Medical Practices as Brands – The Importance of Public Relations for Doctors

Dear House Rules,

When I was in medical school, I thought if I studied hard, learned all I could about human anatomy and diseases, and developed expert diagnostic skills, that would lead automatically to success. It didn’t work out quite that way. I refuse to advertise, but I do hear a lot of my colleagues at medical conferences talk about using public relations (PR)/communications firms. Is this something I should consider?

Signed,
No billboards, please

Dear Billboards,

We understand your dilemma! Physicians are a segment of the healthcare provider community that has avoided traditional advertising – and even views peer-reviewed articles with a certain amount of distrust if the “financial disclosures” section reveals that the study in question was financed by Big Pharma. However, it’s never been more important to draw patients to your individual practice, and a communications firm is an excellent way to do just that with a subtlety and lack of flash in keeping with the strong ethics of the medical profession. Today, physicians need to know how to position themselves in a population health management marketplace where strategic affiliations, the ability to differentiate and a value-driven (rather than volume-driven) philosophy create customers (yes, patients are “customers”) for life.1

Here are just a few ways PR can help your practice:1

1) Use the local media – Engage in a proactive media strategy with your local publications, TV, and radio stations. This means sending out press releases about new physicians joining your practice, local community involvement (like health fairs or free screening days), new services offered, or milestones reached. Another good media strategy involves writing a weekly or monthly health-tips column for your community newspaper and then “repurposing” these columns by posting them to your website or having reprints available in your lobby or for digital release.

2) Be opportunistic – Look for opportunities to cleverly piggyback your messaging and activities with appropriate health observances such as American Heart Month or “weeks” that call attention to diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc. Tip: The Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development publishes an annual guide listing all of these observances.

3) Reach out to your community – Find opportunities to speak on your area of expertise at appropriate community or business gatherings. Similarly, look for chances to speak at the worksites of local employers or employer-sponsored events. To really maximize the value of these talks, invite the media. That way, you and your message have the potential to reach more people than those that actually attend your presentation.

4) Stay up-to-date – Develop an online strategy that lets you push messages directly to your patients or other members of the community in a timely way. Keep your website current, invite two-way conversation through social media (your communications firm can see that it’s monitored and answered quickly), and let your patients (and others) communicate with you using whichever medium they feel most comfortable. Today it’s all about “the patient experience” – and that involves your interactions before, during and after their office visit. Keep in mind that services such as HealthGrades.com and even Yelp.com give patients outlets for sharing a negative experience with the world if they choose – so having an active, responsive social media presence can head potential PR disasters off at the pass.

5) Leverage hospital relationships – It’s so important to let your affiliated hospital know that you are available as a source when the media calls, when they require a physician to quote in their employee or community newsletter, or when they need a physician to represent them at a community function. Doing this demands a commitment of time, but it will be repaid many times over in visibility, goodwill, and trust-building.

More and more, PR is the marketing strategy of choice for physicians who want to grow their practice and become an indispensable resource to hospitals, health plans, patients, and fellow professionals in their community. A good PR strategy can set you up as a recognized thought leader in your field as well. It might just be time for you to give it a try.

 

As an all-around marketing agency, Xavier Creative House employs experts in both traditional promotion and public relations campaigns. We can help bring your practice to the forefront of the public and professional conversation in your area. Let us craft a presentation to show you how we could elevate your practice presence in the media, enhance your reputation in your community, and manage an “editorial calendar” for you to keep your practice’s name in the public eye. Give us a call or shoot us an email today!

 

Reference: 1. http://www.physicianspractice.com/blog/five-public-relations-secrets-building-your-medical-practice. Accessed October 31, 2017.

Sincerely,
House Rules

Sunny Beth White

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