[Conclusion of an article in two parts.]
Our previous post, 10 Commandments of Online Reputation Management for Physicians, (Part one of two) emphasized the importance and value of creating and maintaining your online presence. Moreover, reputation is an ever-present ingredient in health care marketing. And who you are online is who you are to most people.
The top 10 rules of reputation continued. (What would you add to this list?)
- Claim and maintain your online DIRECTORY listings. Among the four information areas we’ve listed, the directory-type listings deserve careful attention for several reasons. The first challenge is that there are many such "directory" listings; likely including several that you didn’t know existed. What’s more, many “directories” are based on old data files, vital information (as elementary as your address and phone number) is missing, incorrect, and sometimes difficult to correct.
- Reputation management has two speeds: regular and urgent. Most patients give physicians a favorable rating on online physician-rating sites, according to the same study cited in Part One. (J Med Internet Res 2011;13(4):e95) But some online comments—both positive and negative—have a timely importance. It’s important to recognize the difference between "maintenance" and "hot potato," and tackle any tough ones first.
- Always take action on both positive and negative comments or ratings. Positive comments deserve attention, perhaps with a reply, a follow-up note, or some form of outreach and involvement. Think of it as being aware of public perceptions and a means to encourage and maintaining the positive interaction. It’s also vital to listen to a negative issue, take any appropriate remedial steps, and to respond to the concerned individual. A prompt response has been known to douse flames, while a slow response can fan the flames. (See Neglect…)
- Neglect is a slippery slope. Unfortunately, negative comments, reviews and outright complaints tend to come forward more easily than positive comments. (The ratio is about three to five positive notes vs. 10 to 20 negative ones in general consumer studies.) A policy of “ignoring things” tends to foster more negativity. Stuff rolls downhill. Conversely…
- Positive comments and testimonials thrive with encouragement. The fact is, patients tend to appreciate good service and a little encouragement—without compensation, of course—often goes a long way. To make it happen, you (a) need to ask, and (b) make it easy for them. Consider ways to systematically invite online comments, improvement suggestions, surveys and other feedback and engagement tools.
- You can’t control what people say, but you can actively tell your own story. You can control the quality of care you provide and deliver a positive patient experience. And in addition to the foregoing list of items, the primary means to influence what the consumer finds online (and what they regard as your reputation) is to contribute significantly to the online conversation.
Several favorable notes from satisfied individuals provide balance to an occasional unfavorable note. And using the voice of your website, blog, social media tools, and appropriate, regular and timely responses to comments and questions, the result can be a favorable ratio of positive to negative. And overall, you have control of the story—about yourself and your practice—that you tell online.
And two words of caution…
There’s HIPAA of course. Patient privacy issues and personal sensitivities will guide how a physician can present information online. There are, however, meaningful ways to provide timely and engaging information and to address important issues online, while respecting confidentiality and privacy.
Know the meaning of Astroturfing. The term Astroturfing, according to Wikipedia, “is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g. political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s).” Without offering legal advice here, it’s easy to understand how “fake reviews” would be deceptive, dishonest and inappropriate.
We welcome your comments and ideas. What would you add to this list?
Stewart Gandolf, MBA