Often when I speak with private practice physical therapists about marketing, I pick up a sense of frustration – well, sometimes it’s more than a sense – regarding how physical therapy is viewed in the mainstream.
“Our profession is so often misunderstood,” I’m told. “Too many people still think of the wrong things when they think ‘physical therapy,’ or their view of what we do – what we can do – is entirely too narrow.”
“Why is it, for instance, that when so many people think of back pain, they still think chiropractor first?”
Such thoughts and questions can keep clinicians up and night, and understandably so. As physical therapists and those who work within the profession, we understand the power of PT. We know of the many ways physical therapy can improve people’s lives, save them money, and provide safer, more effective options for such things as medication and surgery.
These facts are part of our DNA, and we believe – we know – that well-educated health care consumers are most likely to seek physical therapy first. So where’s the disconnect? Why do we sometimes still struggle to fully educate the masses about PT … to strongly control our profession’s brand?
Five words: Super Karate Monkey Death Car.

Say What?!

Yeah, that’s right – Super Karate Monkey Death Car. It’ll make sense in a second.
See, this phrase is the title of an episode of NewsRadio, a comedy sitcom from the 1990s about staff members at an AM station in NYC. In this episode, the head honcho of the group, the station’s owner, Jimmy James (played by Stephen Root), hosts a reading of his memoirs at a local bookstore.
After flopping years earlier in the U.S., this book about his personal quest for success was translated into Japanese, and it actually sold well in the Land of the Rising Sun. So, they decided to give it another go in the States, translating the successful Japanese version back into English for a second release.
Of course, the first time he sees the new, recently re-translated book, it was a whole lot of gibberish.It was also just before a live book-reading event, during which this happened:

For my money, this is one of the funniest, most brilliant plots in the series. And of course, Stephen Root is an amazing comedy actor. But beyond the humor, what does this have to do with marketing physical therapy?
The takeaway is simple: take full advantage of opportunities to tell your own story firsthand, otherwise you risk the message getting lost in translation.
Physical therapists everywhere should heed this advice to its fullest. By being your own pundit, as it were, you can aggressively take hold of the PT brand and own it. You can directly reach out to clients, referral sources, and most accurately educate those around you about the true value of physical therapy.
As a physical therapist, you are the best spokesperson for your profession. So when you consider a marketing strategy for your clinic, make it educational, public-facing, and proactive.

Controlling the Message

While it sounds like a pretty steep challenge, being your own pundit and connecting directly with the people in your community isn’t as difficult as it may seem. PTs must simply just tap into and embrace their natural role as educators, then make use of some of today’s most effective channels of communication.
Here are some ways to be proactive about your clinic’s brand, and that of your profession:
Use Your Blog
Keeping a blog is one of the most affordable and effective things you can do to market your clinic, advocate for the physical therapy profession, and tell your own story as a PT.
Posting keyword-heavy content about treatments, services, programs, health tips and news can slowly draw an audience, but more importantly, it helps rank your website increasingly higher on search engines. It also provides the hub around which you can build a full-on content marketing strategy using many of the channels listed below.
Meet the Press
We’ve all read things in the press that could have been presented and explained more thoroughly and accurately, if only the writer had spoken to a licensed physical therapist. Well, be that physical therapist!
By consistently reaching out to your local media with information and, better yet, story ideas about health, movement, injury, rehabilitation, prevention, etc., you can fill this role. Be the expert, offer up your expertise, and put yourself in the position to educate the masses (as well as journalists and other gatekeepers of information) about the value of PT. (Like this clinic. Or this one. Or this.)
Be Social
When you can’t be part of the story, don’t let that stop you (or physical therapy) from being part of the story! Social media makes it easy for you to still get your point – and your brand – across by piggybacking on stories that everyone’s already talking about.
Get mileage from topics you see online by sharing them on, say, your Facebook page, then adding in your 2 cents. Did the NY Times do a story about back surgery without speaking to a PT? This is your chance to chime in and fill in the blanks, providing additional information, context or corrections when needed.
Also, don’t forget to point people back to your website for additional information.
Don’t Overlook Email
We all have full inboxes, and I’ve noticed lately this is causing some PTs to become reluctant when it comes to email marketing. Don’t be.
So long as recipients know who you are (e.g., they’re current/past clients or contacts), and you’re providing them with information that can apply to their lives and lifestyles, an email from you should be a welcome addition to their inboxes. Use this as an opportunity to open people’s minds about physical therapy and the myriad ways a PT can treat their ailments, save them money, and improve their lives.
Leave the Clinic
This is the most challenging of all these suggestions, but it can also be the most effective. Sports clubs, senior centers, schools, community health fairs, local 5K fundraisers … these all provide opportunities for local PTs to present information, instruct on issues of prevention or athletic enhancement, and simply speak one-on-one with people interested in taking control of their health care.
So while your clinic is your hub of services, don’t let it restrict your marketing and educational efforts.
Otherwise, you’re putting yourself at the mercy of the Super Karate Monkey Death Car. And that’s just not good marketing.
For more information about physical therapy marketing and our content marketing package, Amplify, along with our half-off promotion for getting started right in 2017, contact us today!