Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the tag “health and wellness”

7 things you need to be a great health writer

A tablet computer on a desk - Health and Medical

If you’re new to freelance writing, you may be wondering whether it’s better to develop a niche, or to keep your market wide open.

For a newbie, developing a niche market can seem scary. After all, it does mean a smaller pool of potential clients. And when you’re starting out, you need all the clients you can get, right?

Not always.

Developing a niche can be one of the best things you can do for your freelance business. It means you no longer have to be ‘all things to all people’. Instead, you focus on becoming an expert in area or field. This means you can more effectively market yourself and bring in more clients than before.

If you have already been working in a particular industry or field, you may have already developed your niche. You just don’t know it yet.

That’s how I developed mine. During the 3 ½ years I wrote for a corporate wellness company, I developed many skills that most freelancers don’t have. And so when I eventually went out on my own, I decided to utilise these skills and market myself as a health writer.

 

The future of health writing

Personally, I believe health writing has a bright future. It’s no secret the healthcare industry is booming right now. A combination of an ageing population, along with an increased interest in health and well-being, has made this one of the fastest-growing industries.

As a result, there are more companies and agencies popping up devoted to healthcare. Along with them, are many more opportunities for health writers. Potential clients can range from pharmaceutical clients to health-related brands, through to government health organisations and private practitioners.

 

What makes a good health writer?

However, just because there are health writing opportunities doesn’t mean you are right for the job. If you want to make it as a health writer, there’s a few key attributes that may come in handy.

 

  1. Have an interest in health
    It sounds simple but it’s true. You really need to have some kind of interest in health. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing about, you’re going to find your work pretty boring.

 

  1. Know your market
    Who will you be writing for? While you may write the odd thing for an overseas client, chances are you will be focusing on content here in Australia, so you need to understand your market. What are the primary health concerns facing Australians? What barriers do we face when it comes to improving our health? Does our culture influence our health? Knowing your audience will help you tailor your content accordingly.

 

  1. Know how to research
    I can’t emphasize enough the importance of researching health content. There is so much conflicting advice in the health arena, it’s crazy. Many writers base their content on anecdotal evidence rather than fact. Or they simply rewrite copy from other websites without checking the facts. Publishing incorrect health information not only leads to lost credibility, but it may lead to a loss of income, or even a hefty lawsuit!

 

  1. Only use credible sources of information
    The information you present is only as good as the sources you glean it from. When researching health articles, ensure you use only credible sources of information, such as peak health bodies, government websites, or internationally accredited organisations. A newspaper report, or information posted on someone else’s blog is not credible.

 

  1. Be able to interpret scientific studies
    This skill goes hand in hand with researching. Being able to read and interpret scientific studies is a valuable skill. Referencing bona fide health studies improves your credibility as a writer, and adds weight to your story. Your readers will walk away knowing the information you presented to them is true. They also have a reference to go to if they wish to read further on the subject.

 

  1. Write in simple language
    When it comes to all writing, simple is best. When it comes to health writing, simple is a must. Writing on health, disease and illness can involve a lot of complex information. As a health writer, it is your job to ‘de-code’ this information, and write it in a form that the average person can understand.

 

  1. Write to empower
    While you are busy translating complicated information into an easy-to-understand format, please take the time to write it in a way that will empower the reader, rather than frighten them. There are many topics that are quite scary for the average reader, so it is your job to present the information in a way that will inform, not scare.

    As a health writer, my job is to present accurate, up-to-date health information in a way that is easily understood. I also see it as my role to empower and inspire people to make a change to their personal circumstances. By all means present facts (i.e. we all know that smoking causes cancer), but present them in a way that empowers and inspires change, instead of trying to ‘scare’ people into action.

 

Writer or blogger?

Finally, you need to know whether you are a writer or a blogger? You can actually be both, but you are likely to be more one than the other. If you are a blogger, then you probably have your own following and know your readers quite well. Your readers probably know your brand and what you stand for. You will also be used to writing in one ‘voice’ and this will be understood and embraced by your readers.

If you are primarily a writer, you need to be more diverse in your skills. You may be asked to write on a range of different topics and for a range of different clients. Each client will have a different target audience and therefore a different ‘angle’ for their story. They may also want you to use a different ‘voice’ (i.e. informative, expert etc.).

Knowing which category you fall into will make it easier for you to adjust your writing style accordingly.

So there you have it. My 7 tips for being a great health writer.

And if you are looking to engage a great health writer, please contact me. I’d love to help.

 

Cheers

Nerissa

 

Health writers or hacks? 5 ways to sort fact from fiction

Health writer or hack? How to discern fact from fiction

There’s no doubt the health and wellness industry is booming right now.

An ageing population, coupled with greater awareness of the importance of staying healthy for life has contributed to an explosion in the number of healthcare, wellbeing and fitness business popping up all across the country.

Part of this this movement towards greater health and wellbeing is a plethora of ‘wellness warriors’, ‘health bloggers’, and other individuals writing articles and providing advice relating to health and medical matters.

