Let’s face it. As an occupational therapist (OT), you probably don’t have a lot of time or energy to devote to marketing. You’re way too busy creating miraculous recoveries and saving peoples’ quality of life on a daily basis.
You went to OT schools to restore peoples’ health – usually in challenging, if not nearly impossible, conditions – not to sell a product or service. Yet many OTs encounter frustrations and even costly concerns over a lack of professional recognition.
“There’s deficient public awareness of what we do,” says Sharon Sharpe, an OT who’s spent over 20 years practicing in Tennessee and Florida. “It’s frustrating, because a lot of people think OTs are PTs – even in how they’re portrayed on television. And it’s not just a public misperception, either. Many doctors aren’t truly aware of everything we do for patients.”
She believes that OTs need greater validation and utilization in the medical field, and that they would greatly benefit from knowing how to market themselves – to potential employers, patients, doctors and the general public.
“We are great motivators of others, and our skills are highly warranted assets,” says Sharpe. “But we have to stand on our own and prove ourselves to be validated in the market. The great thing is that we understand psycho-social influences, so we can apply that knowledge to marketing.”
Here are some practical, simple steps that can help you market yourself:
1. Narrow and write down your focus: Who, What, Where, When and How
In the article “Finding and Marketing Your OT Niche” on Webpt.com, they advise, “Find your niche, and thus better position yourself and your profession to grow. This way, your marketing is targeted, specific, and tailored to attract the audience you truly want.”
So, WHO are you trying to reach? Some of most popular areas OTs work include: neo-natal, in-patient (rehabilitation hospitals), skilled nursing facilities, burn units, schools, home health, outpatient, hand therapy, psychiatric and even ergonomics for factories. Or maybe you want to reach other OTs for CEUs. Or educate the public or medical community about a facet of the OT profession.
WHAT’s your purpose? Some of the most common purposes for marketing include getting a job, promoting your business, landing a contract, changing your area of practice, developing CEUs, increasing pay or flexibility, and shifting availability (part-time, full-time, PRN).
WHERE do you need to invest your time? Social networking is a key aspect of marketing and includes physical and digital dimensions.
Physically, where do you need to be? Are there association meetings? Networking functions? Are they in your community, or are you planning to move to another state? Is there a committee you can join for greater public exposure? This may include professional affiliations or even personal social events.
You are an ambassador for yourself and your profession wherever you go. Identify social opportunities, be intentionally interactive and bring something to give, like a business card or resume. If people know your goals, they can help you accomplish them.
Digitally, are you maximizing the tools available? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, personal websites, blogs and forums like Quora provide ample opportunities to leverage your voice and share expertise. Just stay aware of professional codes of conduct and don’t break any laws (obvious example, HIPPA). Pictures and words are powerful, so take advantage of the digital age!
WHEN do you want to focus on marketing? The answer to this will depend largely the first three questions and should fit organically into your lifestyle. Consider when you have the most energy to devote. Be realistic.
HOW will you pull this together? Your first answers create the map for marketing, but now you’ve got to identify the action steps and be S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound. It’s also prudent to have other people – friends, peers, family, etc. – hold you accountable.
2. Execute your plan and persevere.
Marketing takes some time and effort, but with good planning, it’s a very doable, profitable and even enjoyable. You can benefit from connecting with others and gaining their support in the journey while advancing your career.
The American Occupational Therapy Association also shares some specific marketing tactics and the approximate time it takes to accomplish:
- Use hashtags such as #OTMonth (5-10 minutes)
- Answer questions on Q&A sites such as Quora (15 minutes)
- Contact your legislators on Facebook (15 minutes)
- Start pinning on Pinterest (20 minutes)
- *Take and share pictures of OT in action (time commitment varies)
- Write a blog post about OT (30 minutes)
- Relate a story about OT on Storify (45 minutes)
- Record a podcast (1 hour)
- Create a video (A couple of hours)
*Don’t violate HIPPA. Make sure you have written consent, if the patient is identifiable. Or alternately, use other OTs as models.