Followers of this blog, or participants in any of my workshops on healthcare brand strategy, know that I am a huge advocate of using patient persona creation to guide content creation. You can read or watch more about patient personas HERE and HERE.
Content creation because you must provide great content – trustworthy, accurate health information that answers your patients’ questions – IN ORDER TO BE FOUND. (And, in our digital world, if you’re not found, you don’t exist.) Personas because a persona helps you create content for a single specific person. Why? Because creating content for a “demographic” is like making music for a crowd of people who have a wide variety of tastes in music…you’ll be lucky if anyone likes your music.
Don’t address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter …
David Ogilvy, master marketer
The same is true for your health content: trying to create content that appeals to a crowd doesn’t work for any of them. And it doesn’t work for you, either.
How I Discovered the Value of Patient Persona Creation
My own experience with personas developed from writing content for MY CLINICAL PRACTICE BLOG, boogordoctor.com. I started ask-the-boogordoctor blog as a medical-education resource for parents of my own pediatric patients (I’m a pediatric otolaryngologist).
After publishing one article per week on this blog over the first year, I was shocked and honored to discover that there were 5,000 people visiting every month! (There are now over 50,000 visits per month!!) At about that time, I was reading articles on improving my blog (by folks like Darren Rowse of problogger.com and Brian Clark of copyblogger.com), and began noticing this word “persona” – and the notion that you should create content for a specific person.
All the articles instructed me to write for one person, instead of trying to connect with a broad demographic.
But How do You Develop a Persona?
I tried to determine who the ideal persona was for my blog. That was a real challenge: most of the visitors to my blog were not actual patients in my own clinic (though that was my original intention – that my blog would be a resource for my own patients and their families). In fact, according to Google Analytics, visitors to my blog came from all over the world. That meant I couldn’t simply ask questions in clinic (or so I thought at the time).
So I wondered exactly how to determine what the perfect “one person” persona was for my blog.
That’s when I noticed that the most frequent comments on my blog articles were always from a small group of the same mothers. These were mothers of children with respiratory ailments (for those who do not know, the blog is a resource for children with respiratory ailments, including rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, otitis, etc). More importantly, these mothers shared common characteristics, besides having sick children to care for.
It was then that I realized that I could merge that hand-full of mothers into a single persona, and create every article just for that single person.
My First Patient Persona (Really a CONTENT Persona)
I did exactly that: I created a persona of a mother to a sick child; with an exact age; educational background; number of children and their ages; where they lived; where she went online to gather health information; what sort of specialists she was taking her sick child to see; what sort of hospital they had access to; and other details, including a name and picture (downloaded an image from the internet that seemed to fit).
Over the next twelve to eighteen months, I created articles only for that one person.
In doing that – creating content for that One Person – resulted in tripling web traffic to my blog! Some of that traffic can also be credited to figuring out exactly what questions my readers were asking (you can read more about compiling your Patient FAQ Log HERE). Regardless, I am convinced that creating content for a single persona will better-connect you with your audience. Because, it turns out that there are many of that “one person” out there looking for your content.
Did you catch that?
Creating content for a specific persona tripled traffic to my blog in about a year!
Now, I was lucky: My persona made themselves known by commenting on my blog. That simply doesn’t happen for most medical practices. That is, it’s rare for a health blog to have many comments on the blog articles.
So how CAN you find out who your one persona is?
Short Answer: It takes work. (It’s worth it!!)
Advanced Tips for Patient Persona Creation:
- Interview all clinic patients who are willing
- Interview employees who work with patients – including those in your clinic, as well as your hospital; and including the folks who answer your phone, nurses, other doctors, and admin staff
- Send out surveys to your patients – by email, and by snail mail
- Review all website analytics for visitor behavior: type of device used; operating system used; referral sites (social media sites; other blogs; etc.)
- More online research: search for #hashtags on Twitter for topics of interest to your persona and compile a Patient FAQ log based on their questions and concerns
- Do the same for Facebook and any other online platform that your patients frequent (that information from your interviews and surveys)
Make the Time Investment
Spend the time to collate your data. Collect the information over a year if that’s what it takes. Use it to create your One Person – your patient persona. This will help prevent the time you invest in writing blog posts from being wasted as simple “creative writing exercises.” This will help you create content that is value-added information that your prospective patients are looking for.
My Own Practice
For my own practice, it helped to know that (in 2014) 90% of millennial moms owned a smart phone; 53% of them owned both a smart phone and a tablet. And they were spending an average of 2.3 hours every day browsing the internet. Those with an ill child are spending that time looking for answers to get their child healthier. I agree with Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, that part of my job as my patient advocate is to provide those answers!
Sure, you can provide answers to patient questions face-to-face in clinic, but people must find your practice when they are looking for answers online – for your practice to survive and thrive in this digital age. Being found means content.
For more about developing and using your Patient Persona, be sure to visit the ARTICLE or VIDEO here on this website. Also take a look at the page on Healthcare Brand Strategy and Marketing for links to more resources and videos!
Your Patient May Not Be the Persona That Consumes Your Content
I’ve mentioned this previously, but it’s important enough that it’s worthy of repeating:
Your “content persona” – that is, the person who is searching online for answers to health questions; the person who finds and consumes your content – they may not be your actual patient. My own clinical practice is the perfect example: my pediatric patients aren’t searching online. They are not the people who are reading my practice blog…it’s their parents! In that case, my persona is a mother of a sick child. Another example is the elderly patient who is not technically savvy. They may have an adult child or a neighbor who searches online on their behalf; someone who brings them to clinic appointments. In that case, your persona is the person who is doing the online searches.
To sum up that point: your patient persona may not be an appropriate guide for your content creation. Your content persona may be more appropriate. Keep that in mind as you develop the persona(s) to guide content creation for your practice.
PODCAST EPISODE: HOW TO WRITE CONTENT YOUR PATENT PERSONA
What advanced tips for patient persona creation are you using?
What works for you? What doesn’t work?
Have you even tried to write content for a single patient persona?!?
If not, you’re missing out on a free opportunity to amp your traffic, and boost engagement with your audience … and grow your practice!!
Please leave a comment, or send me an email, and let me know.
Until then…keep chillin’…