No this isn’t about an essential part of any surgical examination (as my professor used to insist), but more about should we as doctors use a PR agency or not. Any successful business needs a business plan as well as a marketing plan. In the marketing plan there is usually an advertising budget and out of that may well come a public relations budget. PR agencies are typically quite expensive and they are more about long term brand management rather than quickly filling up your waiting room. Of course, a good piece in a major newspaper or major TV program can have a dramatic effect on your enquires, but there is no guarantee that these will be high quality enquires nor will they convert to real patients receiving treatments.
On top of that, if you are an ethical doctor you may find yourself in a difficult position of actually being difficult to PR! That’s because many of the journalists today want sensational stories which are so weird and whacky that no ethical doctor would have any part of! For example, we were recently asked by a journalist if we had any patients who had been forced to have surgery by their partners else they would leave them! I mean, how low can one get? This particular journalist was told to get a life by us! I recently had discussions with a PR agency who is contracted to a supplier of mine and asked them if they could help promote us. They said that their success is largely determined by what the journalists are looking for, no matter how ethical it is. Journalists are currently ‘bored’ of the everyday stuff we all practice now and want new stuff all the time, no matter how experimental it is. So therefore, unless you are prepared to risk your reputation and claim your have new wonder treatments available, think carefully about investing a lot in PR as you may not be getting the best value from your money.
In summary, PR marketing is a useful as part of your long term marketing strategy to help promote your brand as long as you select your media carefully and wisely and give a consistent message. Try not to relax your principles just to get into a glossy or tabloid quickly as it really won’t help you in the long run.