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  • Emily

The parallels between human and animal health copywriting

The term ‘pet parents’ has become increasingly popular, and is one that we’re often asked to include in our copy for pet owners. However you may feel about this phrase, it is actually a relatively accurate reflection of the communication challenges that we face in animal health…

How are pet and children's health conversations similar?

A lot of the context is the same for pet owners and parents… For example, in both cases, you have a patient that is unable/less able to communicate verbally and understand what is going on. It is therefore down to a guardian, not the patient themselves, to make all the decisions.

This taps into similar emotional triggers that drive all behaviour. For our decision makers – the parents and the pet owners - the uncertainty about whether they are making the right decisions is ever-present. So is the anxiety that they’re doing the best generally for their much-loved charge. That weight of responsibility for that vulnerable being – hairy or otherwise - who trusts them entirely, is felt acutely… It’s big-heart stuff!

Doctors or vets – who are the best communicators?

Many non-paediatric doctors will agree that the paed guys are the best communicators because of all of the above. And vets are the same – when you can’t ask your patient what’s up, or what happened, or explain what’s going to happen, you’re instantly catapulted into a foggy communication jungle. Vets navigate this daily – guiding owners through sometimes complex decision-making processes, explaining big concepts, managing big emotions… All while also communicating non-verbally with their patients to provide equal reassurance and care.

Do animal health communication parallels exist beyond paediatric medicine?

There are common communication challenges for ANY health discussion, regardless of the patient’s species. In a space where you want to empower your audience to confidently make the best choices for one of the things that is most important to them – i.e. their, or their loved one’s health – there are so many things that can just… get in the way. For example…

Making science accessible

When someone is worried about a health concern, you can have the most scientifically dazzling solution or aide, but if that decision maker doesn’t understand it, you’re just building your own roadblocks. Worse still, trying to use the impressive science to sing the virtues of a product can backfire and actually alienate the audience, if not done well. Making scientific principles easy to understand is a skill. Also using them to achieve the ‘Eureka!’ moment for your audience is an artform. But for those that can do it, it is magically useful across all healthcare sectors.

Acknowledging real-life challenges

In a climate of healthcare strikes and ongoing reduced veterinary capacity, encouraging people to simply ‘speak to your doctor/vet’ may be the 'gold standard' ultimate call to action, but is it actually practical for our audience? How do we bridge that gap and be the reassuringly supportive voice that people crave (and, let’s be frank, which helps build our brand’s trust equity) without straying across that fine line of responsible marcomms? Whether the patient barks or talks, the decision-maker feeling understood and considered is what matters when it comes to initiating health-related behaviour change. Acknowledging your audience’s reality, confidently communicating your area of expertise and signposting additional useful resources, where appropriate, will build trust in any health-based conversation.

Overlaps between human and animal medicine

A doctor friend and I often compare notes about our clinical experiences. While it’s obviously impossible to read hers (I’ll definitely get away with that doctor handwriting joke!), the number of similarities never fail to surprise us. My patients may have come with a higher bite-risk (although she’s keen to note that the risk was never zero with hers either), but we both worked hard to alleviate the same worries, answer the same questions and develop the same strong disposition for inadvertently wearing a whole variety of body fluids. The point is, humans are humans and while in animal health, it’s animals that are the ‘end-user’, the end decision-maker will always be a homo sapien.

Want to get a fresh, but capable ‘outside-sector’ take on your human health comms challenge? Get in touch

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