I am a physical therapy assistant and the founder of GetPT1st, an awareness campaign promoting the profession of physical therapy. In the year since GetPT1st launched, it has experienced overwhelming success. One GetPT1st video was shown in the Facebook news feed of over 1.2 million people and has been viewed well over 300,000 times. And our last #GetPT1st event on Twitter had 3.2 million impressions over a two hour period during the middle of the day. Talk about getting the word out about PT!

I believe that GetPT1st is making a real impact in driving more patients to physical therapy before they pursue more expensive, dangerous and invasive treatment routes. How did I achieve this marketing success?

Like many PTAs and PTs, I took a non-traditional route to physical therapy. I’ve worked in retail and sales, and was fortunate to learn quite a few tips along the way. I’ve also always been the first to volunteer to take on new projects. So when my first clinic needed a new website and some social media exposure, I jumped at the opportunity. Like many therapists, I’m also part geek, and love mixing my tech side and my creative spark with my therapy skills.

Below are the four things I have learned about marketing PT since launching GetPT1st. They are also very much the secret behind GetPT1st’s success. I hope they are useful to your clinic’s marketing efforts as well.

  1. Focus on What PTs “Do”

Physical therapy has a few problems that almost all of us are familiar with. The most obvious to many is that we have an image problem. The public largely doesn’t know what we do as PTs and PTAs, and may have some wrong assumptions about how we treat people. While it’s often joked about internally, the whole “PT = pain and torture” thing really gives a horrible image, and isn’t something we should want to associate with.

Another problem we have is the name of the profession. Do we “do” physical therapy the way a masseuse gives massages or are we physical therapists that help people? It can be used as a noun and a verb. Research often confuses this as well in describing PT as more of a single intervention than a profession. Part of this language hang up is our doing and part of it is just unfortunate wording. Consider even the name of the American Physical Therapy Association. Our friends overseas have the same problem with the term physiotherapy.

I decided that while I might not be able to do anything about the latter, our profession’s name, I certainly could do something about the former, promoting what we “do” in physical therapy. Over the years I became more and more involved in social media marketing, to the point of doing some marketing and advertising consulting work for other private practices beyond the clinics I worked at. We focused on direct to consumer marketing, promoting all the great things we “do” in physical therapy, and changing the image of what we do and who we are.

  1. Promote Your Professional Motivation: Compassion

I’ve been lucky enough to work with and meet tons of PTs and PTAs and am convinced that we have a very caring and compassionate core to our profession. I believe that if we can get the public to see that, we will all benefit.

GetPT1st is a national campaign built on those same principles and goals. We focus on promoting direct access and the uniqueness of the profession. We can promote the profession with a high standard of ethics, because we actually have the science to support what it is we do. We don’t have to resort to bogus claims or clickbait to draw people in or play on their fears.

But we also shouldn’t be afraid to promote ourselves either. No one else will advocate for us, this is our chance to go directly to the public and make our case for why we should be the providers of choice for musculoskeletal issues.

  1. Drop the Physical Therapy Jargon in Marketing

The PT perception problem goes back to a lack of marketing – which is a problem within a lot of industries. You can have a great product but if no one knows about it or understands it, you won’t ever sell it. Oftentimes, PTs promote their profession using industry jargon and medical terms that will likely never make sense to the average person without a medical degree.

Can you imagine going into a bakery and instead of talking about the cupcakes, the baker wanted to sell you on how good his oven is and how it’s better than the other bakery ovens around? You came in looking for a cupcake and left confused, possibly without even making a purchase.

PTs talk like this way too often and don’t even realize it. We aren’t marketing to the people who are already looking for us, we’re marketing to the people who haven’t even considered us. It’s a whole different kind of science that many aren’t used to, but it’s still science.

If we have all this great research to support our profession, why aren’t more people seeing a physical therapist first when they have something like low back pain? In fact, some estimates show that PT as a first point of entry into the healthcare system for LBP is as low as 7%. We can do better than that!

  1. Embrace Social Media

At GetPT1st we depend on people sharing our content. We have zero budget so we can’t afford a traditional advertising campaign. Many of the people following us on social media are PTs who share our content on their own clinic’s pages or on their personal accounts. Because of this we’re able to reach those friends and family members (the average Facebook user has 338 friends), people who are often overlooked by PTs.

Consider our most popular post, which I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. A GetPT1st video was shown in the Facebook news feed of over 1.2 million people and has been viewed well over 300,000 times. With social media, the PT value message is really getting out there. We live in a new age of social media networking and marketing, and by working together we can do some incredible things. I urge you to jump up and get involved, now isn’t the time to be shy!


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