Podcasting for Patients
A step-by-step guide to marketing directly to the public.
By Jarod Carter, PT, DPT, MTC
In today’s competitive physical therapy market, generating patient referrals can be a daunting task. Gone are the days of relying on the local physician for new patients, especially given the emergence of physician- and hospital-owned physical therapy services (POPTS, HOPTS) and large therapy chains. Savvy private practice owners understand that in order to compete, their marketing strategies must incorporate direct-to-consumer strategies including the use of social media, blogging, and video production. However, physical therapists have overlooked one important media outreach technique that could yield a significant rise in referrals: the podcast.
First called “audioblogging,” the term podcasting was coined by journalist Ben Hammersley in 2004, but recorded audio shows available in digital format long preceded the “podcast.” Rather than describing the creation of digital audio shows (as it is commonly used today), “podcasting” actually describes the technology and process of automatically downloading, storing, and synchronizing audio content to audio players.1 Technical jargon and semantics aside, within a year after the term was born, Google had more than one million hits on the word “podcasts,” and “podcast” was named “word of the year” in 2005 by the New Oxford American Dictionary.
As is often the case, the profession of physical therapy is late to the digital party, and only in the last couple years has the industry seen a significant increase in podcasts produced by physical therapists. However, the majority of physical therap–produced podcasts are aimed at providing information to other physical therapists and health care providers rather than the general public or prospective physical therapy patients.
Podcasting offers a unique benefit that other forms of content marketing like blogs and videos do not: the ability to consume the content on the go. Most people listen to podcasts on their commutes and while exercising. For that reason, podcasts tend to hold the attention of its consumers far longer than the average blog post or video. In today’s world of shorter and shorter attention spans, the podcast remains a medium in which the author can pass on a great deal of information to an incredibly captive audience.
So can a podcast work to generate substantial business for a local private practice? Absolutely, and here is a list of steps to ensure success:
Choose a Niche Market
Choose a sizable target market of people who are highly active in your area. Make the group as defined as possible by choosing a specific sport, activity, or syndrome/specialty area (e.g., Parkinson’s, women’s health, etc.). Next, think like your target market and make decisions based on what the audience would want to learn about. Be sure to keep the content understandable to the layperson. Remember, the podcast should be aimed at educating and entertaining your prospective patients, not highlighting the physical therapy services you provide.
Become a Ringleader
Decide from the beginning to put your ego aside and become the ringleader of experts rather than the center stage expert yourself. Do not worry; your expertise will shine through in your monologue episodes and in the interviews as well. Make a list of local and national experts noteworthy to your target market that you would like to interview, including local physicians. Interviewing physicians will offer different perspectives to your audience and could serve as a unique way to reach out to and develop relationships with potential physician referral sources for your practice.
Completely commit to the project and dedicate yourself to producing at least 15 podcast episodes (preferably 20) before deciding whether or not the podcasts are producing business for your practice. It takes time for any show to gain momentum, and determining its long-term viability as a business generator for a small local business would not be accurate after just a few episodes.
Be Inquisitive and Think Like Your Target Market
Keeping your target audience in mind during the interviews, pay attention to terminology that may need additional explanation. Ask your guest to further define or clarify concepts “for those in the audience who might not be completely familiar” with them. Avoid consistently repeating the statements or answers of the interviewee, or giving your own answers to questions you have asked. This is a common mistake in interview-style podcasts and is sure to decrease audience engagement.
Go Local and Go Social
So far all of this advice could be applied to any podcast. So how do you gain a local audience of actual prospective patients? In short: Utilize email and social media marketing to spread the word about your podcast episodes, and also run Facebook ads in your geographical area targeting your specific niche market. Email your past patients about episodes as they come out and ask them to forward the emails to anyone they think might be interested. Be sure to promote the podcast on the various other social media platforms as well.
Sponsor Your Own Podcast
As mentioned, constantly trying to promote your practice during your podcasts will be a turnoff, but the whole point of this project is to increase brand awareness and generate business, right? A great (and completely acceptable) way to plug your practice in each episode is to simply make your clinic the “sponsor” of the show.
A sample introduction to an episode might resemble this:
“Welcome to the Running Rants Podcast, a show for Austin runners who want to hit PRs, recover faster, and still be running in their eighties. This episode is sponsored by Carter Physiotherapy, a hands-on physical therapy clinic that specializes in keeping runners on the roads and trails without pain or mileage limitations. I’m your host, Jarod Carter, and today’s guest is . . . ”
Build an Email List from Your Audience
Direct listeners to a web page where your audience members can give their names and email addresses in exchange for something of value to them. In the Running Rants example, it might be a free report titled “The Top 10 Causes of Running Injuries—and How You Can Recover Faster if You Are Injured.” Having the ability to email your audience will massively increase your options for converting listeners into customers. It gives you the opportunity to deepen the relationship with personalized messages that continue providing value, compel them to listen to new episodes as they come out, and be the first practice they think of when they need physical therapy services.
For those concerned about the technical aspects of starting a podcast, do not be. There is a completely free, step-by-step resource on how to set up a podcast at PodcastingTutorial.com.2 When I started my podcast two-and-a-half years ago, I simply gave that website to my assistant and three days later I was ready to start recording my first episode and put it on iTunes.
We live in an interesting and ever-changing world for private practice, and the possibilities for how we market our services are also changing quickly. Podcasting offers a lucrative option for those with a natural speaking ability and a desire to find new ways to reach their target market. In most areas, blogging and video are already heavily used by physical therapy practices, but the competition in the audio content realm is almost nonexistent, offering an opportunity for a creative private practice to shine
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_podcasting. Accessed December 2016.
2. PodcastingTutorial.com. Accessed December 2016.
Jarod Carter, PT, DPT, MTC, is a PPS member and owner of Carter Physiotherapy in Austin, Texas. He is an author, consultant, and host of The Cash-Based Practice podcast. He can be reached at Jarod@DrJarodCarter.com.