The physiotherapy profession in the UK is held in high regard by the public. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and members have worked hard to achieve this. Reputation is not about how good your service is. It is all about how others see you and see the profession.
Perceptions are influenced by both direct experiences and what people hear about you from credible sources. In crude terms, the more people see or hear a positive endorsement the greater the positive impact on your reputation. However, if third parties are critical you can end up with a poor reputation despite the reality being you’re providing a great service.
The most basic way you can improve your reputation is to be clearly identifiable. If people do not know you are providing physiothepy, how can you expect them to value physiotherapy?
There are lots of ways to raise the visibility of your physiotherapy service including:
- Ensuring clear signed outside and within buildings
- Ensuing physiotherapists and physiotherapy support staff are uniformed and that their uniforms clearly shows that they are physiotherapists or physiotherapy support staff
- Wearing CSP badges where allowable
- Displaying CSP posters and other material in appropriate spaces such as patient waiting areas or staff notice boards
- Ensuring you have a website or that corporate websites lists your physiotherapy service
- Listing your service on the CSP Physio2u directory http://www.csp.org.uk/your-health/find-physio/physio2u
- Organising stalls or displays to explain what you do at a community event or in a public area of your building.
The CSP has designed logos and badges for use by individual Chartered Physiotherapists, students and physiotherapy assistants. We can also offer branded work wear and uniforms via our licensed supplier. For details visit the website: http://www.csp.org.uk/using-csp-brand
Patients will talk to friends and colleagues about their experiences. People generally trust advice from those they know. It is not surprising therefore that many private practitioners tell us that their greatest source of new referrals is personal recommendation. Physiotherapists and physiothepy support staff may feel uncomfortable about encouraging patients to spread the word about their services, but providing this is done reasonably it is not unprofessional.
Good feedback systems promote positive comments as well as complaints, so you should be encouraging patient feedback through notices asking for feedback, through patient surveys and in conversations with patients. Collecting positive patient feedback and, with their permission, sharing it with others is also a good way to promote a positive reputation.
Genuine patient endorsements can be used, with patient permission:
- on corporate websites
- in social media
- in evidence for awards
- as the basis for media case studies.
Raising your media profile
The media can have a disproportionate impact on how people see physiotherapy and individual providers. Whether you work in the NHS, private sector, education, the military or for a health charity you are potentially good news (see my blog on Ten reasons health communicators should promote physio). The CSP press team and regional campaigns officers can offer advice to members who have an opportunity to take up media opportunities in a personal or professional capacity.
If you work in the NHS, higher education, professional sport or any large organisation it is likely that your employer would expect you to talk to your press office about any media engagement. You therefore need to develop a relationship the communications team in your organisation. Ask to meet them, invite them to see your service and offer to be the subject of media stories. Suggest to them that they could work with you as part of Workout at Work Day or Older People’s Day.
If you own your own business you may want to buy in professional support. The PR consultancy sector is diverse ranging from local sole traders to multi-national agencies. If you do want to hire professional PR help; be very clear what outcome you are looking for, decide how much you can afford to spend and ensure that you are getting advice from a professional by checking the Chartered Institute of Public Relations register http://www.cipr.co.uk/pr-register.
As regulated healthcare professionals physiotherapists are responsible for the advice they give in any setting. Giving advice via the media is no different. The HCPC requires that your media activity meets four of their standards of conduct, performance and ethics:
- You must act in the best interests of service users
- You must respect the confidentiality of service users
- You must keep high standards of personal conduct
- You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.
If you are employed you will also be bound by any rules laid down by your employer.
Stakeholders are organisations or individuals who influence your work or the environment in which physiotherapy takes place. Your stakeholder could include:
- Senior managers or Board members
- Other health professionals who refer patients to you
- Insurers or other funders
- Local businesses
- Local sports clubs
- Service commissioners/ local health boards
- Patient groups
- Local councillors, MPs, MSPs, AMs or MLAs.
You will want to maintain a good reputation with your stakeholders because they are likely to have a major impact on your service and because they will often influence wider public perceptions of your service. A positive endorsement by a third party in the media is particularly valuable.
If you are not sure who your stakeholders are, go through a stakeholder mapping exercise:
- List all the different people and groups who impact on your service.
- Log them on an influence/interest in grid to help identify who you need to focus on
|High Influence over you
|Priority – Build relationship
|Priority – maintain relationship
|Low influence over you
|Low interest in you||High Interest in you|
- Work out what your priority stakeholders might want from you and what you have to offer them.
- Decide what you need from them
- Plan how to engage those you don’t have an established relationship with.
Unless you have a very clear business opportunity to pitch to a stakeholder, and are in a position to approach them directly, you are likely to need to start by getting the attention of a target stakeholder. Good ways of engaging stakeholders can include:
- Inviting them to visit your service to see first hand what you do
- Asking to meet with them to discuss areas of mutual benefit
- Inviting them to share in a PR opportunity such as Workout at Work Day.
Make a plan
Now you have an idea of the ways in which you can enhance the reputation of your service, what are you going to do?