Defining Your Brand


Start with a grassroots effort.

By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS

As private practice physical therapists, we have long struggled to define what we do. Ask fellow physical therapists, physicians, other health care providers who refer patients, third-party payers, and people in the community what private practice physical therapists do and an array of answers, many of them disappointing, will be given. Unlike other health care providers, our profession has struggled to agree on a definition of what we do and has not had significant success in developing the brand of physical therapy at a national level. With this in mind, it is essential that grassroots efforts be made within local practices and communities to define and develop our brand. If we do not take ownership for defining what we do within our own communities, other professions will continue to attempt to brand themselves as the experts in movement science, rehabilitation, and restoring and improving motion to achieve long-term quality of life.

Defining what your practice does begins with defining your brand. Your brand is your image. Your brand is what people think about and even feel when they hear your practice’s name. Branding your practice is strategic. Consider what picture you want to unequivocally paint of your practice now and in the future. Once your brand is defined it needs to be delivered in meaningful ways to your staff, patients, referral sources, payers, and your community.


So where do you begin? Consider working with your staff on what your brand reputation currently is in the marketplace. Our practice is perceived to be what? How do people perceive us? Next, what do we want to be known as in the future? Common themes in private practices revolve around state-of-the-art, community based, research oriented, fitness and wellness, sports medicine, fun, and upbeat. Once the brand promise is defined, it next needs to be proven. For example, a practice wants to be known as the experts in sports medicine. Social media posts and newsletters will focus on sports medicine by reporting on national and local sports teams and injuries, profiles of patients with sports injuries, and advances in sports medicine. The clinic will have equipment supporting sports medicine and will also be aesthetically pleasing for an athlete with sports posters and reading material. The physical therapists hired will have a strong interest in sports medicine, and ongoing professional development will be to develop skills in this area. Community involvement will include outreach to support sports performance, injury prevention, and sporting events. This could include team and event sponsorships, injury screens at local events, and staff sports teams participating in local leagues and events. Most importantly, all of the staff at the practice will know and be comfortable with discussing the practice’s brand promise of being experts in sports medicine. Everyone in the practice will live the brand. A practice choosing to develop their brand promise as being part of the community or research oriented, occupational health or hands-on, will live their brand in different ways. But the result will be a practice of people with a common message, strengthening your practice’s brand in the marketplace.

If all physical therapy private practices developed their brands in their communities, this grassroots effort would soon evolve into awareness of the physical therapy brand at a national level.

For more information, please visit the PPS Learning Center. Marketing 101: Module 1, Marketing, Planning, and Budgeting provides resources and further information on defining your brand’s promise. Free to members, Marketing 101 is a series of presentations by marketing gurus Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT, and Scott Wick.

Collie,-Michell 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

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