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?

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? Whether you realize it or not, there are aspects of your professional and personal life that people would find interesting and inspiring. 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 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? Yet, we still know a lot about them, and we’ve seen them featured in a variety of media.

While Jordan and De Niro are hardly true storytellers, and reluctant interviewees at best, they make themselves 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 they do, then, is answer questions about their life and experience. You can do the same. The press wants to know you – all you need to do is make yourself available.

Here’s how to get in front of your local media hounds in three easy steps:

1. Check out your local publications

First, pick up a copy of each of your local papers (including regional business pubs) and leaf through them to get a feel for what makes each particular news outlet “tick.” For example, who are their advertisers? What day of the week do they feature local businesses, or health topics, or anything relevant to your expertise? Getting a feel for this will provide you with the necessary insight to pitch reporters.

2. Find those local writers handling topics you can address

Once you’ve pored over the papers, take note of who is writing about the topics you can speak to, and go online to find out how to get in touch. In larger markets, keep in mind 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.” The same is true for local radio and television. By way of example, this is what the staff of the Chicago Tribune looks like:,0,3525235.htmlstory

Then, simply introduce yourself to let them know you’re available as a resource. If you’re genuine in your approach and consistent with your follow-up, you will begin to score some wins.

3. Tools to find reporters

BONUS TIP! Use tools like Twellow and Muck Rack to find reporters on Twitter, 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, and 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.

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. That might work from a philosophical standpoint, but in the real world, avoiding the spotlight can keep your business from achieving its true potential. To a degree, dentistry operates in the shadows of the public consciousness, 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, get some press and reap the rewards you deserve.

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