What Does it Mean to “Brand” Your Practice?
The following article provides: 1. Definition of “brand” 2. Reasons to start participating, engaging, NOW 3. Reasons that you are not participating in social media, and 4. How to start. Also be sure to read Top 5 Essential Rules For Any Healthcare Brand Connecting Online.
What is a “Brand”?
NOUN: Reduced to the bare minimum: brand = reputation. To paraphrase Marty Neumeier: Your brand is your patients’ gut feeling about you and your hospital (or practice).
It’s not what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.
Your brand is your reputation. It is how you are judged, how you are perceived by the world. You are judged every day. In this era of always-on-always-plugged-in, the reality is that YOU are a brand. Your practice is a brand. Like it or not. If your practice has a reputation (and don’t we all WANT a GREAT reputation?), then you have a brand. Don’t believe me? Open up your favorite search engine right now. Type in your name, hit <return>. Do the same for the name of your practice. Here’s what you’ll find when you do that search:
- Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there will be several listings for your name on those “grade your doctor” sites.
- If you’ve ever published a paper, presented at a meeting, or had your name appear in your local newspaper, there will be an entry.
- If anyone has mentioned you on any of the social network sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), those will appear as search entries.
- If you’ve ever donated to a political campaign, there will be an entry.
- If you’ve been party to a law-suit, there may be an entry.
- There are likely to be entries for any profile you have on a social media site, including LinkedIn.
You get the idea. You and your practice are connected in the digital world.
Privacy no longer exists. Anonymity is a quaint and antiquated notion.
The aggregate of those search “hits” comprises your online reputation – your Content Brand.
Your Brand Develops With or Without You
You can do an excellent job of treating your patients, but leaving your digital brand to develop on its own can result in a reputation – an image of your practice – that is inaccurate. Or worse, letting your brand develop without you can result in an image that is negative. Don’t think that makes a difference? Just ask Dell Computers what they think of the “Dell sucks” comment that went viral a few years back. It nearly sunk the company. Just a little pro-active participation by Dell from the start might have saved Dell from a long and difficult recovery.
VERB: Active branding (the verb) is necessary to help guide the development of your brand (the noun). To steer it in the right direction. See how we went from the noun (your brand) to the verb (branding)? That transition is also what has occurred in marketing as we moved from the printed world to the digital world. Branding is now an interactive activity. What this means for you is that you need to be active, to get involved – simply put, you must participate. You must be present. You cannot control your brand, but you can provide an accurate image.
The Good News
The good news is that, unlike the printed world where your practice had little or no footprint, the digital world potentially gives your practice a HUGE footprint – whether you’re a tiny solo practice, or a huge health system. All it requires is your participation. It can be achieved with a minimum of time and effort. You just need to know how. Start Participating NOW Become engaged in your online brand. Embrace the new reality. Don’t do it for YOU. Do it for your PATIENTS. Embrace social media as a way to continue the doctor-patient dialogue. We physicians should be providing reliable health information for our patients, so that they are not forced to resort to inaccurate and misleading information from the internet. This participation requires very little time invested. There is a significant return on that investment.
Why You Don’t Actively Brand (verb)? Many physicians insist that they don’t have a brand, and don’t need a brand. They insist that they are plenty busy without “marketing”. This notion simply reflects ignorance: to allow your brand to develop without you is simply foolish (in my not-so-humble-opinion). To avoid participation in your online community ignores an unprecedented opportunity to benefit your patients. One of the challenges that we face as physicians is that our training is necessarily limited to medicine – anatomy, physiology, biology of human beings. Very few of us had the benefit of including business or communication topics in our medical training. We had no exposure to negotiating, understanding finances, managing a practice, or marketing (old or new media). These topics are foreign to most of us. Not to mention that we are, simply, very busy. Busy with the tasks of patient care. Whether in our offices, clinics, the hospital, or the operating room. We can be overwhelmed with staying up-to-date for the optimal health of our patients. And we are obligated to learn new technologies for ACA compliance (how many EMR’s do you need to know if you have privileges at multiple facilities?). We work harder, make less, have less time – for our patients, for our families, for ourselves. The reticence of physicians to become involved in blogging, or social media, is understandable!
In addition, most physicians believe that their online brand is not important.
Unfortunately, like it or not, we are judged every day by that brand. This warrants repeating: our brand develops with or without us. Dr. Jeff Brown summarized it this way:
“As professionals we are preoccupied with a lot of important work every day and branding, or whatever you may want to call it, may seem unimportant or trivial. Except it’s not. Like it or not, we are judged every day, and how we present ourselves affects our ability to do the best job for our patients, affects our bottom line, and therefore how we feel about what we do.”
So far, we can see 2 obstacles:
- our ignorance (thinking that we don’t have a brand), and
- our insistence that branding is unimportant.
A third obstacle to participating in electronic communication has been a relative lack of professional standards for using these digital “platforms” by physicians. This is changing rapidly. Guidelines are now being published by the AMA (http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/meeting/professionalism-social-media.shtml) and other professional medical societies. Combined with some common sense, such professional guidelines can help set limits for appropriate electronic communication with patient communities.
Beyond Your Clinic
The optimal health of our patients requires that the doctor-patient dialogue continues beyond the clinic door. Some good news:
- Standards are being developed for doctor-patient electronic communications
- There are ways for you to influence and enhance your brand
- The health of your patients will benefit from your participation in the new media
- Studies show us that patients who are connected with their care teams, by email for example, are healthier
- Healthier patients are more compliant with treatment; they have fewer re-admissions; you have better reimbursement – everybody wins!
- All of this is possible with minimal commitment of time, yielding significant, positive ROI
How? How do you project the proper image? An accurate image? An accurate brand? I will be regularly posting articles and guides on this site to provide practical step-by-step guidance for engaging patient communities through the New Media – social media, social networks, electronic communication – call it what you like. The information on this site will help you to:
- Project an accurate image,
- Participate in the growth of your brand,
- Engage your online patient community and, as a result,
- Benefit your practice, your hospital, and your patients.
I will review how to efficiently optimize your digital presence … your content brand: how to build and engage your online community, how to be HIPAA-compliant while still engaging your patient community, how to use a variety of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others) to enhance your brand, and other topics that will help you enhance your hospital’s, or your practice’s brand. To repeat: Your brand will develop. With or without you. Better that your brand – your reputation – develop with you than without you! For those interested in getting started building your own online brand, and getting better connected with your prospective patient community, here is a FREE 12-Step Guide:
Thank you for visiting!