Healthcare Content Marketing Still Lags But Can Fill Pharma Marketing Voids

Healthcare Content Marketing Still Lags But Can Fill Pharma Marketing Voids
Healthcare Content Marketing Still Lags But Can Fill Pharma Marketing Voids

Such intense interest in health content is a rich opportunity to engage, inform, support, and motivate key customer constituencies.

With most consumers and physicians actively looking online for health information, pharma companies should embrace content marketing like other industries. Such intense interest in health content is a rich opportunity to engage, inform, support, and motivate key customer constituencies.

Why content marketing? The declining effectiveness of traditional interruption advertising requires better-performing approaches to reach and engage a target audience. Content marketing's pull editorial strategy delivers relevant information that customers look forward to receiving, unlike so much advertising they prefer to avoid. It enables marketers to communicate with prospects and customers without selling, by building a loyal audience that is ultimately motivated to reward brands with their business.

Read MM&M's latest eBook on content marketing. 

Content marketing starts with owned media developed for the brand's channels and platforms, with the goal of sparking earned media, such as editorial coverage, blog posts, and online reviews, which rank among the most trusted information sources. Next, expand into paid media content opportunities increasingly available beyond conventional ads, and develop an integrated strategy across all types of media to maximize impact.


Brand websites, no matter how robust, don't attract enough visitors. To extend reach and boost engagement, consider the entire internet as the brand website, placing the most valuable content wherever the target audience spends significant time.

Most content marketers believe they could still do better, and the most effective approach tells stories, encompasses a breadth of media, prioritizes quality over quantity, customizes to the target audience, and emphasizes visual content over text only.

See also: 4 Ways to Help Audiences Propel Branded Content

Social monitoring and surveillance will identify customer knowledge gaps and needs, which informs overall strategy, content topics, and the most relevant tactics, such as infographics, videos, blogs, white papers, e-books, podcasts, webinars, byline articles, and core website information.

Here are five of the most effective content media vehicles:

1. Content modules: A form of paid media, this robust, targeted, and interactive brand content is integrated into relevant publisher sites where customers often seek information, like WebMD.  

2. Native advertising: These paid ads “are so cohesive with the page content…that (the) viewer simply feels that they belong,” like Facebook in-feed ads. They are very effective, especially on mobile, but can deceive consumers, so be sure to clearly disclose that it's a paid ad.

3. Sponsored links: Firms like Outbrain and Taboola blend sponsored links into publisher content, often titled “Around the Web” or “You May Like,” and readers click to advertiser web sites.  

4. Video: Maximizing video opportunities requires distributing content off the brand site, including a YouTube channel, social media placements, and video ads such as pre-roll.

5. Distributed feeds: Content distribution feed options abound, including social media like LinkedIn and Twitter, blog integration and sponsorship, or brands' e-newsletters and RSS feeds.


Healthcare lags some two years behind other industries in content marketing, claims the Content Marketing Institute, because it overrelies on print and underutilizes digital. As a result, healthcare information seekers, whether patients or HCPs, too often make important decisions without essential information.  

See also: Patient Marketing: Dissed Content?

Pharma can help fill this void by expanding the content they provide, which too often is limited to dosing, drug interactions, and vaccine information. Since most doctors use search to inform clinical decisions, richer content will better meet their needs, and reach many HCPs inaccessible to reps. Similarly, as patients take more control of healthcare decisions, despite low health literacy, pharma can empower consumers with information that is helpful, clear, and accurate, without confusing jargon.  


Many brands outside of healthcare have created innovative marketing content, including Dove's Real Beauty supporting girls' self-esteem and GE Reports' daily technology news for engineers. A few healthcare brands also developed strong content, like the examples below, with providers' direct patient contact typically giving them more content marketing options than pharmaceutical firms.

Doctor Radio is an NYU Langone Medical Center broadcast station airing on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, allowing patients to call, e-mail, or tweet questions to be answered by physicians.

HealthBeat blog from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center offers tips and advice on how to improve well-being.

Excedrin's headache hub provides helpful educational information on all types of headaches, including causes, prevention, and treatment.

Pfizer's Get Old addresses common fears about aging, inspires consumers to embrace it, and encourages healthy behavior to make older years the most satisfying, while boosting perception about Pfizer as a trustworthy company.

MerckEngage helps diabetes sufferers live healthier, with diet and exercise tips, doctor visit prep videos, and tracking tools encompassing calories consumed/ burned, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, cholesterol, migraines and asthma symptoms.

Rebif's MS LifeLines provides award-winning patient support, and rich education on living with MS, including symptoms, treatment, exercise tips, and job guidance.

Genentech BioOncology delivers HCPs info on cancer disease pathways, links to other oncology organizations, multimedia education, clinical trials, and updates about new cancer research.

Yet pharma does have many rich content opportunities for HCPs and patients, and they are manageable within regulatory guidelines. Here are few examples.

  • Simple science: Educate patients through videos and animations clearly explaining complex topics like genetic markers, mechanism of disease, and mechanism of action.

  • Health literacy: Boost consumer comprehension of key therapeutic areas with engaging visual content reinforced with games or quizzes.

  • Blogs, video blogs, stories: Peer information, the most sought-out and trusted healthcare content, can provide valuable support to those customers needing credible information.

  • KOL webinars or podcasts: Keep HCPs up-to-date on the latest scientific and medical breakthroughs with an e-learning series from experts or peers.

  • 24/7 Q&A: Being available to answer any HCP question provides top-quality customer service to one of pharma's most important customers.

  • Drug data infographics: Augment standard medical data with infographics that present information in a more digestible way.

Healthcare, especially pharma, stands to benefit more from content marketing than most industries, by providing information customers truly need and value, and not relying solely on traditional marketing.

Michael Maher is a former VP at Precisioneffect and president at ID Health.