In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote, “There is only one thing in world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Years later, this excerpt would be embraced by public relations professionals as a call to arms.
Physicians should embrace it as a motto too. And there is no better way to improve your public standing than through a successful PR campaign.
But the truth is, marketing a medical practice involves walking a fine line. Physicians can’t appear as if they are actively selling their services because no potential patient wants to be sold to. Patients want to be treated by someone they trust, someone they can confide in with their most personal health information.
Unfortunately, not every practice has the funds to hire a fancy-schmansy public relations firm to toe the line for them. So today, let’s take a look at how different sized medical providers can carry out highly effective public relations campaigns.
PR For Solo/Small Practices
According to a Google study, 77% of patients use online search before booking an appointment with a health provider. If prospective patients come across a doctor being quoted in a medical journal or appearing on national television, they may feel more confident in choosing them.
But what can a small practice do to publicize itself on a limited budget?
For starters, using social media to engage customers is no longer an option – it’s the standard. Yet, this doesn’t mean your practice should be on every social network. Remember, in social media, quality trumps quantity every time.
Start off with a Facebook and Twitter account. Your practice’s Facebook page will serve as a hub for patient engagement. Twitter provides you the platform to become a thought-leader by allowing you to find and share useful information.
Furthermore, a grassroots public relations campaign involves using community outreach efforts to meet potential patients. Participating in local cancer walks, setting up a screening booth at a local fair, or partnering with a local nonprofit or hospital are all low cost ways of gaining traction in your community.
PR For Midsized-Large Practices
“We are living in a media-driven society,” said Katherine Rothman, CEO of KMR Communications, a New York City public relations firm specializing in medical PR, “We choose our restaurants, fashion and beauty and fitness products in large part due to what the media dictates. For most people, selecting a doctor is not really all that different.”
Say you’ve introduced a new procedure, adopted a new technology or made a breakthrough discovery that will drastically improve patient care. It’s crucial to inform your community about the news, as this will drive new patients to your physician group or hospital. In fact, if your news is substantial enough it may even merit national media attention.
This is where public relations firms come into play, helping larger practices and hospitals gain exposure in major media outlets.
When choosing a PR firm, it is strongly recommended you get referrals from friends or colleagues with prior success in media campaigns. Online PR industry trade groups, such as O’Dwyer’s or Public Relations Society of America, can also provide a directory of healthcare firms to assist in your research.
It’s absolutely critical you choose a PR agency that has experience representing medical clients due to the ethical boundaries physicians abide by.
PR firms must have a deep understanding of the strict codes of ethics physicians must adhere to. If a firm violates these ethics because of questionable promotion, a physician’s good standing can be comprised within their respective associations and among their peers.
Remember, public relations tactics can be implemented at almost any level. Try to identify your needs before hiring a costly public relations firm. You may be able handle promotions on your own.
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