Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines trauma as “a painful emotional experience … often producing a lasting psychic effect and, sometimes, a neurosis.” In simpler terms, it’s something that happens to you that causes bad feelings, and these feelings can affect you psychologically for some time, or even lead to mental illness.

Anxious woman sitting at her computerYou might hear the term “COVID trauma” as we all start to realize how the pandemic has affected us. From anxiety and depression to PTSD, more people are finding that their mental health has suffered from the trauma of this event.

“More people” includes adults. It includes children of all ages. It includes teens. It includes men, women, people of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, etc. The point is: Everyone has been affected. And this is something that we as healthcare marketers and writers must put front and center as we produce content now and in the post-COVID world.

The people in your community are looking to your organization for information about this crisis, but they’re also looking to you for support and hope. They need to ease their anxieties. Your organization’s marketing content can instill hope. Here are some tips for how.

Develop a content strategy that’s considerate of COVID trauma

Times changed last spring, and your marketing team’s content strategy likely changed, too.

A lot of your COVID-19 content in 2020 might have been informational. Here are the symptoms of COVID-19. This is what to do if you think you have the virus. You also might’ve kept some of the more trivial, already-planned pieces in your editorial calendar — like that post about a new cosmetic surgery procedure.

But now that we’ve been in a pandemic for almost a year, your marketing strategy and content should be extra considerate of the situation.

Healthcare and frontline workers are unbelievably stressed and exhausted. People have to say goodbye to loved ones virtually. Critical care patients who survived COVID-19 are still struggling to recover. Those who live alone are experiencing extreme isolation. Parents are worried about their children’s futures. The list goes on.

It’s still important to supply your readers with facts and inform them of new services. But also focus this year on creating content that’s considerate of COVID trauma and designed specifically for bringing smiles and making calm.

Some ideas include:

  • Sharing good news happening in your hospital
  • Working with your complementary and alternative medicine treatment providers to produce content about calming therapies like meditation, yoga or guided imagery
  • Launching a series of posts with tips for improving mental and physical health in 2021

Employ positive language and calming, cheerful words

Writers know the importance of word choice. The right words convey the right or intended meaning. But word choice can do much more than just send a clear message.

In every form of communication, words and cadence in sentence structure have the power to invoke emotion and action and change how someone sees their world. Sensational journalism is a good example of this. With just a few “exciting” or “shocking” words or phrases, a story can grab your attention and disrupt your day.

With this in mind, healthcare writers might now prioritize positive language when possible. Studies show that remaining positive through a health crisis can help someone cope and recover. Adding to that, a 2017 research paper published by the Journal of Consumer Research revealed healthcare marketers and providers can boost patient optimism by communicating with the right words.

This year, take extra care to reframe negative information in a positive light — while not forgoing accuracy of course. And think about creating a list of calming, cheerful words that you can refer to each time you write. The list can serve as a word bank or simply as inspiration to set a cheerful-in-the-face-of-adversity tone.

Retrain your team on the basics of empathetic writing

Compassion and empathy have long been the hallmark of healthcare, and healthcare marketing strategies typically strive to mirror that. For this reason, your marketing team is probably already aware of the basics of empathetic writing, but now is a great time to revisit the concepts.

This post from Grammarly explains it well. Here’s what it says in a nutshell, in the context of healthcare content:

Empathetic writing starts with knowing your audience

The first step to empathetic writing is knowing who will read or see your content. This is important because knowing your audience means you can write for their interests and needs.

If your health system’s brand standards include a buyer persona, re-familiarize yourself with that. But also think about ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has possibly changed your audience.

Empathetic writers tackle topics from their audience’s perspective

To be empathetic is to be thoughtful of another person’s feelings or experiences and see the world from their perspective.

To write with empathy, you have to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Think about the questions they might have and what their current needs might be. This can help guide both your content strategy and writing. For example: Consider some of the largest employers in your organization’s region. What could those employees be going through right now, and what information could improve their lives right now?

Empathetic healthcare writing blends science with friendliness

In healthcare writing, we want to have a voice that can be trusted to provide useful information, but we also want that voice to be understanding and not condescending. Remind your team that your brand’s tone of voice should be approachable and helpful — the voice of a wise friend and not a robot. Write as if your best friend has come to you with a question or concern and is asking you for advice.

As we all deal with the effects of COVID trauma, continue to keep your communications considerate, cheerful and empathetic. With this approach, you’ll not only build brand loyalty, you’ll make a lasting impact on your community.

Still working on your content calendar for this year? WriterGirl can help generate ideas and more. Reach out to us to learn about all the ways we can support your content marketing team.