“Public relations allows us a news-centric platform to share our expertise and perspectives, with varied constituencies, on any number of relevant topics,” said Wayne Eisman, MD, FACS. “And, unlike advertising, it does so in an environment of information, not selling.”
Explore this issue:July 2012
Dr. Eisman, president of ENT and Allergy Associates in Tarrytown, N.Y., said his practice has its own internal public relations team. The practice would have been unlikely to grow to its current size without employing public relations and, he said, the physicians’ influence and visibility would be greatly diminished.
While media exposure doesn’t necessarily imply that a doctor is more proficient in his or her field, it does imply a level of media savvy that many patients value. “Today, health care is all about choice, and it’s important to stand out, or potential patients may overlook you,” Cinelli said.
What to Look For
Don’t know how to choose a PR firm? Both Rothman and Cinelli recommend getting referrals from friends or colleagues who have had successful media campaigns. Also, online PR industry trade publications, such as O’Dwyer’s (odw
yerpr.com) or Public Relations Society of America (prsa.org), have a directory of firms. But be aware: “It is absolutely critical that a physician employ a PR firm that has extensive experience with medical clients,” Rothman said. Just as there are sub-specialties in medicine, there are specialties within PR. Additionally, said Cinelli, don’t get locked into a long-term contract, think that the cheapest is the best or go with a company that promises the moon, because they may not have your best interests at heart.
What to Expect
With added exposure comes added work but not as much as one might expect. “While the doctors [at my practice] do a great deal of the heavy lifting in terms of interacting with reporters, et al., the vast majority of the workload falls on our marketing folks, who identify, arrange and facilitate the opportunities,” said Dr. Eisman.
Doctors who decide to employ a PR firm have to be willing to be proactive, involving themselves in activities that may include approving PR-generated press releases, providing before and after patient photos, conducting interviews and occasionally traveling for national media opportunities. “The doctors who respond to media, give good sound bites and meet editorial deadlines are those who will go to the top of a press person’s Rolodex as a perennial source,” Rothman said.