Your Practice's Digital Brand: How to Build It

October 6, 2011

Let’s presume that you are a great physician, with a good practice. Let’s build your brand so that fact is recognized and appreciated.

The following are simple steps to help you establish your digital presence and brand. Let’s presume that you are a great physician, with a good practice. Let’s build your brand so that fact is recognized and appreciated. Many of the steps that follow are designed to establish you as a trusted resource of valuable healthcare information. Good for your patients, good for you.

Note that you cannot accomplish all of these steps overnight, or even over the next month. This is not a quick-hit, instant-reputation/instant-brand formula. Such a thing does not exist.

Your brand - your reputation - already exists in the online world. It did not pop up overnight. It grew over years. Adding to that brand, adding content and influencing that brand, will similarly not occur overnight.

When consulting for practices and hospitals on building their digital brands, I usually lay out a timeline on the order of 12 to 18 months. Whew, that’s a long time. Yes, but without your input your online brand will continue to develop, like it or not. Better with your input, no?

Here are the important steps to building your digital brand:

Open a separate e-mail account, independent of your hospital e-mail account or practice account. Go to Google.com and open an e-mail account that will be used only for your online brand development. This will help keep you organized, and will keep these activities separated from your work, hospital, and personal e-mail.

Establish some online profiles. Focus on LinkedIn (essentially Facebook for professionals, including a fair number of physicians), Facebook, About.me, and Google. Go back to your homework from Your Digital Brand: Why Is It Important To Build? and include that information in these various profiles: What differentiates you and your practice from all the others? Those differentiators can act as keywords on those sites and help the search engines find you.

Hire a professional photographer and get some high-quality portrait photos of yourself. Your hospital might even have a photography service to provide this for free or nominal charge. Select one or two photographs and use these consistently throughout your professional online profiles.
Buy your domain name. This will be one of the few places where you can control the message about your brand. If you have not been through this process, it can be scary. Be consoled by the fact that the cost of purchasing your domain name for a period of one year, will be less than $20. So even if you do something horribly wrong (unlikely), you might be out 15 bucks or so. Just do it. Start by doing a search for your own name on a site like “GoDaddy.com”. That will tell you whether someone else by that name has already purchased your domain name. If the domain name is available, you will be offered that opportunity to make the purchase of that domain name, say www.yourname.com. You will also be offered the chance to purchase the variations on the “.com” suffix, such as “.net, . org” and others. At a cost average of $12 each, it is probably wise to purchase those too in order to prevent someone else from doing so and creating confusion for your patients.

Start a blog on your new domain. You are an expert in something. Use that expertise to educate your patient community. At the least, begin briefly reviewing other sites that offer healthcare information and listing those that offer information based on evidence. Have your various clinic handouts digitized and provide them on your website for patient convenience. Write a brief review of each one as a blog post. Write something at least every 2 weeks, be consistent, and provide value. Be the resource of trusted information! Provide e-books, newsletter, white papers, informational clinic handouts, pre-op and post-op guides, etc.

Increase your authority. Write: write an e-book, give it away on your blog site. Write even a short review on a topic of your choosing – on a topic that you are an expert on. Write and publish a book (hey, no one said this would be easy). Document your expertise. Start writing, start now. There is no better means of establishing your credibility - your brand - as an authority.

Accept ANY invitation to “guest post” on any healthcare blog site, to author an article for any of the healthcare journals - peer-reviewed or those that circulate for free. Always say yes to invitations to write or to provide a quote to a journalist or to be interviewed on a radio program. These activities simply widen awareness of your brand.

Similarly, speak at meetings on your areas of expertise - at local, regional, national, or international meetings, held by your professional organizations. If you don’t already belong to several professional organizations, time to join some. Become active in your professional organizations: contribute, participate, add value. As always, be a resource!

I have been able to provide limited detail in the list above; those who are interested in more can contact me directly.

Yes, these eight tactics constitute hard work. On the other hand, the return on your investment will be extraordinary. We will review that ROI in coming articles.

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