free-ranging conversation: greatist’s CEO derek flanzraich on creating credible, understandable, actionable health information

May 30, 2013

in communications your employees crave,free-ranging conversations (interviews with wellness innovators),health communication wants to give you credible, understandable and actionable health information. i’ve been a fan girl for quite some time, so it was with pleasure i spoke with the man behind its mission: derek flanzraich, greatist’s CEO and founder. i knew he’d have wisdom tidbits for health communicators to savor.


fm: initially i thought “greatist,” the name of your site but also how you refer to your community members, was a play on “greatest.” but i read it’s actually a play on the word “artist.” is that right?
df: there’s no word to describe someone trying to be healthier. with greatist, we’re building a lifestyle that people can share with one another. when you say “i’m a greatist,” you’re saying “i’m just trying to be better.” it’s the mission i want to bring to the world. it’s not about extremes. you don’t have to be the greatest all the time. it’s about finding your balance. 

fm: does a few things i particularly admire: it makes difficult information comprehensible. it footnotes cited studies in most articles. and it’s actionable. was this your plan, or did the approach evolve?

df: it was my personal reaction to what i thought was wrong. i was mad that magazines didn’t cite studies to support what they were saying. so we did that. it bothered me that articles would mention one doctor who agreed with whatever was being written about. i didn’t know who this one doctor was, and i can get one person to agree with most things. that’s why we have at least two experts review our pieces. the reason it’s actionable and readable, enjoyable and fun is because i think it should be; it’s the ideal and what this space needed.

but things have evolved over time. our voice has shifted from mine to a greatist voice, for example, and that’s taken time.

fm: how would you define greatist’s voice?
df: the fit-friendly friend you turn to for all your health and wellness information, but who doesn’t judge you. he or she would run with you as well as eat a pancake breakfast. i think everyone is looking for this friend in a space where information’s very fragmented and there’s a lot of controversy about what it means to be healthy. people want a friend to help them navigate and to galvanize people to help others.

fm: part of your helping people to be a greatist is about getting information into their hands. you create incredibly shareable content. how do you do that?
df: we’re trying to create content that’s better than what’s out there, better writing and better visuals. people don’t share stuff that sucks. we’re also looking at what people in the community we want to reach are already sharing. finally, my whole belief is that people share information that says something about who they are or who they want to be.

read more about derek and his work on his blog. free-ranging conversations is a series of conversations with health innovators.


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