September 21, 2021
If you own, lead or work in a medical practice, you likely spend time thinking about billing, operations, staffing, supplies, technology, profits, losses, insurance and patient experiences. One area you probably spend less time considering is your reputation.
As many doctors would tell their patients, it’s better to proactively take charge of your health, modify behaviors and take measures to improve outcomes than to treat an issue that could have been prevented in the first place. The same holds true when it comes to building a brand and communicating with past, present and future patients, their families and your community.
Here are a few baseline public relations tips to keep your reputation above board:
Nothing erodes trust like hearing news about a practice or its doctors in intermittent bursts. A seemingly random schedule of published items followed by radio-silence, or haphazard social media posts, can leave the public wondering about your group’s stability, level of organization and even trustworthiness. Share updates regularly, whether it’s via a newsletter, website, social media posts, press releases, guest columns or a combination thereof, so the people you want to stay in touch with feel up-to-date.
Speaking and writing about an area of expertise, and being a resource and spokesperson for local and trade media, helps others see you as the go-to in your practice area. Answering the questions that keep your patients up at night and commenting on topics of wider interest are surefire ways to show how you’re the perfect person to turn to, long before that first appointment.
Being visible and communicating in a human-to-human way fosters familiarity. Attending in-person events, utilizing video to have candid conversations and volunteering for a cause you care about creates personal connections. It also helps people see you as who you are outside of what you do professionally, which differentiates you from other physicians.
Having a solid connection to the community makes a practice and its doctors that much more credible, should they ever need to weather a storm, such as a malpractice suit or being short-staffed. Sharing acts of corporate giving, new hires and promotions and award wins (yes, we want to hear that you were named a Top Doc!) can do wonders in creating a positive sentiment year-round and aid in recruitment and retention.
Brands that neglect the opportunity to create company- owned, curated content that is consistent in its messaging and look across platforms are missing out. While social media should be a part of every practice’s strategy, it’s vital to remember that the rules of the game can change at any time (think of Facebook’s frequent algorithm switches) and that having white papers, an arsenal of blog posts, images and videos and news portals means that no change of technology or pay-to-play model can take away the brand’s assets.
Here’s my prescription: zero-in on the most meaningful digital vehicles for your needs and get serious about putting a strategy behind them. It is not necessary to spread content thin across all social media platforms, but, instead, choose a few that have the right audiences and engage them thoughtfully. Build out a content calendar that draws followers in and moves them to action. This can be done independently, or by hiring an expert to strategize and/or execute on your behalf.
It’s not every day a practice has its 25th anniversary or cuts the ribbon on a new office, so when it happens, do it up big with stand-apart, curated events. Rethink how you mark major news—or even if you can turn something seemingly small into a bigger moment—and it can lead to better attendance and more widespread media coverage.
Knowing your numbers helps you assess your campaign’s success and if you are moving in the desired direction. Are you achieving an uptick in news stories? Seeing a spike in website traffic or new patients from the Western New York region? Applying The Barcelona Principles, a set of standards developed by PR practitioners that defines the efficiency of PR campaigns by outcome, rather than output, is essential.
While building a brand is not a cure for everything that ails a medical practice, it can absolutely improve outcomes – and that’s something those in healthcare should care about.
About the Author: Filomena Fanelli is the CEO and founder of Impact PR & Communications, Ltd. (www.prwithimpact.com), an award-winning public relations agency serving clients throughout the tri-state area. Fanelli can be reached at 845.462.4979 or at filomena@ prwithimpact.com.
This article also appeared in Western New York Physician Magazine