It’s human nature to choose people we know and trust to be our doctors.
All else being equal among available providers—credentials, professional presentation—most people will seek care from someone they know personally, have read about, or who has been recommended by a friend or family member.
But, as a doctor, what if your social network is small, and you aren’t outgoing by nature? You still have a lot to offer through your ability to perform innovative therapies. So how do you let people know about what you do?
One attractive practice outreach option is public relations. Public relations encompasses all activities designed to get potential patients acquainted with you and what you can do for them, and establish you as the go-to doctor for the problems you treat.
Public relations includes social networking both real and virtual, performing community services, networking with businesses, writing books, lecturing, sending out press releases, and becoming known to the media as the expert in your field.
This specific type of advertising is more credible to the general public because it projects a certain image and message untainted by the perceived bias of a paid advertisement. It’s the difference between having your practice featured on Google News as a main story as opposed to being the subject of an in-your-face website banner.
The goal of public relations marketing is to build name recognition without paying for conventional promotions. Ideally, the result is that your practice sustains growth from increased visibility and patient referrals.
Hot off the press release
One way to get media attention is by sending press releases to targeted media with hopes that they will take an interest in what you do and either print your release or write a feature or news spot about you.
A press release is a type of promotional piece designed as informative communication. It has one purpose and one purpose only: to get you included in the periodical, television segment, website, or radio show that you have targeted.
When crafting a press release, break it down into three main parts: the headline, the lead, and the body. The headline will be the first thing editors read, so keep it in the range of six to 10 words. If the title doesn’t grab their attention, they will likely move on. Editors may also revise your headline at their discretion and to meet publication guidelines.
The lead is basically a summary of the story—a catchy sentence or two that pulls readers into the news. The body of your release should contain the facts and figures that back up the story presented in the lead. Avoid technical jargon if possible. If you must use it, explain the technical terms.
Your press release, if it gets noticed at all, will be looked at for a few seconds while the editor decides whether to continue reading. This is understandable, considering that an editor may get 100 or more press releases daily if working for a major network or nationally distributed magazine.
The press release has a distinct format that must be followed, and templates and examples are abundant online. It’s also helpful to attach a graphic to accompany the text. Some of the most important guidelines for a good press release are:
- Limit length to no more than two typed double-spaced pages.
- Define all acronyms.
- Avoid sending a press release that is only a commercial or promotional message.
Editors hate overly promotional material and if you bombard them with non-newsworthy releases, they will start automatically deleting your emails. If you send compelling stories, eventually, some editors will get to know you and trust that you won’t be wasting their time.
Editors also recommend using short sentences and paragraphs to improve the chances that your press release will be read and understood quickly. Always ask yourself, “Will the information I am sending make a difference in anyone’s life?” If you can’t answer in the affirmative, do not send out the release, or your target news outlets will start ignoring you. A topic that’s newsworthy in a small town and local market, such as “Dr. Joe Smith joins Dermatology Associates in Claremont,” will not be noticed by a national entity like CNN.
If you simply don’t have time to build relationships with the media in your community, don’t fret. There are companies that will distribute your release to hundreds of outlets. Of course, you can also hire a public relations firm to write and distribute your press releases, too. This is expensive and only recommended if the average reimbursement per case is high in your practice.
Your social network
Ultimately, the real value of a public relations firm lies in their connections. A good one can get you invited to the right social events and put you on a first-name basis with top editors and TV personnel in your area.
Press releases are an effective way to establish name recognition and branding for you and your practice. And who knows? If your press release winds up in the right hands, you may become your town’s next celebrity doc.
Marc H. Sencer, MD, is the president of MDs for DCs, which provides intensive one-on-one training, medical staffing, and ongoing practice management support to chiropractic integrated practices. He can be reached at 800-916-1462 or through mdsfordcs.com.