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Mental Health Marketing (A Clinician’s Perspective) with Megan Cornish

Today Jenny welcomes Megan Cornish, a licensed clinical social worker turned healthcare marketer. Megan shares her unique perspective on marketing and copywriting in the mental health space, emphasizing the importance of positive messaging and careful language choices.

They discuss the intersection of marketing and clinicians in driving demand and the need for clinician involvement in marketing strategies. They also touch on the challenges posed by large companies entering the mental health space and the importance of viewing traditional therapists as allies, not competitors.

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Jenny: [00:00:00] Hi friends. Welcome to today’s episode of We Are, Marketing Happy, a healthcare marketing podcast. I am Jenny Bristow, the CEO and owner of Hedy & Hopp, a healthcare marketing agency. 

I am so excited today to have Megan Cornish here with us. She is a licensed clinical social worker turned healthcare marketer.

So she’s bringing her clinician experience into the marketing world. And I’m so excited to dig into what that means. Welcome Megan. 

Megan: Thank you so much. I’m very excited to be here. 

Jenny: So we connected originally on LinkedIn because you were making some really fabulous posts talking about the intersection of marketers driving demand with clinicians satisfying that demand and then when things, you know, don’t quite match up.

And so I’m excited to chat with you first about how you approach marketing, copywriting, and [00:01:00] content strategy in the mental health space. So talk to me about some of the work that you do. 

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. I think as a clinician, I have a unique perspective on things that I can kind of see the whole scope, the whole span of the treatment journey.

Marketers tend to view it as a funnel and their role ends as soon as that person starts treatment. But I kind of understand it on a longer scale where the clinicians are gonna start working at that point. But the marketer is actually a part of the treatment journey as well. So the way they say things, the way they get people into treatment really matters.

It’s really important because words are important and the way that these clients are viewing their treatment journey is gonna really play a big role in how successful they’re going to be in therapy. 

Jenny: Yeah. So one thing that I have noticed in the mental health space in different communication strategies is fear based communications.

Talk to me about how [00:02:00] words matter when you’re trying to encourage somebody to enter a treatment journey. How do you approach it? And what is your perspective of how language matters? 

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think as a clinician, if I have someone coming into my office who wants to change the 1st thing I need to help them see is what they want.

Not what they don’t want because it’s if you move away from something, you can move in any direction, but you have to know what your goals are and what it is that you’re looking for. So that’s super important. I think to to use positive tactics to get people into therapy in the 1st place.

Otherwise, you’re sending these people who are scared and are not in a good place to start. They’re not ready. They might drop out. You’re gonna have to spend more marketing dollars. You want to make sure that the motivation and the pathway into therapy is on positive. I also think it’s important specific words that are used.

You have to be careful how you talk about mental health. You have to be even down to little things like anxious people or depressed [00:03:00] people. We don’t, in mental health, we don’t label people that way because part of treatment is getting people to separate themselves from their issues. You can’t work on your mental health issues if you can’t view yourself as separate from them.

So, if the marketing itself is just reinforcing this idea that you are your problem. You’re not going to be able to have success in therapy. 

Jenny: Absolutely. And I think it’s really interesting. We’ve done lots of provider based marketing to bring patients in. And one of the things that we often struggle with is the difference between how physicians talk about their services versus how consumers Google and research the services and the big gap between that. 

So one of my favorite stories is we were redoing assets for different service lines and the cardiologist, the head cardiologist was reviewing the copy and he actually got really frustrated that it was “heart doctor” but that is how everybody Googles it.

Like people don’t [00:04:00] know the word cardiologist. The average reading level is actually quite lower, you know, than a doctor’s. So you have to actually speak to them in a way that they can understand. 

Megan: Absolutely, yeah, I think that clinicians tend to be a little bit more in tune with that, you know, because a cardiologist, it doesn’t matter what they say the treatment that they give is going to be the same.

But for a therapist, what you say is the treatment. So we’re pretty in tune with what our clients need to hear from us, which I think is part of my superpower in marketing is understanding what resonates already as a clinician. I just kind of shift the way that I’m doing my work.

