• Tribal Knowledge Podcasting

Solving the engagement language puzzle

Listen to our full interview with AnnMarie Fauske on Engage Your Tribe:

Subscribe to Engage Your tribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere you get podcasts.


In her role as VP of Marketing at Symetria Recovery, a leader in outpatient opioid and heroin addiction, use, or dependency recovery treatment, AnnMarie Fauske has a challenging task.

On the one hand, she and her team need to discover and use SEO keywords that will help their audience—people and families seeking treatment for substance addiction—find their website and learn about their treatment programs. But on the other hand, many of the terms that people typically use to talk about addiction—addict, clean, dirty, and so on—imply a moral judgement and exacerbate the stigma attached to addiction.

“There's lots of documentation as to why you would use a certain word in a certain situation, but there's always the person who is in recovery or is using at the moment who has their own way of referring to themselves,” Fauske says. “So we as an organization would put on our website “a person with substance use disorder” versus an “addict” or “abuser.” However, if you were going to go and read something on Reddit and really get to know audiences of a certain age [who are talking about addiction] you would see them referring to themselves in every sort of negative terminology that would surprise you.”

And so, Fauske and her team have to find a balance between using words and phrases that their audience uses, despite its stigmatizing effect, and language calibrated to avoid or lessen the stigma around addiction. It’s a tricky problem with no perfect or obvious solution.

One approach Fauske and her team have taken is to address the problem head on. For example, a blog post on the Symetria Recovery website, “Improving Language to Reduce Stigma,” explains how and why terms including “drug problem”, “drug habit”, “co-dependency”, “dope sick”, “relapse” and others can do considerable harm by making people feel ashamed and therefore less likely to seek help.

Still, Fauske and her team need to stay on top of how their audience talks about addiction. And so they spend a lot of time on Reddit and other platforms, on the lookout for keywords and phrases that provide invaluable insights into how their audience thinks and communicates.

“After you hear that language and you begin to hear the pattern of words, the keyword terms, the four or five words in a row that are making themselves apparent, Google those terms and dig deeper,” Fauske says. “Just keep digging, because it becomes the language that you use internally as an organization. It drives your mission. It drives everything.”

Connect with AnnMarie on LinkedIn