But are these credible sources for information on health? And are those who write these types of articles qualified to provide such advice?

 

The problem with wellness warriors and bloggers

Firstly, let me state, there is nothing wrong with having an interest in health, wellbeing and alternative therapies. There is nothing wrong with using alternative therapies, and there is also nothing wrong with reading health information on the internet.

However, what you may not realise is a lot of information relating to health and wellness (and even medical conditions) found on the internet is inaccurate, unfounded, unproven, untrue, and downright dangerous.

Sometimes articles contain claims based on anecdotal evidence. Sometimes information presented is old and outdated. Sometimes it is based on pseudoscience, or ‘popular opinion’. At its worst, the health and wellbeing arena is riddled with claims and scaremongering tactics aimed at playing on people’s vulnerabilities and designed to lighten consumers’ wallets.

A recent case of ‘wellness warrior’ turned sour is that of Belle Gibson. A self-proclaimed health guru who claimed to have ‘cured’ her terminal brain cancer through healthy eating and natural therapies, finally admitted last year (2015) that all her claims were untrue.

Ms Gibson had a thriving business based on these false claims. She developed an app and companion cookbook, and wrote a blog on the subject. She also made a lot of money based on her lies. But until her story finally unravelled, thousands of people had put their trust in her.

 

How to determine if an article is credible

Ms Gibson is not the only person to make fake or incorrect claims regarding health and medical information. There are thousands of wellness bloggers, or website owners doing the same thing. Heck, even journalists get information incorrect from time to time.

And while innocent mistakes can be expected occasionally, health information is too important to get wrong the majority of the time.

Here are the top five ways you can determine if the information you are reading is likely to be credible.

  1. Is the writer sticking to facts or voicing an opinion?

A credible health writer will stick to the facts rather than voice their opinion. They will also write in a way to present the facts and empower the reader to make a positive health change if necessary. They will not use scaremongering tactics, nor pressure you to purchase a product or a service.

 As soon as there is a ‘sales pitch’, then it’s a safe bet that the information is biased towards getting you to make a purchase.

  1. Does the article use accredited sources of information?

Any health writer worth their salt will always defer to a credible source for health information. Even better, they will attribute, facts and figures to that source. For example, it’s easy to write :

“one in six Australians are affected by cardiovascular disease”.

But how do you know this is accurate?

A credible health article will refer to the source of the information in the body of the article:

“According to the Heart Foundation, one in six Australians are affected by cardiovascular disease”.

Credible sources of information can include peak health bodies and organisations, federal government websites, well-known medical schools and universities.

Other ‘wellness’ websites and blogs, newspaper reports and anecdotal evidence are NOT credible.

 

  1. Does the article link in with current information?

Great health articles make use of current research statistics. What is deemed as ‘current’? Anything published within the last three years. Medical information changes so quickly these days. With new research being published and statistics updated almost annually, there is no excuse to use old, outdated information.

However, some information and reports are only updated every few years, particularly if they are drawn from surveys that are conducted every few years (i.e. The Australian Census). If this is the case, always state which year your statistics are coming from.

 

  1. Does the article refer to current research?

Just like using current information, a good health writer will back up claims with current research. When citing research studies, the body of the article should mention what year the study was published and which organisation published it. The link to the original source of the study (not a news report or media release) should be included in references at the bottom of the article.

  1. Does the writer include a list of references?

A great health writer will attribute all sources of their information. The reasons for doing this are three-fold — firstly, to add credibility and weight to their story; secondly, to allow readers to search for further information if they need it; and thirdly, to cover themselves in case any of the information is incorrect or no longer current by the time the article is published.

 

A final word…

It’s important to remember not to believe everything you read online. Just because it’s published does not make it true. Even the best health and medical writers may make simple errors.

Health information found online should only ever be used as a guide (and only when you deem it to be credible). Your doctor is the best person to advise you about your personal health concerns and no amount of online ‘research’ should replace your own doctor’s medical opinion.

If you find information that contradicts your doctor’s advice, then speak to them about it. Don’t simply take the word of a ‘health blogger’, or ‘wellness warrior’, no matter how long they have been blogging or how many followers they have.

If you want to engage an experienced health and medical writer for your project, contact me. I’d love to help you out and ensure your content is factual and up-to-date.

Cheers

Nerissa

 

 

FREE: Reference material to help you write health content

FREE list of health referencesIn previous blog posts, we’ve discussed the importance of building credibility as a writer and given you tips on how to develop content for your health blogs.

In this post, we’re going to share with you some important reference material that will help you write your health content, and build your credibility.

Why use references?

Referencing is vital when it comes to health writing — or any factual type of writing. There are millions of health-related websites and blogs out there, with many of them offering conflicting advice and information. What’s worse, is that the majority of health information (from what I have seen), is not referenced appropriately.

Referencing is important for several reasons:

  • It ensures the information you provide is accurate and up-to-date
  • It reassures the reader that you are providing them with accurate information
  • It helps build your credibility as a writer
  • It helps gain trust from your target audience
  • It enables your reader to go to the source of the information for further detail.

