Meet the Press

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They are your untapped referral source

By Ben Montgomery

When you think of your referral sources, who comes to mind? Physicians, specialists, clinical providers—they all serve as trusted professional partners who view you as a credible source for rehabilitation and pain management services, and likely much more.

Yet these sources live on a distinct island. They are some of your greatest advocates, but beyond their own line of patients, their reach is limited. Traditional referral sources can guide clients in your direction, but you cannot rely on them alone to tell your story, the story of your clinic, or the story of the physical therapy profession.

To tell such stories, you need a much wider megaphone—a credible messenger with an eager audience made up of a bold cross section of your local market. Regardless of where you are or the size of your market, such a megaphone does exist: It is your local press.

Loosely defined, “the press” is any person, company, or organization that produces content reaching a wide audience of readers, viewers, listeners, subscribers, and/or members. The channels they use to connect with their audiences vary from print publications and online blogs to television and radio, yet they all have one thing in common: the need for compelling content.

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That is your cue.

As a private practice physical therapist, you have value to add to the public conversation. The press wants your news, stories, expertise, and perspective—they need it, in fact, because such things are valuable to their audience, and hence offer value to their products.

Few writers, journalists, and assignment editors are experts on issues of exercise, functional movement, or overall lifestyle enhancement, so they are always on the lookout for credible health care sources. The goal of a media strategy is to create relationships and establish your credibility with such gatekeepers of content so you can fill this valuable niche.

As a natural educator, you as a physical therapist should thrive in this role.

Media relations is your opportunity to educate your community about yourself, your clinic, and the role physical therapy plays (or can play) in improving people’s lives. It is also a way to enhance your credibility in the eyes of your community at large, propelling you and your brand above others simply due to your willingness to speak up and share a little of yourself.

Needless to say, a consistent media relations strategy should be a part of every private practice’s marketing effort. It is your time to grab that media megaphone.

Here are a few tips to get you started

Be a media consumer: Read newspapers, watch the news, pick up a magazine, scan your chamber of commerce newsletter, and subscribe to the local blog for active moms. As you get better acquainted with your local media landscape, pay particular attention to who covers health and lifestyle news, what topics they are covering, and how you as a physical therapist might enhance the conversation.

Develop a media list: Do not make a list of places, but of people who cover health, lifestyle, sports, and business within your local market. If you cannot find their contact information online or in local publications, call the media office(s) for names and email addresses. Most are happy to oblige.

Create and share content: Share an inspiring story about a patient. Provide a physical therapist’s perspective on a trending news topic. Offer seasonal and consumer-ready tips or advice about exercise, movement, or injury prevention. Whatever you choose, consistent content (generally shared via monthly press releases) is your “in” with the local media.

Be available: Always make it a priority to keep communication channels with the media open and free of delay. Writers, journalists, and editors often work under the pressure of tight deadlines, and returning messages promptly will show them you are an eager and reliable source, perhaps opening the door to future contact. Also, they will likely return the favor next time you reach out to them.

Be consistent and realistic: Media relations is a long play. Not every press release you distribute will find its way online or in the paper, but it all contributes to building relationships, establishing trust, and keeping you top-of-mind with people in the press. It is a process that takes time and consistency—but one that can pay big dividends for you, your clinic, and the profession as a whole.

Ben Montgomery, a former journalist, applies years of copywriting and message development experience toward serving physical therapist through BuildPT, the recently developed marketing services arm of Vantage Clinical Solutions helping private practice clinicians develop media relations, email marketing, and online engagement strategies. He can be reached at ben@buildpt.com.

Copyright © 2017, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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