“If I had one dollar left, I’d spend it on PR.”
Explore this issue:July 2012
Otolaryngologists wanting to further establish themselves and their practices may do well to heed Bill Gates’ advice. Traditionally, reputation and word of mouth have been the driving forces behind obtaining referrals and fueling a practice’s growth. Of course, these factors still come into play when a patient selects a doctor, but with more and more people doing their own searching for the “right” doctors, those otolaryngologists who stand out the most—a goal usually accomplished with help from a reputable public relations firm—are more likely to get the lion’s share of business.
“We are living in a media-driven society,” said Katherine Rothman, CEO of KMR Communications, a public relations firm in New York City with numerous medical clients. “We choose our restaurants, fashion and beauty and fitness products in large part due to what the media dictates.” For most people, selecting a doctor is not really all that different—mostly thanks to the Internet.
As Kelly Cinelli, founding partner of CWR & Partners, based in North Attleboro, Mass., explained: “According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 61 percent of patients turn to the Web to research health information. If they see that the doctor has been quoted in several publications or has been on national television, they feel more secure choosing this doctor.”
Let’s say you’ve introduced a new procedure or technology and have consequently received quite a bit of local press that has helped drive patients to your practice. Why would you require national exposure? “While local media coverage is certainly vital,” Rothman said, “ENT doctors who don’t think they need national media attention are negating important national outlets such as the Today show, CNN, USA Today, The Huffington Post, WebMD, and numerous others that are seen and heard by those in their local markets.” Quite simply, this coverage can help improve reputation. “No amount of advertising can give a physician the credibility that media coverage inspires,” she added.
This is where a public relations firm can come in handy, helping doctors get sound bites—PR speak for “quoted”—in mass media. “Most often, when a doctor is quoted with any regularity in print media, online or on TV, it is because that doctor has employed a public relations firm,” Rothman said. Classic examples can be found in sub-specialties of medicine such as plastic surgery, dermatology and cosmetic dentistry, where doctors who have utilized public relations have become national phenomena. These physician “stars” are able to charge as much as their local markets can bear, can choose not to have their practice insurance-based and can even pave the way for future endeavors such as books, product lines and paid speaking engagements.