How to reference

We will talk in more detail on how to reference information in a future blog post. However, when you do reference material, it’s important to quote the original source of the information, rather than make a general statement.

For example, writing, “According to the Heart Foundation, more than 46,600 Australians died from cardiovascular disease in 2013” is preferable to: “Over 46,600 Australians died from cardiovascular disease in 2013”.

When it comes to referencing research studies, simply saying “a study found x,y and z” is not enough. You need to quote the actual study and provide a link to the original study. For example, “a 2010 study by Harvard University, published in Some Journal, found x, y and z” (Reference, detailing the authors, title of study and where it was published should be provided in text or as a footnote, along with a link to the study).

What to reference

There are some definite DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to referencing. Two of the biggest are:

DO use credible reference sources, such as official organisations, peak bodies and accredited government agencies.

(NOTE: Wikipedia is NOT a credible source of information)

DON’T quote information from other articles, particularly if they have not used references.

So where should you go for credible information?

Well, you’re in luck, because here is my list of top places where I source my health information.

FREE list of resources

GLOBAL

 INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIAN

Peak bodies

Australian Government Websites

Remember, referencing is critical if you are writing for the health and wellness sector, so always make sure you use credible and reputable institutions and organisations when doing your research.

If you would like help writing your blog or health and wellness content, check out the great variety of Blogging Business Packages we have available. Or, you can simply contact us to have a chat about your needs.

We’d love to hear from you.

Until next time

Nerissa

Health blogging: 6 ways to develop content

6 ways to come up with health content

Health and wellness is a boom industry. In fact, Euromonitor International predicts the industry will continue to grow and become a trillion dollar industry by 2017. [i]

Along with this boom, we have seen an explosion in the number of health and wellness websites and blogs over the past couple of years. And if global predictions are accurate, the number of these will continue to grow over the next few years.

If you work in the health and wellness sector, you may have a blog. (If you don’t but are wondering if you should, take a look at our previous post Blogging for business: 4 things to consider).

However, having a blog and writing it regularly are two different things. After all, how do you know what to write about?

How to generate health content

Because the health and wellness sector is such a big business, it should be relatively easy to come up with content. Right? The first step however, is to know what the purpose of your content is. Do you aim to:

  • show case your knowledge as an expert?
  • sell your services?
  • recruit new clients?
  • offer value-added service to your existing clients?

What you aim to do will influence your content.

Planning health content

Your blog should reflect an aspect of your business. There are many industries within the health and wellness sector. For example:

  • Nutritionists/dietitians
  • Alternative therapies (e.g. aromatherapy, herbal medicine)
  • Personal training
  • Weight loss
  • Beauty therapy
  • Manipulative therapies (e.g. physio, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists)
  • Sports coaches and specialists (e.g. running coaches, sports psychologists).

When planning blog content, you should always try to relate it back to your core business.

6 ways to develop content

So you know what you want to achieve with your blog, and the area you are going to focus on. But where do you get your ideas from?

Here are our top tips:

  1. Health awareness days/weeks/months — With so many health awareness days, weeks and months on the calendar, there is bound to be something you can link in with. For example, Heart Week provides an opportunity to write a blog with a number of different approaches — eating for a healthy heart, how to recognise a heart attack, exercise to improve your heart, etc.
  1. Latest research — Researchers all over the world are making new discoveries relating to health all the time. A quick google search will yield links to news reports. Simply use the information (citing the original reference if possible to build your credibility as a writer), and make it relevant to your audience.
  1. Latest statistics — Health organisations often release new statistics on a regular basis. For example, new obesity statistics offer a platform to discuss issues surrounding sedentary lifestyles, taking up a new sport, mindful eating, avoiding fad diets, etc.
  1. Use the experts — Draw upon content from other professional organisations. For example, if you are a physiotherapist, you may wish to utilise graphics illustrating posture, developed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association, and write an article about correct posture in the workplace. You may also wish to interview an expert on a particular topic that is related to your field.
  1. Link it to current events/news stories — Newspapers, online magazines and even Facebook are full of stories of people who are battling conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease, diabetes, etc. Use these stories as a platform to discuss a topic related to this story, and once again, relate it back to your business.
  1. Write about how you help people — This is not a ‘direct plug’ for business, but rather a value-adding service. For example, if you are a personal trainer, you can write about how you have turned someone’s life around and include pictures and even an interview with one of your clients. Similarly, a beautician may write about how they helped someone overcome chronic acne.

Successful blogging involves providing useful information your target audience can relate to, and providing it consistently.

If you would like help planning and writing your health and wellness blogs, contact us. We would love to work with you.

And keep your eye out for our next blog post, which will show you the best websites to use when researching for your health writing.

Until next time.

Nerissa

References:

[i] Euromonitor International, Health and Wellness the Trillion Dollar Industry in 2017: Key Research Highlights, published 29 November 2012; accessed 28 July 2015, http://blog.euromonitor.com/2012/11/health-and-wellness-the-trillion-dollar-industry-in-2017-key-research-highlights.html

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