Plastic Surgery Practice May 2014

By Denise Mann, Editor

I was pitched an exclusive article by a well-known dermatologist on a hot technology in an even hotter category. The “pitcher” worked for said doctor. This is a common scenario, as few doctors do their own outreach and marketing.

I took the bait. I wanted the story. I asked the right questions. Is this submission original? Yes. Is it being pitched elsewhere? No. Can you supply artwork? Of course.

I edited the text, asked more questions, and received acceptable answers via email. I requested before-and-afters, and I got those, too. So far, so good. Correct? Then, serendipitously, an advisor who is interested in the procedure mentioned that he didn’t know that Dr. X had or used the technology. It’s a small world, so alarms went off.

I called the “pitcher” and was told that of course he did, but he doesn’t use it every day yet, and the photos were definitely his. I asked if he leased or bought the equipment. I got a vague response. I alerted my publisher and production team of a possible problem. I re-asked all of the same questions, harping on the before-and-afters. Good thing I did. The writer just took them from another website. They belonged to some other doctor. This is unethical, and it’s illegal. I mentioned this to the “pitcher,” who said she did not know she could not take before-and-afters from another doctor’s website. Really?

I pushed. She backpedaled. She confessed that the doctor had never used the equipment, but the article was supposed to be informational anyway, so that shouldn’t matter. Why would a reputable doctor hype a procedure he had never tried? He wouldn’t, but an unscrupulous Internet marketer would to gain links and boost SEO. (Google hates this whole strategy, by the way.)

I pulled the article and scurried for a replacement, but there will be a chilling effect when publicists or companies pitch me for their doctors. I usually go by topic and the doctor’s name and reputation when deciding if I will bite. That’s what I did here, and I still got burned.

This story is not just about me being pissed off (which, clearly, I am). It’s a bigger issue. Many doctors have worked really hard to build their practice and reputation, and know they must also cybercompete in a world they know little about. This makes them vulnerable to virtual snake oil salesmen.

This is not to say that there are not good guys out there. There are. Please learn from this tale. Ask questions and research who you hire to help you market your practice and your name. Be careful. I wasn’t careful enough.

I will be next time.

Original citation for this article: Mann D. Once Bitten, Twice Shy: A cautionary tale. Plastic Surgery Practice. 2014; May 6.