When most people talk about “social purpose strategy” they usually mention some of the companies that have been most successful to making it part of their branding and marketing. Patagonia is one of the first to come to mind—their constant commitment to environmental matters and to a manufacturing process that pays fair wages to workers shows concern for working environments and addresses sustainability and global concerns.
Their angle is to emphasize the social benefits their mission (i.e. social purpose strategy) brings to consumers and the world at large. Patagonia has built this message into every aspect of their product line and image. It’s a key element of developing a strong customer relationship, to develop and maintain a strong brand loyalty.
Recently I was speaking with a physician friend who regaled me with a wonderful story about volunteer work he did annualy deep in the Central American jungle. These trips were part of the only annual visit to this remote region made by doctors in his specialty, and there would be long lines awaiting the opening of their mobile clinic every morning they were there. Treating dozens of patients every day, of all ages, was clearly one of the things he looked forward to every single year.
Doctors of all stripes that I’ve met or worked with over the years have had similar stories. Doctors are giving people. They are also reticent to talk about the wonderful work most of them do, pro-bono, in their local communities and around the globe on mission trips.
So why don’t doctor’s expose these activities to their patients? In the twenty plus years I’ve been working with them there’s only one (!) physician I can think of who even had pictures in his office that revealed how he donated his time and efforts to provide care to those without it. (This excludes ortho-pods, who are quick to paper their offices with pictures from athletes and athletic organizations they work with and keep healthy.)
I would suggest that docs add social purpose strategy to their efforts to brand. If you support a group like Doctors Without Borders, put up some pics of trips made on their behalf, or even information about the group in your waiting room. If you work a mobile healthcare unit in Central America or Africa, why not display some pictures from these trips along the office walls? If you’re involved in a local free clinic, how about literature that explains what/who the clinic treats, along with donation contact information?
Patients today are told they are “consumers” of healthcare. The fact that you’re a great doctor is always, first and foremost is your best calling card. But to further your reputation (i.e. brand), there’s nothing wrong with letting your patients, and the community, know about the things you do, on your own time, and often at your own expense, to make the world a better place. Consumers like to do business with those that give back, and doctors give a lot. Integrate social purpose strategy into the way you look at your overall marketing and the image you project. Your patients will appreciate you even more.---TOM ELLIS III
Tom has been a healthcare consultant in the North Texas area for over twenty years, and has worked with a variety of clients, focusing on physicians. More information on Tom can be found at www.ellisandassoc.com.