Let the media boost your credibility

Article

Know the difference between advertising and public relations to maximize your results.

Advertising and public relations are terms people sometimes use interchangeably, but they actually refer to two distinct marketing tools. With advertising, you buy space or airtime in the media. Public relations results in media exposure at no cost.

Bob Levoy

Even more important than the cost savings is the credibility that PR conveys to the public. With advertising, you talk about yourself, which may seem suspect to some people. In contrast, public relations prompts others—generally reporters—to talk about you and your practice. An endorsement from the media is far more credible than anything you might say about yourself. So a well-thought-out PR campaign can be more effective than the most eye-catching advertisement.

The media needs you

Television, radio, and newspapers have a lot of airtime and pages to fill on a regular basis, and they rely on outside sources to help them spot interesting, newsworthy stories. Veterinarians can be helpful because of their specialized knowledge about a broad range of topics.

Action step: Make contact. A small weekly newspaper may have only a few writers and editors on staff. The easiest thing to do is to pick up the phone and ask to talk with the editor. Your first words after introducing yourself should be, "Is this a good time to talk?" It'll show editors you understand their business and respect their time. You could also start with an e-mail.

Another important tip: When talking with editors or reporters, be able to state your story idea in 30 seconds or less. Explain why people would care about the story and, if possible, quote an attention-getting statistic. ("Each year, more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs. Most of the victims are children," or "Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age.")

Most important: Don't refer to your practice unless asked. The idea is to establish yourself as an authority. You don't want to come across as someone who's just looking for business.

Reality check: Don't expect an onslaught of new clients after being quoted in the newspaper or on the 6 o'clock news. In order to be effective, media exposure must be repetitive. Public relations is about investing in long-term results. And although the initial return on such efforts may be minimal, each media appearance will add to your visibility, credibility, and reputation.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is a seminar speaker based in Roslyn, N.Y., who focuses on profitability and practice growth. His newest book is 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2006).

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