There’s an amusing but instructive practitioner marketing lesson to be found in listening to television interviews and discussions. The idea is to take note of a media pundit’s careful choice of words. The lesson is not so much in WHAT they say as in HOW they say it. In politics, they call it “spin.” In marketing communications, it’s called clarity of ideas and benefits.
You can observe this in everyday conversation, anytime you see a politician in the news, or while watching the morning TV “The Today Show.” For example, there was a time when “homeless people” were called, in somewhat harsh and common vernacular, “bums.”
And for almost any controversial issue, the word selection can be polarising: “Pro-choice/Pro-Life,” or “Environmental Protection/Energy Independence.”
To learn from this semantic exercise, don’t be drawn into the issue. Instead, observe how words are used to shape and present the topic. My point is that it is useful to pay attention to the power of words…even in less contentious matters such eliminating the “waiting room” in favour of a welcoming “reception area.”
The selection and frequent use of certain words and labels is, among other things, an opportunity to:
- Position or reposition your care/service
- Shape positive expectations
- Express or imply a benefit
Some practitioner marketing examples that can be used in signs, advertising, social media or everyday office conversation include:
- patient satisfaction v. patient experience
- patient service v. patient experience
- saying “We can help you,” v. asking “How can we help you?”
Words are powerful tools, but only when they are understood. The communication cycle is complete (understanding) when a patient recognises the reason and/or the benefit to them.
It’s a good idea for practitioners & clinic staff members to listen to their own vocabulary for technical terms, medical jargon and verbal shorthand. With each, consider how a well-considered new choice of words can reposition the care/service that the practice provides and communicate a more beneficial and positive meaning for patients.