Wednesday, July 31, 2002

To change image, make noise

With Allison Cherney
Q: A patient recently saw an NBC Nightly News story titled, "The Fleecing of America," on DME and cracked a joke about our industry. Can we market our way out from under the fraud and abuse image?

A: Yes, we can all market our way out from under the fraud and abuse image. The way to change this image is to institute a mini public relations campaign. The first step is to set up a communication campaign in your local market. A communication campaign means that you refute this information with your patients, your employees and your customers. Hold a staff meeting with employees to discuss the NBC story. Tell the employees what you think of the story and let them express their thoughts. Let your employees know that they should proactively discuss this story with everyone they know, including the patients. Give them some ammunition. Tell them the differences between VA contracts and Medicare contracts. Tell them that a service business can be run cleanly and you run yours very clean. You don't "fleece" customers, and you have never engaged in fraudulent practices. Next, prepare a letter for your patients and your customers. Mention the NBC story and let them know you have had a lot of questions about the story. Get your message out. Make it positive. Make noise. Changing an image means being proactive.

The second area where you can get more traction is public relations. Call your local newspapers, radio and television stations. Tell them you want to refute the NBC story. Get an audience and tell a positive story. The more we make noise, the more we will be heard and change the industry's image.

Alison Cherney is president of Cherney & Associates in Brentwood, Tenn. Reach her at 615-776-3399.