Medical writers. Before you write, read and research.

When the brief for advertising or promotional work comes in, there are two important considerations for the medical writer, especially if they are working off-site (i.e. at home rather than in your office).

1. Discuss the brief with the client
Clients should be clear as to their requirements and these should be written down. A quick phone-call isn’t going to do it, though a follow-up phone-call, once the brief has been sent, read and digested, is vital to clarify that the client and medical copywriter are in alignment, and that any questions about the job and queries about the data have been answered. The more I know about the proposed task or job, and its requirements, the better my final work will be.

2. Before you write, read
Before I start writing, I will always read and research around the client brief, rather than instantly developing ideas and copy. What does it say on the Internet about this illness, this drug? What is the current perceived thinking? What are the competition currently doing, and what do their communications, ads and messages look and sound like? Is the product I am about to work on sufficiently differentiated from theirs, or do I have to create a difference, a fresh identity? It’s important to talk all these matters over with the client. At the same time, it’s important to do your own research. Do

n’t leave it all up to the client.

Medical writing is not just about copywriting, it’s about creativity
When you hire a medical copywriter, you are not hiring a person who just writes medical copy, you are hiring a creative person who just happens to prefer (or be better at) promoting things medical as opposed to things consumer. Medical copywriters are creative people and, if they are worth their salt, they will always try and give their clients something unexpected, challenging, thought provoking (entertaining even, provided it’s not promoting end-stage cancer), whilst communication the message you have hired them to communicate. If you just want a hack to bash out some lines, go to the local hack store.


Medical writers should give value
A good medical copywriter should give a client a selection of creative ideas, headlines and copy, so if the first idea or line is considered too bold, outrageous, or, heaven forbid, off-brief, the client will have others to choose from. I always give my clients a choice, and hope they will go with my suggestion. If they choose not to, at least I’ve given them alternative options.

I just love those medical ads with the one-eyed teddy bear Very occasionally the client might struggle to identify anything different or superior about their product  (“I’m afraid our product is the

same as the competition, only with more side-effects and a substantially

higher pill-count.”). So rise to the challenge and at least make the communication memorable: “I just love those ads with that one-eyed teddy bear and the crazy porcupines.” Alternatively, make it sound better: “Amazex loves patients. Hates arthritis and traffic wardens.” At the end of the day, accentuate the positive and be truthful about the negative without necessarily creating flashing neon signs around it.

About the writer:
Harry is an award-winning medical copywriter of many years standing. Following Creative Director positions at several leading UK healthcare ad agencies, he now devotes himself fulltime to freelance medical copywriting. As well as the UK, he has worked in the EU, and likes working directly with clients as communication tends to be immediate and more efficient, with fewer levels of approval.