How to manage your practice’s reputation

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations says this about reputation management: ‘With increased access to information, everyone is an expert and a cynic: no one takes what you say at face value. Saying you provide the best service or product, or you are a good employer or partner, isn’t enough.

‘People are going to ask questions and they’re going to want answers before making up their minds. In order to survive you need to enter into a dialogue with your stakeholders. Through open and honest communications you will build sound relationships and a good reputation.

‘This is where public relations comes in, as it is about managing communications and the relationships upon which reputations are based.’

PR (public relations) is the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. If you get your PR wrong, it can have serious implications for your business. Every organisation depends on its reputation for success. This is why you need to take control of your PR, so the positive news is shared with patients and prospective patients.

The health of your business

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ for PR. Building reputation using PR relies on you being able to communicate your practice’s values. This is where engaging copy originates and your own perfect PR strategy develops.

There’s also no direct line into your prospective patients’ minds, just as you can’t force the media to run your message, but what is in your power is the ability to make your story interesting and valuable.

The first thing you must do is ensure you really understand your brand. Consider what it is that makes your practice special and different from the others in your community. A tough but helpful tool is to be able to sum it up in 15 words, or to make a persuasive bid to a friend in under 30 seconds.

You also need to understand your target audience. What are their likes and dislikes, where do they live, how old are they, are they men or women (or the percentage of both)? Build a detailed picture of exactly who your existing and desired prospective clients are and ensure that this audience remains the absolute focus of all your PR activity.

Then, contemplate your objectives for the year ahead. Do you want to grow an area of the practice or are you focused on a specific offering? You may think 'We want to grow everything,' but are there two or three areas you can focus on that hold the biggest opportunity for growth in the practice? And for each of these elements, focus on your patients; how are you going to engage with them to raise their awareness?

The biggest misconception about PR is thinking it is about ‘selling’ and akin to an advert. Categorically, it is not. The aim of PR is to build trust in your service so people want to talk to you to find out more. You’re not going for a hard sell. Rather, PR will serve to show patients how you can help to meet their needs and wants.

Getting started

A good place to begin is to contact editors of the publications you have identified as being relevant to your objectives. Build a rapport with them and ask what kind of content they’re looking for. Don’t be shy, editors love it when a good story comes to them – as long as you ensure information is enlightening for your audience and not a sales pitch!

So, what constitutes something newsworthy and beneficial for the practice? Your PR message of choice needs to be up-to-date, original, keep the target audience in mind and be in line with your messaging. For example, it could be that as a practice you have recently completed a survey that uncovers new findings about smiling, about the value people place on teeth as they age, etc. Using your best powers of communication, you should have no problems getting published and having the copy accredited to your practice and dentist and, hopefully, some contact details added too!

Believe in your practice, identify what’s newsworthy, get to know people in your media and be ready to reap the benefits that a good PR plan offers your business and patients.

For further information on Barker PR, please contact the team at [email protected] or visit www.barkerpr.com.

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