The creative brief lands on your desk: you’re a copywriter in a healthcare marketing agency and you’ve just been tasked with writing a brochure (or print ad, direct mailer, website, email blast, etc.) for the next blockbuster drug or medical device. Maybe you’ve just joined the agency and it’s your first big assignment. Or maybe you have ten years of experience in the particular category. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, the following are timeless tips to keep in mind when writing for healthcare brands.

Start strong and engage immediately.

Have you ever been approached by someone who said, “Hey, I’ve got a great story, want to hear it?” and after a few minutes of listening to them ramble on and on, you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh man, I should have never said ‘yes.’” The next thing you know, you’re looking for a way out, so you politely excuse yourself or look at your watch and say, “Sorry, didn’t realize what time it was… gotta go!”

If you don’t start your content off on a strong note, you’re going to lose the reader to a page turn, a mouse-click, or a finger swipe. Engage the reader right away. Write a headline that provides enough sizzle to whet the appetite, and pay it off with an opening paragraph that delivers the steak. Then keep them reading by introducing tasty, bite-sized bits of supporting information – “side dishes” that complement the main course.

Know your audience.

I mean, really know them. What healthcare or specialty publications do they prefer to read? Once you know the answer, get your hands on a few issues and read them yourself. If you have the opportunity to talk to or interview a member of your target audience, definitely do it. Ask them, “When it comes to <product or service you’re writing about>, what is it you want to know? What do you need to know, what’s important to you and why? What are you tired of hearing/what makes your eyes glaze over?” Find out what their hot buttons are with regard to what you’re writing about, and try to address them in your writing.

Know your client.

Or better yet, know how your audience knows your client. Unless you’re writing for an upstart or industry newcomer, you’re likely writing for an established, successful brand. Get intimately familiar with the brand’s voice. Read previously printed pieces. Dig deep into the company website. If you’re not writing in a voice the company’s or brand’s audience is familiar with, they’re going to be confused. Every successful brand has a personality, and it’s the writer’s job to get into character before putting pen to paper.

Know your competition.

Soak up as much intelligence about the competition as you can. Visit competitor websites. Get your hands on competing product literature. See what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. Try to figure out why they’re saying it the way they do, and then find ways to say it better for your own client. Another way to gain valuable insight about your competition is to listen to what others are saying about them. There are internet forums and blogs for about almost every topic and product in healthcare today. Search out those blogs and see what others are saying, good and bad, about your competition. Google is your friend: do some searches and really dig deep — there’s a ton of excellent information on the internet waiting for you to find it.

“C-ing” is believing.

Remember the “rule of 3 Cs”: Be concise. Be compelling. Be conversational. Whatever it is you’re writing (an ad, a brochure, a direct mailer, etc.), it’s best to stick to “an economy of words.” Keep it direct and to the point. When you’re done writing, save the file and move on to something else. A few hours later, go back and reread your work with fresh eyes and a clear mind. This is the opportune time to do some editing. Pare down your thoughts wherever possible. Next, make sure your message engages the reader in a compelling way. A great way to do that is to elicit an emotional response or create an “Aha!” moment for the reader. And there’s a fourth “C” that may throw itself into the mix – particularly when the subject matter pertains to prescription pharmaceuticals – that most writers consider tedious, but it must never be overlooked: Compliance. When writing pharma/healthcare pieces, always remember that you’ve got to be compliant with FDA rules and regulations. Make sure to cite references, and remember to always include fair balance verbiage when required.

Encourage next steps/End with something actionable.

OK, so you’ve written a persuasive healthcare masterpiece… now what about the ending? If it’s an advertisement or any other piece of marketing or product literature, don’t leave the reader hanging… give them something to do next. Provide a web address they can go to for more information. Or better yet, send them to a landing page designed specifically to capture their information, such as name, email address and even their physical address. Offer something of value to them in return for opting-in, such as a free white paper or educational eBook. This way you’ll know what they’re interested in and can reach out to them on a timely basis to keep the conversation going.

Conclusion

To sum up, there are no guarantees that you’ll satisfy your client 100% with the first draft of your piece, but if you incorporate all or most of these suggestions into your writing process, you’re likely to hear, “This is great! No changes from me” much sooner. And remember, not only should you aim to satisfy the client, the true goal of great writing is to satisfy your audience, and of course be satisfied with yourself in knowing that you’ve written the best piece you’re capable of writing.