Social media used to be easy.
It wasn’t long ago that you could post a link to a news article or a photo from the office and get a lot of engagement. Now, everyone looks like a public figure on Instagram, with magazine-quality images–not to mention all the dancing happening on Reels.
And while you don’t have to look like a pop star to build an audience online as a physician, it does help if your content is branded. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be so hard or expensive.
In a market that’s completely flooded with content from other physicians, branding lets your target audience get a sense of who you are and what it is like to work with you. When you consistently use images and language that resonate with your target audience, they can feel like you are talking directly to them. Branding helps you build trust and stand out.
In a market that's completely flooded with content from other physicians, branding lets your target audience get a sense of who you are and what it is like to work with you. Click To Tweet
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re a busy physician, and you’re busy with charting, seeing patients and perhaps even running your own healthcare side hustle.
Instead of putting branding off until you have more time or paying thousands for an agency to do it for you, you can do it yourself in just a little bit of time.
What is branding?
First, let’s establish what is branding.
According to Hubspot, “Branding is the process of researching, developing, and applying a distinctive feature or set of features to your organization so that consumers can begin to associate your brand with your products or services.”
It’s the colors you use, your logo, the style of images you choose and the voice, tone and language in your content.
Branding even affects what channels you use to promote your services. If you are targeting a medical audience to become a thought leader and speaker, it might be off brand for you to spend a lot of time making Tik Toks and Reels.
Branding is a way to present the experience of what it’s like to be your patient or hear you speak.
Why physicians need branding
Doctors can most certainly do without branding.
If you’re building an audience to become known as a thought leader, there’s not necessarily a sign you have to put over your practice. So, why should you bother spending time or money on building a brand?
I spent 10 years working in freelance content marketing and didn’t have much of a brand beyond my basic website and business cards (does anyone use business cards anymore?!). But, once I launched my healthcare marketing business full time, with plans to grow, I needed a brand.
Branding is an indicator that you’re more serious about your goals for building an audience on social media. It’s part of spreading the word about the service you provide. When you have a strong brand, just an image of yours can help promote what you do.
Branding helps physicians present a more authentic version of the practice or business
For many doctors, YOU actually are the brand.
Patients choose your services over others specifically because of you. They may choose you because they like your personality, approach, attitude, personal touch and experience.
Branding gives your target audience a taste of what you are like. It’s how patients can get to know, like and trust you. If they do meet you in person in the office or at a conference, it should already feel familiar.
What happens when you don’t have a brand
Not having a brand can actually harm your business.
I’ll illustrate this with an example of comparing two hypothetical adolescent specialists. I’m a mom of four, so let’s say I’ve received two referrals of private practice specialists from my kids’ pediatrician. I check them both out, and one has an outdated website and posts sporadic quotes and flyers to social media. The other has a modern website and respectable amount of content on social media so that I can get a sense of what she is like. My teen can get a sense of what it might be like to meet with her. No doubt, we’re going to go with the latter.
Now, hold up, you’re saying.
Plenty of outstanding providers have a waiting list simply by word of mouth. This is true. And if that’s working for you, then go on with just being you.
But you might be a physician just starting out in private practice or starting a side gig, and you have to build up your reputation. Or maybe you were busy before the pandemic, and things have slowed down since then.
Branding can help you build your reputation.
How to build your own brand
Until recently when free platforms like Canva became popular, branding your business meant hiring an agency or a graphic designer at the very least. If you have the money, or you don’t have a creative bone in your body, then you can still take this route.
But, if you are even a little creative, you can do this yourself.
Here are some tools I use to for branding my own company and those of my clients
Choose your colors
Canva: Canva Pro is the tool I use for branding all my templates and images. I have a graphic design background, and I usually still use Canva instead of the Adobe Creative Suite.
There are loads of brand strategists that will go deep into color psychology, and by all means, go on and check them out. However, there is a lack of actual scientific research to back these ideas. According to Psychology Today, “…elements such as personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, context, etc., often muddy the effect individual colors have on us. So the idea that colors such as yellow or purple are able to evoke some sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as your standard Tarot card reading.”
I prefer to stick with colors I like.
Choose images you like with a similar brand feel
Canva also has loads of photos you can choose from to create your brand. You want to go with one style and color palette for your photos as well to create a brand feel. Outside of Canva, lots of independent photographers send out beautiful curated images you can use to create your brand feel. Jasmine Star’s Social Curator is one of the better known ones, but there are plenty of other boutique stock photo shops, like KK Stock Shop.
Whether you find them in Canva or drag them into there, you can add these to your Canva brand kit so that they’re ready when you need them.
DIY your own logo
Canva lets you create your own logo from a template, and once you change the colors, fonts and even image elements, it will be your own original creation.
Once you get started with your brand colors, style and tone, you can build and grow with it. One of the best parts of using digital content for marketing is that nothing you create is set in stone.
So get out there and create.