The Stigma And Struggle Of Being A Medical Copywriter

A subscriber to my daily newsletter, Corinne Swainger, asked a question, reprinted here with permission:

Today, many people tend to associate the word “copywriter” with someone who only writes websites, content marketing or blogs. This often means practically everyone now thinks they can write, and is therefore a copywriter.

My own background is based in traditional and modern advertising/healthcare PR/medical education agencies, where a wide range of media (eg, digital, print ad, posters, patient leaflets, booklets etc) are still used for integrated campaigns. My work is also based on several years of medical marketing experience. But it seems less people understand this.

Do you have ideas about to break this misunderstanding that “copywriting” is just associated with writing web content?

Here was my answer, slightly edited for clarity.


Great question. Thank you for asking.

I intimately understand your struggle. This was precisely the same reason why I rarely used the term “copywriter” when I first started out 30 years ago.

Back then, I focused primarily on medical copywriting, too. But instead of promoting myself to doctors as a copywriter, I called myself a marketing consultant.

I did so for three key reasons:

  1. Websites may not have been common back then, but copywriting was mostly associated with writing salesletters and promotions.
  2. The stigma associated with copywriting (being scammy, unethical, hyperbolic, etc) made doctors quite reluctant to hire anyone who could potentially raise the ire of their licensing bodies and jeopardize their careers.
  3. And as I’m sure you know, some doctors have a bit of an elitist mentality, so hiring a “copywriter” was often considered a little undignified and cheapening.

So I avoided calling myself a copywriter from the onset.

Instead, I positioned myself as “The Success Doctor” and wrote a booklet on how doctors could grow their practices. It was a subtle yet powerful form of promotion.

I’ve since rewritten it to appeal to a wider audience, and it may be a little outdated today. However, it did a good job of educating my clients on what I do.

But I digress.

All this to say, the way you promote yourself — including your value proposition — should communicate, as efficiently and succinctly as possible, what makes you and what you do so attractive to your ideal clients.

I know, we’re both experienced copywriters, so I’m preaching to the choir here.

But if I may be candid, my point is that you shouldn’t focus on what you do. Focus on what goals you help reach or the results you help create.

By promoting yourself as a medical copywriter (and given the challenges you expressed), it’s like swimming against the current. You have to work harder in educating your clients and clearing up any misunderstanding even before they consider your services.

What’s the purpose of hiring you? Focus on that instead of what you do.

On your LinkedIn profile, I like the last title you give yourself: “Pharmaceutical-healthcare Communications Specialist.” That’s a lot better than “medical copywriter.”

I would change it to “Integrated Marketing Communications Specialist” or “Marketing Communications Writer Specialising in the Health and Pharmaceutical Fields.”

Or better: “I help healthcare and pharmaceutical clients generate more awareness, attention, loyalty, and sales through compelling marketing communications.”

That’s a mouthful, but you get the idea.

Ultimately, I suggest that, instead of promoting what you do, promote what your clients get by hiring you, and then use that as your headline/title in your LinkedIn profile.

But if you absolutely must keep the title, highlight the holistic aspect of your work, such as adding “multichannel,” “omnichannel,” or “integrated marketing” copywriter.

I hope this helps.

— Michel

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By Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin is a digital marketing advisor specializing in SEO, communications, and strategy. For over 30 years, he helped hundreds of thousands of clients increase their visibility and their revenue. He is also the VP of Digital Marketing at Musora, the company behind award-winning platforms Drumeo and Pianote. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.