PR tips for growing your private practice

Venturing into PR may feel unfamiliar for many practice managers, but with these simple tips, you can harness the power of media publicity and boost your private practice growth.

PR tips for growing your private practice

For consultants, the number one priority is always patient care, but when you’re running your own private practice there are many other things to consider. How do you grow your practice and find new patients, for example?

There are a number of answers to answer that question, one of which is PR. To many people, PR is almost a dirty word, conjuring up images of spin doctors or journalists looking for a sensational headline. As a result, a lot of small businesses, including private surgical practices, ignore it.

But these stereotypes about PR and journalism don’t represent the reality for most of the industry, and by ignoring PR, businesses are missing out on a key vehicle for self-promotion and growth. What’s more, ignoring it sometimes isn’t enough: there may come a time when you have no choice but to engage with the media. So, it’s better to be prepared and always do so in a proactive and positive way.

Easier said than done, of course. But Medbelle has expertise in all areas of marketing, including PR, and we wanted to share some tips to help practice managers get the most out of this area, without feeling like you’re too far outside of your comfort zone.

1. Decide what you want from publicity

The first step is rather obvious: what does your practice need, and is PR the right way to achieve it? If you are struggling to grow your practice, increasing visibility seems the obvious solution. If your website is already getting a lot of hits, but these aren’t converting into patients, raising awareness of the brand through the media might not actually solve this problem.

Media publicity is just one part of the marketing toolkit and is best used as part of a coherent strategy that also includes social media, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and a good website journey.

But if you are just starting out and your practice isn’t well known, or you’re ready to grow your practice, media publicity could be the perfect solution.


2. Know your audience

If you have decided you need some media publicity, the first thing to do is select an outlet. Always start with the audience: which demographic is more likely to be interested in your practice, and what does that demographic mostly read? Local newspapers are a good place to start, but think creatively: specialist outlets may have a more specific audience - for example, perhaps a golfing magazine will be read by quite a lot of older people who like to stay mobile, making them more likely to be interested in orthopaedic surgery.

The best way to find out an outlet’s readership is through their media packs. Many publications make this available to download from their website: check the bottom of the page, where there will often be an ‘About us’ or ‘For Advertisers’ page. Others will ask you to fill out a form first. These packs will give you useful information about readership numbers and demographics, helping you to make a decision.

3. Decide between paid and unpaid

There are two types of media coverage: paid-for or unpaid (also known as earned). Let’s look at both.

Paid: There are different types of paid coverage. One is straightforward advertising, the other is known as ‘advertorial’. The former will look like a regular advert - perhaps with images and a small amount of text, whereas the latter is designed to look more like a regular article in the newspaper, with more text, while still making clear it is an advertisement.


The big advantage of paid-for content is that you are guaranteed coverage in the outlet, and you have near-total control over what that content is (within the guidelines of the publication).

One disadvantage is that you may have to come up with the content and design yourself. This isn’t something you want to look unprofessional, so it’s likely you’ll need a freelancer or an agency to help with this, which adds to the cost.

The other disadvantage is that readers are more likely to gloss over advertisements. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile. If you pick the right outlet, you only need a small percentage of readers to see your advert to make it worthwhile.

Ultimately, if your main aim is to ensure that people who may need surgery find out about your practice, an advert may well achieve this simply by being there - a complicated media campaign isn’t necessary.

Of course, whether it’s worthwhile will ultimately depend on the cost. The media packs mentioned above will also include pricing for different sized advertisements.

Earned: This is where you send a story to a publication, and they publish it for free, because it is of interest to their readers. The obvious advantage here is the cost, with the downside being that you have little control - over how it is reported, but also over whether it even is reported.

If you have the time to put together a story, this is a fairly low-risk approach because even if it doesn’t work you won’t have spent a lot of money. If you do go for this approach, see the tips below.

Some PR experts might value ‘earned’ coverage over paid, because as the name suggests it has to be earned by coming up with an interesting story. But if all you are looking to do is grow your practice, the simpler option may be to pay - and you only need a couple of new patients to make it worthwhile, given that most local advertising is fairly cheap.

4. Know how to appeal to journalists

If you are sending a story to a publication, how do you get it noticed? There are a couple of things to consider:

  • Make it relevant: search for articles about similar subjects in the same publication to find out if they usually publish similar stories to yours
  • Start with the punchline: If you’re telling a story you might build up to the most interesting part, but that’s not how press releases work. The first paragraph of your story should summarise exactly why your story is relevant. Then, add more detail as the story goes
  • Include a quote: All newspaper stories include at least one quote. Making the journalist’s life easier by including a quote in the release might encourage them to use your story
  • Make the quote interesting: The quote should effectively sum up your most important key message. Avoid cliches such as ‘I am pleased to announce’ - just get to the point. Try reading the quote out loud to hear if it sounds like something you would actually say
  • Human interest: Focus on the human impact of your story, perhaps on how it has helped specific patients. Of course, make sure your patient has given their consent before using any details or quotes publicly. This is best done via email, so you have their agreement in writing, and you should make sure they are happy with their exact quote before publishing it - don’t just give them a rough idea of what you’ll be writing.
  • Keep it brief: Journalists are notoriously busy and if they open a 1,000 word press release they will be tempted to delete it straight away. Less is usually more with PR.

Of course, the main thing with any PR is to consult an expert if you aren’t sure about anything. Given that most private practices are local businesses, it is possible to start small with these things: a small advert, including design costs, in a local newspaper won’t cost the earth, and is a good place to start without taking on too much risk.

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