Beyond the Buzz: The Beginners' Guide to Healthcare Blogs
In an earlier Beyond the Buzz column, I outlined 7 reasons that healthcare professionals should blog. If it inspired you to start your own blog but you aren’t sure where to begin, then today’s article is for you. I am going to show you the first steps to take to get your healthcare blog up and running.
Step #1. Clarify Your Goals
Why do you want to start a blog? Some of the most common reasons people have for writing a healthcare blog are:
- Drive more traffic to an existing website
- Increase online visibility
- Showcase expertise
- Generate new leads
- Educate patients
- Share the latest medical research
It’s important to understand your reasons for blogging; the clearer you are about these reasons, the more focused your writing will be.
Step #2. Identify Your Target Reader
The next step is to form a clear picture of your reader; preferably this should reflect your ideal customer, client, or patient. Some of the questions you need to ask include:
- Who influences their healthcare decisions?
- What do they care about most - reputation, value for money, level of expertise?
Your blog shouldn’t serve primarily as a self-promotional vehicle, but rather it should aim to solve readers’ problems. Understanding the needs of your audience, what information they’re looking for and what motivates them to engage with their health, will help you craft content that will be highly relevant and valuable to them.
Step #3. Decide On Key Messages
In order to know which key messages to post, you need to understand why you are using social media and what your end goal is. If you still aren’t sure of this, repeat step 1 until you do know.
What do you want your readers to learn and ultimately take away from your blog? Including a learning outcome or a call to action on your blog will make your content stronger. Decide on your core messages in advance.
Step #4. Map Out Time For Researching And Writing
Successful bloggers write consistently – that doesn’t mean you have to write every day, but it does mean you need to decide on a writing schedule and stick to it. Determine how often you can realistically post on your blog, keeping in mind that you may need time to do some reading or research in advance of writing. Consider inviting colleagues and other members of your healthcare team to contribute content to your blog to increase your posting frequency.
Step #5. Decide On Your Blogging Platform
WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr are the three main blogging platforms to choose from. Which one you decide on, will depend on the level of functionality and ease of use you require.
WordPress is a relatively easy platform to use and can be seamlessly integrated into a website or indeed can function as a website. A WordPress.com blog is free and is hosted by WordPress. It will have WordPress in the url (e.g. drjones.wordpress.com). If you wish to omit the ‘WordPress’ part in the url and make your blog look more professional, you can choose to pay $18 per annum for your own url which is still hosted by WordPress.
WordPresss.com is a good option if you wish to try out blogging with little or no financial outlay. If however, you are serious about marketing your business, you will need more functionality. If this is the case, then WordPress.org is the more professional option. You will have to purchase hosting with a hosting company (see below) and you may need some technical help when creating your blog.
Google owned Blogger is a user-friendly blogging platform which is easy to customize. While you can purchase a domain name, there is no self-hosted version or SEO plugins. You cannot use it as website in the same way that you can with WordPress. For business blogs, WordPress is the better option, particularly if you use the extra functionality offered by WordPress.org.
Tumblr is good for mixed media posts and has the advantage of having little or no learning curve. The features are intuitive and easy to use, but if you want to have a more professional blog, then this is not as good an option as WordPress.
Step #6. Decide On Hosting
When it comes to starting a blog, you need to decide if you want to host the blog yourself, or use a free blogging service that is hosted for you. If you are not sure if blogging is something you want to commit to, then a free service is perfectly fine. Bear in mind that you don’t get your own domain with a free service (with some exceptions as outlined above). A self-hosted blog allows you to create your own domain name (e.g. theoaksclinc.com) and offers much more flexibility and functionality.
Looking for some inspiration?
Check out these blogs which span topics from oncology to urology, midwifery to pharmaceutical, for inspiration.
Cobalt-60 is written by Dr Jay Detsky, radiation oncology resident at the University of Toronto, blogs about medical ethics and radiation oncology.
Dr Ronan Kavanagh is an Irish-based rheumatologist.
The Endocrine Witch is written by Dr Iris Thiele Isip Tan, a board-certified Filipino internist-endocrinologist with a master's degree in health informatics.
Dr John M writes about electrophysiology, cardiology, health, doctoring and endurance sports.
Jimmievanagon Dr James Legan is an Internal Medicine Doctor in Montana, interested in new technology.
Common Sense Family Doctor is a blog written by Dr Kenny Lin, a family doctor in Washington, DC.
Mark Newbold is Chief Executive of Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.
Unrepetantidealist Dr John McGarva is a surgeon who blogs about the outdoors and healthcare.
Emergency Medicine Literature Of Note is written by Clinical Informatician, Ryan Radecki, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. .
Dr Brian Stork is a community urologist in Michigan who writes about digital health, social media, urology and his bee-keeping hobby.
The Doctor's Dilemma is a blog by Dr Marlene Pearce, a GP in Australia.
Geriatrics for Caregivers Practical ways to improve health and wellbeing in aging written by San Francisco based geriatrician, Dr Leslie Kernisan.
Seattle Mama Doc is written by pediatrician, Dr Wendy Sue Swanson, executive Director of Digital Health (Seattle Children's).
A Penned Point explores the politics of medicine, current controversies, women in medicine, and other personal observations and is written by Karen Sibert MD, a physician specializing in general and thoracic anesthesiology.
EBM Gone Wild covers topics related to wilderness medicine and is written by EM doctor, Justin Hensley.
Grumbling Appendix A blog about general nursing in the NHS, UK.
djhealth is written by Ken Donaldson, a renal consultant in Scotland.
Dr Justin Coleman is a GP-writer who looks sceptically at health interventions where the evidence suggests they might not actually be worthwhile.
Dr Rhonda Wilson RN is an Australian mental health nurse and academic researcher who blogs on mental health.
Ayreshirehealth muti-authored blog by healthcare professionals working in and around Ayrshire, Scotland.
Jenny The M is a blog by UK midwife Jenny Clarke
Pharmaphorum provides a digital podium for communicating thought leadership and innovation within pharma.
Marie Ennis-O’Connor B.A., M.I.A.P.R. is a PR and Social Media consultant, award-winning health blogger and international conference speaker with a passionate interest in the role of social media in healthcare. A keynote speaker on digital media strategy, Marie co-founded #BCCEU, Europe's first breast cancer social media chat and is a founding member of Health2.0 Dublin, part of the ...