Is PR a part of your marketing plan?

Ashley Buehnerkemper, director of marketing at VitalSkin Dermatology, discusses what steps you can take to make public relations an active piece of your practice marketing.

When you think about all your practice marketing options, public relations may not be the first you think of. But it can be an effective addition to your promotional plan if used right. PR can not only help you share what services, etc. you offer, but also who you and your team are and what you’re about. This includes your dedication to your community, focus on patients and compassion for others.

Think of public relations as an indirect way to promote your practice. Rather than just discussing your skin care services directly, it relies more on communicating the tone and feel of your office. For example, a feature story written by you or your team on skin health won’t have a direct “schedule an appointment today” call to action, as most media outlets would see that as more “advertorial” rather than editorial. But by establishing yourself or your team as a field experts, leaders and simply people who care about the health of others, you’re communicating what you and your team are about without that direct call to action.

What should you be thinking about when building a PR plan? Here are a few things to consider:

Choose the Right Opportunities

Before jumping right in, take some time to think about what PR opportunities make the most sense for you and your team. Do you want to get involved in community events? Or hold your own events? Or spread education through school and business visits, and feature stories? Or maybe a good mix of those things?

Start making a list for the year of things you want to do and you feel would be important to do. If there are existing events you can get involved with (for example, toy and food drives during the holidays, fundraisers, educational events, etc.), mark what steps you need to take, what dates/times you need to dedicate and who can participate on your team. You can also consider other health events, like free cancer screenings, etc. If you’re a member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you can participate in their SPOT me skin cancer screening event that takes place in May, as part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. There are many other monthly awareness opportunities related to dermatology you can take advantage of.

If you or a member of your team enjoys writing, take the opportunity to write some feature stories on skin care. You can then submit these to your local newspapers or other news sites to publish. Perhaps you can even be picked up as a monthly contributor to a newsletter, etc.

Connect with Your Local Media

When you decide what opportunities are right for you, share what you’re doing with your community. In today’s digital world, most of your local media contacts can be reached easily. And in addition to print materials, most have digital channels to share your content, whether it be their online news site or social media. Here are a few tips when pitching to your media:

  • Decide what type of information you want to share. Is it a news item best suited for a press release? Or more of a feature story? Or an event or fundraiser?
  • If looking up your local newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, etc., look for “Contact Us” links or sections. Often, you can easily find some form of news/information submission, whether it’s an email address to contact or an online submission form.
  • When you submit information or materials, it never hurts to follow up. It doesn’t have to be the same day or even the next, but perhaps follow up in a week if you haven’t heard anything back.
  • Consider the time of week/day you send your materials as well. It’s a good idea to send materials early in the week and in the morning.
  • Consider the timing of your material submission too. If it’s connected to an event or any other time-sensitive subject, think about how much lead time you’ll need. For example, if your sharing news about an event your holding, send it two to three weeks in advance to allow time for circulation. Don’t send too far in advance in this case though, like a month. This can cause your news or information to circulate too early and be forgotten by the time your event happens.

It’s important to maintain good relationships with your media contacts too. As you have public relation opportunities and events in the future, you’ll likely be reaching out to the same contacts again in the future, so it’s good to establish a strong working relationship that benefits both of you.

Go Social

PR goes hand-in-hand with social media. As your posting to your practice Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, incorporate what PR opportunities you’re doing. If you have an event coming up at your practice or are participating in another local event, spread the word about it on those channels. Share your event details, what you’re doing and why. And once you’ve completed the event, share how it went along with photos, videos, team member testimonials, etc. Get creative, there are many different ways combine your PR and social efforts. Or if you have a press release or feature story online, link back to it on your social channels and create one another path for people to see it.

Next time you take a look at your marketing plan, don’t neglect those PR opportunities. By getting involved in your community and establishing relationships with your local media outlets and organizations, you can show your community why you’re the best choice for their skin care. And in many cases, it won’t cost you anything.