Public Relations: It’s Not Just For The Big Guys

If you believe you’ve got a good story to tell, we’d like to hear it. In fact, there are a lot of people in your community who would like to hear what an educated doctor like yourself has to say on a variety of topics. The trouble is, you’re not sharing that wisdom – and if you are, you’re not doing so with a large enough audience so it resonates beyond your immediate circle of acquaintances.

So how do you change that? And, even if you could – why would you want to?

“Why?” … is the simple part of this question. Simply put, telling stories endears you to other people. And there is no better sales system in the world than one that avoids “selling” in favor of “telling.”

Think about a relative or friend who can really spin a tale. Or, the teacher who could explain a complex idea by relating it to something you already understand. No doubt, these people and the thoughts they shared will remain with you for a long time. As a dental practitioner, telling stories can work for you in much the same way, but you’ve got to get “out there” … you’ve got to be, in a sense: a local celebrity.

Sound scary? It shouldn’t.

First off, you already possess a voice your community wants to hear. Not convinced? Think about it for a moment. Whether you realize it or not, there are aspects of your professional and personal life that people would find interesting and inspiring. You just have to let the cat out of the bag a bit. For example, do you realize that you’re more than just a dentist, you’re a:

  • Business owner
  • Doctor
  • Artist
  • Philanthropist
  • Educator
  • Scientist
  • Technologist
  • HR expert
  • Father or mother, perhaps
  • And, a community health advocate

You see, there is a lot to you, that even YOU don’t see. Spend time thinking about what makes you unique in these areas … there are stories everywhere. Once you’ve got a handle on what you can speak to, go with confidence to the one place that can take your story and deliver it into the hands of those who want to learn from your expertise: the local media.

Now, before you click away in search of a more “practical” article … one that doesn’t ask you to start telling stories and calling up reporters, consider this: do you see Michael Jordan as a great storyteller? How about Robert De Niro? However, we still know a lot about them, and we’ve seen them featured in a variety of media.

Why? It’s certainly not because they themselves are particularly adept at launching into prose. In fact, it’s fair to say that when we do see them in the media, they’re reluctant interviewees at best. They are, however, available to writers and journalists who ARE storytellers, educated in the art of asking questions so they can craft a story people want to hear. All Michael Jordan and Robert De Niro do, then, is answer questions about their life and experience. You can do the same. All you need to do is make yourself available.

Remember, the press wants to know you. Coming up with something new to talk about on a continual basis can be challenging for journalists, so when experts like yourself reach out to introduce yourself, you’re opening a door to story ideas that might not have crossed their minds. For that, you’re likely to get a lot of thanks … so don’t be bashful in reaching out. Here’s how to get in front of our local media hounds in four easy steps:

  • First, go out to your local newsstand, spend a few bucks, and pick up a copy of each of your local newspapers. And, don’t overlook the pure business papers/magazines like “Crain’s” and “The Business Journal” either. While they are focused in larger markets, if you’re near enough to be newsworthy, those publications should still be interested in what you have to say.

    The purpose of this exercise is to understand what makes each particular news outlet “tick.” For example, who are their advertisers? What day of the week to they feature local businesses, or health topics, or anything relevant to your expertise? Do they have a political or community perspective that aligns or disagrees with your own? Issues such as these are critical to understand when it comes to pitching reporters, and the only way you’ll be able to gain this insight is by physically paging through the newspaper. Reading online is a poor substitute. So, spend your piggy-bank money if you want the best results.
  • Once you’ve poured over the papers, take note of who is writing about the topics you can speak to: business and health are, of course, the two most obvious. Write down their names, then go online and find out how to get in touch with them. Find an email address or phone number and prepare to reach out. Also, keep in mind that in larger markets, there are many folks behind the scenes who are not writing, but who can help you because they assign articles to writers. Such individuals have titles like “assignment editor” or “managing editor,” or, more broadly: the “assignment desk.”
  • BONUS TIP! Use Twitter. If you’re tweeting (as you should be!), you’ll find Twitter to be tremendously useful when it comes to connecting with writers and journalists of all kinds. Use tools like Twellow and MuckRack to find reporters, and get a dialog going. Always keep in mind that you’re trying to develop a relationship, so go slow. Two other useful sites that can help you get in front of reporters looking for experts are “Help A Reporter Out,” which is free, ProfNet, which is subscription-based.

As a result of this work, your community will begin to see more of you, and see you for who you are – more than the mere dentist down the street who fixes teeth – but the business owner, doctor, scientist and mom or dad you really are. Then, because people love to develop relationships and send referrals to people they know and trust, your business will reap the rewards of this exposure.

It’s worth nothing that if you don’t have the time to handle this on your own, there is a simple work-around. Grab the assistance of a young, hustlin’ PR person by placing an ad on Craigslist or by calling your local college PR department to ask for help from one of their up-and-coming superstars. They’ll do the heavy lifting, lining up interviews and doing some press release writing for you, and you’ll just do the talking. That’s a win-win for everyone.

As individuals we’re often taught to avoid the spotlight – to keep our heads down, do good work, and just “be.” That might work from a philosophical standpoint, but in the real world … the world of business, and of bills, employees and a need for longevity … avoiding the spotlight can keep your business from achieving its true potential. People have to know who you are and they have to know about the great work you do. To a degree, dentistry operates in the shadows of the public conscience, but its labors, (a community with healthy teeth!) are on display on every street corner in your town. There is power in recognizing this fact. Go out, take advantage of it, and reap the rewards you deserve. Get out from behind the mask, and get yourself some press!