Why Your Healthcare Practice Needs a Public Relations Strategy
The power of public relations marketing is something that often gets underestimated in the healthcare industry. Shouldn’t you be focusing on providing your patients with the care they need, and the service they deserve? Of course, but managing your reputation is what will keep your patients coming back, and what will determine whether your practice experiences steady long-term growth.
In a world where your practice reputation is built and controlled primarily by comments and reviews made on social media platforms, developing a public relations marketing strategy is no longer an option. They say, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and when it comes to managing your practice credibility and overall reputation, nothing is truer. If you choose not to be proactive and involved in the conversation that is going on about your practice, you are giving up control of your public perception.
Understanding Modern PR
Public relations efforts today are about much more than press releases and tradeshows. It takes much more than throwing information about products and services in front of potential customers to get them to convert.
Public relations efforts must now cover every possible channel where conversations are happening, and perceptions are forming, and they require a more creative way of spreading brand messaging and influencing your ideal audience.
While television and radio appearances, press release distribution, live conference speaking opportunities and tradeshows are still part of the traditional PR package, today’s public relations strategies also include much more. For example, online news and feature story submissions, posting news and events in social media feeds, creating online communities and events, participating in live video events, and more are all part of modern PR strategies.
With so many ways to influence your brand perception, there’s no excuse for not having a public relations marketing strategy for your practice today – unless, of course, you don’t know where to start. So, let’s start from the beginning, and take a look at what public relations marketing can do for you, and then we’ll walk you through how to do it.
What Public Relations Marketing Can do For Your Healthcare Practice
A strategic public relations campaign can do more for your healthcare practice than you may realize. There are four main ways that a public relations strategy can benefit your healthcare business:
1. Build a Stronger Brand.
You can spend all the time you want perfecting your logo, your tagline, and your brand messaging (and you should), but in the end, none of it matters if you don’t find a way to share your brand with your audience. Your brand needs to be humanized and heard, and one of the best ways to accomplish that is through public relations efforts, along with additional marketing techniques.
While PR methods may have evolved over the years, the end goal is still the same – to get the people behind your brand out in front of your audience. Having a spokesperson, thought leader, and/or brand persona that potential customers/patients can relate to/communicate with builds trust in your company, and in turn, promotes customer loyalty.
With a solid PR strategy in place, you can effectively extend your brand reach and ensure that your target audience is seeing and hearing your message, which brings us to the next benefit of having a PR strategy…
2. Communicate Your Brand Message.
If you already have an airtight brand identity and a suite full of clear and consistent messaging to go with it, good for you. That’s more than many businesses – healthcare practices included – can say. It’s more likely, however, that you’ve got bits and pieces, but not the whole package.
That’s where a PR agency can come in and put everything together for you. Instead of having mismatched messaging across various online platforms and physical marketing collateral, wouldn’t you rather have it all neat, tidy, and seamless? When you go to a conference to present a seminar, or your employees go to a networking event, wouldn’t it be great if you all had the right messaging based on the audience you were speaking to?
As we said before, public relations is about more than just coordinating events and writing press releases. It’s about all of the dialogue involved in portraying your brand messaging, and making sure what you’re saying makes sense based on who you’re saying it to. A solid PR plan will not only include places and times to promote your company but also with right tools and resources to succeed.
3. Generate More Leads.
So, what’s the point of all the talking? What’s the point of creating all of the audience-focused content, and setting up events (both live and virtual) through which to spread your brand message? The end goal here is to generate more leads, and better leads, at that. Why else would you spend so much time and energy, and invest so much money into a high-quality public relations strategy and marketing plan?
The more people who are aware of your brand and/or practice, the more people may potentially contact your office to schedule a consultation. And, the more trust you build within your community and targeted audience, the better chance you have of creating customer loyalty, resulting in repeat patients, or better yet – patient advocates.
When your patients love your practice so much that not only do they keep coming back, but they bring their friends and extended family with them, that’s when you know whatever you’re doing is working. So keep it up!
4. Handle Crisis Management with Ease.
No one wants to think about disasters, mishaps, emergencies, or anything of the sort. However, they do happen, and it’s best to be prepared with the right things to say or write when the time comes. In times of crisis, it can be difficult to know what to say or do, which is where an experienced public relations firm can come in quite handy. Not only can they act as your spokesperson, but they can also be the one you run to when you’re looking for the right way to handle a tricky situation.
In addition to physically being there to walk your practice through a crisis, a PR agency that’s worth your time will also provide you with templates, scripts, protocols, and other verbiage to help you maintain composure in the midst of unsettling events. Being able to handle a tough situation with aplomb isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. But having a solid public relations strategy and a firm to back you up in times of need is a necessary investment if you want to maintain a strong brand and positive reputation for your practice.
Other Brilliant Healthcare Marketing Tactics
In addition to investing in a public relations strategy, there are a few other healthcare marketing techniques you’ll want to be sure you consider for your practice. Some of these include:
Professional Referral Networking
As a healthcare practice, getting consistent referrals from other medical or professional practices in the area is crucial to the long-term success of your business. Maintaining referrals and acquiring new ones works better when you have a strategic plan in place, so it’s important that you don’t neglect to maintain your professional referral network.
Internal marketing is about communicating with your existing and previous patients and encouraging them to try out additional services, and/or to become customer advocates for your practice. They can help you by providing referrals and valuable testimonials, sharing their experiences through social media and other online platforms, and more. Be sure to show them how much you appreciate their business and any good word they spread about your practice.
External marketing refers to the more traditional types of advertising like radio ads, television ads, billboards, direct mail, and newspaper ads. It’s important to invest at least some of your marketing budget in traditional marketing, as a means of reaching potential customers who may otherwise not have heard of your practice.
Website Design & Development
By creating an engaging and intuitively designed website, you build the basis for all additional digital marketing efforts. Your website is the first impression potential patients will see when they are looking to either book an appointment online or simply learn more about your business. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure that it accurately represents your practice and functions the way you need it to. Be sure to research the best content management systems based on the needs of your practice.
Digital marketing is a more modern way to reach both existing and potential customers/patients today. In addition to building or redesigning your website, you’ll want to include techniques like content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, paid search advertising, display advertising, email marketing, and more for best results.
Do you need help developing and managing a strong public relations strategy for your practice? Contact Smile MEDIA today to learn more about our public relations and digital marketing expertise. And stay tuned for part two of this blog, where we give you a step by step guide to creating an effective public relations plan for your practice.