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Personal Branding for Doctors: 4 Steps to Get Started

Medical practice has changed dramatically in recent decades. Personal branding for doctors is more important than ever for growing your career.

The concept of personal branding for doctors may seem foreign to many clinicians. Branding, marketing, sales — aren’t these outside the realm of medical training? From a traditional viewpoint, this may appear true. A doctor is at heart a scientist. You receive a rigorous education; you learn the science, medical evidence and protocols; and then you apply this knowledge to help your patients get better. What does branding have to do with anything?

But physician branding can help you enormously in achieving your career goals. Physicians who successfully develop a personal brand may enjoy busier practices and more external opportunities, including nonclinical job offers and speaking engagements.

4 Steps for Personal Branding for Doctors

Although some doctors are embracing physician branding, they’re still in the minority. If you’re new to this, here are four steps you can take to begin to establish your brand.

1. Know Your Goal

Start broadly, defining your area of interest or expertise and where you’d like to be in 10 or 20 years. If you want to be seen as a go-to source of knowledge and earn a local or national reputation, you have to have a solid brand behind you. While an online presence will be key, the most basic part of establishing a brand is a desire to be at the forefront of what you do. You also have to enjoy the idea of being prominent in your field and being in the limelight.

Of course, not everyone wants to be a nationally known physician who appears on the evening news. You may just want to successfully build your local practice, attract more patients and be known to your community — or you may just want to progress in your own hospital system and climb the career ladder. That’s fine, but you’ll still need a branding strategy that suits your goals.

2. Establish a Niche

After establishing your goals, articulate what you want your brand to be focused on. Do you want to be known as a general doctor, or are you going to be focused on your specialty area? Are you an orthopedic surgeon who answers basic questions about joints and arthritis, or are you an orthopedic surgeon who focuses only on specific kinds of surgery?

This may of course naturally evolve, but you have to go into branding with the idea of yourself that you’d like to project to the world. In branding, a niche is always better than a more generic focus, and the more you can target a specific audience, the more successful your brand will be.

If you’re a physician who focuses on wellness, you could narrow your emphasis to wellness in middle-aged males, then narrow it down again to middle-aged males with obesity. If you’re aiming at a small but significant niche, your chances of gaining a successful online following and being seen as an expert will grow.

3. Get Online

We’re lucky to be living in 2020, when a message typed on a keyboard or a great online post can reach millions almost instantly. To make the most of this advantage, you need to build a website and get on social media.

Familiarize yourself with all the social media platforms physicians are using, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. You can easily build a website yourself using a platform like Wix or WordPress; if you have more money to spend, you can also hire a developer to build one for you based on your own design concepts.

Two well-known physicians who have used online branding to build a national reputation include Dr. Kevin Pho, who started the KevinMD blog and then became a speaker and media commentator, and Dr. Mikhail Varshavski (“Dr. Mike”), who initially became popular on Instagram and now regularly produces medically themed videos. The possibilities of leveraging the online world for successful branding are unlimited!

Once you know what your niche and messaging will be, use your online presence to push your message through articles and social media posts, delivering high-quality, relevant content to your target audience. If you’re producing this content in an in-demand field that people want to know more about, you’ll gain traction over time and win subscribers and viewers.

4. Develop a Thick Skin

Successfully building a brand takes a lot of time and effort. It’s not going to happen after a few blog posts or pictures posted online. Many of the prominent physicians who have developed their own brand toiled for years before they became well-known in their field.

A little-discussed part of physician branding is that because you’re putting yourself out there, you will inevitably attract criticism. Some may be from your competitors. That criticism can hurt and make you feel defensive. Don’t let it get to you or throw you off course.

Physician Branding: The New Normal

Branding is essentially about selling yourself. As corny as that may sound, the reality in any field is that you need to be selling yourself and your image. That doesn’t mean neglecting your work as a doctor, but if you don’t brand yourself, you aren’t maximizing your career potential.

The medical world has changed dramatically over the last two decades as we’ve moved from doctors working in a private small-business model to the majority of physicians now being employed by large healthcare organizations. Doctors change jobs and move from location to location like never before, and healthcare organizations merge, change their names and even lay off staff. But through these turbulent times in medical practice, your brand is something that will always stay with you.

Suneel Dhand is a physician and writer

Suneel Dhand is a physician and writer

Dr Suneel Dhand is a board-certified internal medicine physician in Massachusetts. He was born in London and grew up in Berkshire, England. He went to medical school in Cardiff and then moved across the pond, completing his internal medicine residency in Baltimore. He has since worked up and down the east coast in a variety of settings. His main clinical interests include improving the healthcare experience and physician communication skills, and preventive medicine/wellness. He has written and spoken on these topics extensively, and is the author of 3 well-being books. Dr Dhand is also the co-founder of DocsDox, a service that helps doctors find moonlighting and per-diem opportunities, minus the middle man. In his spare time, Suneel enjoys working out, swing dancing, and jetting off to his next faraway destination.

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