Creating impactful health content for global audiences

By Antonia Kanczula, Managing Editor

Whoever your audience is and wherever they are, there are universally essential ingredients when it comes to creating health content.  Whether you want to change behaviours or create leads, your content needs to cut through the noise. It should be jargon-free, actionable, trustworthy and engaging.

But the process of creating health content for global audiences isn’t just about translating from English to different languages. Your content must be unique. It should be tailored to the specific challenges, beliefs and behaviours of your target audience, and to the health systems they use.

Here at Thrive, much of our work has a global focus and we want to share the wisdom the team has accrued through international content creation projects. Read on to discover what we’ve learnt from working with clients, as diverse as Parkinson’s Africa, MSI Reproductive Choices and BabyCenter.

Gather insights about your target international audience

It’s a mantra we live and work by at Thrive, and it’s always the starting point for any project, whether it’s for UK or global markets.

Building a picture of your target audience means everything from practical insights such as how they access their content to wider considerations, including the barriers they face. Knowing precisely who you’re talking to means you can make informed decisions on how to distribute your content, what it should look like, and what it should say.

During work on the MMitra project , Thrive gathered insights at focus groups in India and from conversations with women in hospitals, clinics and their own homes. What they told the team fed directly into a life-saving programme of messages.

Respect cultural differences

It’s important to be wary of how much your own cultural norms feature in your content. When you’re planning and drafting health content, make it a priority to unpick the context of your audience and understand cultural differences. This way you get to the heart of their beliefs and in turn, their behaviours.

For example, during Thrive’s recent work delivering content for Parkinson’s Africa, the team researched myths about the condition among local audiences. Across many different countries in Africa, these are alarmingly prevalent and dissuade people from seeking advice from healthcare professionals. We tackled them head-on in our content and ensured our myth-busting messaging was consistent throughout our web pages.

Understand the channels used by your global audience

As basic as it sounds, you need to ensure your messaging physically gets through. Working out which channels your audience can access and which ones they trust should be central to your content strategy.

This will influence the whole nature of your content, including the type of content, length and formats. For example, if your target audience is reliant on mobile for web access, remember that content is much more difficult for them to read, and has to be simple.

During our MMitra project, detailed audience research unlocked our delivery method – we identified that most women had mobile phone access and that audio could overcome literacy barriers.

Access to affordable data is still a problem in many parts of the world, leaving users reliant on SMS. But you need to stay ahead of change. The MomConnect maternal and child health messaging programme  for pregnant women and new mums in South Africa started on SMS, but eventually shifted to WhatsApp. Instant messaging had become much more widespread and opened up broader content opportunities.

Have a tailored SEO strategy

Even countries that speak the same language have vast linguistic differences. So if you’re communicating your health content through digital channels, build search insights for the specific location you’re targeting.

Use the geographic settings on your SEO tool of choice to get the low-down on colloquial language and location-specific keywords. When Thrive was commissioned to write content for MSI Reproductive Choices’ hub in Ghana, using SEO insights helped us determine the subtleties of language on sensitive topics including menstrual health and fertility.

Recruit local voices and experts

Utilising local knowledge and expertise will really help your health content shine. This includes medical professionals who know your target audience’s needs and understand local health systems on a granular level.

For global projects, Thrive uses medical experts in every part of the content journey, up to and including the final review, to ensure its trustworthiness. And for BabyCenter, we also recruit, train and manage local content teams, including editors, translators and social media managers.

Antonia is the Managing Editor at Thrive. She is responsible for overseeing our team of editors and delivering engaging health content.

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