Consumers want the latest style in automobiles, the latest fashions from Paris, and the cutting edge in technology. But patients are gun-shy about embracing experimental medicine or cutting edge technology when it comes to improving their health or enhancing their bodies.
That’s why doctors on the cutting edge in their area of specialty need public relations. The message of safety, convenience, and success must be conveyed because medical consumers are much more reluctant to be among the first to accept a new medical technique than are buyers of automobiles, computers, furniture or fashion.
Of course, sick people want to be treated with the very latest drug, equipment or method. They just don’t want to be the first! And so an innovative doctor introducing new equipment or a new treatment method needs the assistance of a public relations/marketing professional to be successful.
No one will agree to eye surgery without being convinced the procedure is absolutely safe. No woman will ever agree to breast augmentation or vaginal rejuvenation without feeling absolutely comfortable about the practitioner. The more sensitive the procedure the greater the need for public relations.
It has been my experience that a well-thought out and executed public relations/marketing plan will overcome reluctance by patients to embrace medical innovations. In my practice that certainly has been the case.
While working with prominent doctors over the past several years, I have developed marketing campaigns for plastic surgery, LASIK surgery, dental surgery, liposuction and BOTOX. Among the most successful methods is to arrange for radio, television and sports personalities to have the surgery or treatment free and then give testimonials on how great this new surgery or treatment has been for them. We’ve also arranged for endorsements by popular sports, TV and radio celebrities to help convince customers that it is safe and desirable to use the elective medical procedure.
Dr. Michael Opipari and Dr. Ronald Rook of the Advanced Magnetic Research Institute (AMRI) wanted to introduce the revolutionary Magnetic Molecular Energizing (MME) treatment currently under FDA review, I sat down with them and mapped out a marketing plan and media strategy to overcome initial concerns by people recruited to participate in the study tests.
One of my earliest medical clients, who serves as an insightful test case for the theme of this article, is the Windsor Laser Eye Institute (WLEI) founded by Dr. Fouad Tayfour who today is a household name in the Detroit-Windsor market. Since the FDA had not yet approved laser eye surgery in the USA it was only available in Canada. Dr. Tayfour, a pioneer in Canada opened a clinic in Windsor across the river from Detroit. Thus, because of Windsor’s close proximity to Detroit, Dr. Tayfour wanted to reach out to the Greater Detroit metropolitan area.
While there was interest in laser vision as a substitute for prescription glasses or contact lenses, initially there was not a flood of traffic over the Ambassador Bridge to the clinic. People are very sensitive about their eyes and very hesitant about being among the first to embrace this revolutionary approach. What about side effects or complications down the road? How uncomfortable is the procedure? How long will the correction last? Will it damage my eyes? And added to these concerns was the fact that the procedure did not have FDA approval and was not covered by health insurance.
One of the first steps was to prepare a set of documents for a press kit to explain what the laser procedure involved, what the benefits were, and facts to overcome concerns about side-effects, pain, discomfort, etc. The press kits were distributed to television, radio and newspaper reporters, and to sports figures, talk show hosts, and other celebrities in the Detroit market. News reports were filed and radio celebrities began talking about this new procedure across the river. Dr. Tayfour then performed the procedure for sports figures, celebrities, and media personalities who then spread the word further. These well-known and respected celebrities also issued endorsements for laser vision. As part of this campaign I arranged for two laser vision surgical procedures to be televised live, which really had a positive impact on patients!
We created a buzz campaign and soon everyone was talking about laser vision and how wonderful it was. The trips became so frequent from Detroit to Windsor that when the immigration officials in the booth asked, “Why are you coming to Canada” and heard “to get laser eye surgery” they just waved them on by Dr. Tayfour then launched an intense television advertising campaign that cemented his status as a household word in the region. But the groundwork to that happening was a targeted media campaign and selected endorsements.
The same things that worked for Dr. Tayfour also worked for:
The TLC Laser Eye Centers of Michigan to arrange FOX and ABC TV coverage promote their new Custom LASIK procedure,
Dr. Joseph Berenhotz, Director of the Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of Michigan promoting a new vaginal laser treatment covered by the Detroit Free Press, NBC and ABC TV in Detroit, and an Indianapolis TV station
To promote Plastic Surgeon Dr. Gregory Roche of Bloomfield, Michigan, when he launched BOTOX in Michigan
Media coverage and advertising for Dr. Fiander of the Farmington Laser Eye Clinic
For laser plastic surgeon Dr. Lawrence Castleman I placed dozens of articles, and arranged TV and radio news coverage, and gained newspaper coverage for everything from Ultrasonic Liposuction to BOTOX for sweating, and hair transplants
Targeted marketing for Cosmetic Surgeon Dr. Michael Gray when he launched an endoscopic breast augmentation program in Michigan
And placed print articles and arranged TV news coverage on dental implants and a tooth friendly Easter Basket for Dr. Timothy Kosinski, DDS
In addition to PR and marketing campaigns aimed at television, radio, newspapers, professional and trade publications, I also do a great deal of internet marketing. One of the first things I check when meeting with new clients is whether they have a web site and how good it is at marketing their product, service or message. Nine times out of ten one of the first things we schedule is a redesign and revamping of the content to make the web site the viable marketing tool it should be.
