How to collaborate successfully with medical reviewers in your content project

By Francesca Whiting, Editor

Working with medical reviewers is a key part of creating quality health content. Factoring in an expert review stage in your editorial process helps ensure that your content is accurate, up to date, and trustworthy.

Here at Thrive, we have plenty of experience in working with medical reviewers. This includes managing several medical advisory boards for BabyCenter, made up of highly respected doctors and other healthcare professionals. And it’s not just UK experts we collaborate with. For global projects, Thrive recruits medical professionals wherever our target audience is located and who understand local health systems.

So, here are our top five tips to develop a successful working relationship with them.

1) Find the right person

Alongside having the right clinical expertise, it’s a good idea to find someone with experience of reviewing health information for lay audiences or who’s willing to learn. They are more likely to understand your content needs than reviewers with no understanding of health communications.

There are several ways you can find a medical expert:

  • Get in touch with professional bodies, charities and organisations.
  • Look on social media. Lots of medics use social channels to raise their profile – LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are good places to start.
  • Ask other editors and writers you know to recommend experts.
  • Use networking opportunities at events to build contacts.
  • Once you’ve built up bonds with medical reviewers, ask them to suggest other experts.

2) Explain why your work is important

Once you’ve identified some potential reviewers, take a personal approach rather than sending out a generic email. Tell them about your brand, your audience and what your health information aims to do. Health experts are likely to be interested in the professional benefits of reviewing a piece of work for you. Will they learn something new and is it exciting? Is it something that pushes medicine or healthcare forward?

For experts like clinical psychologist Angharad Rudkin, reviewing content for Thrive’s client BabyCentre helps her to feel she is reaching more people.

She says: “One of the main motivators throughout my career has been getting evidence-based, well-written information to the people who need it. When I work clinically, I see a handful of families a day and this is nowhere near the number who would benefit from support and advice. So, organisations like BabyCentre are so valuable. There is so much poor information out there, which parents, worried and awake at 2am aren’t going to be able to critically evaluate.”

3) Be clear about what you want the expert to do

Once you’ve found an expert, send a clear brief that explains everything they need to do:

  • Ask them to check that the health information is accurate.
  • Make sure they’re aware of the importance of user-friendly language, so they don’t correct it. When your content is inclusive, clear and concise, and easy to understand, you want it to stay that way.
  • Explain how you would like them to provide feedback. Would you like them to add comments? Or make changes to the body of the text with tracked changes on?
  • Be specific about what you want reviewed. Do you need them to check external links to reputable websites? Provide feedback on the references? Or just approve the information?
  • Include details of the fee if you’re paying one, and the ideal deadline.

4) Make it easy

Put yourself in the shoes of an expert receiving your requests. Health professionals are very busy with limited time off. Here’s how you can make their lives easier:

  • Be flexible with deadlines. As Angharad says: “The more time you can give, the better.” And if the expert misses a deadline? “Gentle reminders are always gratefully received!”
  • Try not to overload them by sending too many pieces of content at once. Space out your requests and give generous deadlines for longer content.
  • Use tools or techniques that save time. For example, you could use shared online documents. Some experts find it time-consuming opening and downloading email attachments. Consider sharing a Google Docs link – just make sure it works beforehand. “Sometimes (never for BabyCentre!) I have been asked to review something and then the link doesn’t work or it’s a Google Doc that I’m not allowed to access,” says Angharad. “So, making sure the information is clearly there is a good start.”

5) Build a rapport

Last, but by no means least, it’s vital to develop solid working relationships with your medical experts. Here are ways you can build a strong rapport:

    • Keep in touch with them. Update them on how the content’s doing and crucially, if there are any more projects coming up that they might be able to help with. Here at Thrive, we send out quarterly newsletters to our experts, keeping them in the loop about content updates, pages that are performing well and new Thrive projects.
    • Encourage your experts to keep in touch about their situation too. They may have more time available or want to build their role by, for example, sharing advice on video. And if they’ve taken on a different role, you can start looking for a new expert to take their place -­ they may even be able to help you find a suitable replacement.
  • Be confident. Remember you’re in charge of the content and your experts are there to advise you. Don’t be afraid to go back to them if you need clarity on any feedback they’ve given. Dedicated experts appreciate this and are happy to help out.
  • Thank them. It’s important to let the expert know how much you value their input.

Francesca is an editor at Thrive. She’s responsible for creating compelling health content for a range of audiences and brands.

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