Personal branding for doctors: Being yourself can enhance your practice

People draw conclusions from every instance of your name being mentioned. Your brand is the way you are currently perceived as a doctor, but branding is not marketing. Put simply, personal branding is about being authentic and delivering value.

Branding is becoming increasingly crucial in today's world, even beyond the corporate workplace. Whether you work in a hospital or other healthcare setting, your branding is already evident to everyone you interact with.

Something as small and seemingly insignificant as your listing on your hospital's or practice's website communicates information about you.

If you are not actively managing your brand, it will be inconsistent, which can detract from how you are perceived as a doctor, potentially harming your image.

In a recent survey, 70 percent of participants believed that they had defined their brand and 50 percent believed that they were living it consistently. However, only 15 percent had truly defined it and under 5 percent were consistently managing it.

"Branding is important, more important than most of us realize, within medicine and without, although most people outside the business community don't use that term," Jeffrey M. Brown, M.D. - a family physician in California, who writes a regular column for Physician's Money Digest - told Medical News Today.

"Fortunately, once we are aware of it, and perhaps the studies that validate its value, we can manipulate it. Because of course branding can work in both a positive and negative direction," he added.

Ultimately, branding can help you to expand your practice, increase referrals, and increase the number of procedures that you perform.

Having a strong brand allows you to develop a reputation that makes people want to work with you, helps them trust you, and makes them expect a certain level of quality and consistency from you.

In the first article in our series on branding, we bring you tips on how to get started with defining and sharing your brand.

How to define your brand

Branding is about differentiating yourself, and authenticity is key.

Without this, branding would be merely acting - an empty, exhausting endeavor as you struggle to play a role that doesn't come naturally to you.

Being yourself sounds easy. But it also requires you to truly know yourself, and to know your unique talents and strengths.

Defining your brand is a thoughtful process that should not be rushed. Even if you are not running a private practice, you should think of yourself as an embedded entrepreneur. A successful brand helps you to make the best of yourself and your hospital or practice.

The first step is identifying your talents and strengths. When defining who you are and your unique abilities, the goal is to determine how they can be used to benefit others in your daily practice.

It can be helpful to consider how other people perceive you, and what they appreciate about you.

If reviews have been written about you or your practice online, read through them to gain valuable insights. The better you understand your value to others, the more relevant and compelling your brand will be.

Take time to reflect on your purpose, including why you chose your line of work and why you continue to do it. Global brand strategist Blaise James suggests a three-part approach:

  1. First, create a statement of purpose by finishing the sentence, "I'm in the business of..."

  2. Next, he recommends thinking about your point of view and your beliefs. These are inherently more personal and singular than your purpose. This can be done by completing the sentence, "I believe the world would be a better place if..."

  3. And finally, he suggests forming principle statements, which demonstrate how you act on your purpose. To create principle statements, you can complete the phrases, "I always...", "I only...", and "I never..."

Keys to branding

Branding starts with who you are and how you are perceived. But the perception is not only of your competence, but also of your character, including your standards and communication style.

"Everything you do and say can affect others' perception of who you are and what you do, like it or not," said Dr. Brown.

The strength of your soft skills directly affects the success of your brand. Soft skills include your ability to:

  • adapt
  • collaborate well with others
  • interact easily with dissimilar people
  • reason under pressure
  • communicate in a clear and compelling way

Such skills can be strengthened by working with a mentor or coach.

In his New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence, renowned psychologist and science writer Daniel Goleman uses brain and behavioral research to show how IQ intelligence is ultimately limited in predicting personal success.

Instead, he presents emotional intelligence as the strongest success indicator and defines it as a set of skills stemming from self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation, and empathy.

Consistent behavior is also critical to your brand. The more consistent you are, the more you strengthen your brand, one encounter at a time.

How to share your brand

All the work invested in defining your brand is wasted unless you know how to share it.

"How you project your brand is key," said Dr. Brown. "Doctors in the U.S. get no exposure to business and organizational concepts as part of their training, so if they learn at all, it is the hard way, messy as that usually turns out to be."

When it comes to your brand, every interaction is an opportunity to share it. From a quick phone call or a routine appointment to a conversation in passing in the hall, the people you are speaking to are forming an opinion of you and are left with an opinion of your brand.

In addition to these everyday encounters, you can also disseminate your brand in a more deliberate, thoughtful way.

Thought leadership is especially crucial for physicians. Your expertise is what draws your patients to you and keeps them coming back to you, making it an essential part of your brand and an efficient outreach tool.

One way to establish yourself as a thought leader is by speaking to groups. Identify the most relevant groups and events that could benefit from your expertise, and reach out to them. If your goal is to be of service, you can make more authentic connections and expand your network organically.

You can also share your knowledge by writing articles for journals, local newspapers, or newsletters. The written word can have a powerful, lasting impact.

Dr. Brown has been putting these concepts into action by speaking to groups and spending the past 15 years penning his weekly financial column.

"This whole field is an effort to amend doctors' knowledge base, for it has a surprisingly large effect upon patient care and the cost of patient care," he explained.

Indeed, the most visible way that your brand is shared is through your online presence. By building and actively managing your brand online, you reach the widest audience, with the potential to yield the greatest results.

In the next article in our series, we will take you through the most impactful online media tools that you can tap into to share and build your brand.

We will give you practical tips on how to get started on these and ways of combining multiple platforms to maximize your output.