You are a passionate and busy occupational therapist. When it comes to your business, you are savvy because you’ve taken the time and energy to educate yourself. You have evolved and learned so much in your entrepreneurial journey.
You know you are interested in the SERVICES you want to deliver. You know your stuff. Whether it is pediatrics, seniors, sensory, coaching, or whatever it is you deliver that OTs can share, that’s where your expertise is.
When it comes to marketing and branding, it’s tough to figure out because as it is so common for healthcare providers, you likely did not receive any business, marketing, or leadership training as part of your OT degree.
When you decided to go into business for yourself, it was a leap. Or maybe you are still in the process of deciding how the business thing is going to go.
But one thing is for sure, you know that you want to provide these SERVICES. You are not into cheesy or slimy marketing techniques.
You’ve heard about the concept of developing a personal brand, but you have so much you are already juggling with your business. You might wonder if the time and effort of creating a brand will pay off.
Let’s explore exactly what makes a personal brand so valuable and some easy ways to get started on your personal brand as an OT.
What is branding?
Brands touch upon your life all the time. If you are completely new to marketing or thinking about marketing, you may not realize how impactful it can be. Think about when you run to the store. Think about something you buy all the time like your favorite brand of juice or soda. Why do you buy that brand over the store brand? Why don’t you just buy a brand of juice or soda that is on sale (or bread, or cereal- you get the idea)
It is likely because:
- You know it will be consistent.
- You already know you like it.
- You are familiar with it and you don’t want the unknown.
The brand is the identity BEHIND that box of cereal, that service, that pair of sneakers, That brand name lets you know you can count on them, and that you can know what to expect.
Wikipedia has a very simple definition for a brand:
A brand is “a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers”. Brand – Wikipedia
What I noticed right away about this very basic definition is the part about making it distinct from those of other sellers.
Why would an OT want to create a brand?
I get it. I have always scoffed when I have seen brand development videos on YouTube. Or how to develop your brand. Or marketing 101 stuff. It has felt like a waste of time. That’s not what I want to spend my time on. I want to spend my time developing my program, the science behind it, the art of what I know.
But what if I told you that developing your brand is way closer to just being you, and communicating it?
What if I said it is more like a promise of what your clients can expect from you, once they know you?
Imagine this, you are at your job as an OT and you have a new coworker. Of course, their role is defined in your workplace (maybe they are a teacher, another OT, a nurse…you get the picture).
But although their ROLE might be predefined (nurse, OT, etc) you won’t really know what to expect of them until you get to know them.
- You won’t know if you can count on them. You won’t know how they make you feel. You won’t know if you trust them to be consistent with their work (and what they deliver).
- You won’t know details of how they work: are they friendly, creative, very direct, very alpha, sensitive?
You know these things as you get to know a person. As you know more about them, you better know when to go to them and for what.
In this way, we are constantly branding ourselves. You yourself branded yourself as a unique OT If you have ever educated someone in your workplace about OT. You branded yourself if you have been friendly and open and realized that it was important for people to see you this way.
If you’ve ever been asked “why did you decide to become an OT?” and you have a personal story around that, you were creating your own brand as an OT.
So the good news is… You already have a personal brand!
So hopefully you are on board with the idea of developing your personal brand. Now, what do you do?
Two main elements of branding are:
- Communicating who you are
- Choosing a platform on which to share that information
Who are you, what service do you provide, and to who?
Start by brainstorming about these questions to get really clear on who you are. Take the time you need, whether that’s an afternoon, a week or a month to think about everything that you are. Collage, cry, make lists, journal, remember what led you down this road. Keep all of these things together to give you ideas for content.
How do I communicate my brand?
The two steps to communicate your brand:
- Make something to share
- Find ways to share it
Making something to share = content creation
“There are 3 identities to every brand, visual, verbal and value”-Mike Kim
Branding expert Mike Kim says to focus on visual identity, verbal identity and value identity when creating your content (see Mike Kim interview here). Visual content could be a picture, a graphic, a logo if you develop one. Verbal content can include the stories you share. Value content would be something you could share that could help your reader, like a how-to list.
Not sure what to share about? Here are some ideas for your content:
- Write your why story, why you became an OT
- Why did you decide to go into business for yourself?
- Make a list of helpful hints for your audience (5 ways to….)
- Create a chart to explain an aspect of what you do
- Share something lighthearted and funny
- Take a picture and share the behind the scenes of your business
How to Create Content as an OT with a clear Personal Brand
Hopefully, now you have some idea of the reason behind branding yourself, and some of the content you could create to help with that. How do you get your content out there to your audience?
In older times…if you were going to speak in front of an audience you would stand on a stage and you would talk to that specific group of people who were sitting there and (hopefully) listening to you.
Think of digital marketing as a place with many stages and many audiences. The audience can visit different stages at whatever time they want, and see the same presentation or speech (your content).
How do you deliver stories and messages to people then? What platform (stage) do you like the best? Which one (s) do you want to speak from?
You can start simply by just choosing 1 to 2 platforms
- Blog on your own website
- YouTube channel
Start with 1 or 2 platforms and explore them. Get used to them, and the process of adding content. Start small and aim for consistency as much as possible. Get a calendar just for this purpose and put stickers on the dates you post to celebrate and keep track.
Now go and share who you are with the world
Hopefully, this has demystified personal branding for you. If you have a business, your business will benefit from the steps you take to create and establish a personal brand as an OT. You can take some of the simple content ideas shared above, choose a platform, and just get started.
Don’t get overwhelmed, just take baby steps. Remember, something as simple as a selfie with a story about what first attracted you to OT will go a long way, and you can do that in about 5-10 minutes.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar
I promise you, your story is unique and your story could and will touch someone, resonate with someone. You just have to let them hear it.
Chrissy Roberts is an ocupational therapist and freelance writer. She covers topics of pediatric OT, health & wellness, and marketing/branding. Whe she isn’t seeing clients as an OT or writing, she loves singing, songwriting, and producing music.