Learn To Speak The Language Of Your Client’s (Many) Target Audiences

Nov 15, 2023

Healthcare PR and marketing agency pros work with multiple clients at a time. That’s a lot of technologies, services, business strategies, marketing messages, workflows, timelines, and personalities to understand and manage.

It’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed because healthcare technology clients by definition are working on cutting-edge technologies that can be challenging to comprehend, never mind explain to an audience. Conversing regularly with healthcare startup founders about the clinical-grade, model-informed, reverse-engineered algorithm they developed to transform healthcare as we know it – when they weren’t working their side gig as a highly regarded neurosurgeon – is a humbling experience. My encyclopedic knowledge of BoJack Horseman episodes barely measures up.

But here’s where things get even more complicated: Not only does each client have all that stuff I mentioned in the first paragraph, they also are trying to reach multiple audiences.

That matters, because to craft an effective message you need to both identify and understand the target audience. The first question I ask clients when we’re on a call with a subject matter expert to get information for a writing assignment – a byline, a press release, a white paper – is, “Who’s the target audience?” Even if I already know, I’ll ask anyway just to make sure we’re all on the same page and to get more details. Plus it’s a great icebreaker!

Know what each audience cares about

At the most basic level, every healthcare technology company has three distinct audiences: customers (both potential and existing), investors, and the media. Let’s start with the less complicated audiences: investors and the media.

Investors view healthcare technology as, well, an investment. So while they may thoroughly believe in the technology and what it will do for patients, providers, payers or some other stakeholder, their primary interest is whether their investment pays off. Investors want to hear about the market opportunity, growth strategy, financial and growth metrics, the expertise and experience of the management team, and how the company intends to become profitable.

A media audience is looking for an interesting story. That might be the background of your client’s founders, the scope of the challenge your client is trying to address, and how many lives the client’s product or service will change. Even media outlets that drill down into the details of healthcare technology, business, and policy want to cast the content they publish in human terms.

You can best understand what type of content specific media outlets are interested in publishing by actually reading what they publish. (Pro tip!) If your client is all about the revenue cycle, you’re not likely to draw interest from a website that covers medical devices.

Customers are more complicated because many healthcare companies may be trying to reach several subsets of customers. For example, one of Amendola’s clients I write for markets its platform to hospitals, health information exchanges, labs and clinics, and health plans. Each of those target audiences has its own priorities and needs. As a marketing/PR agency, it is our job to effectively address the specific pain points of each target audience.

Listen, research, and listen some more

So how can we best understand each of the client’s target audiences? One way is to talk with someone at the client who interacts regularly with customers and prospective customers.

For example, if the target audience is customers and potential customers, I would want to hear from sales executives. They are the people who listen to customers describe their business goals and challenges, explain what problems they need to overcome, and articulate what they need (or don’t need) from the type of solution the client is selling. Once you can identify the problems a customer wants solved, you have the raw ingredients for crafting a targeted, compelling message using the customer’s language.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard for a PR/marketing agency team to get time with a client’s sales exec because they’re busy selling (hopefully!). It’s much more common for agencies to work with the client’s technologists, who typically are among the founders. While their ability to explain the company’s technology within the context of various use cases is indispensable, it’s the sales team that understands challenges from the customer’s perspective. They have an outside-in perspective, rather than the inside-out view of many technologists.

A less direct way to learn about a target audience is through online research. That includes using ChatGPT and other generative AI tools to find information. (Just make sure it’s not hallucinated info.) Learning the lay of the land within a client’s competitive sphere provides more perspective to help inform the content you create. Large consulting agencies such as McKinsey and Accenture have ambitious healthcare practices that offer comprehensive market analyses.

Developing customer personas also can help marketing/PR agencies hone their messages by providing a crystal-clear picture of a target audience. What are the backgrounds, values, preferences, and pain points of the chief technology officers targeted by your client? They undoubtedly would be different to those of the chief financial officer or chief medical officer. Interviews, surveys, and feedback can be used to refine those personas.


No healthcare client has a single target audience. All of them at some point will need to communicate the appropriate messages to investors, the media, and various customer groups. Marketing/PR professionals must be fluent in all these languages to ensure they are helping clients achieve their goals.