With that done, I then strategically place electronic press releases and ezine articles on the Internet and employ sound, state-of-the-art search engine techniques and drive traffic to the client’s web site. The increased traffic to the newly rejuvenated web site will subsequently result in phone calls or email inquiries to the client’s medical practice that then drives new traffic to the medical clinic.
Another technique that is key to promoting professionals in the medical fields is to establish the client as an expert in his/her field of specialty. The executive biography included in the press kit is geared toward promoting the client’s expertise. I also make sure that the client is listed as an expert in a valuable online expert service. Editors consult this service when looking for experts on developing stories. To gain an interview in a news story as an expert in the field is worth a pot of gold and that makes subscribers to this service, such as my firm, a valuable ally to the media by providing just what they need… an expert.
A major strategy in establishing a medical professional as an expert is to schedule interviews on television, radio, and radio talk shows. To do this the client must be equipped to deal with the media, and most clients are not skilled in being interviewed. Therefore, while the client’s web site is being boosted, and the press kit is being developed, I sign the client up with a well-respected media coach.
Media training will give doctors, dentists and surgeons the skills to learn how to use the media, not just to convey their message but to compel people to try the medical procedure or treatment plan. As a marketing expert, I can pitch a doctor’s story and line up a TV or Radio interview but the author won’t be able to amaze listeners and capitalize on the interview without being trained by a media coach. A media coach will show doctors how to leverage interviews to gain the desired results, how to feel more comfortable on air and how to relieve the stress and anxiety that can come with interviews. A good media coach also will teach the secrets behind creating effective sound bytes.
Specifically, a media coach will reveal tips and let you practice these tried and true techniques, including:
How to control the interview
How to insure your message will be effective
How to employ bridging techniques to get back on track
How to deal with pitfalls that come up during an interview
How to answer the tough questions
How to look your best on camera
How to sound your best on radio
How to pitch your message to the host and listener
How to pitch without sounding like you are
How to compel the media to discuss your procedure or treatment plan
How producers and media people think and how to use that knowledge to your advantage
How to relate to a specific audience
How to get free publicity on TV and Radio
How to get the media to hate you (by not returning their phone calls)
And, how to get invited back
Radio Interviews provide a tremendous opportunity for medical professionals with a story to tell. Radio interviews are great because they can be done anytime out of your home, office or even on vacation. But like any successful marketing venture, radio interviews don’t just happen. Here are some useful suggestions:
Be punctual. Call the station on time and be at your phone waiting if the station is going to call you.
Appear confident by knowing your topic inside and out. Confidence builds credibility.
Sound warm and pleasant.
Research the show and tailor your message to the host and to the audience.
Communicate your main points in short and clear sound bites.
Be prepared for negative comments, from the host or listeners.
Be informative and entertaining without directly pushing your book. Let the host will endorse your book. The host’s endorsement will carry more weight than your’s.
Compliment the host and producer. It’s good manners and good business.
Remember names. Use the host’s name throughout the interview. When taking calls, use the names of callers.
My approach when meeting with a new client involves working closely with the client to determine who will need the surgery, medical procedure or treatment plan. Once we really zero in and determine who the audience is, we can target that audience directly.
Westwind Communications will contact national magazines and others that may be interested in the client’s “personal” story. Sometimes the media is more interested in the doctor than the medical procedure itself and that is just one more angle we’ll use to promote our client.
Westwind Communications will get our clients interviewed on radio and possibly TV. Every day thousands of interviews are conducted on TV and Radio stations across the North America and several hundred are with authors. If you are not trying to get interviewed by the producers of those shows they won’t find you because they simply don’t have time to look for you. Westwind Communications has developed relationships with many producers over the years and those contacts combined with well thought out pitches produce results.
Before investing in a PR/marketing professional it is prudent to shop around. When shopping for a PR firm, here are some of the services you should expect to receive:
• Guidance in developing a comprehensive communications
• Extensive media contacts and an ongoing relationship of trust with media sources
• A reputation with journalists for providing timely, factual, objective information on your behalf
• Professionally written materials tailored to the style and content needs of particular publications
• Opportunities for exposure in a wide range of media outlets
• Help preparing for interviews
At the end of the day, sign up with someone who can demonstrate the results you want. - END -