Since its inception, chiropractic has, in general, played second fiddle to conventional medical treatment when it comes to public perception. However, over the last 10 years, chiropractic has made significant headway in positioning the profession as a primary source of medical treatment. Thanks in large part to pioneers in the profession, chiropractic is evolving into a discipline founded on sound fundamental principals and treatment, integrity, credibility, honesty and a commitment to the patient.
Today, the chiropractic profession is at a crossroads. The discipline is on the cusp of being recognized for its medical benefits by both the general public and conventional medicine. However, it is the profession itself that must unite in this mission. Each individual chiropractor must play a part in continuing to create and maintain a positive image for chiropractic.
Over the last 15 years, there have been hundreds of fly-by-night, superficial marketing schemes that some chiropractors have bought into. “Get-rich-quick” plans have no substance, and they tend to position the profession in a negative light.
As a chiropractor, you are challenged every day to communicate and maintain a positive image of your profession and its health-related benefits. However, it is only through integrity and credibility that you can create a positive image, recruit new patients and retain existing patients.
There are numerous systems and processes in place to assist you in establishing a personal and professional belief and integrity in the chiropractic profession as a credible and viable health-care approach and/or treatment. But, how do you communicate this concept to the general public? How do you establish credibility as a medical professional and health-care facilitator among key target audience groups? Here’s a four-step plan to help get you started.
Step One: Image and Identity
The first step is to define your practice. In defining your practice, you will develop an identity and image. As a chiropractor, it might seem quite simple to define who you are based on the services you provide to patients. However, this approach does not address the “why” element. The why element provides statements addressing why you are a chiropractor. It addresses the essence of your passion and drive to help others through chiropractic. In other words, in the eyes of existing and potential patients, it differentiates you from the chiropractor down the street.
For example, a chiropractor who emphasizes state-of-the-art technology coupled with personalized service will position the practice in keeping with that focus:
Name: Smith Chiropractic Center
Tagline: Old-Fashioned Service –
Logo: (The graphics in the logo will incorporate both technology and old-fashioned service.)
Additionally, in establishing an image and identity for your practice, you will need to develop several communication pieces to support all subsequent media, marketing and community-related activities and/or events.
Three crucial elements that must be developed include:
- Logo – A logo will support the overall branding of your practice.
- Collateral materials – “Personalized” collateral materials, such as brochures, fact sheets and patient information materials are significantly better for patient recruitment and retention, vs. “pre-fabricated” materials. You want to convey your image and branding by taking a local approach and communicating personal message points.
- Website – Your own website can help your office disseminate information to patients or even schedule appointments, and it can also be used to support your image and effectively assist you in the areas of recruiting, administration, sales, marketing, public relations and community relations.
Step Two: Media Relations
Media visibility will offer you the opportunity to communicate key message points, as well as enhance the image of you and your practice among current patients, new patients, peers and your local community.
Two important tools you should use to help communicate your message include news releases and media alerts:
- News release – A news release, or press release, tells a story to the reporter or editor. It is written in an informative manner and must always have a news “peg.” or angle. The press release should always be printed or copied on your letterhead. This will demonstrate to the reporter that it is authentic and is a document distributed from your practice.
Before actually writing a news release, a good exercise is to address the 5 “Ws” and 1 “H.” The 5 Ws are who, what, where, when and why. The H is how. In writing the news release, there is no particular order that the Ws and/or H should be positioned. It primarily depends on the angle of the story you are telling.
- Media alert – A media alert addresses reporters’ and editors’ time constraints by providing easy-to-read information. In fact, a media alert literally includes the who, what, where, why, when and how in bullet-point form. When writing a media alert, there are two primary objectives. The first objective is to catch the attention of the reporter or editor. The second objective is to create a compelling angle to further catch the attention of the reporter or editor.
Step Three: Marketing
Once you’ve established credibility and an identity through media visibility, you need to implement marketing programs that use communication tools targeting key audience groups and demographics.
While media visibility establishes brand identity and conveys a consistent image, it is through marketing programs – such as a direct mail flyer, or an electronic newsletter – that people will make the connection to newspaper articles and radio and television news segments, to support your role as a credible leader in the community.
It is through both media relations and marketing that people will respond to a “call-to-action” to seek out more information about your practice through your website, brochure, flyer, newsletter, etc.
Step Four: Community Relations
Positioning your practice as a “good citizen” within your local community will bring you full circle as a credible source for healthcare.
Community relations may include sponsorships, volunteering your time to a worthy cause, adopting an elementary school, or becoming your local high school’s chiropractor for athletic teams. Community relations will not only support patient recruitment and retention, but will also enhance employee morale and recruitment.
These four steps will undoubtedly address both short-term and long-term goals in positioning you and your practice as a viable source of healthcare in your community. To effectively compete in today’s changing health-care arena, it is crucial for you to market yourself through the power of public relations and marketing.