By Adam Bierman
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – As the new 2010 Health Care Bill has been introduced and passed, medical professionals in addition to the general public have all said in unison – “ok, now what?” Many unanswered questions remain.
People are still trying to understand the most important thing of all – how the healthcare bill affects them and their families. Patients make the decision as to their care provider based on their perception of that provider’s brand. Any industry where the service provider has a unique skill set that is not commonly understood by the public will always be driven by perception. At no time in recent history has a medical professional’s brand been as important as today. With 32 million Americans who did not previously have health insurance now gaining access, the medical profession is sure to see an uptick in demand.
Today, the web is the most powerful branding tool available. The web provides more access to branding opportunities than ever before with extremely low barriers of entry. The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years – from 8 percent in 2005 to over 40 percent today. Facebook, for example, currently has in excess of 350 million active users on a global basis with 50 percent of active users logging into the site every day. This presents a unique opportunity for direct communication or “digital direct marketing”.
A recent Forrester Healthcare online survey pointed out that even for “older: disease categories with average ages of 50-60 years, roughly 20 percent of all patients turn to social computing for health information.”
Your usage of these tools should be in line with your brand. If you are the doctor who is perceived as cutting edge, innovative and accessible than you will be well off to utilize a lot of social media. If you are renowned as the conservative expert in your field, using online press releases to distribute information about your latest accolades will bolster your brand.
In addition to the web, now is a unique time for medical professionals to utilize the services of a public relations arm to position themselves as leaders. From small practices looking to make a deeper connection into their local communities to large national healthcare corporations seeking national exposure, there has never been a better opportunity for big brands to expand, and smaller brands to grow and compete. Close to 95 percent of all Americans get their information from a seemingly unbiased third party source (television, radio, magazine, newspaper, blog, etc), which can lend credibility to a brand looking for higher visibility and long-term presence within the healthcare industry.
There are tremendous opportunities to effectively brand your self in a cost effective manner. Your brand and in turn, business, will grow with properly executed initiatives. Medicine is a profession where patients make decisions based upon reputation, and you stand to gain immensely by being proactive in creating the perception your target audience has of you.
BrandlandUSA guest columnist Adam Bierman is president of The BRANDX GROUP, a marketing and branding firm in Los Angeles, California.