Podcast: Russell Trahan on how to use publicity to grown your dental practice

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: You’re listening to Ascent Dental Solutions and Ascent Radio. I’m proud to introduce to you our thought leader today, Russell Trahan, who is owner and CEO and President of the PR/PR public relation firm. For the last 20 years, he has used his expertise in marketing and publicity, and in particular, I believe he can help the medical profession and the dental community in particular to improve our practices, improve our awareness and just overall help our businesses grow and prosper. Welcome, Russell. Thank you so much for joining us this evening.

Russell: Thank you, Dr. Coughlin. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Kevin: I understand you have some additional experiences at Stanford University that is unique for helping your business, PR/PR, and our businesses of health care in particular. Is that correct?

Russell: I did my grad work there in organizational management. Truth be told, full disclosure, I’m always very careful because you want to have truth in advertising and truth in publicity, I did my grad work there but I did not complete it. So I’m always very careful not to say that I graduated from Sanford, but I attended Stanford.

Kevin: That’s quite an honor in itself.

Russell: Thank you.

Kevin: Give the listeners a little bit of background of some of the companies that you’ve dealt with in the past.

Russell: Sure. PR/PR specializes in content experts. The client best served with our media relations is one that’s looking to position their expertise, their unique position, their controversial stance in front of their target market. Many of our clients are thought leaders in their industry, be it dental, medical, be they lawyers or business leaders, authors, particularly non-fiction authors. So anybody that wants to get name recognition in front of their target market.

Kevin: What, in your opinion, is the most effective and efficient way for us to accomplish that?

Russell: These days, it’s definitely through use of social media coupled with print media. Everybody thinks it would be sweet and sexy and everybody thinks they’ll be famous if they can get on TV or if they can get on radio. But really for that residual return on your publicity effort, online coupled with print are still the most effective.

People save magazines, they rip out pages, they bookmark, they download, they email information to friends. So to get that really long term result, because people may see your message today but not be ready to respond to it tomorrow or even next week, but when you’re online or in-print, they can always come back to it when they are ready.

But in broadcast media, which like I say, it’s great for a blip and it’s great for a spike, but next month, next week, that message is gone. So still stating online and in print is the best way to reach your target market.

Kevin:  Russ, my market is health care but dentistry in particular. There’s approximately 150,000 active practicing dentists in the United States and the average practice has between six and eight employees, revenues of between 800 and a million dollars. Is that too small a company to consider a firm like yourself or a strategy that you’re discussing?

Russell: Not at all. Really the size of their practice isn’t relevant. When publicity serves you the best, when you’re ready to start a publicity campaign or a publicity strategy is when either you’re new to the market.

Whether you’ve got one employee or six or ten, if you’re new to a market, you want to establish that name recognition. You want to position yourself in front of your potential client. Or if you are introducing a new service or you are introducing a new product. Maybe you didn’t work in a certain area before and now you’re adding that to your practice and you want to let both your established clientele and a new market know about that new service or product that you’re offering.

And also the very well established dental practice. Whether you’ve been in business for two months or two years or 20 years, you could really benefit from a publicity strategy because there are all those new dentists coming out of school and starting up their practices. So you need to maintain your name awareness in front of your established clientele as well as try to capture some new markets on occasion.

Kevin: I’ll just digress a little bit, but a story that you just jogged my memory on is approximately 17, 18 years ago, Sports Illustrated contacted me and they were interested in me doing an article on dentistry. It was a full page and at that time I think it was about $5,000. And I hummed and I hawed, I just really struggled did I want to spend that kind of money, would there be any reach for it?

And the long and short of it is, it’s just as you stated. About 18 months later, a gentleman came in with that article and he said, “I’ve been saving my money. I think that you’re an expert. I sense that you’re an expert and I’d like you to restore, not just my mouth back to normal health and function, but my wife’s.”

That gentleman spent almost $90,000 over the next six months. It just amazed me that without any prior knowledge, you hit the nail right on the head. He actually had the magazine with the article that I wrote and obviously that was a terrific return on investment. And I have not stopped marketing for my practice which now has over 100,000 patient visits a year, 14 locations and it continues to grow. And it’s thanks to people like yourself that made me think outside of the box.

If I’m not putting you on the spot, what would be a typical budget for an average dental practice? And I know there’s no such thing as average. Would you put a dollar amount on? What would you recommend?

Russell: Certainly, and I would be happy to answer that in just a moment if I can segue back to what you just said though, because it brings up an excellent point that many, I’m sure, dentists are thinking about as they’re considering publicity is they would think why do I want national press?

What good will national exposure get me? My market is here within a 50 mile radius of my practice. But how impressive was it in the eyes of your clients to see you in a national magazine? For you to use that quote “as seen in Sports Illustrated” when you are marketing to your local community? So even though you may think I’m not ready for national press or I don’t need national press because my market is local, to get that national exposure and then be that big fish in your local market pond is a wonderful way to gain that name recognition.

