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Your Personal Brand: Why Building Authority is Key to Your Success


I spent eight years living in Minneapolis in the 1990s and early 2000s. There were billboards all over town advertising major retailers, auto dealers, amusement parks, and confident-looking lawyers.

I don’t remember seeing larger-than-life physicians overlooking the freeway exits back then, but when I visit the city now, they’re everywhere! By the time I get downtown, I’m trying to decide between a facelift with local anesthesia, a vasectomy reversal, or a same-day joint replacement.

I’m still undecided, but I do recognize the power of marketing and branding, and billboards are just one small piece of that. There’s internet marketing, search engine optimization, radio and print ads, and more.

I’ve never marketed my services as a physician, but as a blogger, brand awareness is huge. I’ve left hundreds of comments on blogs and forums as the Physician on FIRE. I’ve got a Facebook group and a Facebook page using variations of the same name. I spend far more time promoting the site and brand in different ways than I spend actually writing.

Today’s guest post comes from Leanne Johnson, the owner and chief strategist for Vitals Healthcare Marketing, a branding and marketing agency focused on helping healthcare practitioners and visionaries grow their businesses and make a real change in healthcare.

As you might expect from a marketer, there is a bit of self-promotion and advertising within the piece. That’s no accident; it’s what she does best, and she would love to earn your trust and business.

Full disclosure: I receive no compensation for publishing this article, but if you do choose to work with Vitals Marketing and mention Physician on FIRE as your referral source, the site will earn a commission, and you’ll be supporting our charitable mission.

Take it away, Leanne!


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Your Personal Brand: Why Building Authority is Key to Your Success


Making a name for yourself in healthcare just isn’t what it used to be.

Back in the late 1980s, driving awareness for the doctor I worked for was as simple as choosing a name that started with the letter “A” and paying a little more for a bigger listing in the local Yellow Pages.

There was no need to promote our doctor’s expertise outside the walls of the patient room. He was legendary solely based on word of mouth.

The game has certainly changed, and now competition comes from every corner of the Internet. Patients seek medical advice from Doctor Google rather than booking an appointment with their trusted family physician. Not only is this risky to your patients’ well-being, but it’s also cutting into your bottom line. When you’re seeking financial freedom, you can’t afford uncertainty about your cash flow.

A recent client, a small practice in Colorado, was feeling this pain all too well. The practice just wasn’t getting new patients in the door like it used to. As much as the team wanted to be able to turn a profit, they were more worried about how they were going to afford payroll for the month. Not knowing where the next patient is coming from creates real keep-you-up-at-night problems.

This same practice is now ranking #1 in Google searches. Their social media strategy delivers 400% higher engagement. They now have a referral engine that has existing patients bringing in new patients, and has seen a 20-30% increase in revenue month over month – all thanks to a little boost from branding and marketing.

Over my 20 years as a healthcare brand and marketing expert working with some of the biggest brands in healthcare (IBM, Truven Health, Thomson Reuters) and helping rejuvenate private practices, I’ve learned a few tricks to propel businesses into a whole new level of success. And, it’s not as difficult as you might think.


vitals branding dashboard


Take Daniel Kraft, MD. He is a physician-scientist who has built a name for himself as a thought leader in the future of technology and healthcare. He has over 45,000 followers on Twitter and is a regular on the speaker’s circuit, bringing in between $20,000 – $40,000 per engagement as a keynote.

Dr. Kraft was named one of The Top Ten Internet-Smart Doctors in the World 2013 by InternetMedicine.com and was recognized as one of the 40 Smartest People in Healthcare by Becker’s Hospital Review. All because he has let the world know he stands for something.

Whether your goal is to jump on the speaker’s circuit like Dr. Kraft, or grow your practice into a money-making machine, or even if you’re simply a physician with an entrepreneurial spirit, building your brand is essential to your financial success. Branding helps businesses generate more than 20% more revenue when done consistently. If you’re branding your business or building a bigger name for yourself, the process is the same.

Here’s how:


1. Find your purpose and make a promise.


Think about all the great brands you pledge your loyalty to. Do you give them your hard-earned money because they have a cool logo? Or do you follow a thought leader online because they are a sharp dresser?

No, you follow (or don’t follow) them because they stand for something that piques your interest. What side of the fence do you stand on with the Colin Kaepernick Nike situation? Nike either still has your financial support, or you’ve pledged to never give them another red cent. Either way, they took a stand.

To build your brand, you don’t need to take a political stand, but you do need to stand for something. Volvo stands for safety. Starbucks stands for good, convenient coffee with great service. Dr. Kraft, who I mentioned earlier, stands for a plethora of knowledge about emerging healthcare technologies.

So, when your patients or your online audience engage with you, what are they getting in return?

Download this worksheet to help you uncover the meaning behind your brand. You’ll find this step pretty inspirational. There’s just something about putting a stake in the ground and doing everything in your power to ensure you stand behind what it is that you want to represent in the market.


2. Differentiate.


Just because our good Dr. Kraft has established his expertise in health tech doesn’t mean he’s the only game in town. Volvo isn’t the only brand of car, and Nike doesn’t corner the market on athletic shoes. People like variety. We all identify with different purposes and personalities. You just have to find those people who are picking up what you’re putting down…those people who click with what you have to say or really need what you have to offer.

