The Heart of Content Marketing for Life Sciences: Start with a Powerful Story

June 4, 2014
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A community in the developing world spared years of unnecessary suffering from a devastating (but curable) tropical disease. A father able to once again play catch with his son, thanks to successful surgery that repaired a painful shoulder injury. A family given renewed hope as mom is at last cancer free after months of successful treatment for breast cancer. These are amazing stories, happening every day, and life sciences companies are helping to make them happen.

A community in the developing world spared years of unnecessary suffering from a devastating (but curable) tropical disease. A father able to once again play catch with his son, thanks to successful surgery that repaired a painful shoulder injury. A family given renewed hope as mom is at last cancer free after months of successful treatment for breast cancer. These are amazing stories, happening every day, and life sciences companies are helping to make them happen. Powerful stories like these, stories that connect on an emotional, human, visceral level, are the beating heart beneath the best content marketing.

Content marketing is not a new concept. In fact, many historians of modern marketing and communications date the practice of content marketing back to the year 1895, when John Deere began publishing The Furrowan informative and educational magazine for farmers (by the way, The Furrow is still being published–in print, online and in tablet format). This predates the birth of modern public relations by at least 10 years. Yet many companies are just beginning to explore its capabilities. Content marketing is the creation of relevant, value added content to attract a clearly defined audience. When creative, relevant and valuable content is produced and distributed regularly, the producer positions themselves as a thought leader in their market. And thought leadership is as good as gold when it comes to generating and nurturing leads and building brand loyalty. 

The heart of content marketing lies in a company’s ability to connect with their audience in meaningful ways, sharing their story and connecting with current and future customers across multiple channels. At its best, content marketing provides valuable information, educates, motivates and inspires–because content marketing isn’t about a “sales pitch.” It is about connnecting to a community, understanding what is important to them, and knowing what role the company can play in alleviating their pain points or solving their problems. In short, it’s about the content creator being actively engaged in their community of customers, prospects employees and stakeholders.

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Great examples of effective content marketing from science and healthcare companies include Johnson & Johnson sharing stories of how they teamed up with 13 other companies to help fight Neglected Tropical Diseases. This is a series of initiatives, involving content that includes education, events, and community activism. At DOW, they use their Facebook page to help tell stories about how Science is making a difference in people’s lives.

Content marketing can also be about helping solve your target audience’s problems by telling compelling stories.  McDonald’s Canada started their information site Our Food. Your Questions. as a way to answer consumers’ questions about their food.  One of the responses to a question was a YouTube video showing a product photo shoot.  The video has generated over 9 million views:

Not every company has the budget of a McDonalds or a DOW Chemical, but they do have compelling stories to tell. Content marketing can be as simple as writing a weekly blog post about how your company or product has impacted the community around you. Then, short videos shot on a cell phone can be used to help tell those stories. A newsletter can be created and distributed to a mailing list that builds upon the blog and video content, and links to important company pages or offers that visitors can download. Content marketing is media agnostic; it utilizes multiple channels, and content formats. The goal is to tell your story in the most compelling and impactful ways possible.

GE has helped promote science by creating a marketing campaign using Vines. GE’s #6secondsciencefair allowed people to post their simple science projects on their website and demonstrate their knowledge. On the first day of the campaign they had over 100 projects uploaded to the site. This simple campaign generated a lot of positive corporate awareness for GE and helped introduce science to a whole new generation. Using campaigns like this, GE and DOW can now promote and interact with their next generation of employees.

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When considering the development of a content marketing campaign, decide what kind of story you would like to tell about your product or organization. Ideas can come from the questions you receive each day or from successful customer experiences.  People love to hear stories, it is how we connect with each other. Stories help make companies more human and inviting. 

Successful internet marketing campaigns aren’t based on selling products or services. They are about sharing ideas, thoughts, concepts and experiences that enrich lives and solve problems.  Don’t begin by asking “What’s in it for me?” Begin by asking, “What can I do for you?”