How doctors can leverage PR and grow their own brand
M3 India Newsdesk Apr 17, 2018
Given the framework of the medical code of ethics by Medical Council of India, maintaining a public profile, not amounting to advertising is essential for doctors to establish their identity and manage their reputation; here is how public relations professionals can be of help.
Building a brand is important for every business, and doctors are no exception to this rule; so even though the code of ethics may prevent them from directly marketing their business, public relations (PR) professionals can help doctors to establish their presence.
As the code of ethics restricts doctors from advertising, reaching out to masses with the help of PR agencies is an effective option for them to gain recognition and visibility.
Engaging a PR agency ensures that the doctor and his/her clinic remain on the radar of media and establish a name for themselves. In fact, hiring a good PR agency can take one from being a little-known doctor from a particular locality to being a healthcare expert of repute, available to comment on this year’s flu epidemics, offer general health tips, or contribute to other major health stories. Through PR agencies, doctors gain coverage in mainstream media, providing them with valuable exposure.
It’s commonplace to read in newspapers about how doctors treated a rare or complicated condition in a patient. When doctors perform difficult surgeries, they inform their PR team about it. The PR team prepares a detailed write-up about the patient’s condition, explaining the gravity of the disease he/she suffered from and how the doctor’s intervention helped him/her. The team then approaches health reporters with the write-up and photographs of the patient and the doctor.
Through one-on-one relationship-building with journalists, PR professionals secure editorial coverage about their clients’ achievements.
- In case of clinics whose area of operation doesn’t include surgeries, PR agencies help them become relevant for the media by organising awareness meets or workshops. For example, for a diabetes specialist, PR agencies would arrange a walkathon or a discussion to create awareness about how to avoid and/or live with the disease.
- For psychotherapists, PR agencies can arrange seminar on the need to dispel stigma around depression. The agencies duly invite media houses to ensure that the event, and the doctor, finds mention in the news report.
Reby Abraham, who has been in the PR profession for more than a decade, says goodwill generated through proactive PR translates into monetary gains for the doctor. He opines that the ecosystem is ok with paying a premium for medical facility at a reputed clinic or hospital.
Benefits for small clinics
It is not only big hospitals that can harness the potential of PR, small clinics too can avail of its services and reap benefits. Abraham says small-clinic doctors will need brand-building only in their area so they can hire a local agency to showcase their medical expertise, success stories and industry acumen. He says PR helps trigger word-of-mouth publicity, which lays the foundation for a strong reputation.
"One big advantage of PR is that we can hyper-localise it [publicity] to any small community or region at a nominal cost, which might be a little difficult with other traditional tools,” he shares.
On PR's ability to aid small clinics, Keyur Barad, founder, and CEO of a communications firm says this system works for all those who have a story to tell and have insights on their line of work.
"Small clinics also benefit from being active on social media and developing their community online. I think it is important for small entities or large to be a part of the conversation, to move the needle by sharing knowledge and ideas and to constantly stay relevant,” he says.
Apart from securing editorial coverage, PR agencies also take care of the doctor's and the clinic's social media presence. They see to it that the doctor can easily be found on the internet and has an active online presence since many patients today make it a point to check a doctor's profile on the internet before deciding to consult him/her.
Is DIY PR feasible?
Barad is clear that doctors shouldn't aspire to take charge of their publicity. “Public relations" is a full-time job. I find it difficult to believe any doctor having the time to focus on PR when there are patients lining up in the clinic/hospital. So yes, you do need a professional PR agency. Not only do they know their job better than the doctors, they also work with many brands/companies at the same time and hence enjoy great working relationships with their counterparts in the media space. The information network of a PR professional is highly difficult for a doctor or a spokesperson of a hospital to emulate," he says.
Handling the media requires a skilled PR professional who can appropriately package a message and pique the interest of journalists. Hence, it is advisable to tie-up with a PR agency as a doctor begins his/her practice. While doctors give their best in their area of expertise, the PR agency can address their concerns about creating a favourable impact and gaining publicity.
Read Part 2: Key factors to consider before hiring a PR agency
The article is contributed by a Hemant Gairola, a Bangalore-based freelance writer and member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
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