How to tell a physical therapy story?

While a vocal portion of first-world HBO subscribers continue to debate the merits of the final season of “Game of Thrones,” one scene from last month’s series finale caught my attention as a physical therapy marketing professional.

In the scene, the leaders who remain sat in a half-circle — posture so stately you could balance a copy of “Guide to Evidence-Based Physical Therapy Practice” on everyone’s heads — contemplating the future of the kingdom.

After years of war, all agreed the future required a leader who could display a level of influence powerful enough to mend societal wounds while uniting people and territories.

That’s when Tyrion Lannister, a character known for both his wit and intellect, suggested they view their needs through a slightly different lens.

“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags?” he asked before providing an answer of his own.

“Stories,” he said. “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.”

It’s a great all-around line, but what makes it most significant is this:

It’s 100 percent true.

The Promise of Identity

Stories bring people together with the promise of identity and community. And, they have staying power.

Well before newspapers, textbooks and historic archives and Wiki, stories were passed through generations as official “history books” of tribes and nations. They served as the structure around which entire cultures could thrive for centuries.

Even today, stories have the power to create cultures. They offer comfort to those who are lost, they challenge people to see the world a different way, and they can move people to act.

Indeed, stories are incredibly powerful. From a marketing perspective, this cannot and should not be taken for granted.

Physical therapy clinics who, through the course of their marketing strategies, tell the best stories with the most consistent messaging are going to flourish within their local markets.

Story Tips for Physical Therapy Marketing

How can a physical therapy clinic most fully harness the power of storytelling within their overall marketing strategy? Here are a few tips from the marketing staff at BuildPT:

Create a Story Arc

The arc of a story is the extended or continuing storyline made up a series of smaller stories, all connected together to support a single narrative.

In marketing, the arc serves as the overall message(s) you want to communicate through everything you do. It’s from this arc that all your messaging will hang, all strung together to support a narrative that’s important to your clinic and the PT profession.

“Movement is Medicine” is one arc I often see, as is “Don’t Let Pain Keep You from Life.” Your arc will define you, your clinic and your profession, so make it meaningful and accurate.

physical therapy story

Be Compelling

Whether communicating (i.e., storytelling) through blogging, social media, digital advertising, etc., your number one goal is to grab people’s interest and attention in a powerful and irresistible way. That means connecting with them in a way that’s compelling on a human level, not a clinical level.

As we like to say, this requires “stepping out of the clinic” with your clinic and meeting people where they are in life: hiking in the outdoors, caring for babies and toddlers, competing on the court, or getting up the stairs at home.

Relatable stories have staying power, in other words, while overly clinical messaging will often miss the mark.

Leave Some Cliffhangers

As a physical therapist, you’re no doubt passionate about your profession. So, when you talk about an element of physical therapy – say, back pain prevention – the story you want to tell is often one that involves incredible depth, research, science, and so on.

In marketing, however, restraint is your friend. While you no doubt have lots to say, the goal isn’t to tell the whole story in one fell swoop. You want to leave your audience wanting … and hence, likely to listen for (or reach out to you for) more.

Make a connection, pique their interests, and guide your audience to a call to action (CTA) where they can connect with you for more of the story.

Identify & Develop ‘Characters’

All great stories involve a host of characters who people can get to know, root for, and develop a connection to. The same should hold true within your physical therapy story.

As a clinic, be open about who you are, where your passions lie, and the lengths you go toward ensuring people are able to live their best lives. Build your “characters” through regular updates about specialized training, community involvement and even personal accomplishments.

Help ensure that when people think of your clinic, they think of people and not simply a building.

Also include your patients as part of your cast. Few things are more captivating, endearing and relatable than a good patient success story.

Identify & Develop ‘Characters’

Be a Creative TEAM

Both marketing and storytelling are big jobs, and it takes real commitment to keep a story going without losing your audience. So, don’t go at it alone.

Everyone on your physical therapy team has something to offer – specialized skills, a unique perspective, a personalized style, and so on – so let everyone contribute to your clinic’s “voice.”

Or (or, in addition), working with outside experts like the marketing team at BuildPT can inject some fresh perspective within your marketing messaging, allowing your team to better focus on what they do best: treating patients and helping people improve their lives.