You have some of the most experienced surgeons, caring nurses, and helpful administrative staff, working in your well-run, well-equipped surgery center. So what else could you possibly need? The patients will come in droves, right? Well, possibly. If they do, you’ll sleep soundly at night knowing that you are providing quality care and a vital service to the community.
But what if you’re newly established? Or hidden away in some corner of a commercial park, where most of the traffic is 18-wheelers and pizza delivery trucks. How do you make your presence known to people in need of surgery? If you have an affiliation with a primary care organization, you will most likely benefit from referrals. In which case, no problem. But if you don’t, what then?
Marketing!? Isn’t that like those telemarketers who call as you’re sitting down to dinner? Well, yes, that is a kind of marketing. But marketing can take many forms – it’s not always the work of the devil. Marketing can help get food to starving nations or vital supplies to earthquake victims, or help deserving professionals like you, just as often as interrupting you at mealtimes or when you’re in the shower. It’s also the most effective way to get your story out to hundreds of potential patients you’ve never met. Think of both marketing and advertising as communications, then maybe your stomach won’t churn so much.
Now, if you happen to be a new facility of a large ASC group, your headquarters may already be advertising on billboards, with radio commercials, or by placing advertisements in local publications so you will benefit along with your sister locations. But if you’re a single location, and only recently opened, advertising may be out of reach.
Fear not. There are other ways you can reach out to the public.
Let’s start by getting the word out. Write an announcement letter to send to third-party payers, business and community leaders, local government agencies, local medical societies, professional organizations and current patients. It should be signed by a senior person in your organization.
Send a news release and deliver it to your local newspaper. If you’re a new facility, that itself is worthy of mention in the local paper. If you have been around a while, you may have to create a special event an open house, for instance. Send a news release to the local newspaper to announce this event. If you’re particularly enterprising, you may be able to get the newspaper to cover it as a news event. If you’re located in a small town, invite the mayor and other community leaders or local officials. During the event, make sure you have designated someone to take plenty of photographs to send to the newspaper. Try to make the shots as interesting as possible – preferably no pictures of four people standing side by side holding plates of egg rolls. (Oh yes, did I mention that it would be nice to provide hors d’oeuvres for the visitors?)
Is there a writer in the house?
If one of your staff harbors secret desires to be a latter-day Hemingway, they might write a health-oriented article for the health section of your local newspaper or submit it to a medical publication geared to a surgical readership. Just make sure it is relevant to the magazine’s audience; and – very important – that the writer’s connection with your ASC is clearly noted.
Of course, there is no better advertising than word of mouth; if you regularly achieve successful outcomes, you may create a torrent of satisfied patients who extol your capabilities to friends and neighbors. And that’s great. But one-on-one advertising can take quite a long time. Getting coverage in the media can work quicker if you’re prepared to put in the time. Making yourself available for public speaking – at a local library, association or at medical conferences and meetings – can also help spread your facility’s reputation.
It takes commitment and determination to promote your ASC. But it can be done. Who knows? You may end up with more patients and a new-found admiration for marketing!
Guidelines for Preparing a Professional News Release
By now, you may be thinking: “How on earth do I write a news release?” Well, it’s not as hard as you might think. For starters, there are many how-to websites that can help. They may also include a template that you can tailor to your particular organization.
Here are a few specifics to bear in mind as you sit down to prepare a news release for local newspapers, professional publications and newsletters, or radio and television stations, to promote your facility:
1. Identify a contact for your organization. This individual will receive calls from the media when a recipient of your release wants more information. Include your contact’s name, telephone number and email address in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the release.
2. A quote from your chief medical officer, administrator or other senior staff member always helps.
3. Include information about your organization’s history within the community if you’ve been around a while; or how you came to be formed if you’re new to the area.
4. Include the words “For Immediate Release” and the date in the first line of copy.
5. For any release longer than one page, put the word “more” at the bottom center of the first page and repeat the first few words of the headline at the top of the second page. Use two sheets of paper; don’t send a two-sided copy. For a release of any length, indicate the end of the release with three pound signs (###).
6. Send the release directly to the editor/producer in charge of healthcare news. Some organizations have found that hand delivering a release gets good results.
7. Include a photo or a note at the end of the release that a photo is available on request.
About the Author
Geoffrey Charlton-Perrin is director of marketing and communications for AAAHC, the nation’s largest ambulatory healthcare accrediting organization. Previously, he was director of marketing for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, and before that president of a major Chicago advertising agency.