Healthcare marketing professionals have long recognized the power of blogging. According to HubSpot, 55 percent of marketing and sales pros say blog content creation is one of their company’s top priorities. Furthermore, 52 percent say inbound practices like blogging provide the highest quality leads for their sales team.
Many doctors and healthcare providers, however, do not blog. According to PatientPop, the majority (40.3 percent) say blogging is not part of their healthcare marketing strategy because they do not have enough time to create content, whereas more than one-third (35.1 percent) say they do not have enough ideas for regular blog posts.
Allan Frankel, MD, an internal medicine doctor and owner of GreenBridge Medical in Santa Monica, CA, says he understands why healthcare providers do not blog — but that regularly publishing content on a doctor blog can help attract more patients.
“Like it or not, if something’s wrong, patients are going to type their symptoms into Google and self-diagnose,” Frankel says. “If you’re a doctor who has blogged about those symptoms, you could show up really high in the search results … whereas a doctor who is not blogging won’t show up at all.”
Dr. Frankel started his blog, Frankely Speaking, back in 2006. His continuous blogging efforts have contributed to an impressive growth in organic traffic: His site has seen nearly quadruple the number of visitors in roughly a one-year period.
Read on to discover Dr. Frankel’s top tips for blogging so you, too, can experience the benefits of this healthcare marketing tactic.
The best writers are prolific readers. So, it’s no surprise Dr. Frankel spends his free time consuming other people’s content.
“I’ll read newspapers, health magazines, or another doctor’s blog,” he says. “I’ll just go through everything to learn whatever I can. You can get blog ideas from reading other people’s articles.”
Marketing for doctors was arguably more challenging in the past because patients were often wary of giving written consent for doctors to use their names or likeness. “In 2007, patients didn’t want me to use their names or even their initials in a blog. Now, it’s entirely different,” Frankel says.
Because patients are more open to sharing their stories, Frankel advises doctors look to them for blog inspiration. “The blogs that I get the most attention on are ones about patients,” Frankel says. “Whatever field you’re in, if you have a patient where you do something — maybe they receive a new treatment — and they do great or they don’t do great, prospective patients love that. They really get excited reading about patient experiences because they can identify with them. If you have an interesting case, write about it.”
Dr. Frankel says shying away from blogging about hot medical topics isn’t an option for doctors. “Doctors have to touch [hot topics]. If you’re a pediatrician, for example, you need to have an opinion on vaccines, and your opinion should be shared. If it’s a hot topic, it’s important to be completely open.”
Furthermore, Frankel says it’s OK to update blog posts that touch on hot topics if your opinion evolves. “There have been times I changed my mind about a hot topic. Maybe new data comes out years later. I go back and update old blogs to say this is a correction I’m making historically. I no longer believe what I wrote below.”
The ultimate goal of online marketing for doctors is not to bring just any patients into your practice; it’s to attract your ideal patients. To do this, Dr. Frankel advises discussing your medical philosophy openly on your doctor blog.
“I think it’s really important for patients to see what their physician’s philosophy is and how he or she practices medicine. How does this doctor deal with diabetes, for example?,” he says.
If you’re the type of writer who edits as you go, this tip is for you. According to Dr. Frankel, the best way to complete a blog post is to write first and edit later.
“I start with an idea or concept and just start typing. I don’t worry about references, I don’t worry about spelling, I don’t worry about typos. I just get the main ideas down,” Dr. Frankel says. “Once the main idea is down, then I think about where I’m going to go into more detail.”
The average blog post is 1,236 words, according to Orbit Media. But Dr. Frankel says you shouldn’t worry too much if your posts are on the shorter side.
“A blog really should not be pages and pages. It takes a lot of patient attention to read something that long,” he says. “It can be half a page, 300 words. Just enforce the important points.”
Though you’re an expert in your field, Dr. Frankel advises backing up insights with data as much as possible. “A lot of blogs don’t contain much in the way of facts, but adding facts to your blogs is really important,” he says. “I often reference PubMed — that’s where you find the National Library of Medicine articles.”
Sources to steer clear of include those with a strong leaning toward a political party. “You have to limit politics because you don’t want to alienate democrats or republicans.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, 44 percent of physicians report feeling at least one symptom of burnout. Too many administrative tasks like charting and paperwork are a contributing factor for 59 percent of physicians experiencing burnout, according to Medscape. That’s partially why, when it comes to writing a doctor blog, Dr. Frankel says you should seek help from staff.
“The doctor doesn’t have to do everything,” he says. “I give blogs to my staff to review grammar and spelling, for example. Your staff can also look up references and post blogs to your website.”
A doctor blog is a perfect place to inspire prospective patients, particularly those who are going through a tough time, Dr. Frankel says.
“We’re taught in medical school to not give patients too much hope because then you’re going to have to be empathetic and empathy’s exhausting. But what I’ve learned in 41 years of practicing internal medicine is that hope makes a big difference,” he says. “The more you can give hope to people reading your blog, the more they’re going to identify hope with your practice.”
The blank page is an intimidating sight for many writers. Dr. Frankel admits there are times he struggles to brainstorm blog post topics, particularly if he’s carved out time in his schedule with the sole purpose of doing so.
When inspiration does strike, Dr. Frankel makes sure he’s prepared to capture his ideas. “You’ll have no ideas for a whole week or month, and then, one day, you’ll have eight ideas. Just jot your ideas down as you have them. I keep a piece of paper in my wallet to scratch out ideas. Or I do it on tape; there’s all sorts of speech recognition built into phones and computers now.”
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