Healthcare Communications in Silicon Valley

So, you’re looking at healthcare communications agencies. Maybe to hire. Perhaps to join. But you’d like a firm located in the San Francisco Bay Area. That understands Silicon Valley. That tackles tough healthcare communication challenges. Breaks down barriers. Sweats details. Avoids office politics. Focuses. And delivers (ahem) sterling results.

That’s us.

We’re Sterling Communications, Silicon Valley’s storytellers. We don’t lean on any single style or fancy process. But what we do have is a very particular set of skills acquired over very long and diverse careers centered around the SF Bay Area and focused in the technology community. Since 1989, Sterling has worked exclusively with tech clients, mostly in enterprise software, data security, consumer technology, cleantech, and in recent years, healthcare.

Silicon Valley’s most ambitious and disruptive tech firms seek Sterling’s PR expertise to build bold brands and make a difference. But how, exactly, does healthcare communications work? And, more importantly, how can you make public relations work better for your health tech business?

Let’s answer some of these important questions:

How does healthcare communications differ from communications for other companies?

Public relations for healthcare businesses requires many of the same basic skills as communications for other companies: strategy, media relations, press release writing, community management, and discovering opportunities to win awards or speak at events, and so on. And, obviously, healthcare communications assumes the agency is going to have at least a working familiarity with the main industry and niche markets you aim to serve. But there’s more.

Healthcare communications also demands the ability to amplify traditional communications with visual media, such as websites, videos, infographics, and other branded collateral. The writing requirements for healthcare communications encompass domain expertise for white papers, blog posts, web copy, or social media. Further, innovation within the healthcare industry moves with much greater speed, with far more industry jargon, than any other market. And the pace of obsolescence means that the strategies or tactics that worked yesterday have little leverage on moving the needle tomorrow.
For an agency to have any longevity in the healthcare and health tech markets, you need a culture of curiosity. That’s Sterling.

Why does storytelling matter so much in healthcare communications?

The healthcare industry is something everyone participates in or contributes to. We care about quality medical care, because everyone needs it. We’re also aware that there can be a perception that, as an industry, the patient or the physician must mold to the system, rather than have the system work for the physician or patient. That’s why healthcare communications needs to be meaningful: so healthcare and health tech companies can be transparent and show its customers and medical staff that we’re all on the same team.

It requires storytelling.

Good stories seduce and enthrall. They play with our emotions, lodge in our memories, guide our perceptions, help us understand. Good stories change usNumerous studies prove that humans are hardwired for narrative thinking.
Our brains are greedy for stories. A tale told well is always more memorable and compelling and delicious than any bar chart or cold hard list of facts. Storytelling is how we best communicate the essence of who we are to each other. More than ever, and particularly in the realm of technology, companies need opportunities to humanize their positions, connect with their communities, and differentiate themselves in a noisy and erratic environment.

Storytelling makes the difference.

Good stories, in other words, are good for business.

What size healthcare communications agency is best to help reach your firm’s marketing goals?

There are, of course, monster conglomerates with offices around the world, each of which has layers of departments staffed with well-qualified people. And they’re probably perfectly suited to the world’s largest healthcare companies, who also have myriad layers of executives in charge of various results. And there are also savvy freelancers or mom-and-pop shops that do one thing, and do it well.
Most likely, you’re looking for something in between: an agency that’s large enough to matter, but small enough to care. The trick, of course, is knowing what’s too large as well as too small. Sterling Communications is what most people would call a boutique agency. And though that may sound a bit dear, it simply means that we can fit everyone under one roof.

The best healthcare communications agencies, we believe, include executives on every account. Senior-level attention helps ensure hard work is guided by smart strategy. Passion gets channeled by experience. And results can be measured in outcomes, not inputs.

Are there healthcare communications best practices for companies in the San Francisco Bay Area?

What makes healthcare communications tick? While Sterling tailors each healthcare communications program specifically to each client, there are certain universal truths we’ve discovered that work for everyone. Here are six recommendations we happily share with all companies that want to make their mark in Silicon Valley:

  1. Personality — Have one. Know who you are (and who you aren’t) and stay true to your brand. We’ll help you be real and stay on message.
  2. Topics — Own some. Thought leadership is key for your tech public relations program to be effective. When it comes to the health tech space, reporters (and potential customers and investors) look for the topic mavens. We’ll help you track trends and stay engaged.
  3. Friends — Nurture them. Silicon Valley is really a small and fairly tight-knit community, and maintaining good friendships is beneficial in both work and in life. We’ll work to build your network of supporters.
  4. Enemies — Fight them. It’s natural to have enemies when you stand for something. We’ll pick strategic battles that best position your brand.
  5. Media — Create it. Healthcare communications demands all types of media, from thought leadership essays to interactive visual presentations, and that’s just the start to a solid content marketing plan. We’ll help design, shoot, and craft all manner of content to feed the beast.
  6. Results — Demand them. Communication requires (or at least should) the same metrics-driven rigor applied to advertising, sales, and marketing. We’ll deliver on the metrics that matter most.

How should you craft a social media program to support healthcare and health tech businesses?

Let’s say you’ve sharpened your message, assembled your team, prepped your plans, and are ready to start sharing. Given how fast you probably need to move and how far you intend to travel, we believe these points would be good to keep in mind as you work with a PR agency to manage your social media program

  • Trust saves money. If a partnership requires every tweet to be drafted by committee, then it will take a lot of time and impart little reward. Your PR agency needs to build that trust. Sterling strives to work with honesty, transparency, and focus not just on your goals, but on those of the people you intend to influence.
  • Boring doesn’t sell. Earnest is nice, and on-message is important, but dull doesn’t cut it. People don’t want to be marketed to; they crave authenticity. We’ll surface the real stories your best prospective customers care to read, watch, and share.
  • Traction takes time. Not years, thankfully, but it does take at least months to start. You can see it early, but establishing a trusted brand takes commitment — not just from your agency, but from your team as well.

Does your PR agency’s team need deep healthcare industry expertise?

Sort of. Usually, deep expertise helps. You, the client, don’t have to spend weeks or months training junior agency personnel on the finer points of your products. You don’t have to explain SaaS platforms or IoT protocols, encryption standards or agile development methodologies.

However, seeking out PR pros with in-depth, industry-specific knowledge is not the same as finding people who can articulate the finer points of your healthcare software, app, medical device, or platform.

That requires working with people who are insatiably curious not only about healthcare and health tech, but also about what it means to other people. It demands the ability to embrace potential. It demands empathy. Clear thinking and imagination combined. Sharp verbal, written, and visual communications skills.

In other words, you want a team that can geek out over the tech, but wax rhapsodic about its meaning.

Now what?

Like what you’ve read? Ready to learn more? Email us at or call us at (408) 395-5500. We’re ready to listen and we love a good story.

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