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Touching the hearts and minds through design-thinking communication

The Oxford Dictionary defines communication as “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium”. It seems simple but the process itself prompts, among others, the following questions: Does it apply to individual or mass interaction? Is it face-to-face or digitalised? Does it aim to inform, require action or simply put minds at ease? As part of its communication strategy, Medihelp continually aims to differentiate and institute various methods, such as segmentation and hyper-personalisation, and channels to address and contextualise variables. The challenge is not only to diversify the communication platform but to ensure that the message is heard and taken to heart – not an easy task in a world where information overload is a real concern.

Rising above the clutter

Medihelp’s head of marketing, Lien Potgieter, believes that communication should not only be about what your message should be and how to get it across but also about why; in other words, the reasoning behind it. She lists the importance of empathy, a crucial element of design thinking, when communicating with members as a top priority. “If you don’t connect with your target audience on an emotional level, you’ll completely miss the mark. People increasingly choose brands they perceive to share their values and beliefs and carry their best interests at heart. They need to see that a company has done its homework when it comes to addressing and resolving concerns. Medihelp puts emphasis on research thereby not just assuming what members want to hear, see or read but basing communication on actual feedback, surveys, and focus groups. The aim is to reach members in a way that expresses real understanding and trust.”

Regular communication builds rapport and awareness

There is a fine line between frequent messaging and spamming. Lien believes that information should always be relevant. Still, due to differences in attention span, media usage and available time to access information, various platforms need to be utilised: “We use different formats on a regular basis. In the first month, the main focus could be a newsletter featuring articles on health. The next month we could decide to bring in How-to clips, followed by a webinar during month three.”

How much is too much?

Although statistics show that people prefer short messages in general, consumer education remains a critical part of the overall communications strategy as the medical aid industry makes use of a lot of jargon.

It is also important to remember that people tend to pay more attention to in-depth information regarding vital issues such as health as they realise that being informed (for example, to recognise symptoms and go for regular check-ups) could make the difference between life or death.

Organisational psychologist, Adam Gran, writes in his book, Think Again, that during 2011, the average American consumed about five times as much information per day than a little more than two decades earlier. Today, more than another two decades later, people are bombarded with information through various platforms. In addition, we still operate within the era of instant gratification – it is almost expected that we are available to receive and respond to messages 24/7. That is why Lien firmly believes that your message determines the communication channel. “If you want, for example, to share four tips on keeping blood pressure under control, post an infographic on Instagram. If you need to convey in-depth information, opt for blogs or e-mailers. A news flash or a quick notice – WhatsApp. Social media is great for consumer education and informal feedback.” She lists media releases as still one of the best ways to boost your organisation’s image with e-mails as the most popular format despite a choice of more communication channels than ever before.

There is no straightforward answer when determining what effective communication entails. There is, in fact, more than one answer as topic and intent determine decisions such as choice of channel and the amount of information given. To reach your target audience you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes by not only hitting the heart of the matter but also their hearts; those emotions that speak to their values, views, needs, dreams and fears. Simply put: It’s not about thinking that you know what they want to hear and see; it’s about knowing. Make sure that your communication strategy is founded on knowing your audience to ensure an invested and engaged interest.

Medihelp is a proud National Partner of the NSBC

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