Our Patients, Our Advocates
The power of sharing our stories.
By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines advocacy as “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” An advocate is a champion, a proponent, a supporter, a friend, a true believer. We teach, we coach, and we instruct other physical therapists, employees, and our students in the importance of advocating for our profession. However, there is a fine line between advocacy and marketing, and the health care consumer certainly understands this when representatives from a physical therapy practice attempt to advocate for their services.
The individuals who truly are the most authentic advocates for private practice physical therapy are of course our patients. Our patients are able to tell meaningful stories of how physical therapy impacted their lives. The high school athlete who dreams of playing baseball in college who was able to return to pitching after the pain caused by underlying muscle imbalances was addressed. The elderly woman who was fearful of falling again after slipping and fracturing her humerus, now able to return to independent walking after her balance deficits and the fear of falling were addressed. These are real and honest stories that elicit emotions and are in fact one of the most effective ways to build a brand and market any business. It’s easy to overlook the power of storytelling when we develop marketing plans for promoting our practices, when in fact it’s one of the simplest and most cost-effective marketing strategies. The following guidelines on sharing your patient stories will lead to new patients in need of your clinic’s specialty services.
1. Share patient stories on various social media platforms and increase reach by asking staff to share these posts. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest . . . consider the social media platforms most relevant to the demographics you wish to reach.
2. Include videos or photos for bigger impact, and keep stories short and succinct.
3. Simply ask patients to share their stories on social media and “tag” your practice. Engage with patients and thank them for sharing their stories.
4. Celebrate a Patient of the Month through your company’s newsletter and share their story. Present the Patient of the Month with a certificate and create a Wall of Fame in your clinic. This patient will certainly tell people in the community about this celebration.
5. Be sure the patient stories that you share represent your brand and the types of patient demographics or diagnosis you want to see. If your practice specializes in sports injuries, then share success stories of athletes and their teams.
6. Trying to build a caseload and following for a physical therapist new to your practice? Share stories about patients seen by the new clinician rather than about those seen by clinicians who already have a strong following.
7. Educate your employees on the value of patient stories. Encourage them to take responsibility for their own patient following and seek the stories that will ultimately strengthen their reputation and following in the community.
8. Include patient stories or testimonials on your website with permission from your patient.
9. Provide incentives for patients who refer friends and family to your practice; for example, a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop, or a drawing for a fit bit. This will encourage patients to tell their success stories in the community.
10. Have a patient story that stands out? Pitch the story to the local media with a press release and follow-up emails or phone calls. Start with local newspapers or consider contacting television stations. A story in the media that refers to your practice is priceless and can be shared on your social media platforms, newsletter, website, and blog.
Patients truly are the best advocates we have, and their stories can shape our practices, our profession, and our future. Let’s all collaborate and choose to share patient stories in our communities!
Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, is the chair of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chief executive officer of Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.