Data + creativity is the magic formula in health and medical comms

Sometimes the simplest message is the most powerful.

Think Nike… it’s now 30 years since Wieden+Kennedy came up with the immortal slogan Just Do It. Rarely have three simple words captured so much so clearly.

But health is different, isn’t it? It’s highly regulated for a start, and we have to be very careful to give information in an accurate, balanced way. Or – if you’re talking about healthcare professionals – let’s not forget those folk are super smart and don’t want dumbed down information. They want and *heart* all the detail… don’t they?!…

Yet a massive irony for an industry couched in data and that prides itself on evidence-based medicine is that, actually, when you look at the data on health and medical communication, you quickly find that people really aren’t being served well by the comms that they’re provided.

Take patients – 6 in 10 UK adults struggle with the health and medical comms they encounter. Countless studies across multiple therapy areas show that people don’t have the health literacy we assume they do, and so often struggle to understand the health comms they’re given.

Put it this way, patients aren’t getting Just Do It level of comms in health. More often they’re getting the Be Motivated To Commence It… same message(ish), just, well, less oomphy.

The good news is that there’s plenty of data out there showing how to make comms clearer and so more likely to be understood and acted on. Such as the study showing that with every additional 100 words on a page, you increase the mental effort to take in that content – or ‘cognitive load’ – by 11%. Or eye gaze studies, which consistently show that people viewing web pages need functional and action-oriented headings to help them effectively scan and understand content.

‘Cognitive load’. ‘Eye gaze analyses’. Sounds a bit, well, boring doesn’t it? But the point is that data is simply a guide, a finger pointing comms towards clarity. And ultimately towards more human-centred content that connects. Content that takes into account that people aren’t faceless, abstract ‘patients’ or ‘HCPs’ who are eagerly waiting to consume our messages, but people with busy lives – full of distractions like kids, work, noise – that want and need comms that are easy, clear and help them understand quickly.

As someone wise once said, “When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive”. Data-driven comms simply remove barriers to attention.

So where does that leave creativity? That ineffable process whereby something of value is created. Think again on that word attention. At its most basic level, creativity in comms is simply about capturing attention. About being noticed and connecting with audiences. About being remarkable, worthy of attention.

Creativity doesn’t mean ‘creatives’ with thick-rimmed glasses and hipster beards sitting in a room coming up with cool ideas (ok, maybe sometimes it does). When we’re talking about health and medical comms, it means developing and testing interesting, novel and – most importantly – human-centred ways to capture attention and to help solve real-life challenges for patients and HCPs. That can be as simple as coming up with an exciting way to capture attention or share of voice, or finding interesting ways to reach people with a message that will inspire them to action.

After all, all that any form of communication is trying to do is capture our attention and then inspire action of some sort. To move us to think, do or feel something.

Bringing together the dual forces of data and creativity is a way of bringing together the science and art of communication for measurably better results.

Or to put it more simply, data + creativity = effective comms.

Olly Childs
Olly is Managing Director of ARK Comms, a data-driven communications agency.

Oliver Childs /

Read more about the launch of ARK Comms here.