Health care pros grab a piece of the podcast pie

If your content marketing strategy doesn’t include this revitalized audio platform, you’ll want to whet your appetite and explore the possibilities.

Think of podcasting as simplified, audible storytelling.

Podcasting has been an easy yet oft-misunderstood form of broadcast communication.

Not any longer.

A growing number of health care providers and communicators are launching podcasts. Patients are as well. Microphones and basic audio equipment are available to folks who treat chronic illnesses—and those who are affected by them every day. Podcasters are sharing insights and information and helping others who might need a shoulder (or ear) for support.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been podcasting for several years. Broadcasts vary with B2B and B2C-related topics. The FDA’s archived podcasts date back to 2012. Both agencies address far-ranging issues, such as:

  • Medical devices
  • Marketing leukemia drugs
  • Flu vaccines
  • Holiday nutrition
  • Children with autism and bullying
  • Clinical tests
  • Zika prevention

The lengths of the broadcasts vary: Some are PSA-style 30- or 60-second snippets; others are long-form interviews ranging from 15 to 30 minutes. The CDC also offers script writing tips and other technical information needed for podcasting.


For health care communicators, it’s essential for a podcaster to distill scientifically complex information so listeners find it valuable and easy to understand.

Consider the recent launch of Genentech’s podcast titled, “Two Scientists Walk into a Bar.” reports the global biotechnology company plans to cover topics from cancer to superbugs. One advantage? A former professional broadcaster is hosting the show:

The interviewer is Jane Grogan, principal scientist of cancer immunology at Genentech, who is also a former Australian science radio show host. Every two weeks, she will host a new guest and topic. The first podcast launched last week featured Ira Mellman, cell biologist, vice-president at Genentech and cancer immunotherapy expert, talking about the current revolution in cancer research.

The podcast is part of Genentech’s content strategy to “bring understanding of science and scientific inquiry into the mainstream and meet our audiences where they’re consuming content,” Robin Snyder, director of science communications at Genentech, said in an email interview with FiercePharma.

In Atlanta, Care Logistics issued a press release, and a local TV news show helped introduce the podcast, titled “Who Cares? Hospital Talk”:

“The podcast builds positive awareness about the people in all types of roles ‘who care’ and commit to improving patient care and experience,” said Doug Walker, vice president of marketing for Care Logistics. “It provides a forum to lead the conversation about people improving health care in big and small ways with thoughtful, innovative approaches to advancing care quality, experience and efficiency.”

Walker noted that the podcast interviews also aim to capture and express the personal side of these heroes of hospital care.


San Diego-based internist Dr. Mark Shapiro says he hopes his show, “Explore the Space,” changes listener perceptions of clinicians and explores new ideas in health care. Becker’s Hospital Review recently profiled Shapiro’s efforts:

The sense that I’ve gotten is that the majority of my audience are non-clinical people. They’re not doctors or nurses or even in health or the sciences. They’ve gravitated toward the podcast because someone recommended it or they did an iTunes search for a specific topic. But I think it does help give a little bit of perspective that the people who are engaged in health care do have a good sense of the world around them, they’re human, they’re fallible, they’re engaged, they’re interested and they do interesting things.

Shapiro said he does little in the way of marketing or promotion, which are of paramount importance to communicators in hospital and pharma settings. Scores of downloads and strong iTunes rankings often garner sponsors, revenue and credibility. Shapiro’s podcasting page on Facebook is active:


The business of numbers

A post on Business2Community says only 4 percent of health care marketers “believe their content marketing programs are extremely successful despite the fact that 85 percent have a content strategy.” There is, however, encouraging news. According to a recent survey, 62 percent of respondents said they have been much more or somewhat more successful with content marketing than they were a year ago.

The post also said health care marketers might have to shift their mindsets.

A look at the top challenges surfaced by health care marketers in 2016 reveals a focus on content production: how to make it engaging, how to include content variety and how to produce it consistently. Although those efforts are important, are health care content marketers too focused on being good at content production and not focused enough on the good content marketing can do?

Success with content marketing shouldn’t be defined by how much or which kind of content is produced, but rather the impact it has on business.

A man from Canada who has cystic fibrosis has taken to podcasting as well. Jeremie Saunders and two of his best friends host the edgy Sickboy Podcast. (Editor’s Note: It might include disturbing language.) The CBC recently interviewed the trio:

“I’m known for my cough,” [Saunders] told CBC’s Our Vancouver host Gloria Macarenko. “I have to clear out the mucus that’s blocking up a lot of my airways.”

Saunders spends two hours a day loosening and removing the mucus in his lungs. But he sees humor in his illness, and now he channels the laughter in a podcast with two of his best friends, Taylor MacGillivary and Brian Stever.

It’s called Sickboy Podcast and it’s hosted by the Halifax trio. Episodes feature guests who are battling different physical and mental illnesses, or who experience stigma.

“It’s a comedy podcast,” he said. “The idea is to mine for the humor within the human experience of being sick.”

Co-host Brian Stever says there’s nothing funny about illness in and of itself — but the experiences that go along with illness can sometimes be laughable.

The podcasters promote their program with #cysticfibrosisawareness, too.

Will your 2017 content marketing strategy include a slice of the podcasting pie?


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