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Attract New Dental Patients by Putting PR in Your Practice

Jul 23, 2008
Press releases and free publicity are possibly the two most underutilized marketing opportunities in the dental industry today. Over 90% of all the dental news I see is negative. There is a huge opening out there to promote your business and your brand in a positive way for little if any money. There are steps to take, however, to ensure your practice is being represented the way you want it to.

In your local media, 80% of the news is provided by press release. Look through the stories in your area paper and see how many are written by staff writers. Everything else is provided by people just like you looking for publicity. Just think, 80% of the newspaper each day is press releases. This is a market that needs your news.

Step one - Decide on your goal:

Dentists see a chance for free publicity and instantly they think, "where do I sign up?" In reality, the only thing worse than no PR campaign is a bad PR Campaign. An ill-focused PR campaign can easily turn into a negative campaign and can get no response at all. Worse yet, it can confuse people about your practice and actually create negative publicity.

What are you looking to accomplish with your campaign? In other words, put together a goal for the efforts. This will help you to take advantage of every opportunity to make your PR efforts a success.

A few sample goals could be:
* I want to attract more cosmetic cases.
* I want to be seen as an expert in my field.
* I want the public to know what I do for the community.

These goals will help to direct your efforts when it comes to publicity.

Step two - See what's working:

Take a look at what others are doing and getting press for. What is the trend? What are others doing that could lead toward your end goal?

The big trend right now, for positive dental news, is charity work. Two recent headlines - one had a dentist holding a food drive; another told of a dentist's trip to South America to provide dental care. These are two very different headlines for two different doctors with two different goals.

Notice though, that even though the scope of these two stories was very different, both made it into their local papers, as well as a top-5 hit on Google News.

Check your local papers and do a news search for "dentist" on Google News. This will help you see what is working and getting printed.

Once you have a couple of ideas, and have seen what the media likes, move on to step three.

Step three - Decide your approach:

Once the information gathering is complete, take a look at your goal and compare it with the information the media prints. What is the best way to achieve your goal?

If your goal is to build your expert status, running a patient appreciation event may not be the best approach. But, if you want the community to know you and how much you value your patients, a patient/community appreciation event may be just what you need. If you are looking to gain patients, speaking on a local radio program about dental caries is not the way to go.

Also, don't forget to look for opportunities to gain double publicity for one event. As an example, a practice we work with ran a "free exam for food donation" event for two days early in November. Not only did they announce the event in the release, but they also set a goal of gathering 100 lbs of food. The day after the event they sent out a release announcing they were donating the food to a local food-share program. Two major publicity items, easily produced from one event.

The simplest way to gain publicity and get your release printed is by announcing the hard news in your practice (new staff, new procedures, new location). You can announce an event you are a part of or are running (art fair, patient appreciation). You can work with a charity through donation, or actual work. Or you can create informational articles for publications to print or subjects you would like to be interviewed on.

Don't be shy, the whole idea of publicity is bragging about yourself and what you already do in your practice. Also, realize that something simple and everyday to you, may be a serious event for the people in your community.

Step four - Make Connections:

Take a look at your local media. You may even have some in your practice already. Talk to them and find out who needs your information, and how they would like to receive it.

This is not a time to work in bribes. Sending a present may get a smile and a call, but that's about it. Find out what your media contacts want, and provide it to them in the format and by the contact method they like. Make your press release the easiest to use, and they will appreciate it.

Depending on your goal, you can also use a distribution service. If you do utilize a distribution service, make sure you will get the list of contacts they made so you can do follow up calls if you wish. The good part about a distribution service is they can take your release and distribute it to many media outlets quickly and easily. This will cost a bit of money, but will save you time, and you will know that the release was sent to the right person by the right method.

Beware of publications in your area that print articles from people who also advertise in the publication. Many publications will streamline the press release process if you are an advertiser, but know that you do not have to spend money to get your press release published. If every article in a publication was paid placement, you wouldn't have a newsletter, you'd have a catalog.

Step five - Distribute your release:

Get it out to as many media outlets as possible. Make sure you have correct contact information on the release so the contact can call you if they need information. Also, proof read your release and make sure it is error free.

Also, remember the timing of your article. You cannot put out a press release and expect it to get printed next day. This is a long process, and takes some prior planning. I would allow at least 2 weeks for any release, maybe a little longer. You can always send the same release again a week later, but give the press plenty of time to plan for your release.

Once you distribute a news release, keep track of its publication and your results. Check the media daily to see if your release is getting time. As a free medium, it will take some tracking and adjustment to find exactly what gets coverage, and what doesn't. Also, make sure you know where people heard about you when they call, so you can track the ROI for your release.

At a cost of free, press releases and a publicity program is one of the best investments you will ever make. Once you get a program started, stick with it and make it a part of your practice marketing plan. Even distributing the same release more than once has been shown to garner media attention for your practice.
About the Author
James Erickson is the President of EMC Dental Marketing which gives Dentists a resource for turn-key dental marketing programs and dental practice marketing education including new patient attraction, and internal marketing systems. Visit www.EMCdental.com and get a free practice
building kit sent directly to your home or office.
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