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Last updated on September 21st, 2019 at 12:56 pm

You’ve probably heard the word PR and how it’s essential for a thriving business.

But what does PR really mean?

Nicely curated baskets with free toothpaste, pamphlets, and cookies?

Or is it giving away free electric toothbrushes?

What about sponsoring a local neighborhood event?

All of these do in fact fall under the PR umbrella… but most practices fall short on one aspect of PR that’s more important than any of the above. And that is simply getting out into your area, talking to local businesses, and making your practice known.

(Related: What Does a PR Director do in a Dental Office?)

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, PR is: “the degree of understanding and goodwill achieved.”  Now, most offices get only one part of this definition right –goodwill. We tend to focus on this because it’s fun to bring gifts or cool to sponsor an event. But PR also includes the degree of understanding – how well does the public understand your business? Do they know you exist? Do they know who the doctor is? Do they understand what type of services you offer? You could do all the goodwill in the world, yet no one would really understand what or who you are.

With that said, I wanted to share a few ideas that can greatly improve the PR within your practice! And as a side-note, we provide a lot more information about PR and Marketing, and how to attract more high-quality new patients, at the MGE New Patient Workshop. I highly suggest you attend.

Here are the ideas:

1. Nix the fancy gift baskets… for now.

One mistake I see a lot of practices make is they go out into the community and leave gift baskets with the receptionist and ask them to give it to their staff. How do you think this normally plays out? The receptionist brings the basket to the staff break room where the staff take what they want, and of course they’ll appreciate it, but that doesn’t get them to understand your practice or even know you exist. They could go through that entire basket without even knowing, or quite frankly caring, who you are.

(Related: The Top 5 Ways to Market Your Dental Practice)

Try this instead (it worked well for me when I managed a dental practice): Go to businesses around your area and actually talk to the business owner or manager.  Find out if they have a dentist. When I did, whether they did or not, I’d introduce myself and tell them I was from the dental office down the street. If they didn’t have a dentist, this was the perfect opportunity for me to tell them about our new patient special, and I’d get them scheduled right then and there for the next day or a few days out. If I ended up scheduling them a week or more out (which was rare), I would swing back by a few days before their appointment and bring them any papers they needed to fill out so we could service them fast when they came in.

Then after the owner had their appointment, I’d schedule a time with that same business to talk with their staff. This is when I would bring a gift basket to thank them for their time. And the owner would normally share their positive experience with us with their staff. Then I’d tell the group about our new patient special, get their contact information, and get them scheduled.

The same idea goes for health fairs too. When I would go to a health fair, we had the purpose of getting everyone’s contact information who stopped at our booth. We’d do drawings for a first and second prize, and we’d tell them that we needed their contact information in order to let them know if they won. After we drew the prize, we’d let everyone know who didn’t win something like, “Hi ____! Thank you for entering our drawing! We just announced the winner of the drawing over on our Facebook page. Even if you didn’t win the drawing, we want to offer you our new patient special!” And then give the details of the special and how they can make their appointment.

(Related: 4 Ways to Get More New Patients… Without Marketing)

2. Attend local events with a purpose

You may or may not be attending local events in your area.  In any event, if you do go, make sure you go with a purpose. Talk to people, make conversation and get to know them.  Let them know who you are and tell them about your office. It sounds simple…because it is.  The effort here is to increase understanding and awareness of your practice.

You can bring flyers or new patient special cards, but the important part is getting out in the community and really getting to know others with a “no-strings-attached” mindset. Really be interested in what others are saying – ask them questions about what they do, etc., and I bet you they’ll remember you and the practice.

3. PR doesn’t have to be expensive

It’s a popular idea to give things away, or bring gift baskets to businesses, etc. But if you’re not careful, these good gestures can turn into a large expense with little to no return on investment. When you’re first starting out with PR, create a budget and stick to it.

(Related: Comparing the Cost of 9 Dental Marketing Options)

At first, your budget may only allow you to bring a $10 gift for all the staff, but they’ll appreciate it just as much as if you were to bring a $50 gift. But my point is, the whole idea of PR is to get your practice known, and while gift baskets and the like are a great gesture, they’re not necessary to get someone to remember who you are.

I hope these tips can help you out! If you’re really looking to get more new patients and maximize your dollar when it comes to PR and Marketing, come to the MGE New Patient Workshop. The average attendee sees a 40% sustained increase in new patients for first full year after the workshop, and it only gets better from there. For those of you who have attended it before, the workshop has been updated with a ton of new information for digital marketing in 2020 and beyond, so contact us for a special offer on re-attending.

And if you have any questions, you can email me at EricaV@mgeonline.com.

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