Hook, line, and sinker

reelReel in a good reputation for your practice by making the most out of local media, says Gemma Barker

Dentistry is featured in the media more now than ever before, and this is something that a savvy dentist will capitalise on, to raise the reputation and profile of the practice.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) states: ‘Every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success.
‘Customers, suppliers, employees, investors, journalists and regulators can have a powerful impact. They all have an opinion about the organisations they come into contact with – whether good or bad, right or wrong. These perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with, shop with and support these organisations.
‘In today’s competitive market, reputation can be a company’s biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge. Effective PR can help manage reputation by communicating and building good relationships with all organisation stakeholders.’
Thus, having a good reputation – an essential part of running a successful dental practice – relies heavily upon an effective PR campaign.

A local focus

One of the most effective ways to get your message across to prospective patients is to capitalise on the publicity local media outlets can facilitate. You may be thinking bigger (nationally), which begs a wider audience, but this is a tougher media market and it is important to consider whether your efforts would be better placed within your local community.
Press releases are a great way to send out news to a large target audience, especially when you’re looking to educate readers about your services, rather than following the sales pitch route (and the former is definitely the more effective).
It’s also not as daunting a task as you may think. Consider it this way – the readers are your students and you are educating them about what is available, rather than selling them a service. Think more along the lines of ‘did you know that…?’ rather than ‘visit us because…’.
So, can you generate enlightening news around a new offering? Perhaps focus on the latest innovations, providing information on why it’s so good and generating some raw statistics. Press releases have been claimed to be seven times more effective than advertising.
Your release needs to consider what the story is – the ‘hook’ that reels in the reader. It needs to:
• Be engaging – would you read it and pass it on to a friend?
• Cover all of your key messages
• Get to the point – editors may read only the title and the first few lines before making a decision on whether they want to use the copy, so make your title engaging and include your ‘hook’ in that first paragraph
• Be new
• Be simple and short. Try not to overcomplicate things and keep your release to around 300-400 words
• Avoid jargon – remember who you are communicating with and be mindful of using professional language
• Avoid sounding like a salesperson
• Include contact details.

Follow-up calls

Now you have your release, you need to send it out. If this is your introduction to the media, then why not invite key journalists to the practice in the same email? It helps build rapport and pique interest.
And finally, always follow up a day later with a phone call. Check the journalist/editor received your release. Ask them if they would like to visit the practice. Do they need any further information or content? Do they think you could provide them with ongoing expert advice for their readers?
Effectively promoting the dental practice is all about ensuring you are helping to educate your local community, and local media is a wonderful conduit for this. If you’re not making the most of such outlets, you’re most certainly missing out on a great opportunity to build your reputation!


Gemma Barker is the managing director of Barker PR, a PR and communications company for the dental industry.

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