Speaking with Empathy:
How MarketSmiths Helped Refresh a Multi-Billion Dollar Healthcare System
What does it feel like to engage with your healthcare brand?
It’s a question many providers need to ask themselves, as the patient experience takes center stage in the healthcare industry.
Brand language can help. What follows is an example of how we worked with one of the largest healthcare systems in the country to show (not tell) their patients about the experience they would receive.
A storied and renowned $4+ billion healthcare system was undergoing a complete rebrand. As part of this initiative, 19+ hospitals, five institutes, and a global entity needed to come together under a refreshed brand voice, with all-new design, language, messaging, content, and digital architecture. The lead ad agency brought MarketSmiths on board to help bring their award-worthy designs to life.
The concept was theoretically simple: out with WebMD-speak, and in with empathy. Every word had to be warm, compassionate, and patient-centric. Even characteristically clinical topics like “chemotherapy” or “robotic surgery” had to be softened and made to feel more human.
The healthcare system needed 2,200+ new pages for its global presence, including several departmentally-focused institutes, and 19+ hospital sites. The language had to scale well, accurately express the revitalized brand—and avoid duplication, despite widespread categorical similarities.
As with any large project with lots of moving pieces, this one was not without obstacles:
- A chorus of voices: With dozens of brand stakeholders at the corporate and local level, it was not surprising that people interpreted the brand tone in different ways. A number of tonal decisions were reached, observed, then later reversed.
- English? Sure: The client often struck specific words from their brand vocabulary, or innovated punctuation and vernacular. In time, we learned to have fun with this reinvention of English—a test of creativity under 13 pages of restraints.
- Fishing in a shallow lake: The system’s 19+ hospitals had enjoyed marketing autonomy for decades. As a result, source sites could be inconsistent: some thin, others inaccurate. But live interviews across thousands of medical departments weren’t exactly feasible.
- Decisions, decisions: By the time we started writing, there were still crucial decisions to be made. Our agency client accomplished heroic feats to prompt decision-making, but many—including SEO strategy, linking strategy, major navigational questions, even the brand name—happened while in transit.
- Racing against the clock: Our agency client had seven months to finalize 2,200+ pages on 35+ websites, with 4-6 rounds of feedback. Despite admirable coordination, this ship was a little too unwieldy to fully steer. Unpredictable input created unexpected deadlines that called for all hands on deck.
MarketSmiths absorbed these challenges in stride—and kept on delivering. At the peak of the project, we had 15 writers, 4+ content strategists, and 2 project managers working full-time, many on-site. Highlights included:
Getting on the same page
To solidify the tricky brand voice, we renovated a living, breathing style guide, incorporating detailed changes and selectively broadcasting new rules and reversals. Ultimately, we made the 13-page guide—which started as a runaway list of disparate details—a sort of bible across two teams, bringing clarity and ease to a complex, fast-changing project.
Offering informed strategies
Even the cleanest content strategies can become obsolete in the face of inadequate information. Our agency client sought our input. We were glad to be able to offer our informed insights into page flow, generate alternatives to “illicit” words, make the call on insufficient source material, and more.
In light of the specificity of the brand language, the insufficiency of source material, and the particularity of a vast stakeholder team, it was a little trickier than usual to localize approved pages. We fully harnessed our teamwork here, with MarketSmiths calling upon their colleagues to troubleshoot, borrow ideas, and optimize creativity.
The Happy Results
Amidst this kaleidoscopic backdrop, we met every single deadline, without fail. We kept pushing forward and delivering timely, empathetic, humanized copy.
Running a tight ship
Internal organization was clearly a major key to success. Our project lead created PM resources with superior dashboards and on-demand granularity. At the 60% milestone, our client—also extremely organized—began to use our dashboards in lieu of their own: a deep and abiding compliment.
Bolstering the team with A players
In advance of peak project periods, we put out a call for new writers—then systematically vetted candidates to quickly scale the team. Once we’d made our picks, we onboarded these new star writers, guiding each one through a steep, tight, and methodical learning curve.
Performing airtight QC
For every page we delivered, at least one pair of eyes—and often as many as three— performed the rigorous QC that is a true MarketSmiths hallmark. When the style guide changes became especially turbulent, we would layer in extra rounds of QC, isolating tasks and eliminating “defects,” Six Sigma style.
The new websites will be populated with empathic, you-centric content that is an industry-first, set against bold, award-worthy design. These new sites have not yet launched—but when they do, they will offer patients a comforting, supportive journey through healthcare.
Need fresh, empathetic healthcare copywriting delivered on time and on budget?
We work with healthcare providers all over the country to craft fresh, engaging copy—and messaging that promotes a positive patient experience from word one. If you’d like to try out our talents, email firstname.lastname@example.org.