To answer your question directly, a good publicity campaign you’re probably going to want to budget anywhere from on the low side probably $1,000 a month anywhere up to probably $3,000 a month, depending on what combination of avenues you want to pursue. Obviously, social media, very strong, people sit down and Google everything these days.

So for you to have an online campaign positioning your name and your expertise so that when they sit down and Google “hometown dentist” your name comes up above the scroll. In the old days with newspapers you always wanted to be above the fold, but these days with everything being online, you want to be above the scroll.

And then you obviously couple that with the print media, local magazines, neighborhood newspapers, local monthly magazines as well as that national exposure. But comfortably in the range of about $1,000, you shouldn’t have to spend any more than $3,000.

Kevin: What exactly does your firm PR/PR do? I know that I’ve used you, I’m a client and I know exactly what you’re doing for me and I’m just ecstatic about the results. I’m also incredibly impressed with the expertise and professionalism, but I’m sure it’s not cookie cutter. I’m sure you are tweaking it for individual needs. Could you expand on the social media, but in particular the print media? Are these articles less than 1,000 words, more than 1,000 and so on?

Russell: Certainly, I’d be happy to. We are ecstatic with your results as well so glad to hear that you’re happy with them. You give us great content to work with so we’re glad to be able to get those results for you. The typical article these days that editors are looking for is about the 800 to 1,000 word range, about two, two and a half pages. This is longer than your average blog post which is about 300 to 500 words, so you’ve got the chance to lengthen it there to really get your point across in the 800 to 1,000 word range for the article.

Also these articles, it’s very important editors are looking for content. The editor of your local neighborhood magazine, the editor of your community monthly magazines, they are looking for content. They want educational, informational articles. It’s very important that you make them bullet-pointed, that you make them benefit-oriented, that you make them action-stepped.

These types of magazines would love articles on the top five myths of children dentistry, the top seven things you can do to make your teeth last longer. These are just off the top of my head. If you’ve got something controversial or if you’ve got a unique stance on something, that’s even better.

But then because the articles themselves are non-advertorial, the article is content driven, at the end of the article is the resource box. This is where the promotion comes in. This is where it comes in about you, your practice, your education, your specialty. This is where the call to action comes in. For more information call this number. To learn more about it, click here and you put your website on it.

That’s where the promotion is going to come in. Because when the editor realizes that you’re offering content that is going to benefit their reader, they will be more than happy to place your article for you.

Kevin: How many publications would you say on average are going out on a monthly basis? Let’s say to some of our listeners who are not as savvy with marketing and are probably just thinking about it, would it go into 10, 20, 50, 100? On average, how many magazines are reached?

Russell: In your case, since we are placing your articles into the national trade and industry and association magazines, our average for other clients is 14 placements per article. Yours are actually doing a little bit better than that because I say you’ve been giving us great content and we truly appreciate that, but focusing on that type of market typically you can get about 14 placements per article.

The way we pitch them out on a non-exclusive basis, the insurance industry doesn’t care if the restaurant industry uses it and the real estate industry doesn’t care if the landscaping industry uses it. So we can get a typical article placed into a dozen or more different magazines. If your market is different, like you said it’s not a cookie cutter system customizing it for each of our clients, that number may go up or down according to the market you’re seeking to be positioned in front of.

Kevin: Again for our listeners, I am a client of PR/PR. I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with their care and service. But just for those listening, I actually write the article. I come up with the ideas, sometimes I get some coaching and some input, and then those articles can be cleared up by the editors at PR/PR and they’re giving me points that they think maybe could be polished up or perhaps I should go into more depth or less depth and that expertise has been very insightful for me.

I can just tell you a true story, last Friday, I got a phone call from a dentist in Florida. He was interested in having me coach. He’s got four practices. He’s interested in expanding his market. He listened to the podcast, he read some of my articles on leadership and that’s a direct impact from my association with PR/PR.

Russ, as we’re getting ready to close, is there a way for our listeners to reach out either through email, Twitter, LinkedIn? How’s the best way for our listeners to get in touch with your company?

Russell: Thank you. Again, I’m so pleased that you are pleased with your results. The best way would be to visit our website www.prpr.net. My employees joke with me that whenever I say that’s Papa Romeo Papa Romeo dot net, it makes it sound like an Italian restaurant, not a publicity agency. But we are www.prpr.net. And then on the website there is a contact request form. They can give me their name, their email address, their phone number, whatever their preferred method of contact is. And write me a little note. Let me know what it is they’re looking for. Do they want to set up a call, do they just want some preliminary information? But that would be the best way to get directly in front of me is through our website www.prpr.net.  

Kevin: You’ve been listening to Russell Trahan, owner and CEO or PR/PR. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, owner and producer of Ascent Radio and you’re listening to Ascent-Dental-Solutions, with a focus on knowledge, consultation, training and development.

I also want to give special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta who has produced these podcasts over the last several months. And great thanks Russell for taking the time this evening to speak with that. I appreciate your expertise and your help and good luck in the future.

Russell: Great. Thank you, Dr. Coughlin. It was my pleasure. Thank you.