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When a doctor wants to hire a PR agency...

M3 India Newsdesk Apr 18, 2018

Second in the series, we gather pointers for doctors who wish to consider hiring the services of public relations professionals.

Given the crucial role of a Public Relations (PR)agency in crafting the public image of a doctor and his/her clinic, hiring the right one is a decision that ought to be made after much deliberation.From double-checking the credibility of a PR firm to seeking recommendations from peers in the industry, doctors need to do a thorough research before hiring a PR agency.

Keyur Barad, Founder, and CEO of a popular communications firm suggests hiring boutique agencies for standalone institutes.

"Not only do they tend to give better results than large agencies because they spend more time on your account, but they are also less expensive. This gives more value for money than large agencies,” he explains.

Also, it is important to know that the agency has worked in the healthcare sector before and that they understand how the sector operates in the public space. The agency must also be adaptable to the changing media environments, always having a finger on its pulse.

What makes up a good PR agency for a medical professional? 

  • Sound understanding of the medical code of ethics and the prohibitions therein
  • Ability to convey right messages, proven content-writing skills
  • Good networking within the media industry;( this secures editorial coverage)
  • Ability to educate the client on how media and new media work and how to work together to be in the news
  • Ability to train doctors on how to conduct seminars/workshops and speak with the media
  • Ability to deal with a crisis and ensure minimum or no negative publicity
  • Creativity to pitch publicity-generating ideas, without violating the norms, that are unique to this profession

Further, to make sure that doctors get the most out of their PR agencies, they should see to it that their communication objective aligns with the PR plan.

It is important that the doctors review the progress of the PR strategy at regular intervals. To ensure that no news opportunity is missed, doctors should share information about the clinic's activities with the agency frequently. The more information the doctor shares, the better equipped the PR agency will be to gain editorial coverage.

What to watch out for before hiring a PR agency

When availing of the services of a PR agency, it is important that the doctors are aware of some common pitfalls that can hamper their chances of getting media coverage.

 Abhishek Katiyar, Director of a popular PR firm, some of the mistakes doctors need to watch out for are:

  • Over-promotional content
  • Incomplete information
  • Under-researched drafts
  • Improper timing of the communication

Katiyar has another pointer for doctors. He says healthcare providers need to be wary of what he calls 'Yes-Yes' agencies, i.e. agencies that agree to clients' every suggestion to humour them, regardless of the feasibility of the ideas. He says doctors should encourage their PR team to put forward their thoughts on the communication brief, even if it is contrary to the doctors' own idea.

At the same time, he says, doctors should not over-expect from the agency as media dynamics change from time to time. Not every idea is bound to succeed and generate publicity, he concedes. Further, he stresses that quality result comes at a price. He says that if an agency is working for too low an amount, don't expect high quality results.

Pricing models

Talking about budgeting, Barad says ideally, a PR programme should be planned for at least a quarter of a year, so a monthly retainer fee is the best option. He says the format of billing is also changing into man-hours spent on the project, which is a more accurate way to justify the cost incurred.

Rajnish Jain, Founder of a Public Relations firm, says:

  • The monthly budget/retainer pricing model is the predominant billing model in the industry. He says in this model, the clients set a budget monthly for PR services with agreed PR deliverables in return.
  • Service-fee pricing is used for specific projects outside the normal scope of work. Services such as media training, positioning, crisis plan development and specific content development come under this.

While a lot of factors go into the decision of hiring a PR agency, the trouble is worth it since this is a choice that can affect a clinic's bottom line substantially. Zeroing in on an efficient agency can yield visible results whereas settling for a ho-hum one will yield ho-hum results, if at all. Hence, it is advisable that doctors take their time to assess their requirement and select a PR firm that seems like a right fit.


The article is contributed by Elizabeth Mani, a Bangalore-based freelance writer and member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.

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