Mistake #23 — Marketing Without Using Free Press
Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.
— P.T. Barnum
Not much is free in this world, and free press doesn’t come easy. You will need to work hard to make sure that the opening of your urgent care center gets free press. Free public relations is often much more effective than thousands of dollars of paid advertising. Your urgent care center can’t buy a two-inch advertisement on the front page of your local newspaper, but you may be able to have a full-color photo and be the headline story for a day. Memories in your community of this story will last for years. Money can’t buy that. In a small market, the opening of your urgent care center can dominate the local news (television and newspaper) for the week. Even in a large market you can find a way to get free press.
- Ask the local town mayor to cut the ribbon on opening day.
- Send out a press release to your local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations.
- Give free medical care (not including supplies, x-rays, and medications) on opening day. Paying your staff to see lots of patients costs no more than paying them to sit and wait for patients to show up. Expect to see more than eighty patients on opening day. Give a coupon to return, if you have to turn people away. You are not losing anything, because almost every person you see is likely to return (or refer a friend) at least once in the next six months. Let local reporters know about the event. Make it a symbol that you are bringing a cost-effective alternative to the hospital emergency department.
- Set up a tent and do drive-through flu shots in the parking lot of your urgent care center.
- Write an article about the role of urgent care for your local paper.
- Volunteer to write a weekly health column for the local paper. This is a big job. Make sure you are willing to put in the time.
- Call a local newspaper or TV reporter as soon as a big medical story hits the news. Offer an interview on a hot medical topic:
- Preventing heat exhaustion, flu shots, steroid abuse, weight control
TV reporters are often looking for an interview at 7 p.m. Give the local TV reporters your card, and let them know you are available for interviews at that time. It takes less than twenty minutes, and you will be astounded to find out how many people have seen you on the news. Make only one request—the name of your startup urgent care center is placed in text under your name at the beginning of your interview.
Another idea method to get free visibility for your urgent care center is to get your website listed on free or low-priced directories on the Internet.