7 tips for branding: What doctors need to know

When we think of a brand, we usually think of companies such as Apple or Coca-Cola with their recognizable logos and colors. We may also think about celebrities, such as Beyoncé and the Kardashians, who have large-scale exposure and garner massive attention.

But, what is a brand? A brand is a particular identity or image that’s regarded as useful or valuable. And, a brand’s identity is how a business wants to be perceived by its customers or audience. A brand consists of many factors — the person or company’s name (think Prince), its logo, a person’s website colors and font, overall reputation and even style.

So, if you’re a medical student, a resident or an attending physician — you can’t create a brand, can you? Yes, you can! But, how? Your brand is how you uniquely and intentionally present yourself to your audience, whoever that may be at various stages in your career.

As a premedical student applying to medical school, the most successful candidates figure out their brand and “sell it” to the admissions committee: that of a hard-working, dedicated, well-rounded student who will make a competent physician. They do so by volunteering, taking on leadership positions, earning consistently high grades — basically, creating the brand of the ideal candidate that admissions offices are looking for and presenting that in a clear, succinct way.

The same applies to the medical student looking to become a resident, a resident physician looking for his or her first job or the attending physician starting a new practice … you are a brand. Whether you work to refine that brand is up to you.

So, how do you create and work this brand of yours?

1. Understand your strengths. Make an exhaustive list of your interests, what you do well and what you enjoy doing. Are you a great public speaker? Do you have an artistic bug? This is your starting point. Pay special attention to the items on the list that follow a particular theme, or areas where you already have made big accomplishments.

2. Find what you uniquely offer that others don’t. Using your exhaustive list, decide which strengths set you apart from your colleagues. Does your practice offer services that the other local practices don’t? Are you a physician who uses dance classes to help your patients with obesity? If you’re trying to pave a path in medicine, try to find the roads not already traveled or tap into your experiences outside of medicine. This is now your shorter list.

3. Now, become an expert at something. This applies to every stage of your medical career. It can be within medicine or outside of medicine. It may be related to your (non-medical) master’s degree or your outside interests. Using your shorter list, find something that you can build a brand around. Bonus points if you can tie it into your medical career (like an elite runner who ultimately goes into sports medicine).

Other examples:

  • An MD/JD student might focus on health policy or the legal aspects of medicine.
  • A new attending may become a national expert in a novel research interest.
  • An OB/GYN can become a women’s health expert with his or her sights set on going on television news shows.

4. Decide on your audience. Sit down and figure out who your audience is. If your brand is that of a stellar residency candidate, then your audience is the admissions committee. If you’re a women’s health expert, then your audience is (obviously) women. But, you could dig even deeper and decide that your audience is actually women with children or of childbearing age. If you’re the malpractice expert, your audience may be other physicians. Once you know your audience, you can prepare your wording and presentation with the audience in mind. What are they interested in? What do they like? What will win with them? How can you make their lives easier?

5. Be consistent (and think before you post). Once you decide what your brand is, stay consistent. That means that your lectures, website, social media accounts and blog should all be in line with that brand. If you must post personal photos for family and friends, then create a separate personal account. But, if your brand is “diabetes expert,” think twice before posting photos from your Cancun vacation or your sister’s baby shower on your professional social media pages (unless you can make it relevant to being a “diabetes expert”). It doesn’t mean your brand can’t evolve and change, but do so strategically — don’t bounce back and forth.

6. Find opportunities that further your brand. Find speaking engagements related to your brand. Do news interviews on relevant topics. Write news articles — in addition to academic articles — that present you as an expert on the matter. Comment on your social media feeds with applicable topics and articles. If you have time, create your own blog or podcast. Also, apply for available awards in your niche.

7. Put the time in. With some time and reflection, you can create a successful brand that will help bolster or supplement your career in medicine.

Tyeese L. Gaines is an emergency physician and can be reached at Doctor Ty Media, LLC.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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