At a time when patients are stretching their dollars more than ever and competition for business is hotter than ever, aesthetic practices would do well to seek out public relations to build goodwill and patient awareness.

Even in such a competitive marketplace, there are specific actions you can take to ensure that patients will find your practice and refer others to your practice, and to keep current patients returning for ongoing treatments and procedures.

Both advertising and public relations can be very effective methods to drive business while creating buzz for your practice. Whereas many MDs may turn to advertising to spread information, public relations could be an even more effective activity.

With a generous budget, advertising definitely produces calculated, scheduled message delivery. On the other hand, public relations can produce third-party validation. Imagine an editor or newscaster inviting you on the air or planning to write about you in print, effectively delivering your message for you.

Successful public relations require the “right” third party who can be your advocate. This might take the form of hiring an in-house specialist or securing the help of an outside consultant, publicist, or even a public relations firm. Public and media relations work best when the person represented has professional chemistry with his or her representation.


When armed with the right information and tools, a public relations expert can do many positive things for you. As such, once she secures an opportunity for you to speak with media, it’s best to be prepared when you contact journalists. Here’s how you can do it: Be prepared to speak to the topic in layman’s terms. Keeping your talking points brief and simple is a winning strategy, one that will more effectively communicate your story.

On a local level, positive word of mouth is the most effective way to get patients to enter your office. In these belt-tightening times, it isn’t an easy task. Treat the media as you would your patients. Take advantage of the intimate time you share by answering questions with patience and candor. The more a patient trusts you, the more likely he or she will return and refer friends.

When working with a publicist, the most important thing to keep in mind is that he is only as good as his contacts. Moreover, he can only be as good as the direction and instruction that you give him.

Be aware that media placements take a minimum of 90 days to turn around. With determination and a good story to tell—as well as a great bedside manner—people will want to read about you.

The questions to ask a prospective public relations consultant or expert include the following:

  • Does the firm’s representatives understand your challenges and your goals?

  • Are they creative thinkers?

  • Are they well connected to the media you need to reach?

  • Do they have solid contacts in the aesthetic beauty and health fields?

  • Does the firm have a track record of consistent results that are relevant to your project?

  • Are they the right size firm for your project? and,

  • Are their existing and past clients happy with their work?


Collaborating with the right public relations consultant or firm can yield powerful results for your brand and your practice, including but not limited to the following:

  • The cross-selling effect heightens awareness of your practice and your areas of expertise.

  • The client-retention effect reassures patients that they have chosen the physician who will safely and effectively treat them (as well as long-lasting results).

  • This business tool can be used to create marketing collateral that is better than using just brochures.

  • The marketing effect nudges potential patients to pick up the phone and call you.

  • The selling effect can positively influence new patients who are contemplating hiring you or referring you to their friends.

  • Brand building strategically positions your practice in the marketplace.

A good publicist will work with you and your staff to help create a meaningful media action plan. Made up of many components, this plan should be reviewed and revisited on an ongoing basis. It should address and include the following components:

  • Determine your goals;

  • Figure out the right timing of your projects;

  • Answer the question, “What’s your public-facing story?”

  • Targets;

  • Outcome; and

  • Budget.

A solid public relations consultant will come with integrated media contacts. She should be able to take your message and develop a meaningful story that resonates with writers and producers in your field. The list should include the following:

  • Newspapers, including health, beauty, women’s, and lifestyle publications;

  • Regional magazines, which contain a lot of “advertorial” (paid-for editorial content);

  • Television stations, if you are ready for that type of exposure;

  • Radio stations, including talk radio shows and health shows;

  • Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, which are more than meets the eye; and

  • Blogs, which should never be underestimated as a medium (the print-publishing world, as we have known it, is evolving electronically).


Key Public Relations Components

Media coverage is not paid for;
  • Media crafts the message;

  • Timing is in the hands of media;

  • The public often sees the subtle message as more believable or neutral. PR offers third-party credibility;

  • Persuasion is artfully inserted in fact-based content; and

  • The campaign can be reshaped midstream, relatively quickly.

Key Advertising Components
  • Media space/time must be paid for;

  • The message is predetermined;

  • Timing is generally controlled;

  • The public may see the message negatively (people are tired of manipulative “in your face” ads);

  • Persuasion is often creative and conversational; and

  • Your campaign needs to morph over time in order to be effective with the public.

A strong public relations practitioner works with you and your practice to develop strong message points. When she goes to the press, she is always armed with those key message points. She fills the communication tool bag with multiple types of written outreach, which will help get your story told.

You owe it to her to keep her abreast of all that is happening in your practice. Try to put yourself in her shoes. Ask yourself, “What is significant about what I’m saying? Why would anyone care?” The more clearly you can answer these questions yourself, the better you will come across—and the more likely you will get “some ink.”

For example, tell her about papers you’ve authored, books you’ve written, and procedures that are popular in your practice. As you can, quantify results.

Your public relations consultant will then go to the media with the following tools:

  • Press release;

  • Fact sheet;

  • Pitch letter;

  • Before-and-after photos;

  • Biography;

  • Media alerts;

  • Twitter points;

  • Facebook support; and,

  • A way to thank the editor who writes an article about you, no matter the outcome.


You may never be front-page, feature-story news, but you may be quoted repeatedly in stories written by leading journalists. You may find that editors refer new patients to your practice, too. The key to effective public relations is a cumulative effect.

It has become increasingly difficult for publicists to generate big stories in this space, especially in light of the economic climate. If you are not located in a major media outlet, your chances of being covered drop considerably. Ditto if you are not telegenic.

This is a hard lesson for you to learn. Far too often, physicians hire good public relations experts but don’t give them what is needed to provide adequate representation—in terms of stories, case studies, data, and before-and-after photos.

As one busy PR person stated to me recently, the best bang for the buck for younger physicians is undoubtedly found by going online—although physicians of all ages can learn the “online ropes.” Web optimization techniques, social networking, and internal marketing can generate a better return on investment. Being involved in clinical trials also affords the media-savvy physician an opportunity to be quoted in the trade press, which resonates with the media. Once they are able to build up their brand, they will be ready to work with a professional PR firm.

Melissa Kelz is president of Melissa Kelz Communications Inc, a Chicago-based PR agency that specializes in health, beauty, and not-for-profit campaigns. She can be reached at .