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Branding Physical Therapy

Branding Physical Therapy

Entry-level degrees. Clinical education. Certifications. Dedicated hours of clinical practice. 

You are doing everything you can to increase your knowledge base, expand your clinical reasoning skills, and broaden your clinical experience. It's all moving in the right direction, just the way you had imagined.

And then, someone asks you: what do you do? Or perhaps it is phrased as "what does a physical therapist do?".

There is a pause. Of course, you know what you do - right?

Physical therapists know what they do. Of course they do. But ask any of them and you will get many ummms and hmmms and wordy descriptions. You might even hear talk of quality or value or practitioner of choice. All of those words sound good. But does it provide the consumer with a unique positioning statement?

Tom Peters, in his book "The Brand You 50", notes the importance of writing an eight word personal positioning or branding statement. Quoting Jay Levinson and Seth Godin,

"If you can't describe your position in eight words or less, you don't have a position"

Eight words. That's all you get to summarize what you do, your unique value proposition, your unique position.

After all the work you have done, it just doesn't seem fair to reduce it to eight words, does it?

Of course, you can have a long-winded statement about all of the professional values, where the profession will be in 20 years, and the like. All those things are valuable - to someone. But I ask you this: does the consumer know what a physical therapist does?

With the transition in entry-level education and the self-perceived value of it, the branding and positioning statement often starts with "I am a [doctor/masters] of physical therapy" or "physical therapy is a doctoring profession" or the like. Well, that's great and all, but it doesn't tell people what we ALL do.

It becomes even more critical in the digital world. On the web, the most important information on a web page should be "above the fold" to prevent a viewer from scrolling to find something. Add in some white space, and those eight words become even more important. A world of status updates and 140 characters doesn't leave you with much room for error.

Perhaps the most important of all is one simple premise: If you don't define the market, it will define you.

We can take solace in the fact that this isn't a unique problem for the physical therapy profession. Whew. Many professions struggle with this challenge repeatedly in the course of their history and evolution.

Branding physical therapy - or any other profession, for that matter - requires a unique blend of skills. It is the intersection between "wordsmithing" and "perception is reality". It has to have impact and meaning for the consumer, and it needs to ring loud and clear. It also needs to resonate amongst those within the profession as a whole.

I have suggested in previous posts that we start with two words: movement experts. Everyone knows what movement is, and they become acutely aware of when they aren't moving as well as they would like or need to move better or more optimally.

You have eight words. Which words are you going to use?

Photo credits: spinster cardigan

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