whole team, which is really exciting to do. I’d love to meet the whole team to get involved with that. It’s really rewarding to do the process of messaging and have people kind of not 100% clear on what we’re going to do with this. And it seems like a lot of effort and I don’t really see where this is going. And then to have that aha moment of pulling up their website and showing them where this is what we want to say about this pillar and where do you see that on this web page? Absolutely nowhere.
So it’s very exciting when they can see it come together and they can see that all this pre-work that we’ve been doing is now going to be implemented throughout all of your communications. And it is honestly going to make things simpler for you because whenever you want to talk about patient communications, this is your pillar. Anytime we’re ready to talk about integration, these are the things we want to say about integration.
Michael: Thank you for coming on the show. I really do appreciate it. There’s so much here around what companies need to be thinking about in terms of how they convey their value message out there. And I think that this kind of sea of sameness has to die in this in this era. And so I think that’s like one of the exciting things that writing is bringing about is that we’re all going to get flooded with so much noise that we have to actually tell our personal story. So again, thank you so much, Marnie and everybody, thank you for listening. We really appreciate.
Marnie: This was a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Michael spends a great deal of time with the healthcare industry both professionally and personally, which gives him the perspective of what stakeholders on either side of the care equation need.
He began coding in 2008 and subsequently shifted his attention entirely to online marketing. Michael completed his MBA in 2018, focusing on the intersection of healthcare and marketing.