The expression “fake news” has become part of the modern lexicon, lately swirling around the topic of politics.
But regardless of one’s political stance, it pays to turn toward authoritative sources, usually in the news media, for daily information.
With the expansion of social media, however, news platforms have broadened immensely. Many would argue that this expansion has watered down the quality of reported news. This is important, because the internet now determines many aspects of life, touching everything from how to dress in the morning based on the weather report, how to invest money based on financial news, even where to eat based on restaurant reviews.
But not everything on the internet is true. False narratives—otherwise known as yellow journalism—have a long history. Many sources trace this type of news back to William Randolph Hearst in the modern era (although it’s likely been around since the advent of language). And now, through social media, fraudulent claims are rampant. Some companies actually hire people to falsely accuse their competitors of bad service, negligence, deception, and worse on various social platforms.
The rise of comments
Since early 2000, a stark change has occurred in the way people connect through social media. In the early part of this century, businesses created and developed their websites as information sources about their companies; essentially, websites were static four-color brochures. There was little thought given to creating an interactive medium where clients could leave comments—let alone share content with friends.
Fast-forward a decade and a half, and comments and sharing have exploded, and sadly not always for the better. Members of the public are invited to voice their opinions.
Some people have legitimate axes to grind, yet others will use these forums to vent their destructive impulses.
Now, if a person has a genuine complaint or they have been wronged, they should be able to express their dissatisfaction. However, there are many examples of horrible posted comments that have no basis in truth.
Here is how you can help insulate yourself and your practice against false accusations and unfair comments on social media.
You need to be alert and find out if anyone is posting remarks about you and your practice. Try using “Google Alerts.” These are an excellent and free resource whereby you are periodically sent email on whatever topic you choose—and in this case, the topic is you. If someone is writing something about you, you’ll know it soon.
Your reputation in town is everything. To have a successful practice, you need to make sure you’re in good standing in your community. You can’t stop people from telling lies about you. You can get injunctions and court orders, but ultimately, you can’t prevent the readers of those posts from developing their perception of you. The question is: how do you get out in front of false impressions?
Your principal focus needs to be on developing the deepest roots possible with your patients. You want to create an impenetrable fortress of goodwill with them.
Fill your office, your website, and your promotional ventures with testimonials. For example, if your site features dozens of testimonials from patients raving about the fantastic service you provided, and about the post-treatment follow-up calls you made to them, and how compassionate and empathetic you are, those comments will go a long way toward building your reputational fortress.
Know your audience
To be most effective, you need to target your audience, which means taking an inventory of your current patient base, and then you can develop your reputation as the resident expert in your area on this particular condition.
To create your inventory, determine why patients are coming to see you; sort out your patients according to their ailments. You may notice that the majority of them are coming to you to treat their TMJ, fibromyalgia, chronic shin splints, etc.
So if, for example, you want to establish your reputation as the preeminent TMJ specialist in town, focus your message on those patients with that condition in your practice. You’ll target your writing on them specifically in your blogs, newsletters, materials you send, or e-books you write.
You may have several niches. If so, write and target your marketing to each segment. Create different pages for your website for each condition. Write robust and informative pieces, and translate medical jargon into easy-to-understand language. It was Albert Einstein who that said the definition of genius is “taking the complex and making it simple.”
Create testimonials on video, too. Feature patients who are thrilled with the results of their treatment. Make sure your videos are relatable, for example: “Gone are the days of constant pains and discomforts,” as patients describe their physical difficulties before seeing you. Their nagging face, neck, and ear pains when chewing. Their problems when opening their mouths wide, or their jaws getting locked in place in an open position. The constant clicking and popping was driving them crazy.
While seeking testimonials, is it possible that someone might say something fraudulent about you? Yes, but the cornerstone of good reputation management is the ability to navigate your practice through the storms and tempests. Continue doing great work; only from now on, let others know how good your patients think you are, too.
Steve Cox and Claudio Gormaz are medical marketing strategists who have worked with the medical community for over two decades. Many prominent practices in the country have benefited from their strategies, developed fruitful and predictable advertising messages, as well as creating solid branding platforms while elevating their resident expert status. They can be contacted at 530-492-9971, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, or through stevenvonloren.com.