The Conscious Publisher

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To be conscious is to be aware of one’s surroundings — to be awake. For a publisher, it means coming alive to the role you play in your users’ lives. But it goes deeper — to feeling what your users feel and putting yourself in their shoes, every day.

Over the last year at Healthline, our entire company has entered into conversations and restructured our processes around “empathy” and “consciousness” for our users. And while it hasn’t been without its challenges — since what connects authentically with users is often a moving target — it has driven massive engagement and traffic growth for us as a brand and company. Readers respond to articles that come from a place of understanding of their true intent, concern, and mindset.

Here are four approaches that have made the greatest difference in driving consciousness across our organization.

Meet Your Users

Physically meet your users through focus groups and 1:1 conversations. Looking people in the eye reveals nuanced differences in their natural disposition and their mindset. Before we started to meet with our users, we had a high-level understanding of who they were, based on the volumes of data and information we have at our disposal. Our core user was a health information-seeker, someone who took an active interest in their health.

Then we started to meet with them and were able to dig beneath the surface. We discovered that not all health information-seekers are the same. We met people motivated by living and others motivated by knowing. Some just wanted the solution, while others wanted to figure out their health solution for themselves. Some have short attention spans, while others are guided by an insatiable curiosity. We saw, and even experienced, how different mindsets play out in the information consumption process. This has enlightened us to a new level of consciousness about our users and our product.

Use Conscious Language

People attribute value to language. Language reflects how we’re seen and heard. “Conscious language” recognizes someone’s reality without making judgments about it. It’s particularly important in healthcare, where people tend to be identified solely by their condition. They can be plagued by stigma and often isolated when, like everyone else, all they want is to feel understood and validated.

We’ve created our editorial playbook to ensure that we use conscious language, which promotes inclusivity and compassion, warmth and understanding. And we follow it diligently. Instead of telling our users how they feel or should feel, e.g., “Your symptoms are embarrassing,” or “You’re probably depressed,” we write in generalities, such as, “Irritable bowel syndrome can lead to feelings of frustration.” And we never judge. Instead of saying, “The patient failed treatment because she was not compliant,” we might say, “Treatment failed. The patient could not afford to consistently take her medications as prescribed.”

Never Stop Listening

Getting to consciousness is an ongoing and two-way process, as users’ preferences, experiences, and tolerances are constantly evolving. And in this era dominated by social media, consumers are making their voices heard on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

At Healthline, our editorial feedback team reviews and evaluates over 7,000 user comments each month to identify content that needs to be updated. We’re also proactive about keeping our finger on the pulse of different communities by staying in touch with health influencers, attending advocacy conferences, and keeping up-to-date on medical developments. Most importantly, we have a process to efficiently evolve and optimize our content and user experience based on what we learn.

Read more about Healthline’s HIV Task force that revamped content based on listening in the community.

Stand for Inclusion

Consciousness goes deeper than teaching and learning. It’s about feeling. No matter how many users you meet, or how fine-tuned your playbook, you won’t internalize consciousness if your organization doesn’t stand for something larger than yourselves. This requires alignment across everyone in the organization towards a higher purpose.

At Healthline, this purpose is to help people live stronger, healthier lives. Everyone at Healthline advocates for each person owning their health and well-being. This inspires us to stand for inclusion, consider the whole person and their community, and be objective at all costs.

Being truly conscious of and for your audience takes time, effort, and diligence. And it requires the involvement of both the head and the heart of the organization. But the results can have a significant impact on the value you provide users and how they perceive your brand.

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