3 public relations tactics that gain patients

When people think about public relations, they get an image of big-time entities paying big-time money to fix their image problems, like, say, the IRS recently offering $15 million for some public relations help. And while that image isn’t entirely wrong, it isn’t what PR has to be.

According to the Public Relations Society of America, PR is simply “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Nowhere in that definition is spending tons of money mentioned.

Now there are some healthcare public relations firms out there that will establish these “mutually beneficial relationships” with your public (current and potential clients), but the truth is, there are plenty of PR tactics your practice can independently implement for little to no cost.

Here are three easy in-house healthcare PR tactics you can start using now.

1. Get social.
 Using social media for business purposes isn’t innovative anymore – it is now a standard. It doesn’t mean your practice should be on every social network that’s out there – it’d be too time consuming – but at the very least create a Facebook presence.

Considering that as of May, there were about 149 million Facebook users in the United States, it’s likely that many of your patients are part of the Facebook community, making it a natural fit for your practice.

Your practice’s Facebook page should serve as a resource for patients, which will get them beyond just “liking” and actually interacting on the page, key for engaging your current patients.

Also, whenever a patient interacts with your practice’s page, it shows up on their Facebook timeline for all of their Facebook friends to see, placing your practice in front of an entirely new set of eyeballs, which could lead to new patients.

Obviously, patients can’t interact on a page if they are never on it. So, it’s important to cultivate an environment that is inviting and useful for patients, providing things like health tips, flu-shot reminders and answers to commonly asked questions.

It shouldn’t take too much prodding to get patients on your page, as a recent survey by the National Research Corporation showed 94 percent of people use Facebook as a source of health care information.

If you still don’t think your medical practice can gain followers on Facebook, check out seemingly obscure companies like one that sells paint that turns surfaces into dry erase boards that have over 17,000 fans.

2. Get out of the office.
 This one is simple…get out of the office and make your practice known throughout your community using community outreach efforts. After all, these are all your potential patients.

Having your practice take part in the local cancer walk, setting up a table at the carnival or partnering with a local nonprofit at its next event are all low-cost ways of getting your practice out there in front of people in the community, particularly those who didn’t know your practice even existed.

Remember, there’s a good reason that small companies like the local pet store to large companies like McDonalds take the time to perform community outreach. It’s a relatively low-cost, efficient strategy to increase the awareness of any business.

3. Let it be known.
 While not everything your practice does will be newsworthy, taking the proper angle on certain topics can garner attention for your practice. For example, switching your practice over from paper records to an EHR may sound mundane, but if you angle it as a move that will help you better serve patients and thus the community, it will be more relevant for the local paper.

Just take a look at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, which received coverage in a local newspaper for beginning to take reservations for its emergency room.

Send out a quick press release or place a call to the local editor about something that might be story-worthy. If you don’t have the time, designate someone in the office to take some time doing this when needed, or hire a college intern.

Of course, not every story idea will be picked up, but the potential to gain mass exposure for your practice at a minimal cost is very much a possibility.

Remember, public relations tactics aren’t only to be used by large corporations. Whether you have a small, solo office or have practices all over the state, you can serve as your own healthcare public relations firm to cultivate fruitful relationships with current and potential patients.

What other ways can you effectively market your practice? Click here to access PowerYourPractice's Physician’s Guide to Marketing.

Salvador Lopez is a content writer for CareCloud focusing on practice marketing, practice management, patient treatment and practice workflow. His work can be found on PowerYourPractice and the CareCloud blog.