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Physician, Brand Thyself — Or Suffer The Dire Consequences

Of all the things that they forget to teach you in medical school, marketing is certainly one of them. And today, the dominance of social media and crowd-sourced ratings make it almost imperative that clinicians stay mindful of their reputation in the marketplace. Some people call it your brand. But between physical exams and insurance forms, this “clinical brand” may not ever get to be very high on your to-do list.

But don’t worry. I’ve called in a specialist–you can even call him the brand doctor. Mark W. Schaefer is a globally recognized author, speaker, podcaster and business consultant who blogs at {grow}—one of the top five marketing blogs of the world.

He teaches graduate marketing classes at Rutgers University and has written six best-selling books, including The Tao of Twitter (the best-selling book on Twitter in the world) and The Content Code, named by Inc. magazine as one of the top five marketing books of the year, and his new book KNOWN: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age. Mark also wrote the classic first book on influence marketing, Return On Influence.

So, put down your stethoscope and log into one of your social media accounts…

John Nosta: Let’s start with understanding just what is a personal brand and its components.

Mark Schaefer: I’ve done research for the last few years to discover how people become known in the world. Part of that research involved interviews with nearly a hundred people from around the world in varying fields (including medicine). And I found that every person, in every field, in every region of the world followed the same four steps gain an advantage through their personal brand.

Briefly, those four steps are:

  1. identifying a sustainable interest (what you want to be known for).
  2. finding an un-contested space on the web.
  3. creating consistent, meaningful content.
  4. building an actionable audience.

Nosta: How does branding apply to the healthcare professional?

Schaefer: I think that every professional can potentially have a sustainable competitive advantage by being known. It’s kind of word-of-mouth on steroids. Where do you want to go next with your career? Attract more patients? Be named to a prestigious board? Maybe write a book or speak someday? To do that, you have to be known.

Nosta: At the core is the “position.” How can a HCP focus around a unique selling proposition?

Schaefer: I have a new angle on the “selling proposition” in the book. I don’t think people want to be “sold to” any more. They buy from those they know, like and trust. So how do we do that today on the internet? By using technology to create an emotional connection with people. By helping them, serving them, maybe even entertaining them. Instead of “selling,” I think the operative word is “helping” today.

Nosta: Let’s talk technology. How can HCPs leverage social media to help establish and grow a brand? (Is this going to hurt?)

Schaefer: If it “hurts,” it’s not going to work. That’s why I focus so much on this concept of the “sustainable interest” in the book. Developing a personal brand in the digital age requires that you love what you’re doing because if you don’t it’s going to show! So it makes sense to really think this through and not simply follow a “passion” (as so many gurus suggest!) but to have a real plan that will give you the very best chance of success.

If you find a system and a rhythm that works for you, you’ll be able to develop something consistently because it does take time and patience to make this work.

Nosta: It seems like there’s a lot of frustration and myths about social media. Let’s try to put them into perspective

Schaefer: I think there are two things that overwhelm people. Number one is the rate of change. How do I keep up with this stuff? The first thing to do is find a content type that you enjoy (like writing or video) and stick with just that one thing for at least a year. Build an audience in one to two places like Facebook and Twitter. That’s it. Just concentrate on that one small step.

The other thing that overwhelms people is the regulatory aspects. I have several examples from regulated industries in the book and it really can work. Just look at social media as an extension of yourself. You don’t break rules or violate patient privacy in real life. Why would you do it online? Just do what comes natural–help, serve, explain.

Nosta: Do you have a short case study or example of success in this category?

Schaefer: I know of this pediatrician who wanted to establish a presence on the web to do one thing: educate people in her community to get inoculated. And it was that single-minded vision that allowed her to focus and maximize her efforts. She had a of success using content on the internet to reach those individuals with that information. You see, being known is different from being famous. It’s not about millions of fans and red carpet appearances. It’s about being intentional about your reputation and web presence so you can achieve your goals. So, the bottom line is to focus and enjoy the ride.

Posted by: The Wealthy Doctor

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Physician, Brand Thyself — Or Suffer The Dire Consequences - overview

Summary: Of all the things that they forget to teach you in medical school, marketing is certainly one of them. And today, the dominance of social media and crowd-sourced ratings make it almost imperative that clinicians stay mindful of their reputation in the marketplace. Some people call it your brand. But between physical exams and insurance forms, this "clinical brand" may not ever get to be very high on your to-do list.

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