Physicians, more than most professionals, need to be aware of how they are perceived by the public. A person’s health is his or her most valuable asset, and to most there is nothing more important than picking the right healthcare practitioner. No one wants to put their health in the hands of someone they don’t trust. This is one reason why (in the health and medical world) although advertising and direct mail promotions can be successful, they can also backfire. A prospective patient does not chose a physician, healthcare provider, or a hospital, the same way he or she chooses a new Smartphone or a new set of tires.

Marketing a medical practice via a print ad or TV commercial has inherent risks. A physician does not want to be viewed as though he or she is actively selling; no prospective patient wants to be sold. Patients want to see someone they trust, someone they feel is the best in the field, and that’s why a well planned public relations campaign is so very important to building a medical practice.

The healthcare field is learning how to utilize public relations and social media as ways to connect with and communicate to the public. In over two decades working in the healthcare PR field, I’ve seen firsthand how important media coverage is to physicians and hospitals. We’ve placed physicians and healthcare practitioners in a wide range of media outlets including Time, Newsweek, Oprah, the Today Show, the Wall Street journal, the New York Times, the BBC, and hundreds of other local and national media outlets. Those placements have helped build practices and establish medical experts.

On its own, the media has a tendency to run with the "if it bleeds it leads" stories. That’s not only true in medicine but in all fields. It is up to physicians, hospitals and medical professionals to offer the media instructional, educational and (yes) entertaining stories; compelling anecdotal stories that offer options, new approaches, and also appeal to the emotions.

People turn to experts in time of need. They look for those they can trust, and being featured in Time, USA Today, the Today Show, CNN or the Wall Street Journal, helps give the public that sense of trust. In the medical field, it’s not the physician or medical center who can buy the biggest ad or run the most commercials who get patients; it’s those that can tell the most compelling and educational human-interest stories. Stories on the newest medical breakthroughs and the newest trends and studies attract media attention. Stories on restoring someone’s health or saving the life of a loved one touch a basic human chord.

To succeed in the media world, it’s important for physicians to know how to speak the media’s language. They need to learn how to establish themselves as the "go-to" doctor in their specialty, and to let the media know how to contact them when they need a quote about a medical issue. They also need to learn how to reach out to media outlets, establish themselves as an expert and pitch compelling medical stories. None of this was likely taught in medical school, but as more physicians are learning, as a marketing and educational tool, nothing compares with a well thought out PR campaign.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Author's Bio: 

Anthony Mora Communications, Inc. is a Los Angeles-based public relations company that has placed clients in: Time, Newsweek, 60 Minutes, CNN, USA Today, Oprah, The New York Times, Vogue, and other media. Anthony has been featured in: USA Today, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The BBC, CNN, Fox News, and other media outlets.