Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations

Branding Basics
Getting Published in Radiology: Advice from the Editors
TV Campaign Keeps Methodist Hospital at the Forefront of the Community

Branding Basics

From Business Objectives to Budgets

Before joining Scottsdale Medical Imaging Ltd (SMIL), an affiliate of Southwest Diagnostic Imaging, Scottsdale, Ariz, as director of marketing and business development, Shannon Barrow worked with a wide range of clients from outside the health care industry, from high-end hotels to shopping centers to dairy farms. She even worked with an airline. “This is an industry that hasn’t marketed in the past because they haven’t really needed to,” she said of imaging businesses. “But the whole situation is changing with reduced reimbursement and more competition. There is definitely a need to market.”

Scottsdale Medical Imaging is owned, like most medical practices, by a large group of doctors. “They’re not business people, they’re physicians,” Barrow noted. “They wanted to know my marketing plan, and I said, ‘Well, what’s your business plan?’ Marketing’s just a tool to get you there.”

The first step to branding, Barrow says, is designating a strategic plan—looking at where you want your business to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years. Among the questions you should ask yourself: “How many exams are we doing right now?” Barrow said. “How can we do more? How can we enable ourselves to do more?”

After determining the basic direction you hope to take your practice, branding is relatively simple, according to Barrow. It’s merely a matter of consistency in message points to target audiences. This consistency is enforced throughout the several steps of the branding process, which include territory management, public relations, advertising, customer service, and “collateral”—brochures and other marketing materials.

SMIL accomplishes the territory management portion of the equation through marketing representatives, known as “information and service specialists,” who disseminate information about SMIL to referring physicians and collect information on how SMIL can capture more business. “We want to be the best customer service provider,” Barrow said. “To be their one point of contact: whatever the case might be, they have one person to call who can take care of it for them.”

Public relations is another key component. “We’re really trying to leverage our brand with the media, so if a journalist is writing a story and looking for an expert point of view, they know to come to us,” Barrow said.

Though an imaging practice’s primary audience is referring physicians, consumer advertising is an increasingly important factor, and because it’s so new to the imaging industry, it’s rife with hazards—prime among them, the problem of budgets. “Advertising is all about reach and frequency, reaching as many relevant people as frequently as possible, and that requires an appropriate marketing budget,” Barrow conceded. But the power of advertising is not to be discounted, especially in an era when health care decisions are increasingly being placed in the hands of consumers.

“As reimbursement is going down, there’s more and more public knowledge about imaging needs,” Barrow said. “A Consumer Reports article recently ran about the 10 most unnecessary medical exams, and four of those were radiology exams. More information will come out for consumers as more emphasis is placed on reducing health care costs. There’s an education process that needs to go into that. Early detection is the best protection. We need to be better about communicating with patients in addition to referring physicians.”

Customer service for patients is critical to good marketing, according to Barrow, who reminds radiologists that patients will compare their businesses to every other customer service experience they’ve had—”Be it a trip to Nordstrom’s or a flight on Southwest Airlines.” And regularity in collateral is equally essential, both in terms of messages and in terms of design. “Have one version of your logo that’s consistently used on anything seen by a referring physician, patient, payor,” Barrow advised. “Consistency is important. As good as we are, we make sure that we’re marketed that way too.”

That consistency in message points should be present from the get-go, Barrow said. “If you’re going to start a business, you need to brand yourself,” she noted. “The size of your business is irrelevant because it’s more of a mindset.” She says that while the process does require appropriate funding, “it’s something that can be done in stages.”

Begin by identifying core objectives, look at how branding can help, and then allocate the money. And, she adds, be sure to prioritize. “Who’s the most important audience? How often do we need to reach them, and what are our message points? Physicians and patients have options. Make them aware and educated about what you offer.”

—Cat Vasko

Getting Published in Radiology: Advice from the Editors


Research is essential to establishing a professional reputation, but the editor and editor-designate of Radiology, the Radiological Society of North America’s prestigious peer-reviewed science journal, warn that attention to detail in the submission process is paramount to getting studies published. Editor Anthony V. Proto, MD, and editor-designate Herbert Y. Kressel, MD, shared submission hints and tips in the September issue of RSNA News.

First off, be sure your science is intact. “We want to publish the best of the submissions we receive regarding original hypothesis-driven research,” said Proto. “Authors should take the time and the effort to make sure the science in their study is not clouded by problems over which the authors have control.” Many of the Radiology guidelines for preparation and submission of manuscripts address these issues, which can range from conflicts of interest to authorship and clinical trial registration.

