April 7, 2020 | Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA

7 min read

Changing the Message: 7 Tips for Adapting PT Marketing Amid COVID-19

It’s safe to say we’re all navigating uncharted territory.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit us in ways we could never have predicted, causing disruptions that have upended pretty much every aspect of our lives. And of course, private practice physical therapy clinics haven’t been immune to this chaotic chain of events.

Through our work here at Net Health, we’ve seen an unsettlingly large number of clinics going through current and potential closures due to social distancing and low volume. As patients opt to stay home and appointments get cancelled, clinicians find themselves scrambling to make ends meet until the dust settles … whenever that may be.

And, as they consider their options for getting from A to B, our team is fielding several versions of a common question:

“Should I reduce or cut my marketing efforts as this crisis continues?”

It should come as no surprise that our answer is a resounding no … but with an important caveat: while your marketing should not stop, the messaging that powers your strategy should change. How much of a shift are we talking? A lot is going to depend on your market, your comfort level and how badly COVID-19 has affected where you live.

So, instead of providing a blanket answer for everyone, let’s together weigh what’s changed over the last few weeks and what remains the same. A thorough understanding of both will help guide you in the right direction.

What’s Changed?

This seems like a silly question to be asking right now because, really, what hasn’t changed? People in your community are at home pulling triple duty by working, parenting and homeschooling. They’re online searching for answers and connecting with friends. And, they’re up at night wondering how else they and their loved ones are going to be affected by this pandemic.

They’re nervous, frustrated … perhaps even scared. They’re likely going a little stir-crazy as they struggle to stay active, and some may have even had to delay non-critical surgeries meant to ease pain and/or improve their lives. It’s a new day, and people are paying closer attention to what’s happening in the world. They’re looking to get a sense of where they fit and where they can help.

In general, people are approaching day-to-day life with a new mindset, one that’s completely different than just a month ago. And, they’re looking for leaders they can count on to help them stay informed, safe and healthy – someone to perhaps remind them that in a world that focuses on the greater good, it’s still OK to worry about self-care.

What’s the Same?

The short answer: more than you might think. As our worlds turn upside-down, we’re all still humans maneuvering around in life using the one body we were given at birth. And, that body remains prone to musculoskeletal issues that, for some, can make general mobility and personal fulfillment difficult.

Amid the chaos of COVID-19, people still suffer from pain and injury. The aging population still strives to remain mobile and independent in their homes, and those who crave activity are still looking for ways to put in the hard work to keep their bodies healthy and strong.

In addition, with elective, non-critical surgeries being postponed and cancelled, more people than ever before are likely looking for non-surgical solutions to help them with injury, pain and mobility issues.

All of this adds up to one thing that PTs embrace, but which may elude the general public during times like these: physical therapy is, and continues to be, an essential service for people of all ages and conditions.

That’s why now shouldn’t be a time to stop getting the word out about your clinic and its essential services. As you do, however, heed the following tips:

1. Don’t Stop Marketing

Marketing is the bridge the connects you to the people who need you most. And, while times like these may turn this beautiful suspension bridge into a simpler, more utilitarian crossing, the need for such connections remains critical, both for right now and when we reach the point of economic recovery.

2. Be Empathetic

As we said earlier, this is new territory for all of us. Few people in our lifetimes have experienced a pandemic like this, and we’re all trying to maneuver our way through it the best we can.

Acknowledge the anxiety and stress people are going through, then give them reassurances that you’re there for them when they need it. If possible, stress alternative routes for seeking assistance, such as providing direct phone numbers and emails. Heavily promote the benefits of Telehealth, if that’s an option.

3. Don’t Ignore or Dismiss

Assume COVID-19 is near (or at) the top of everyone’s mind. If fact, you’re safe to presume that everything in life is being viewed through the coronavirus lens right now. So, if your marketing doesn’t reflect this, you may come across as a little tone deaf.

When possible, always give a nod to the unique situation we’re all experiencing. Even if the message you share is unrelated to COVID-19, it’s still likely to raise questions related to the pandemic. By being aware of this, you can set the a better, more relatable and credible tone.

4. Show You’re Helping

Everyone’s sacrificing for the greater good right now. So, what are you doing to help ensure health and safety within your community? It’s not exploiting or bragging – people really want to know!

How are you ensuring people visiting your clinic are safe from the spread of COVID-19? What alternatives are you offering those who would rather not leave their homes? How are you helping to save critical medical resources in your community? What are you doing to give back to those affected most by the pandemic?

5. Be a Leader

During times like these, people are looking for leaders – people who can help them make better sense of all the news and information out there and help them adapt to this new (and hopefully temporary) normal. Be that leader.

Through marketing, help your community make sense of the situation we’re in. Help them focus on what’s most important, and provide them with ideas for living their best, most active lives while under stay-at-home orders. Expand on your willingness the help your community by taking on this leadership role.

6. Don’t Make it All About COVID-19

Keep in mind that, from time to time, it’s OK to talk about more “normal” aspects of people’s lives when it comes to movement, injury, pain, exercise, etc. It’ doesn’t all have to be about COVID-19. Sometimes, people can use a respite from the continual drone of coronavirus talk, and it’s good to remind people that self-care is OK – even during an international pandemic.

That said, don’t overlook Tip #3 above. Even if you’re talking about, say, improving balance, do so through the lens of the world we’re in today.

7. If You Need to Cut, Do So with a Scalpel

A national pandemic is not an ideal time to cut your clinic’s communication with the public. In fact, it’s actually a time to increase communication with your community, if possible.

That said, the economy is rough right now, and difficult decisions sometimes need to be made. If you feel you have no choice but to consider cuts to marketing, however, do so sparingly.

As the saying goes, use a scalpel and not a sledgehammer. After all, what we’re experiencing right now, as awful as it’s been, is going to be temporary. And, once it’s run its course, you want your clinic’s recovery to be as quick and as painless as possible.

By continuing your marketing strategy based on the tips above, you’ll be better prepared to hit the ground running once we collectively reach the light at the end of this tunnel, putting you on a path toward continued success.

Here’s some good news. The physical therapy marketing team here at Net Health exist to help set you up for success now (as your promote trending services like telehealth and pre-surgical rehab) and as your clinic recovers following the pandemic. Contact us today to learn more about digital marketing in this crazy time.

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