Bridging the Gap

No public relations or marketing professional ever imagines he or she will utter the words, “Our goal is not to promote your practice” to a neurosurgeon.

Yet that was precisely the hole out of which I found myself digging while working with a physician on a promotional piece for my employer—a hospital. He and I were brainstorming ideas for this piece, and I was becoming frustrated with his suggestions. First, he wanted me to write about a new piece of technology that he was only using at a competing hospital. Then, he came up with the brilliant idea to write an article about how “integrated” his practice was. Sure, that was really going to hold a reader’s attention.

Somehow, I had to help him understand that I was writing a piece for consumers, and nobody really cared how fabulous his practice was. My audience was “regular people,” and contrary to some physicians’ beliefs, regular people can see right through marketing mumbo-jumbo.

Eventually, I backpedaled, cajoled and flattered my way back into his good graces, and together, we came up with some great, general health ideas. But the experience forced me to examine my approach toward working with physicians. In a perfect world, doctors would be on exactly the same page with PR and marketing professionals, would understand the need to relate to consumers on an understandable level and would be thrilled with whatever ideas we present to them. But, of course, that’s just wishful thinking.

My husband laughs at me whenever I rant about the poor grammar I see in the world around me. Misused apostrophes are like nails on a chalkboard for me, but I have to remind myself that if everyone knew how to use apostrophes correctly, I wouldn’t have a job.

Similarly, if physicians and their staffs knew how to promote themselves, there would be no need for people like us. It is our job to provide the “regular person” perspective, to help them craft their ideas into something that will appeal to their current and potential patients.

And if they don’t have any ideas, we had better come to the table with a boatload. We have the all-important job of bridging the gap between our doctors and the rest of the world. No matter how difficult the physician, we have to find a way to meet him or her in the middle.

I definitely stuck my foot in my mouth with that physician. It wasn’t his fault that he had tunnel vision when it came to marketing. However, I think he will be happy with the end result—especially when he sees how many people take notice of this particular marketing piece.

Beth Earnest

WHPRMS Membership Chair

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