By Steven Jacobs
The simple fact is that the art of storytelling is a powerful tool in healthcare marketing. In broadcast or print advertising for example, a good-health storyline is often the message fabric that engages and attracts new patients.
Storytelling is common and easy to spot in external communications, but sadly, it’s underutilized (or forgotten) inside the medical office—and that’s the one place where it can be most effective. Stories, and storytelling:
- Inform, influence and persuade;
- Reinforce memory and compliance;
- Create an emotional bridge or bond; and
- Enrich a positive patient experience.
Every provider and the staff—the entire office—can provide an engaging narrative voice that supports and benefits the patient.
Doctor as the storyteller: The provider automatically has a respected and authoritative position to use storytelling. Patient compliance may or may not follow an ordinary list of “factual” directions. But wrap those same instructions in a benefit-oriented story from the doctor and the info has greater weight of importance, makes a stronger impression, and is more easily remembered.
Medical and office staff as the storyteller: Supporting individuals within the office enjoy an authoritative “halo effect” from simply working side-by-side with the physician. Patient-staff encounters (even simple conversation) engage with greater effect and value when storytelling to reinforces or expands on information or instructions.
Patients often relate more personally to office and medical staff members than to the physician, and thus the patient-staff interaction is often more warm, open and a “teaching moment.” Use this opportunity to build rapport, communicate “friend-to-friend,” and reinforce health or followup care instructions. What’s more, patients pickup on and assimilate the positive attitudes and narrative voice of the office during the non-doctor encounters.
Developing Your Narrative Voice…
Communicating via a story format is an important means to tell your brand message. What the patient hears in the office provides them with context for their own awareness and understanding, plus it provides a platform for them to share a positive story and make referrals.
In an article in The Guardian, author Jonah Sachs wrote about better storytelling for retail brands. The communications concepts ring true as well for healthcare delivery. In part, he advises:
Brands need a good story. “In today’s wildly evolving media landscape, audiences are gaining more and more control over the information they view and share. Now, more than ever, brands need to know how to tell compelling stories to reach these audiences.
“It’s critical for brands to shift from messaging to storytelling. After all, a brand is nothing more than an ongoing story—a set of meaningful emotional experiences—unfolding between itself and its audiences.
“Just like stories, brands can be inspiring, clear and actionable or self-important, bland and confusing. The inspiring ones light up social networks, passing virally from storyteller to storyteller. The others instantly disappear.”
The actions, activities and patient-interactions within the office can often be tied to the overarching brand message or theme. It might be appropriate, as a hypothetical example, to link a particular story/message to how patients benefit from the provider’s unique medical training and experience.
Truly effective storytelling often requires training, coaching and regular practice, but the benefits, for both patient and the practice, are significant.
For more about how to bring this to your office and patient interaction, see: Mastering the Art of Healthy Storytelling for Better Physician Marketing and Emotional Transportation: How Physicians Can Win Patient Compliance and Improve Outcomes with Purposeful Storytelling.