Healthtech is an exciting area right now, particularly for brand publishing. Hone Health is a men’s health company that delivers test kits, physician-approved medications and supplements directly to consumers. I first heard about Hone through an excellent editorial package the brand published in November. Called “The Enemy Within,” the package told stories of army veterans and the risk of low testosterone – and the challenges they face getting treatment.
The package was published on The Edge, Hone’s six-month-old brand publication dedicated to health and wellness stories. In that time, unique visitors to the site have grown to 223,000 per month, and Hone product sales from leads coming from content have grown threefold.
To find out more about The Edge and Hone’s editorial strategy, I talked with the company’s first editorial director, Tracy Middleton, who joined from Women’s Health in January. Edited highlights below.
‘Men’s Health 2.0’
“The initial pitch was Men’s Health 2.0. We were able to use that to drill into who our audience is and what we wanted to cover and and what we wanted to leave to the side. We narrowed our lens into guys who are looking to optimize their health. I think there’s a lot of conversations happening now about people improving their health span and their lifespan. That is what every product that we launch is about. We’re taking that kind of that Men’s Health 2.0 model and then boiling it down to that, but for this very niche group of people who are looking to live longer and live better.”
Building a content approach that’s based on search and symptoms
“When people who aren’t necessarily looking for the product yet, what might they be looking for online? They’re looking for symptoms. Why am I tired? Why am I gaining weight? Why do I feel like my libido is out the window? So we give people answers and solutions to what they’re struggling with right now, and then connect it to our products, especially as the company is growing. We create funnels that drive people to those pieces, and it really seems like this symptomatic approach that we’ve been taking is helping to pull people into that. We’re looking at how many pieces of content, how many touch points do we need to get somebody from an article about gaining weight to them wanting to test their hormones? I’d love to work with retargeting pixels next year and do some of that work, too.”
Team structure and processes
“I’ve worked with Hone’s vp of content, Sean Evans, and our Deputy Editor, Brianna Lapolla on strategy and execution for the past year. I own the Health Beat because that was my background, and Brianna heads up lifestyle. We hired a senior Lifestyle Editor to support her, and we hired a staff writer who was a little bit more of a jack of all trades. And then we have a fitness and nutrition editor who’s a certified strength and conditioning coach. One thing we ask often is “what is the purpose of each article?” That’s been important, and an education process for some of the leadership at the company, who often have ideas for articles, which can be great content, but is something people aren’t searching for yet or isn’t doing a job for us. Our job as an editorial team is to find a way to tell the stories of what we want to talk about.”
Metrics and engagement
“Traffic and engagement are obviously the big ones for us. The way the business works is, we don’t supply testosterone to anyone who isn’t medically deficient. So, the first step is ordering a test so that they can actually test their hormones and see if they are deficient in some way. So the main metric for us is getting people to click a button to order a kit. After that, we can’t really do much regarding if they become a customer.”
Putting an editorial package on veterans and low-testosterone together
“One of the things I found most interesting when I got here was hearing how many customers we had who were veterans. I started digging into it and just calling some of our doctors. So this idea was born, where we realized we have a really underserved community. They also happen to be savvy, they know marketing. So can we really show them that we understand their concerns in a way that maybe other companies don’t. We did get a lot of kits sales out of it and one of the things that we really saw was very high engagement rates on email marketing. Our email with the package had an open rate of 60%, higher than others. And we used it to re-engage people in the funnel, such as in the cart abandoned stage, or those who bought a kit but hadn’t registered it.”
The differences with brand publishing and journalism
“I don’t think I would have been able to tell that story as easily if we didn’t have the customers, and the doctors to speak with. At an outlet, that would have been a struggle. And we were able to pull insights that others couldn’t, because we have the access and data others don’t. On the other hand, we do still find if we’re going to external resources for different stories, experts are still a little bit nervous about talking to brands and looking like they’re promoting something that they’re not. We still have to explain we’re editorially independent, we’re not shilling for a company. There’s a lot of journalists who are coming into brand publishing who think the metrics will be the same, and that the skillsets transfer. And they do, but there is a mental shift that’s needed.”
Looking forward to 2023
“I think we’ll see a lot of companies that dabbled in content back off from it. There’s a recession, and budgets are being pulled back. Also, things take a long time. If we want to test something from a marketing perspective, we can throw up a landing page in three days. But content is such a long game, you have to build trust with your audience, and SEO takes a long time. Brands who are getting into it really need to have that understanding that this isn’t going to be something that necessarily pays off in two months, or six months, or two years. Because I think there are still people who are in that “content is the shiny penny right now” phase, and they don’t quite know how to use it.”