You need to uncover your voice. But first, you need to know who you are trying to connect with. Let’s look at Nike again. They target athletes who are driven. If they were to project their brand promise with a passive voice, their message would fail. Instead, they exhibit confidence and determination in every message – Just Do it.

What voice will resonate with the people who need to hear your message the most? If you’re an obstetrician, your voice likely needs to connect with women through empathy and empowerment.

Do you want to attract patients with a sense of humor? Your voice should demonstrate that you don’t take yourself too seriously. Or would you rather keep it all about business? Your voice should be straightforward, and your words should stick to the facts. The way you present yourself in the market garners the attention of the people you want to work with the most.



Once you have all this down, you can work with a graphic designer to develop a brand mark and supporting brand elements that represent all that you stand for. If you create a logo before you’ve done your homework, all you have is a fancy piece of artwork. But if you inform the design with the meaning of your brand, your logo will stand for something and will work harder for you.

3. Demonstrate your expertise.


You’ve established your passion, the problems you want to solve, and how you want to connect with your audience. Now it’s time to show the world that you really do know what you’re talking about.

Write. Speak. Teach. Whatever it takes to show the world that you know what you’re talking about, do it. It’s not enough to build it and expect people to show up and fill your appointment books from bell to bell or for your phone to ring off the hook for speaking gigs. Today’s consumers and patients are a lot more discerning than they were way back in the 80s, thumbing through the Yellow Pages looking for an allergist. They do research. They ask for referrals.

Your job is to be sure that when they do search for an expert, your name pops up first. This takes part determination and part marketing science, but when it happens the results are pure revenue magic.


4. Be bold.


Put yourself out there! Build a website. Start a Facebook group. Make phone calls. Find allies. Invest in pay-per-click ads on Google. Write a book or two. All the work you’ve done to this point has given you your speaking platform. Go out and preach it from the mountaintops!

In other words, market yourself. Market your practice. If you aren’t familiar or comfortable with digital marketing, hire a good marketing agency.

Join those associations that share your passions. Offer to present for free just so you can start building a portfolio of speaking engagements. Request interviews on relevant podcasts. Network with like-minded people. Put blog articles in front of the types of people you want to attract to your practice.

Whatever your platform, make sure it’s a place where you can find your potential clients and put your expertise front and center.

Building your personal or practice brand is an investment in your future. Working with an expert helps you get your brand defined succinctly and can help realize the benefits of brand consistently quickly, i.e., treat more patients and make more money, faster.

If you’re ready to get on the fast path to recognition in your market, let’s talk. I can apply my 20 years of healthcare marketing experience to help launch you into cyber awareness in no time at all. You can set up a strategy call with me, and together we can create a breakthrough brand and can’t-ignore marketing strategies that will bring your practice to the next level.



What are you doing to create and promote your own personal brand? What kind of marketing have you found to be the most effective?

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5 thoughts on “Your Personal Brand: Why Building Authority is Key to Your Success”

  1. PoF, I can’t think of a more perfect time than to share “authority” marketing with other docs especially dental specialists.

    As one myself, I’ve seen our practice change dramatically over the past few years from:
    1. Rise of corporate dentistry
    2. Decrease in the amount of insurance reimbursements
    3. Competition from general dentists (performing specialist procedures: implants, grafting, etc)

    I actually started a site to help other specialists several years ago become an authority:


    I know these problems are starting to exist more and more with medical specialists too.

    Thanks again for sharing this with us!

    • That’s great that you’re helping other dentists build their authority. In these days of corporations and large systems buying up private practices, being independent is a huge differentiator. Standing for lower cost and better care is a message that really resonates with patients.

      I will definitely check out your site!

  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. When I was little (before the internet), my dad had a diesel mechanic friend that he would always take his truck to. It turned out that this mechanic had a reputation of understanding how gas moves in pipes better than anyone in the world. When there was an issue with the space shuttle one summer, they called this guy from rural Minnesota. My dad told me the lesson was to become an expert. “Branding” has never come natural to me and as a blogger I’m still working on that one. Thanks for getting me thinking about differentiation and making a promise in this value add post

  4. I respect your incredibly rapid rise as a result of your great branding and omnipresence, PoF. I think in announcing the latest addition to the WCI empire, WCI stated that to succeed he looked for folks who spend 70% of time on promotion of content and brand, and the guest post (as well as the members of the empire) certainly bear that out.

    As a small world coincidence, I knew Daniel Kraft (I was an undergrad when he was in med school, and we had common friends) and he’s one of the more generous brilliant people I’ve met. We’d lost touch except through updates from mutual friends over the years. To hear that someone thoughtful, quirky and pleasant on an interpersonal level has enjoyed such success restores my sense of hope for humanity in what can seem a vanity-driven world of social media.



  5. The phenomenon you are describing is what I have termed the new “SOCIALized Medicine.”

    Name recognition now is more important to potential patients than word of mouth like it was in the days gone by. Of course having name recognition does not equate with superior skills, but patients typically equate the two unfortunately.

    Doctors on TV get the highest branding (a girl I grew up with through high school makes regular occurrences on The Doctors show and she is turned that into a very lucrative private practice now).

    Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and as Leif mentioned Billboards, are now new ways of spreading your brand to potential patients. Even those bogus “Top Doctors in America” that you see in flight magazines I am sure have an effect otherwise these docs would not pay so much to have their photos included.

    Luckily as a radiologist this does not have any impact whatsoever on my practice. But I can see the struggle for those who are not media savvy to compete against those who are in the front line of patient care.


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