As a writer, I am all about emotion. I have always believed that there’s an emotional core to every decision we make. I also believe that’s a good thing. Our emotions are what make us human.

Backing me up is some strong science called neuromarketing. According to Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing:

“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

Van Praet goes on to say:

“If you want to generate action, you have to generate emotion.”

Trending: Artificial Intelligence and Emotions

Emotions are getting a lot of press lately. Right now, startup companies like Affectiva and Spark Neuro, as well as the biggies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple are working with AI systems and devices in an effort to recognize, interpret, process and even simulate human emotions. It’s a little scary and perhaps even creepily manipulative. Ethical questions are being discussed about how this technology should be best used. Some examples of how it can be used “for good” and some excellent insights into AI and marketing can be found here and here. Look for a future blog from me on this topic.

Your Health Care Audience: Emotions and Engagement

Right now, I’d like to discuss how we can use our audiences’ emotional states to discern the extent and type of engagement they want from us.

As a health care writer it is my job to put myself into people’s shoes, to be sensitive to their needs and to know the amount of engagement they want and expect.

It is my hypothesis that the emotions involved in making health care decisions put health care audiences somewhere on a continuum of emotion and engagement. This less-than-scientific continuum allows us to know how much content they want from us at any given time.

Here’s how I break audiences down:

Engaged and needing to know everything they can. Emotions run high for people who have cancer, the high-performing athlete with a serious injury, or someone with a chronic condition like diabetes. These people want to know about their condition—they want me to provide facts, outcomes and details. They want content that includes as much from me as I can give them to make decisions about their health.  

Connected and concerned about their health. This audience is healthy and wants to form a relationship. They want ongoing content from me served up in small bites that they can use in their daily lives. They want to have a continuing conversation about how they can stay healthy.

Responsible for finding immediate care. This is the mother or father dealing with a child’s ear infection, or the soccer player with a sprained ankle. The emotions connected with seeking care have to do with the speed of finding service and recovering as quickly as possible. They want to know where the most convenient care is located and that qualified practitioners are there to provide it. They don’t want much more than that from me.

Emotional matrix graph

Truly valuable content—the kind that taps into health care audiences’ actual needs, challenges, and goals—comes from being a good student of human emotion. It is an evolving science. Today, I use observation and listening to constantly build my ability to step out of my own skin and into the angst and motivation of my audience. With the continuing move by tech and AI companies large and small to study human emotion, who knows what tomorrow will bring. More about that later.