In 2016 we worked with BetterHealth Channel (BHC) on a major content project on their website. We were contracted to write 30 health blogs. BHC wanted the blogs to connect with the current content, and to make the website more active and engaging for the audience.
Writing a good health blog sounded like fun. It turned out to be harder than we first realised. So here are our top tips for writing great health blogs.
Know your audience and what they are looking for
It’s easy for writers to get involved in the detail of a story and lose sight of who their readers are and what they want. One of our writers wrote a blog about the history of vaccinations. This involved online research and a conversation with an expert.
The resulting blog was fascinating if you are a student of history, but it didn’t make sense when we focused more closely on the audience. If the public have come to the BHC site about vaccinations, it’s likely they are looking to find out what vaccinations their children need. The history of vaccinations was only interesting in so far as it explained how the current list of vaccinations has evolved.
What BHC wanted – and it took a while to get this right – was an entertaining and quick read that ultimately encouraged parents to vaccinate their children. With helpful feedback from our client we reworked the history of vaccinations towards a history of saving people’s lives through vaccination.
Tell a small story
We pitched some blog ideas to BHC, and some of these ideas turn out to be very hard to execute. The problem was too much information. In particular this affected a blog on diet and longevity. There turned out to be a massive amount of information, some of it contradictory, on how to eat to improve your chances of longevity. This is clearly a very popular topic! Through a difficult process, we narrowed this blog down to talking about one particular diet (The Blue Zones diet) and summarising research around this diet.
Tell a personal story
Great blogs work a lot like great journalism – they present a personal story alongside a broader story that includes relevant facts. The blogs that proved most engaging were based on the personal. Our team of writers wrote about such experiences as travelling with children in Africa, testing meditation apps, and a colonoscopy. But these weren’t always the easiest blogs to write.
The challenging thing about writing from personal experience is that the client isn’t necessary more gentle with this content – and nor should they be. One of our writers wrote about her experience of infertility and was told the tone was dispassionate. She needed to put more of herself in the blog, which was not easy, but the blog was certainly better for it.
Other times we interviewed someone who had undergone a particular experience. We used this for recovery from depression and a heart-attack story.
Work with experts to give your content the stamp of authority
Other blogs involved collating existing research, with the guidance of an expert. Without the personal, it’s harder to be original. But presenting verified research outcomes is hugely important for a website such as BHC. We worked with a number of health experts including beyondblue, the Heart Foundation and Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
Experts from blue ribbon organisations help differentiate your content and stamp it with authority. All our experts were very generous with time and feedback.
It’s certainly worthwhile adding blog content to your website if you feel that it can value add, but writing a successful and engaging blog is time-consuming and not as easy as it first appears. Like all good writing, the more time and effort you put in, the better the finished product.
The blogs were released at www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/blog