Kicking off the piece will be Joe’s thoughts on the “Why” followed by my own on the “How.”
We’re titling this two in one blog post:
Getting Communities to Care About Physical Therapy
Why Should We Care About What You Are Selling?
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
In the physical therapy field find we ourselves divided into what seems like many cliques. While different opinions can be beneficial, as they bring forward unique perspectives, in reality Physical Therapists are spending countless hours debating on various social media platforms about relatively insignificant topics. This is distracting us from larger issues at hand, such as the need for generating public awareness with an effective, unifying brand that creates a positive public image for Physical Therapists. Rather than always debating amongst ourselves, regarding science and research, PT’s time should be geared towards connecting with the public.
The United States healthcare system is changing rapidly, which is accompanied with obstacles that Physical Therapists will need to overcome. Healthcare policy is under reconstruction, reimbursement rates are continuously declining, and large corporations are consolidating, resulting in it being more difficult to compete on a large scale. With change brings opportunity; Physical Therapists can leverage the changing climate as a way to differentiate the field while becoming leading healthcare providers.
Simon Sinek, a motivational speaker and marketing consultant who gave a kick ass TED Talk about his model for how great leaders inspire action and how it start with the question “why” and The Golden Circle said that, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
Image by BoscoAnthony
Since we like talking about science, here is a little neuroanatomy and physiology analogy for you. When taking a cross-section of the brain from the top down it can be divided it into 3 parts. The outer layer, the neocortex, is primarily responsible for all rational and analytical thought as well as language; the “What”. Then breaking down the inner two layers is the limbic brain; the “How” and the “Why” humans behave. The limbic brain is responsible for feelings, i.e., trust and loyalty, and is largely responsible for human behavior and decision making.
As physical therapists, our time is very valuable and limited, so by having this information about how to effectively connect with our consumers we can efficiently direct our marketing efforts to help bring in prospective clients. Even if you are not the one responsible for marketing, this can be very effective when trying to get buy-in from patients. In the end, the golden circle bottles down to emotional intelligence, and in a field where we interact with so many different personalities on a daily basis the importance of understanding this cannot be underestimated.
How are Physical Therapists supposed to be a driving force in health care if nobody knows exactly what who we are and what we’re capable of offering patients?
Italics! Yup, it’s back to me now (Ben).
Joe offers a power, and, admittedly poignant question: How DO we make the impact we are truly capable to make — that the public deserves of us — if no one knows who we are?! Or, worse… no one cares.
I’d like to offer that there are three direct steps that any physical therapy entity of any size can take up, effective immediately; steps that will benefit their immediate community, steps that will benefit the financial health of their business unit(s)… steps, that will begin to bring the brand of physical therapy into the forefront in the share-of-mind of healthcare consumers any time we mention words like “pain,” “physical health,” “rehab,” or “movement.”
Becoming A Physical Therapy Brand Of Your Community In Three Steps
1. Take Ownership Of The Brand
Branding is on us. It’s on us as individual professionals. It’s on us as business units, teams, clinic sites, and departments. And, it’s on us as organizational entities.
And, when less than 10% of people in the United States who need musculoskeletal care, ultimately receive care from a Physical Therapist… that, is a problem. A big one. And! When you consider that in the private practice sector alone, approximately half of our businesses have website at all; and, most of them haven’t been updated in even the last ten years… it’s a huge problem!
The problem is, as much as we intrinsically own our brand, we do a terrible job expressing this externally. Think of any profession or industry who you feel may be a “competitor” or at the very least, a less than friendly “substitute.” I guarantee you, they funnel more funds, more resources, and more collective efforts in marketing their brand than we do in physical therapy.
If we hope to achieve the aim of being a profession of the community, we must be visible! To be visible, we must take ownership in all the channels to which we are visible to the general healthcare consumer, and most importantly, meet them where they are.
That means we need to get on our digital media game; revamp our websites (or get one, period), get on all the social platforms specific to our key customer segments, share our patients’ victory stories, and have a strong physical presence at community events as sponsors.
Bringing us to Step #2.
2. Give Generously To The Community
Let me start off with a short home video & a few snapshots of a local fair I went to a week or so back.
For years now, I’ve been advocating for physical therapists to be a champion within their communities, starting from K-12… not to be a practicing clinician paid for by schools. No! DONATING our time, our care, our expertise, and being open with our relationships… that we may be a present and meaningful resource to the people immediately around us. Not just now, but an entire generation and generations to follow.
If you wish to become a physical therapy brand of your community, you must first give and bring value to your community — generously! Then, you’ll have an open, social dialogue to ask nicely.
3. Warmly Welcome Through Open Doors
Once you are visible, and, once you are publicly seen giving generously to the community, the conversation is now open for “the ask.”
Like most consumer types, communities ultimately ask two questions before answering, “Yes.”
- Do I like you?
- Can I trust you?
If the answers are “Yes” and the “No” is removed, then you will have successfully entered the community social ecospheres as a welcome brand that is seen as a giver, rather than a taker. But, then… the questions beg: How do you keep on giving? And, how do you keep on asking, nicely?
The answer is a simple one, but not easy: Be consistent!
By consistently giving out good content, a strong presence at community events, having a positive online presence that meaningfully engages audiences on an organic level… such activities are the ways some of the most successful brands become pillars of community values and lifestyles. It is only through consistency in the quality of your product, your brand experience, and the way you continually receive and respond to the needs of your community that they will finally care about your physical therapy brand.
Some Closing Thoughts
For the last several series of physical therapy conventions, there have been some major themes, one which included the call to become a profession of the community.
Why should anyone care about what you are selling? How do we become a pillar of the community? What steps must be taken to get communities to care about physical therapy?
The answers is: Yes to all. Meaning, it is only through such an approach in unison, that communities will care. In physical therapy, we welcome the celebration of diversity; however, we must strengthen our edge in unity that we may be truly effective at transforming society.
How do we unify?
That, would be a post for another time 😉
More About Today’s Contributor Joe Lipsky, SPT, CSCS
“As a passionate professional, I constantly seek to identify the issues commonly found in leadership, communication, and educational functions within the healthcare field. My goal is to understand these issues and work with my peers in the healthcare community to find and streamline solutions to them. From a fitness perspective, my objectives are utilize training and rehabilitation to help each individual over obstacles, realized their potential, and achieve optimal performance.”