By Claudio Gormaz

It appears that the expression “fake news” has become part of the modern lexicon. Indeed, lately, it has swirled around the topic of politics. However, regardless of your political stance, we all turn toward authoritative sources to get our daily information (otherwise known as the news media).

With the expansion of social media, these news platforms have broadened immensely; many would argue, this expansion has watered down the quality of the news reported. Think about it, this medium that we all use determines many aspects of our lives, everything from how to dress in the mornings based on the weather report, how to invest our money based on financial news, even where to eat based on restaurant reviews.

When the very sources that we depend upon to provide us with this valuable information are compromised by bad blood, envy, or downright mean-spiritedness, we all suffer! By no means is anyone suggesting that all news needs to feature reports on rainbows and unicorns, we can handle bad news—just let it be honest, impartial, and without an agenda.

The fact is that false narratives (otherwise known as yellow journalism) are nothing new. Many documented journalistic sources trace this type of news delivery to William Randolph Hearst in the modern era (though it’s been around since men could speak).

However, with the propagation of social media, fraudulent claims (in a printed format) are rampant. These events are concerning when companies hire people to falsely accuse competitors in the business of bad service, negligence, deception, and worse on various social platforms.

Since the early 2000s, we have seen a stark change in the way in which people connect via social media. In the early part of this century, businesses created and developed their websites as an information vehicle for their company; essentially, websites were static, four-color brochures. There was no thought given to creating an interactive medium where clients could leave comments let alone share content with friends.

We can all acknowledge that this is a far cry from what we know today. We all accept that the sole purpose of one’s website is to provide information as well as to create channels that encourage cross-pollination.

Fast-forward a decade and a half: comments and sharing have exploded, sadly not always for the better. The general public is invited to voice their opinions. Some people have legitimate axes to grind, yet others will use this forum in an attempt to destroy.

As such, many people will gladly air their complaints on social media platforms (millions per day) like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

Now, no one is saying that if a person has a genuine complaint or they have been wronged, they shouldn’t be able to express their dissatisfaction. However, there are many examples of horrible posted comments that have no basis in truth.

The point of this article is to help you; how you, as a responsible medical provider, can defend or perhaps insulate yourself against false accusations and unfair comments.

First and foremost, you need to be proactive and diligent. You need to find out if anyone is posting anything about you. I would suggest “Google Alerts”; they have an excellent and free system whereby you will periodically be sent information in the form of an email on whatever topic you would like (in this case the topic is you). So if someone is writing something about you, you will know it.

Secondly, and just as important, you need to shore up your reputation management campaign. The truth of the matter is that you really can’t stop people from saying untruths about you. Sure, you can get injunctions and court orders, but at the end of the day, you can’t prevent the readers of those posts from developing their perception of you. More importantly, we’ve all heard the old expression that “perception is reality” regardless of how diligent and responsible you are; so the question becomes, how do you get and stay in front of those false impressions?

Your reputation in town is everything. To have a successful practice, you need to make sure you’re a doctor in good standing within your community.

Your principal focus needs to be to develop the deepest roots possible with your patients as the best option around. What you’re trying to do is create an impenetrable fortress of goodwill from your patients.

Fill your office, your website, and your promotional ventures with testimonials. For example, feature on your website 30, 50 or 80+ testimonials of patients raving about the fantastic service you provided, and about the post-treatment follow-up calls you made to them, or how compassionate and empathetic you are. All these things go a long way toward building your reputation fortress.

But what exactly do you say? Before you can say anything, you have to know to whom you’re speaking. Traditionally, being all things to all people is a surefire recipe for failure.

You need to target your audience; which means, you need to do an inventory of your current patient base, and this is the only way to develop your reputation as “the” resident expert in your county on “this” particular condition.

  • To create your inventory, you will need to determine why they [patients] come to see you. You will have to sort out your patients according to ailments. So, you may notice that the majority of your patients come to you to treat their jaw reshaping, eye lid surgery, post-gastric bypass procedures, etc.
  • Say, for example, you establish your reputation as the pre-eminent gynecomastia specialist in town. Begin by focusing your message on those particular patients with that condition in your practice. You target your writing very specifically, with engaging content, on your blogs, newsletter, materials you send, e-books you write, etc.

* You may have several niches, so write and target your marketing to each particular segment. Create different pages for your website for each condition.

  • Write robust and informative pieces; but consider your audience, and translate medical jargon into language that is easy to understand and grasp. I believe that it was Albert Einstein that said the definition of genius is, “Taking the complex and making it simple.”
  • Create your testimonials on video (about 2 minutes long). Feature each of those testimonials on your landing page of your website; and include a monitor in your waiting area that shows your written testimonials and these videos on a running circuit. Include patients that are thrilled with the results of their treatment.

Make sure your videos are relatable, for example: “gone are the days of constant pains and discomforts,” as patients describe their physical difficulties before they saw you. Gone are the frustrations of not being able to correct their gynecomastia with exercise and weight training. No more self-consciousness when going to the beach or the gym. The constant stress when making wardrobe decisions, etc. Every video should engage and compel!

At the end of the day, might there be someone who says something fraudulent about you? Sure.

Remember, what you say about yourself carries no weight. However, what others say about you is priceless! You will make your case by the sheer volume of positive testimonials from patients that are “raving fans.”

The cornerstone of good reputation management is the ability to navigate your practice through the storms and tempests. Continue doing great work; only from now on, let others know how good your patients think you are.

Just remember, you can’t transform, build or enhance your reputation in the dark. You will solidify your reputation on what others say about you; so shine the light proudly on your achievements and superior service!

Claudio Gormaz, along with business partner Steve Cox, are medical marketing strategists. They have worked with the medical community for over 2 decades. Many prominent practices in the country have benefited from their promotional strategies, developed fruitful and predictable advertising messages, as well as creating solid branding platforms while elevating their resident expert status. They are also highly accomplished business storytellers converting the complex into memorable narratives. They can be contacted via 530-492-9971, StevenVonLoren Marketing Strategists, or their personal emails: [email protected] and [email protected].