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When you build name recognition, your laboratory pops into your dentist-client's mind first. In this tight economy, consider using downtime to develop your public relations (PR) strategy, thereby increasing your exposure while reinforcing trust, loyalty and respect in your relationships.
While PR initiatives are often no- or low-cost, they do require a commitment of time to develop your message and broadcast it regularly through the press, your own media and community involvement. And although success may be hard to quantify in accounting terms, studies show companies that cut back on their investment in PR activities often have a simultaneous decrease in sales.
The two questions to ask when developing a PR plan are: "What information will benefit our clients?" and "How can we broadcast it?"
Following are some ideas for jumpstarting your foray into public relations:
Be Delivered—Through the Newspaper
Is there a hot dental issue in the general media? Call your local paper's health editor and offer to answer any questions he may have.
Send a letter to the editor offering the dental laboratory perspective on concerns about lead in restorations, offshore outsourcing or other issues.
Send a press release to the local newspaper when you have a noteworthy business development, such as opening a new denture department, a 10-year anniversary in business, or hiring new managers. Or, if your employees pitch in for a day at a local charity, send their picture to the paper.
These mentions are the little reminders that keep your name on the tip of many tongues not just of the general public, but also the editors when they're looking for an expert source. More importantly, it validates your credibility to be featured by a third party rather than in your own promotional pieces.
Be Seen as an Expert
Speak before civic organizations and senior groups on relevant patient-education topics, such as restorative options and how healthy smiles affect self esteem and overall health and contribute to helping victims of domestic violence, bulimia or drug abuse get back on their feet.
Offer to speak on these topics on locally produced cable and talk radio as well as at health and wellness fairs.
Be Your Own Media
Develop an e-newsletter for dentists. Use it to call attention to time-saving opportunities on your website, such as customized prescription forms, delivery schedules, impression-taking tips, practice management strategies, and requests for tool and equipment loans if you offer them.
Provide patient education materials for your dentist-clients such as brochures or information sheets on metal-free options, nightguards, understanding the process of try-ins and provisional cases for denture patients.
Be a Part of the Community
As a member of the local business community, you need to network and be involved. Being seen in the community makes it harder for dentists to outsource if they understand that it hurts your business and employees who are, in turn, customers in their local businesses. It may also smooth the way if you need to face your neighbors or the zoning board to expand your facility.
Team up with a dentist and a local nonprofit organization to donate your services to those in need.
Sponsor a work day for your employees to assist a community group or family in need through organizations like the United Way or Habitat for Humanity.
Sponsor a local youth sports team and be amazed by the visability your lab's name will have on the backs of 12 Little Leaguers.
Take out a small ad in your local symphony or chamber music series program book to show that you support organizations that your dentist-clients value (doctors and dentists make up a dedicated demographic that support arts organizations).
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