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Doctor Marketing: The Word Power in What You Say vs. How You Say It

By Kathy, Senior Marketing Strategist
Single rose in a pile of rose petals against white background

By what name is a rose...

There’s an amusing but instructive doctor and physician marketing lesson to be found in listening to television interviews and discussions. The idea is to take note of a media pundit’s careful choice of words. The lesson is not so much in WHAT they say as in HOW they say it. In politics they call it "spin." In marketing communications, it's called clarity of ideas and benefits.

You can observe this in everyday conversation, anytime you see a politician in the news, or while watching the Sunday morning TV “talking heads.” For example, there was a time when “homeless people” were called—in somewhat harsh and common vernacular—“bums.”

And for almost any controversial issue, the word selection can be polarizing: “Gun Safety/Gun Control” or “Pro-choice/Pro Life,” or “Environmental Protection/Energy Independence.” And there are benefit-oriented titles of legislation such as “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” vs. “healthcare reform,” “regulatory overhaul,” or commonly, “Obamacare.”

To learn from this semantic exercise, don't be drawn into the issue. Instead, observe how words are used to shape and present the topic. Our point is that it is useful to pay attention to the power of words…even in less contentious matters such eliminating the “waiting room” in favor of a welcoming “reception area.”

The selection and frequent use of certain words and labels is, among other things, an opportunity to:

  • position or reposition an idea or service;
  • shape positive expectations;
  • express or imply a benefit; or
  • offer a solution to an audience segment.

Some doctor or healthcare marketing examples that can be used in signs, advertising, social media or everyday office conversation include:

  • patient satisfaction v. patient experience,
  • customer service v. patient experience,
  • a “mommy makeover” procedure v. “tummy tuck” surgery,
  • “new teeth in a day,” v. “dental implant” surgery,
  • saying “We can help you,” v. asking “How can we help you?”

Words are powerful tools, but only when they are understood. The communication cycle is complete (understanding) when a patient recognizes the reason and/or the benefit to them.

It’s a good idea for doctors, staff members, administrators and marketing professionals to listen to their own vocabulary for technical terms, medical jargon and verbal shorthand. With each, consider how a well-considered new choice of words can reposition an idea and communicate a more beneficial and positive meaning for patients.

Related reading: Doctors, Please Watch Your Language. When Medical Jargon Kills the Marketing Message.

Kathy Gaughran

Senior Marketing Strategist Kathy Roy Gaughran has helped over 4,000 clients throughout North America achieve their growth goals. An award-winning strategic marketing planner, Kathy is an accomplished writer and speaker, frequently presenting to national, local and state professional associations. Reach her at 800-656-0907.

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