By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Editor’s Note: In this first of a two-part post, Dr. Neil Baum presents doctor-to-doctor ideas that are founded in 30 years of real-world experience as a practicing urologist in New Orleans. He is a sought-after speaker, and the author of Social Media For the Healthcare Professional, Greenbranch Publishing, 2011.
Physicians have been shy about reaching out for free publicity. Physicians are some of the most well-trained and accomplished professionals in our society. There’s no reason for them not to seek attention and to promote themselves in an ethical fashion.
I recently attended a national publicity course. Before attending, I honestly thought I knew about marketing and practice promotion. After all, I wrote the book, Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively and Economically, which has sold nearly 300,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish. I have been successful using these techniques to create an enjoyable and productive practice.
However, after attending the five-day training, I was able to take my publicity campaign for my new book, What’s Going On Down There-The Complete Guide To Women’s Pelvic Health, to a new level.
I was able to have one-to-one discussions with the producers from Good Morning America, The Today Show, The View, and writers from the New York Times, Cosmopolitan and dozens of radio talk show hosts. I have been booked for several TV shows and nearly a dozen radio talk shows.
Based on my experience and what have learned recently, I would like to share 15+ reasons why doctors should seek publicity. The ideas are about how to create publicity that will certainly make you famous.
What are the obvious reasons to desire to become famous?
It is a fact that doctors’ reimbursements are going south and overhead expenses are headed north. This translates to a decrease in the size of your wallet and your bank account. The trend today is for doctors to become employed by hospitals, which essentially leaves them with a fixed salary.
An acceptable solution is to find ancillary income and one way to do that is to become famous and repeat added income from your public recognition. Publicity allows you to become noticed and allows you to ethically send your message to others who need your service and expertise.
This results in people developing a relationship with you, liking you, and then believing in you. If they believe in you, then they believe you can solve their healthcare problems. Those who hear your message become your patients. Publicity, if it’s effective, will increase your bottom line.
1. Achieving publicity is a challenge. It is every bit as difficult as gaining admission into medical school. No one said achieving publicity was easy. If it was easy, then everyone would be seeking publicity and the rewards wouldn’t be as great.
2. Publicity is exciting. There is nothing as exciting as introducing yourself to the media of a television program and then be invited to appear for a three to five minute segment on the evening news in your community. Contacting a local reporter from your hometown paper and having a story about you and your practice is also a thrill that is hard to describe. But when you do this a few times and have samples to show the major television networks, you can reach that rare air of being on the Today Show or Good Morning America.
3. Achieving publicity makes you feel important. An appearance on the TV, radio or an article in a publication makes you visible. You can expect that after your appearance or the publication of your article, you will be walking the halls of your hospital, or on the streets of your city and people will mention that you were seen or your article was read. Yes, it is nice to be a healer and feel a sense of satisfaction by providing care to our patients, but it is also a feeling of great satisfaction and an enhancement of self-esteem to be a darling of the media.
4. Publicity builds confidence. Everyone becomes anxious and nervous when they are in front of the camera and the lights are on. It’s natural to feel that way. However, when you have done this several times, you develop a sense of confidence that ultimately makes you comfortable when you are “on stage.”
5. Publicity helps you define your niche or area of expertise. I’m a urologist. I can’t do cancer surgery, robotic surgery, vas reversals and kidney transplants. It’s impossible to become an expert in everything. However, you can find one thing and do it well and others will recognize your expertise if you narrow your niches. That’s why I have selected urinary incontinence as my niche. I enjoy taking care of women; I enjoy the surgery; I feel truly gratified when a woman with diapers is Depends free.
Publicity doesn’t mean you can’t do all the procedures you are comfortable doing and treating all the patients you have training to treat. However, if you want to become famous, select one area and become the expert in your community, your region, or in the nation. Remember you can have everything you want if you position yourself to be a real expert.
6. Creating publicity helps you overcome obstacles. Doctors are used to instant gratification. A woman has a urinary tract infection. She receives antibiotics and soon gets well. A patient fractures his/her hip, the doctor operates and pins the hip and the patient starts rehabilitation and in a few weeks is walking again.
Publicity is not that easy. You contact the TV station or a reporter by phone and leave a message for a story for the paper. The station or the reporter doesn’t call you back. You send an email that goes unanswered. You send a FedEx package with your story or idea and you don’t get a response. Most of us, including myself, get discouraged as I’m used to instant gratification.
The publicity experts opine that it takes, on average, seven attempts to reach the media before you receive a response. Often, the busy doctor will decide that is too much effort and the return on the investment is too low to continue to reach out to the media. Yes, there are obstacles but learning the process gives you faith that you can overcome other obstacles in your professional and personal life. For example…
7. Achieving publicity encourages you to leave your comfort zone. Let me be candid; doctors, myself included, are creatures of our comfort zone. We don’t like anything that deviates from the status quo. We often use the same medications, the same procedures and the same treatment options that we learned during our training. Few of us are early adaptors that like the latest and greatest that is promoted by pharma and vendors of new devices. There is nothing more anxiety provoking than public speaking or working with the media. Doctors have the training and skills to communicate with patients on a one-to-one basis.
This all changes when you walk onto the TV set with the bright lights turned on you and your host. However, when you do it often, you become comfortable and you can become just as comfortable on the TV set as you are in front of your patients in the exam room. Certainly you can expect to have butterflies in the gut before you walk before the camera, but with enough practice, you can get the butterflies to fly in formation.