“Authors should pay careful attention to our guidelines regarding authorship and meeting the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors criteria for authorship,” said Proto. “Also, we urge authors to pay careful attention to required statements in the manuscript regarding institutional review board approval, informed consent, and HIPAA compliance for prospective or retrospective studies, and similarly appropriate approval by an animal care and use committee for studies involving animals. These are issues of human and animal rights.”

Kressel, who will take over editorship of the journal in January 2008, notes that authors need to know the purpose of their submission. “My experience has been that authors really need to pay a lot of attention to the purpose of their paper, and make sure they’re clear in their own mind as to what the purpose is,” he said. “With regard to the way that data has been collected, authors need to pay attention to any bias in case selection on a clinical paper, or lack of controls on a more basic science paper.”

And he added that brevity is key in the discussion section: “People tend to want to include a lot of information in the discussion that may not be really pertinent. I think it’s important to avoid the pitfall of being speculative in the discussion.”

Proto also warns of the importance of double- and even triple-checking for consistency among the manuscript’s sections. “An author who submits a manuscript that demonstrates internal inconsistencies, lack of clarity, and lack of focus can portray to the reviewers that maybe he or she is not that interested in publishing the manuscript in the journal,” he said.

At this year’s RSNA meeting, Proto and RadioGraphics Editor William M. Olmsted, MD, led a course entitled “Reviewing Manuscripts for the RSNA Journals.” Further information on submissions can also be found at Radiology’s Manuscript Central portal, located at rsna.org/radiologyjnl/submit.

—C. Vasko

TV Campaign Keeps Methodist Hospital at the Forefront of the Community

If you’ve turned on the television in Houston this year, chances are you’ve seen one of the commercials for the “leading medicine” campaign sponsored by The Methodist Hospital System, Houston. During the spots, a narrator highlights the strengths of the hospital’s technology and physicians, while various teams and departments are shown on the screen. In each shot, a physician stands confidently in the foreground, while the people and the machines in their department move in fast motion in the background. Each ad ends with the tagline: “Methodist: Leading Medicine.”

The ads highlight the hospital’s excellence in specific areas, such as sports medicine and orthopedics. They also introduce new programs, including the recently launched Research Institute. Some ads feature professional athletes who have been treated at the hospital, but most spots concentrate on the people of Methodist itself.

The focus of the campaign is not so much to fill beds, but to keep the institution at the forefront of community members’ minds. “Our goal was to enhance our reputation locally, and television is a really good medium for that,” said Erin Skelley, marketing director for The Methodist Hospital System.

The spots air on all local network affiliates, including ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, as well as several other local channels. The campaign began in fall 2006, was renewed in the spring, and started up again this fall. “We typically go with spring and fall, because that’s just the biggest TV viewership period,” Skelley said. “A lot of times people don’t watch in the summer because of vacations and reruns.”

Each ad takes approximately 3 months to complete from the initial writing to postproduction. The ads usually highlight a variety of specialties, but imaging devices and radiology personnel feature prominently in the commercial spots. “We try to depict some of our technology throughout our spots, and a lot of that is imaging,” Skelley said. “We wanted to show consumers that we are leaders in early detection, better detection, more precise detection, and treatment, and we felt like that would be a nice way to do it.”

The ads have received positive response from the community and from the hospital personnel themselves—although the results are hard to quantify. “These commercials are to help keep Methodist top of mind and help elevate our image in the community—and so it’s a little bit different to measure the impact, but we have received a lot of positive feedback,” Skelley said.

The TV campaign is an integral piece of the hospital’s other marketing efforts. “It really serves as the umbrella campaign for everything else we’re doing,” Skelley said. The institution also advertises over radio, on billboards, and in print, and the hospital sustains several mini-campaigns for specific programs, such as its weight-management program.

The Methodist Hospital System will continue to run the ads in spring and fall of next year as well. “It is so important to stay top of mind because there are so many great choices for health care in Houston,” Skelley said. “We want to remind consumers that we do offer the best treatment available, and we do have the best physicians, and we do have the best technologies. We really can’t let up on that, especially when we work in a place as competitive as the Texas Medical Center.”

The commercial spots are available for viewing online at www.tmhs.org/tmhs/home.do.

—Ann H. Carlson