Advocating Like a Journalist: Tips for Sharing Newsworthy Content
So much of how we advocate involves storytelling and creating content that leaves a lasting impression. It can be overwhelming to know what topics to focus on, what information will resonate, and how best to reach your patient community. As a former TV news anchor, reporter, and producer who spent a decade suffering from Crohn’s disease in silence, it’s been incredibly empowering to use my love for journalism to become a patient advocate once I left the news desk in 2014. Since then, I’ve written more than 500 articles on my award-winning blog, Lights, Camera, Crohn’s and for several digital health websites and publications.
Tips for writing
The key is to help people see themselves through your writing. Whether you’re blogging, writing copy for social media, or for a website, it’s important that your refrain for making yourself the story. Your experiences are valid, but make them the foundation of the story, not all of it. Let’s be honest—no one wants to read a diary entry when they’re desperately seeking support or understanding about their own personal struggles. Think of your pain points as a patient or caregiver and share advice and perspective that you’ve learned along the way. I always try and be the voice I needed to hear upon diagnosis and through all of life’s touchpoints—starting a career, finding love, becoming a mom, and more.
Think about what inspires you to read an article, a long-form social media post, or watch a video/reel. Share information that you wish you had along your own patient journey. What have you learned? What have you struggled with? It’s helpful to create resources that are “news patients can use”—how is your writing going to benefit others and make them feel better educated and supported on their patient journey?
When I entered the advocacy space in 2014, I noticed that much of the blogs and social media presence seemed very doomsday. I didn’t want to be that kind of advocate. I wanted to be transparent and honest about the dark moments of course, but I also wanted to be positive about all that’s still possible beyond having a chronic illness. I feel that if you’re real and genuine through the highs and the lows, it makes your content more relatable to your community.
Break up paragraphs in your writing with subheads so that the content if easier to digest from the reader perspective.
Back up your content with science
Don’t try to be the first, take your time and get it right. Most of us do not have a medical degree, even though we are expert patients. Refrain from providing medical advice. Don’t overcomplicate the information that you share. Build a rapport with specialists and fellow patients online, at events like Galas/Walks/Charity events/patient symposiums and in-person at conferences. Find opportunities to collaborate and support the work of others by engaging online by commenting and sharing. By including quotes and feedback from trusted medical specialists in your disease space you are instantly adding credibility to your work.
Uncomplicating the process
It can be daunting to come up with ideas for content. I find it helpful to build an editorial calendar, so I always know what’s ahead for my blog coverage and I don’t have to overthink. Anytime an idea comes to mind I simply go into my Gmail and in my “Drafts” folder or on my “Notes” app and I write down ideas as they come to mind.
Always have your radar up for ideas when you’re scrolling social media and living your daily life. Be hungry to learn as much as you can about the latest research. I find it helpful to have Google Alerts for my disease space and for my name so I’m aware anytime I’m referenced in an article online. This also keeps my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease space.
Rather than only featuring personal experiences, try and amplify the voices of others in your community by featuring their stories.
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