Medical Storytelling: Bringing Power To Your Point

Merriam-Webster defines “storyteller” as “a teller of stories.” Insightful! So we move down the list: “relater of anecdotes,” “reciter of tales (as in a children’s library),” “writer of stories,” and “liar, fibber.” Since we’re in the science and evidence business, let’s ignore “liar, fibber” and explore a more complete definition.

When I think of storytelling, I think of books first. From the ridiculously brilliant “A Confederacy of Dunces”—a masterpiece I could read 100 times and still find something new to love—to my childhood favorite, “Superfudge,” the printed page is timeless in its beautiful simplicity.

Add in the remaining senses (excluding taste and smell, perhaps) and you now have a set of powerful raw ingredients from which to craft an even more powerful story, something Hollywood studios do quite well. The fantasy and fiction part aside, we can amplify the impact of our medical education materials by applying similar techniques: compelling copywriting, mind-blowing 3-D animation and illustration, cool motion graphics. The sky is the limit.

To borrow from a movie we have all seen once or twice, I think of it this way: Our creative team provides the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. Our job is to bring to life the meaning behind our clients’ medicines, marrying high science with high emotion without detracting from either. It means stretching ourselves way beyond cramming a bunch of graphs and dense copy into 125 PowerPoint slides and calling it a day.

That said, we don’t ever want to be perceived as dumbing down the science, reducing it to a sappy long-distance phone commercial from the 1980s. Medical storytelling is quite the opposite. The science will always be the star. It will always drive content. Living within that science, though, is a story aching to be told. My team’s job is to find that story and unleash it—but we can’t do it alone.

That is why this group of sensitive, misunderstood, right-brained artists (some of whom have actually worked for those Hollywood movie studios) partner closely with our very intelligent, very left-brained, and very collaborative medical colleagues to integrate our clients’ scientific data, market research, insights, customer needs, and medical and marketing strategies into something more powerful than any one of those inputs alone.

The result: a cohesive content blueprint, the framework from which all deliverables in the peer-to-peer marketing channel will flow. Sure, slide kits will always be part of the mix. Developing the content blueprint, however, gives us maximum flexibility to move beyond slide kits and tell the story differently. After all, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”