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What I learned about med comms from 5 famous guitarists

A senior medical writer’s perspective on what can be taken away from 5 world-famous guitarists and their playing styles – and applied to med comms.

The composition is king

Mastered by: Mark Knopfler

Mark Knopfler is often cited as one of the best guitarists of all time – and for good reason. As Dire Straits’ frontman, he knows how to rock a world-famous riff (just think back to ‘Brothers in Arms’ , or ‘Money for Nothing’) – but he’s also an incredibly accomplished musician when it comes to more ‘subtle’ performances.

In fact, this is my key takeaway from Mark’s legendary guitar-playing for you today: despite his omnipotent 6-string fingerpickin’, he knows when to step back and let other musicians shine. Check out the saxophone introduction in this live version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ , or the beautiful instrumental sections in ‘Wherever I go’ (one of his solo works).

So how does this apply to med comms? Well, you might be incredibly skilled in your own technical abilities when it comes to writing – but don’t forget, it’s the composition that is king. What is the overall piece your working on saying? Is that message coherent? Do you need to ‘step back’, and let the imagery do the talking? Or, does it need a little more ‘punch’ in the way of dropping in a literary riff or two? In the same vein, can you ‘step back’ and let a colleague use their powers to aid you if you’re working on a project with multiple writers?

Think back to the bigger picture – like Knopfler – and your piece is destined to dazzle.

© Eddie Mallin
© Eddie Mallin
Keep it simple to deliver magic

Mastered by: Jonny Buckland

As lead guitarist for Coldplay, one could easily argue that Jonny is among the most popular guitarists in the world. Now, we’re not saying that he is not clearly a very skilled guitarist, but is it his technical skill that has elevated him to this position? I would argue, no. To me, it’s more to do with his creativity and ability to deliver a simple riff that works.

Just listen to ‘Fix You’ – and tell me you don’t absolutely love the simplicity of the guitar riff (you know the one I’m talking about). It’s perfect – but it’s undoubtedly fairly ‘simple’. Hey, that brings me to our next lesson. Simple messaging that sticks is the name of the game in med comms. Don’t add the technicalities if you don’t have to. Using your skills as a writer, come up with mind-catching phrases that your audience simply can’t ignore – like Jonny on his guitar.

© Christopher Johnson
© Christopher Johnson
Explore your possibilities

Mastered by: Jimi Hendrix

Turn back the clock to Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 – and behold the legendary performance in which Hendrix doused his Fender Stratocaster with lighter fluid and set it on fire, instantly earning him a place in the hearts of fans worldwide. Indeed, Jimi Hendrix is such a household name, that even my grandma would probably know who he is (probably).

But what set him apart? I would argue, his relentless exploration of his possibilities. Mastering crazy effects, funky riffs (remind yourself of ‘Purple Haze’ ), and even on-stage fire – he was the very definition of a creative genius. Apply this to your work, and you’re bound to become a household name in the minds of your clients. Take a step back, and ponder: what could I do with this piece? Disclaimer: please don’t set it on fire.

© Detlef Hansen
© Detlef Hansen
Make your voice the perfect accompanyment

Mastered by: Mary Chapin Carpenter

Legendary singer-songwriter, Mary Chapin Carpenter, is perhaps best known for her soulful writing abilities that combine perfectly with her melodic acoustic guitar – as a mitochondrion and a eukaryote. Check out ‘Soul Companion’ (featuring another legend, James Taylor) if you don’t believe me.

The lesson learned here is simple, and relates back to our first learning of the day: keep the overall piece in mind. Make sure your copy matches your visuals, your tone, and everything else – make it the perfect composition.

© Bryan Ledgard
© Bryan Ledgard
Practice and dedication can make you a legend

Mastered by: Matt Heafy

It’s time for your last lesson for today; this one is perhaps obvious, but worth remembering. What makes ‘greatness’? Practice. Practice, and then practice again. Heavy metal guitar virtuoso, Matt Heafy, is a renowened practice addict. When he’s not practicing guitar, he’s honing his vocal skills, or training in the gym. Put simply, he loves what he does – and it shows. So, keep writing, writing, and writing some more: with every new piece, a bigger and better you emerges.

Oh, and in the meantime, check out some of this insane guitar work.

© Victoria Morse
© Victoria Morse