Lessons Learned: The Worst Physician Marketing Debacle Ever

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

questions marketing debacleBy Stewart Gandolf

I recently asked our team to share some of the worst medical marketing mistakes they’ve ever witnessed out “in the field.”

As a word of caution, the incident I am about to share is so egregious that my team was divided as to whether we should publish it, or bury it forever. It is frankly one of the worst physician marketing blunders we’ve heard about…ever.

Also, you need to know up front that this is a true story (though we’ve made the facts anonymous), and this was not our client.

However, since this case study is an (extreme) example of something we warn clients about, and because you are still reading, here goes.

One of our clients’ competitors decided to hire a new practice representative. Nothing new there, practices and hospitals hire physician liaisons to win doctor referrals all the time.

However, it soon became apparent that this particular practice had made a disastrous hiring mistake.

To put it mildly, their new “physician liaison” acted and dressed very inappropriately. She was also happy to share that she actually had two jobs – as a practice representative by day, and an exotic dancer at night. (We can only speculate why this particular practice thought she would be a good choice to represent them.)

At the prospective referral offices, all the women (and many of the men) were understandably appalled. Doctors, nurses, receptionists, managers, physician assistants and referral coordinators were less than impressed. During her stint, the dancer/rep seldom got past the front door.

As you probably guessed, the practice actually lost business and irreversibly damaged its professional reputation. The new referrals they were hoping to capture went to our client and elsewhere. In short, she was great for the competition and a total disaster for the practice that made the incredibly misguided hiring mistake.

This sad-but-true story is admittedly way over the top. It’s extreme enough to be a memorable illustration of an obvious healthcare marketing lesson. Anyone who represents a healthcare provider—physician liaison, practice representative, physician relations, ambassador or business development person—is a reflection of the business and an extension of your professional reputation. It is vital that you hire people who can represent you professionally.

We’ll be sharing more stories from the field, though we hope few will be as bad as this one. And if you’ve got a healthcare or physician marketing story, please let us know.



Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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