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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 27, 1997, Vol. 15, Issue 03

New Patient Promotion through Public Relations and Advertising

By David S. Singer
When I went into private practice 23 years ago, it amazed me how we as chiropractors could get such great results, but had to struggle to get new patients. Unfortunately, great results do not in and of themselves equal more new patients. Public relations has the job of making the good results you achieve broadly known in the community. In this article, we will discuss public relations, marketing, and advertising as to their differences in methods and results.

Advertising has four media: newspapers, the yellow pages, radio, and television. All attempts to advertise chiropractic practices on television have all but failed. It used to work in those states where insurance reimbursed sixty to eighty dollars per visit and everyone had good insurance. This, along with low advertising costs, made such states as Texas and Louisiana ideal for advertising based on multi-clinic chains. With less insurance reimbursement now available, T.V. simply does not pay unless you practice in an area where insurance is still prevalent, with good reimbursement and low advertising rates.

Radio, however, is less expensive and generates more quality patients if you have your own shows. Most local stations could use a 1/2 hour talk show on alternative health. They usually require you to pay for the time or get your own sponsors. We teach our clients to get their own co-sponsors and therefore put together their own show without any personal expense. Your own show gets you not only new patients, but a way to create some really powerful connections by letting other people on the show. For example, if you invite the manager of a Gold's Gym on your show, the gym will certainly be more open to your doing screenings, lectures, etc., at their location.

Yellow page advertising used to be effective but has passed its prime. Doctors across the country report a reduced result from yellow page ads. Why? Simple! As more people join managed care programs, they check the list of doctors who are providers, not the yellow pages. Competition has also made people more aware of chiropractors in their area without having to look in the yellow pages to see if there is one in their town. Save money -- reduce the amount you spend on yellow pages.

Newspapers remain the most effective advertising medium, however, its function is more effective when used to advertise lectures on catchy topics than to bring in direct new patients. Again, as in T.V., costs can be prohibitive. However, one can get 10 times the number of people to come to a seminar than for a "free" exam. An audience will attend a well-run seminar, become quality patients, and therefore make newspapers still a viable method for practice building.

Public relations differs from marketing in that public relations creates the image and marketing sells the product. Public relations activities include donating food to charities, getting stories printed in the newspaper about the doctor or office, collecting patient testimonials, sponsoring a softball team, etc. It is a science unto itself. Most doctors ignore these activities in favor of marketing because the results from marketing are more immediate. However, good will and getting yourself well-known and well thought of in your community makes marketing much more successful.

Marketing has to do with promoting your chiropractic "product" in a way that makes people purchase it. It creates points of opportunity to get the consumer to buy the product. In chiropractic, a community relations assistant has the job of scheduling and assisting within-office workshops, patient appreciation days (partly public relations), patient mailings, outside lectures, screenings, networking, direct mail advertising, etc. This person has the job of marketing the doctor. They do this by arranging all the previous activities as often as possible.

Some marketing staff in chiropractic clinics actually go out and do lectures, screenings, etc. For the shy doctor, success can rest fully on their ability to hire and train the right marketing assistant. The best movie star would be nowhere without their agent. You also need to have someone push your career forward.

Dr. David Singer, CEO
David Singer Enterprises
Clearwater, Florida

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