Go Ahead, Blow Your Horn
Humility May Be a Virtue, But It Won't Help You Promote Your Practice
Congratulations…you’ve earned it, been awarded it, achieved it! And whatever “it” is—an award, a professional designation or certification—it’s time to make sure your hard work pays dividends.
Public relations expert Leza Raffel, who has worked with VHMA on special projects, is candid about the importance of promoting the achievements of your practice and staff. “Whenever a team member or the overall practice achieves something, the personal sense of accomplishment is important,” Raffel said. “But when you share this information with the public and your clients, you demonstrate that the practice takes pride in its staff, is goal-oriented and moving forward, and is committed to ensuring the best for its clients.” Promoting accomplishments enhances the practice’s professional standing and should drive clients to your door. Raffel shares some basic strategies for getting started.
Before you reach out to the media and public, Raffel suggests that the practice take a few minutes to identify the accomplishment that it wishes to profile. Consider why it is important, and decide how to best frame it so the public understands its significance. For example, if the practice manager received the Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) certification, this achievement is significant because it signifies the highest level of professional designation that a practice manager can attain. Why does the public care? The public may be interested that the practice manager’s expertise ultimately will have a positive impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the practice’s operation. Has the practice demonstrated excellence in treating a specific animal species? If yes, the publicity should stress what the staff was required to accomplish to attain the designation and how the designation sets the practice apart from others.
Put It in Writing
According to Raffel, a press release is one of the basic tools for communicating your news to the media. The press release offers a summary of the news and why it is important. The media may publish the release word for word, use it as the foundation for writing a long article, or publish a snippet of information. The press release is a vehicle for feeding information to the media, which can pass it along to the public. The release should be short, clear and concise.
A Release That Screams “Look At Me!”
Raffel offers these standard steps for writing a press release that will ensure members of the media take notice:
• Create an attention-grabbing headline, one that piques the reader’s interest.
• The first paragraph of the release is specific and summarizes the point of the release.
• In the second paragraph, flesh out the who, what, when, where and why of the story.
• If possible and appropriate, try to add a human interest approach to make the release more
• Summarize information and add practice information and contact information in the final paragraph.
Finding a Home for the Release
The goal of circulating the release is to have the information picked up in some form, such as a newspaper article, a story on an e-newsletter or blog, a mention on a website or even a TV or radio interview. To improve the chances that the release will find an audience, it is critical that you contact the right people. Check local media websites and determine which reporter covers your topic. Whether the topic is business, human interest or animal issues, there is a reporter for every story and a story for every reporter. Websites provide email addresses and phone numbers. It is best to incorporate the press release into the body of an email, as reporters receive numerous pitches a day and many are hesitant to open attachments. When submitting a business listing, refer to the guidelines identified in the “Business People” column of your newspaper.
At times you may come across a story that is a perfect segue to your news. When this happens, contact the reporter and share your news.
Online publications, such as Patch, a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing local coverage for individual towns and communities, are great resources. Go to www.patch.com to find an online site in your community. Simply follow the instructions for contacting the editor or uploading a press release.
Social Media: The Power at Your Fingertips
Social media makes it possible to spread the good news in real time. Raffel is a strong advocate of social media because of the speed at which information can be conveyed to a broad audience. Equally important is the ease of use. When considering your social media strategy, Raffel offers these reminders:
• Use the practice’s Facebook site to record information and get the conversations going. For example,
• Tweet about it!
• Send a brief email to your clients letting them know about the accomplishment and how it benefits the
Keep the Accomplishment Front and Center
The practice should not take the accomplishments of its staff lightly. Awards or designations should be highlighted in advertising and collateral materials. Business cards and other material that contain staff names should include all staff certifications and designations.
Clients place their trust in their veterinary practice when they leave furry family members in our care. As veterinary professionals, we have a responsibility to demonstrate that their trust is well placed. A successful veterinary practice requires a team of professionals who work together efficiently to provide excellent customer care that enhances the client’s experience. Underscore your professionalism by publicizing your accomplishments. Don’t keep your success a secret.
Christine Shupe is the Executive Director of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. The association is dedicated to enhancing and serving professionals in veterinary management through superior education, certification and networking. For more information, visit www.vhma.org.