Public affairs

Friday, August 31, 2007

Q. What can providers do to help raise the industry's stature and win over the hearts and minds of the general public?

A. First, be active in your community. Host health-related seminars for physicians, advocacy groups and local leaders. Show them the real you. Answer their tough questions with facts. Volunteer in the community and encourage employees to do the same, especially if you work with seniors. You can also sponsor community events for seniors.
Next, build relationships with local, state and national healthcare and business organizations. These organizations help establish credibility for your company. For instance, the general public often consults with the local chamber of commerce or the Better Business Bureau to learn more about your company. Your job is to ensure that these organizations understand your company, your industry and the legislative and regulatory hurdles you face.
The local media can also be an ally. Write op-eds to help the community understand legislative changes. Put out press releases about your company's achievements, donations of medical products and services or new partnerships. Community leaders want to hear what local businesses are doing; it helps them better understand your values and what you do.
Moreover, it is important to maintain a positive relationship with your patients and their family. They depend on you for their medical needs and can become major allies during legislative and regulatory battles.
Finally, reach out to elected officials, especially those in Congress. In a heavily regulated industry, it is important to remind them that you provide vital services.
Put simply: Make your friends before you need them.
Mark Leita is the director of public affairs for The Scooter Store. Reach him at 830-627-4717 or