Any Star Wars fan worth their salt has a quote from Yoda on hand.
“Do or do not; there is no try,” may be among the Jedi Master’s most famous remarks and serves as a reminder that the task at hand will either be accomplished or it won’t be. Put up or shut up, there’s no way around it.
When The Third M was reintroduced in the fall, the goal was to cover any and all aspects of health media. In an article detailing the goal of the resurrected column, several mediums were mentioned, including documentaries, movies, books and TV shows, among others.
One piece of media curiously missing was the podcast, even though seemingly everyone in the world — including many healthcare brands — has one.
Though the audio medium enjoys widespread popularity, its rise to the mainstream now borders on oversaturation. This means that for any individual, media outlet or brand to achieve success in podcasting, it comes down to the strength and craft of the story.
How relatable is the character? What makes the narrative compelling? What is the message at the end of the day?
Enter MM+M’s recently launched Me and My Heart podcast series.
Inception and aim
It all began during a meeting between sessions at the 2023 MM+M Media Summit.
Sitting at a table were myself, Bill Fitzpatrick, Haymarket Media’s senior producer of podcasts, and Steve Madden, MM+M’s editor-in-chief.
Over the preceding few months, we had conversations about expanding MM+M’s presence in the world of podcasting beyond its weekly offering: The MM+M Podcast.
Now, the three of us were kicking around the idea of putting together the brand’s initial longform, multi-episode podcast. It would have to involve healthcare and captivate listeners with an undeniable hook.
But what would the focus be?
While spitballing ideas, the most powerful angle was the closest-to-home: Fitzpatrick’s recent diagnosis and treatment for heart disease.
One year earlier, Fitzpatrick went from living the standard life of a typical 40-something-year-old father of three in the Long Island suburbs to experiencing increasingly severe and frequent bouts of chest pain.
Ultimately, he received a stent to address an artery that was 90% clogged. In the weeks and months after that emergency procedure, Fitzpatrick continued to face a litany of health challenges as he adjusted to a starkly different lifestyle on account of his diagnosis.
Though his story is focused on cardiovascular health, it is one that delves into so many aspects of patient care and illuminates the advances made on the medical innovation side along with the obstacles that continue to impede the patient journey.
With the topic agreed upon, the focus shifted to the scope of the series, length of the episodes and the perspective of the narrative.
Above all, Fitzpatrick made it clear from the beginning that he wanted his story to be one that others living with heart disease could relate to and feel supported by.
Compilation and execution
From start to finish, nearly 100 days went into making Me and My Heart a reality.
The star of the show is the patient, which meant several sitdown interviews with Fitzpatrick were necessary to capture his life before, during and after his diagnosis. Beyond familiarizing the audience with the subject, it was about piecing together all of the factors that led a seemingly healthy adult man to fear for his life.
In addition to Fitzpatrick’s own lived experiences and the emotional recollections of his family members that were by his side through the entire ordeal, the series benefited from astute clinical observations from its sources, too.
Both Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventative cardiologist, spokesperson for Go Red for Women initiative through the American Heart Association and founder of health tech company Adesso, as well as Chen Fang, PharmD, RPh, a clinical strategist, team lead and manager at Cardiology Advisor, a Haymarket Media publication, were invaluable resources.
Their ability to navigate listeners through cardiovascular health and the at-times relentlessly complicated American healthcare system allowed for the series to explore themes and issues beyond just Fitzpatrick’s care journey.
Additionally, Simon H. Stertzer MD, FACP, FACC, FAHA, professor of medicine, emeritus at Stanford University’s division of cardiovascular medicine also provided an insightful history of stents — including his own performance of the first percutaneous coronary angioplasty in the United States on March 1, 1978.
Now, trimming all of that down into four, under 30-minute episodes proved a task in itself. Hours of this podcast are on the cutting room floor and will never see the light of the day.
However, as we learned through this process, the ‘kill your darlings’ mentality of print journalism carries over to the audio realm as well. In the end, the series is all the better for the numerous rounds of edits made along the way.
What comes next?
Me and My Heart will run through February but MM+M’s foray into narrative storytelling is only getting started.
Our publication is already mapping out future series exploring additional disease states as well as oral histories of prominent pharma launches, memorable medical marketing campaigns and industry scandals.
Just as the healthcare brands and advertising agencies we cover explore new avenues for communicating, MM+M is prepared to bring its expertise in reporting to areas beyond print and digital journalism.
The ways that our audience prefers to consume information is constantly changing and in order to maintain and grow our relationship with them, we intend to evolve as well.