June 6, 2022

Speak to the Heart

Drawing of a heart on a wall of notes

What do HGTV, hospice and palliative care, and Rx marketing all have in common?

Well, me, for starters… but there’s so much more! Let me explain.

My name is Nicole McCann-Davis, and I’m a Director of Strategic Planning. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of supporting some really amazing organizations: television production for HGTV; communications for McDonald’s Corporation; communications and health equity and access lead for the multinational Accentcare (formerly known as Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care); chair of the Diversity Advisory Council for the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization; and, currently, pharma marketing, as I complete my PhD in Health Sciences.

To most, it may be challenging to find similarities in these roles. However, they are comparable in one very important way:

The success I’ve had in each role is based on how I’ve been able to make people feel.

To thrive in any of these positions, I’ve had to consistently visualize the end goal, anticipate the needs of a diverse population, and identify what I hope they will feel and experience. At times, I’ve had important, life-altering information to convey; in others, the content was more entertaining than informative. For some projects, I’ve been thinking visually; for others, it’s been about the written word. Regardless, I’ve had to consider the lived experiences of others (whether based on race, language, age, socioeconomic status, education, or other factors) in every strategic and creative decision that has been made.

Regardless of the goal of your communication or campaign, or the platform you’re using, your audience won’t engage with the information if they’re not inspired.

Stories can be told in a variety of ways, and I try to speak to the heart in the way that works best for the intended audience.  My style of writing is geared towards the general public, with the understanding that most audiences don’t find scientific writing to be very engaging. This has certainly been an adjustment for professors in my doctoral program, where I’m in a very scientifically minded community. However, writing and storytelling in a way that anyone can form a connection with is necessary to close the long-existing gaps in our healthcare system. Particularly in the pandemic, we’ve witnessed the important role of authenticity, diversity, and understanding that’s needed to make the greatest impact in healthcare education and access to quality resources.  

The feeling we hope to inspire can be radically different in different situations. It may be joy, hope, aspiration, empowerment, longing – even thirst! Whatever I’m working on, though, I’m asking the same questions:

  • What is the story we’re hoping to tell, and do we have a complete data-driven view to support it?
  • Who is our audience – and more importantly, who are we missing? Are we addressing disparities and barriers to care in our strategy, creative, and implementation?
  • What can we do to help to meet the greater needs of various populations using our available resources?
  • What can we create to give them the experience they long for, while ensuring they feel seen as an individual or community?

When we’re working on a project for healthcare providers, for instance: What’s their day-to-day like? What will make their lives easier when considering high caseloads and compliance needs? What do they prioritize? Who are they supporting, and what non-medical experiences may influence their health? What will support their goals of providing person-centered care?

Before you can understand what you need to do to create successful work as a communicator or a marketer, you have to consider the answers to these questions. I’ve had the most profound experiences of my career working in healthcare, and the lessons I learned in other industries have helped me to be a more successful strategist. Speaking to the hearts — of patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers — is the top priority as we work to positively impact improve access for all.