I’m still promoting mental health. I’m still bringing up motivation to change, which is something you do every single session. You have to help people tap in their motivation to change and their motivation to get better. And I do that in marketing now too. It’s just kind of on a larger scale. 

Jenny: So, best case scenario, if there was a marketing team in the mental health space, at [00:05:00] what point is it the most important to have a clinician or somebody with a better understanding of the treatment plan to kind of weave in to the marketing team’s approach? 

Megan: Best case scenario, I would say having someone as a partner or consultant all the way through.

Having a conversation like this, where you say, this is what we’re thinking about our strategy. This is what we’re thinking about our messaging. Like, what do you think from a clinical perspective? What do you think is going to resonate? All the way through to say, what’s the best way to describe this term for someone who doesn’t know what it is?

And then obviously, you know, at the end say, can you give a review? But minimum, you need to have clinician eyes on it before it goes out. You need to say, is there anything problematic about this? Is there anything confusing? Is there anything that’s clinically just kind of off? 

I mean, down to it matters that people know who they’re being treated by and things like therapists and social workers, and these are [00:06:00] not interchangeable terms. Helping clients be clear and understand the system and not confusing them by acting like terms are interchangeable is really helpful.

Jenny: So, whenever we’re thinking about mental health and mental health services, there have been, as you know, some really large companies entering the space in a big way, right? So you see Headspace, [00:10:00] BetterHelp. And they’re coming in and they are trying to reach mass scale through these large nationwide campaigns to be able to provide people access to care.

And it’s kind of interesting. As a consumer you know, if I remove my marketer hat and I think of myself as a person that may need or one of my family members may need mental health services, it’s kind of interesting now that we have two different camps starting, right? You have like the huge private equity backed investments, and then you have individual clinicians or a smaller localized group practices.

And the marketing of those two is taking massively different approaches. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that and kind of how you see the environment right now. 

Megan: Yeah, I think that it’s super important to understand where the money is coming from and why they’re putting the money into it.

And it kind of gives you some perspective. So these big venture capital [00:11:00] firms are helping these companies scale. Most of that is going to marketing and acquisitions. The problem that I see with that is that clinicians are actively working to get rid of clients. Like, that’s kind of your job.

Your job is to constantly be trying to get your clients better so that they don’t need a therapist anymore. Which is at odds with what I assume is the proposition in these conversations with venture capitalists, which is we just need help on the front end to get clients. And then we can spend, we’ll spend a little, a lot of marketing in the beginning, but then we won’t need to spend as much marketing.

Well, that’s not actually true. You’re always going to if that’s the customer acquisition costs, those customers are going to leave. That’s the point of therapy. And you’re going to need to spend more money to get more customers too. So I think that’s kind of a dynamic that I don’t understand, and I don’t know why all this money continues to go into these. 

I think most of them are not even in the black yet. Because of the marketing spend, so it’s interesting to [00:12:00] see how that’s going to play out. I hope new solutions are going to pop up to address that. I think that it’s important. individual clinicians have access to all the referrals that they need. Because the demand is so high. 

I would really appreciate it if marketers, these big companies, would stop viewing traditional therapy as their competitors. Traditional therapists are not your competitors.

Your competitors are stigma and shame and barriers like pricing and insurance. Those are your competitors. I don’t want to see another chart of comparing your platform to traditional therapy, like leave the traditional therapist alone. There’s more than enough for everyone. Go after these actual competitors that are keeping the market smaller than it needs to be.

Jenny: I will say also, like, I don’t know many traditional therapists that even have availability for new patients. So it definitely is not a situation if somebody is actively seeking [00:13:00] therapy, traditional therapists are like you said, likely not competition for that reason alone.

So Megan, it has been such an absolute joy. I think the point of involving clinicians early and often and thoroughly in marketing communication strategies in mental health is a very good one. 

So thank you for being on today. I’m going to add your LinkedIn to the show notes. If anybody would like to continue the conversation with you offline! 

Thank you friends. I’ll see you in a future episode.



About the Author

Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Founder of Hedy & Hopp. Prior to starting Hedy & Hopp, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle and worked at Amazon. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at healthcare marketing industry events.

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