The beauty of medical writing is that there is just so much variety in what you can do, that getting bored doesn’t ever seem like an option/ Why? Because aside from continuously learning new things about medicine, you’re also learning new ways to write; ways to write that can be profoundly beneficial for your future.
one type of writing which we haven’t really focused on recently is feature writing, or as it is referred to technically, medical reporting. This week, we’ll break down what feature writing is, how you can get into it, and how you should pitch your ideas across.
What is a feature piece?
A feature piece is similar to a story in that it’s there to report something that’s happened, whether that may be a new finding in a study, something that’s happened in the medical world, or an event that happened to someone in some part reiterates a medical topic we need to raise awareness of.
A feature piece is NOT by any means a blog post. There is no SEO involved with a feature piece aside from the metadata and alt text used for the pictures in the piece.
Instead, the feature piece will be based on interviews and comments gathered from subject matter experts. Subject matter experts are people who are deemed experts in their field. For instance, if you’re writing a piece about a hospital pharmacy and need some quotes from a hospital pharmacist, then you can approach Hass as a subject matter expert for a quote.
How do you write a feature piece?
A feature piece is more reporting and interviewing than it is writing. Unlike a blog where you have to construct an entire article yourself, a feature piece relies on comments made by SMEs for it to be complete.
Yes, as a writer you’ll need to use your copywriting skills to find some striking ways to introduce the article and write a decent heading and subheading, but for the most part, the article will be written by your interviewees.
As such, when writing a feature piece, you needn’t worry about fancy words or summarising a medical topic in a couple of sentences. Just practice introducing a speaker and ensuring the article flows in order based on the topic you’re writing about.
For example, if you were to interview me and ask about my roles as a clinical pharmacist (for the sake of argument), I could email you or speak to you and say something like “Clinical pharmacy goes beyond packaging medicines into boxes for patients to use. Our role is much closer to that of a junior doctor than people imagine. At times, particularly when it’s busy (which is always), we have to clerk patients in, call their GPs and their home to confirm meds, we have to do our own research sometimes if a patient has a complex condition which our guidelines don’t cover, and so on. Unfortunately, we just don’t have the time to give each patient the time they deserve, and so it feels rushed”.
You can then use any of those sentences as part of your introduction.
For instance: “Unfortunately, we just don’t have the time to give each patient the time they deserve, and so it feels rushed,” says Hassan, a clinical pharmacist from the UK. [follow up with a statement that highlights why you’re writing the piece] = Clinical pharmacists have been left in the dark to suffer the consequences of the cost of living crisis alone.
We spoke to multiple clinical pharmacists in the UK who reiterate Hassan’s concerns about the quality of care that can be given to patients, with Shane*, a pharmacist in Newcastle, highlighting that “since Brexit, getting parallel imports and cheaper medicines has been tough. Hell, getting even the most common. medicines have been tough. Our patients are getting frustrated and are consequently lashing out at us for something that’s completely out of our control.”
And so on.
You get the gist.
The interviewees write the article for you.
That means your focus has to shift from focusing solely on writing to making sure you know how to ask the right questions.
How do you pitch a feature piece?
Pitching a feature piece is not the same as offering to write a blog for a company.
These pieces are not SEO focused and so you will not need to worry about sending in titles such as X ways to stay fit abroad or 6 ways to reduce your blood pressure. The titles you’ll want to send should be striking and urgent.
Let’s say a new study on BP came out that showed ice cream was lowering BP in over 60s (I wish). You can pitch a headline along the lines of “New study finds that ice cream may be the cure for high blood pressure”
When pitching the scope of the piece, talk about WHY want to write it, not what you’re writing about. The WHY should answer the WHAT.
Tell your editor who you’re planning to interview. You can use Twitter with the hashtag #journorequest or you can use websites such as Qwoted.
Set a deadline, and if you fancy being in the good books, surpass that deadline!
Lastly, follow up!!