Turn The Volume Up: How Healthcare Media Can Captivate with Audio Storytelling

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Cool Photos from Depositphotos

By Kevin Hartbarger, Investments and Partnerships Lead, DTC, Publicis Health Media 

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Sound has returned as a formidable media channel, and it may be here to stay. 

With podcasts as the main driver of growth, audio has experienced an incredible surge over the past year-and-a-half. According to the MRI-Simmons Podcast Study, 26% of Americans (66 million) listened to a podcast in the past 30 days, 23% (58 million) listened to a podcast in the past seven days with Americans averaging four programs (or five hours) per week.

Audio’s increased popularity is no happenstance. Many people are experiencing screen fatigue due to their new work-from-home lifestyle. Others are realizing that they can only consume media while multi-tasking, as they take care of children and pets, cook or drive. And these people are satisfying their entertainment needs with audio content. 

This shift has led to an evolution within the industry — according to the Nielsen Podcasting Today study, 49% of US podcast listeners are lighter, more casual users (who listen one to three times a month). Previously, the landscape was dominated by heavy listeners (in both volume of listening and content genres). Now, there’s a larger audience with more regular listening across multiple content types, rather than aficionados of specific topic areas. In fact, WARC Lions Intelligence recently released a study showing consumers now spend 31% of their media time with audio.

Bottom line: There are multiple new points of access and content uniquely positioned to address changing behavior, creating opportunities for healthcare media companies to meet consumer expectations and connect with patient audiences by tapping into the audio space. And two partners, one already deeply entrenched in the health space and another leading in audio innovation, have come together with a unique solution — as PHM and iHeartMedia’s Characters Like Me program has the potential to invigorate the audio “health” storytelling space. 

Why health marketers should care about audio

Beyond presenting an opportunity to tap into a growing entertainment space that is adapting to consumer interests and needs, there are several inherent benefits to purchasing audio advertising.

The audio storytelling space offers a lack of clutter for marketers, engendering credibility with consumers. There are generally few ad breaks in podcasts, which helps earn consumer trust, and far fewer brands are vying for attention within the same space.

The result: Consumers are far more likely to connect and interact with audio advertising. 

According to Ad Results Media’s Super Listeners 2021 report, podcast ads are the most recalled type of ad, as 86% of respondents said they remember seeing or hearing an ad. That same survey revealed that podcast listeners are also likely to engage with ads — 76% of listeners said they’ve taken action (including visiting a site, buying an item or signing up for a subscription) after hearing a podcast ad. 

This is especially advantageous for pharma advertisers because their messages tend to be more complex and targeted. In the audio world, these types of advertisers no longer have to fight for attention and space. They have more space to deliver their content, as there are usually few length restrictions placed on ads. 

By exploring audio advertising, health marketers can create intimate — and productive — connections with patient audiences. 

A solution that solves the problem of medical underrepresentation regarding Health conditions 

Pop culture and the entertainment industry has famously struggled with diverse representation, but audio has a unique opportunity to address this trend of underrepresentation, which includes health conditions. According to a 2020 report from glaad, only 3.5% of series regulars across all TV broadcast scripted series (773 in total) were portrayed as having a disability. 

Many potential listeners want to “hear” themselves in the content that they consume, but there are caveats — they don’t want caricatures of their medical conditions or to be bombarded with content in which their maladies are portrayed with a lack of tact. 

That’s why new products and tools that address the need for representation in this increasingly popular audio market hold so much promise. One such program is iHeartMedia’s Characters Like Me, which seeks to both provide compelling audio content and address the lack of representation often seen in entertainment media. PHM is partnering with iHeartMedia to unlock the potential of health-related audio content while catering to the needs and expectations of patient audiences.

The program’s goal is to create great audio fiction that features characters with under-discussed conditions — subtly. These medical conditions won’t be central to the story – instead, their presence will impact the fictional stories in a natural, organic way, which allows for the content to connect with larger patient audiences. 

“Our partnership with PHM will reinvent storytelling for healthcare with groundbreaking audio entertainment — leveraging audio in completely new ways to share stories that will both captivate and feel familiar to audiences,” said Andy Kelly, SVP of Custom Podcasts for iHeartMedia. “We truly can’t wait for people to hear these podcasts.”

Characters Like Me provides a special opportunity for healthcare brands to both support unique, impactful creative work and connect with consumers through advertising to reach crucial patient audiences in the expanding audio storytelling space. The program is an example of how smarter, more compassionate storytelling and marketing can meet changing consumer behaviors to make an impact, and potentially drive better patient outcomes. 

There’s plenty of room to join in on the audio storytelling boom, but as marketers make forays into this space and unlock new patient audiences, they should consider the importance of communicating with care. 

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.