5 Tips for Creating a Simple Public Relations Strategy
Focused Effort Can Increase Your Practice’s Exposure
By Dave Miller Before joining the wonderful world of eye care, I worked with independent pharmacies for more than 10 years. One part of the job I enjoyed the most was developing public relations tools and playbooks to help my independent pharmacy customers promote themselves as local healthcare experts. By investing a little time to build relationships with local reporters and journalists, those pharmacists would be the first to get the call when there was a healthcare story, such as the opioid crisis or the importance of flu shots. As a result, their pharmacy would receive “free” publicity that often led to new customers.
As I transitioned to eye care, it was rather interesting to see the similarities between pharmacists and optometrists. Both professions are well trained in science and patient care, but don’t necessarily receive a lot of business training. So, when they decide to own their pharmacy or eye care practice, they are often fantastic at taking care of their patients but maybe not so well versed in how to effectively promote their business to attract new patients.
As a business owner, it’s important to set up a basic public relations strategy to spread the word. Not only do you need to establish yourself in your community, but you must continue to remind everyone of your presence and what makes you different. Did you hire a new doctor? Did you expand your frame selection to include the hottest new designs? Did you just add the latest sight-saving technology (such as the AdaptDx®?) that puts you on the cutting edge? If so, you need to shout it from the rooftops and let everyone know! Public Relations doesn’t come naturally to most, but these 5 easy tips can give you a starting point. With some focused effort, you could see your practice featured in the local news just like Emmett Eye Center, Paul Vision Institute, and Door County Eye Associates.
1. Decide who will own public relations
Just because you are the owner of the practice doesn’t mean you need to own all the functions of the business. Look around your office and see if there is someone looking for extra responsibility or just has a natural gift for sharing how much they love your practice and your patients. Or, maybe you have a son or daughter in high school or college who grew up in the practice and wants to contribute to your success. Helping out with your PR could be a great way to get staff or family members more involved in the shared success of the business and give your practice a truly authentic voice.
If you have aggressive growth goals or live in a very competitive area, you may want to consider outsourcing your public relations to a professional – such as an individual or even an agency.
2. Identify your media targets
Think about where you and your patients turn to for local news (newspapers, local radio, local TV stations), then start to identify the journalists and reporters who cover healthcare issues for each. Make a list and start collecting their contact information, which is often published online or could require a simple call to the station.
3. Establish credibility
Now that you have a target media list, send them a short email to introduce yourself and provide some background on your areas of expertise. Even better, make a comment on one of their latest healthcare-focused stories. Let them know how much you appreciate their coverage of an important issue and share an interesting fact or opinion to reinforce the value you could bring to future stories.
Maybe even suggest a story idea. For instance, you could tell them that age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of adult blindness and you are concerned that their readers may not know enough about the importance of an early diagnosis. Let them know that you offer a new technology that can be useful in diagnosing AMD before drusen are clinically evident.
4. Nurture the relationship
Healthcare reporters cover a variety of topics, so they may not be paying close attention to advances or trends in eye care. So, when you come across information or research you think could have broad appeal, send them a note with a brief explanation and why you think their viewers/readers should care. You could also invite them to visit your practice for a tour – show off your state-of-the-art technology or recent remodel. This could also be an opportunity to discuss legislation or policies that could impact your ability to care for patients.
5. Be prepared!
Once journalists have you on their radar, they may come to you with little notice for a comment or opinion on a story they are developing. Therefore, it’s important that you are prepared. Audiences have short attention spans and soundbites go over well. You probably know all the science and biology behind the topic, but it’s more valuable when you can translate complicated information into a simple message with a key takeaway. Here are a few tips for being prepared:
- Prepare a few key messages focused on what you want to communicate – Set up the problem and share the solution. Adding a memorable statistic or examples can help bring your point to life. For example, “Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older adults, affecting more than 11 million Americans” and “Fortunately, we now have technology that can help us measure dark adaptation speed, which is 90% sensitive and 90% specific for the presence of AMD.”
- Keep it short and sweet. Answer the question as succinctly and simply as possible, then stop when you are finished. For example, “Trouble seeing or driving at night can be an early symptom of macular degeneration.”
- Don’t let your guard down. Assume everything you say could be part of the story rather than “off the record.”
With the right approach to public relations, you could position yourself as the local eye care expert, leading to an increase in local publicity that can increase patient loyalty and attract new ones. Hopefully, these five tips can help you build a foundation for future public relations success.
Want more specific tips on promoting your practice’s use of the AdaptDx dark adaptometer?
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About the Author
Dave is a business professional with experience in marketing strategy, public relations, and marketing communications. His previous position was with McKesson where he spearheaded the strategy and execution of content marketing and lead nurturing activities efforts for a $13 Billion customer segment to drive new business and incremental sales. Prior to McKesson, he worked in high-tech public relations with a variety of agencies and clients in Silicon Valley. Dave earned his B.S. in Psychology at Penn State University.