Patient Testimonials

7 Keys to Selecting the Right Patient

In my last post, Healthcare Testimonials are Powerfully Influential, we looked at how, when announcing news, the testimonial of a patient is paramount in establishing the credibility of your health care brand. Regardless of whether your organization is a health care provider or product manufacturer, it’s important to remember that—when forming an opinion about an organization—more people consider a person like themselves to be a highly credible source than feel that way about almost any other source. For health care, that means people clearly want to hear from satisfied patients.

But even if you’re convinced of the importance of testimonials and are planning to incorporate patient soundbites or interviews in your next public relations launch, you may still have questions when it comes to choosing the right patient. Maybe you’ve even been using patient quotes and testimonials for a while now in your online marketing, but now you need to narrow it down to one patient for your print and broadcast PR, and you’re not sure how. If that’s where you’re at, here are some key tips on how to select just the right patient:

1 ~  Importance of Compliance on Patient Privacy Issues

First things first—before approaching any patient, make sure you’re compliant on issues of patient privacy.  Some patients may have already disclosed their health condition to your organization and given their consent to be contacted. For others, you may need to work through outside physicians willing to champion your effort by contacting their patients who they think might be appropriate and interested. However you approach it, it’s best to partner with your company’s patient privacy officer or legal department to ensure you’re abiding by HIPAA and any other provisions the company follows to protect patient privacy.

2 ~  Testimonials Should Tell a Compelling Personal Story

After ensuring privacy, the most fundamental ingredient for a successful interview or testimonial is a patient with a compelling personal story.  You’ll usually know the right story when you hear it. But whether it’s shared in a 15-second sound bite or as part of a five-minute radio interview, it’s helpful to know that, broken into its simplest parts, a good testimonial has three elements—problem, solution, and result. The problem is the fundamental healthcare challenge the patient faced. The solution is the strategy they chose to address the problem and, for your purposes, your medical device, pharmaceutical or hospital should be central to that solution. And the result is the patient’s positive outcome. Not every patient has a great story or can tell theirs well. But if you have these three building blocks and then also consider emotional appeal and how others can relate to a patient’s story, you’ll be on your way to identifying winning testimonials.

3 ~  Select Patients that are Authentic & Believable!

Next, it’s ideal if the patient is a “true believer” in your solution as THE solution, that is, it’s best if he or she is truly vested in your product or service, knowing it was central to his or her positive health outcome. For an ad campaign, you may spend lots of time finding someone with the right look or delivery of a line, but while those are nice to have, for media interviews, they’re secondary. News is about credible people telling real stories, and because both reporters and the public can see through an act, that’s not what you want in a patient interview. Conversely, sincere conviction will always shine through in the audience appeal of a story.

4 ~  Choose Patients that are Enthusiastic

It’s also crucial to find a patient who’s enthusiastic and cooperative about working with you to share their story, especially if it will be for an entire campaign. As you deal with patients, you’ll find some folks who both believe in your product and have a great story to tell. But if they’re not also committed to the focused work of media interviews, their interest in doing multiple PR tactics will fizzle. In all my work with patients, there’s not much worse in a media interview than someone just going through the motions. It becomes obvious in the interview, and what should be a great opportunity to tell the patient story—and your brand’s role in it—instead turns into a frustrating exercise in which you feel like you’re pushing a rock up a hill. To avoid this, I suggest you pay heed to my next recommendation.

5 ~ Vet Every Patient Thoroughly

Before seriously considering any patient for a testimonial, be sure to vet them. This is done most easily through an informal phone interview where you let the patient know from the outset that you’re simply exploring the idea of a testimonial. Even if a trusted colleague gives them glowing recommendations, you’re well-advised not to commit before speaking with a patient yourself. Vetting will help you find out some of the essentials I noted earlier, like their story, belief in your organization, and enthusiasm for doing testimonial work.  Only you will know if a patient is right for your PR program, and you don’t want to offend them, their physician or a colleague by committing prematurely only to have to subsequently back out. So, rather than having to deal with an uncomfortable 180-degree reversal later, better to do your homework up front with a simple vetting phone call that can easily identify any red flags or help waive the green flag so you can proceed.

6 ~ Feature a Patient that Represents Your Target Audience

Next, it’s ideal to select someone who fits the typical patient your organization serves, or in other words, your target demographic. Because it’s best to stay true to your demographic, it doesn’t make sense to spend much time pondering a young Beverly Hills millionaire for your testimonial if your standard target patient is a Medicare-eligible senior on a limited income. On occasion though, it is ok—and sometimes even advisable—to stray a little from your demographic if you’re struggling to meet your prime directive for PR, which we said earlier is what? That’s right, telling a compelling story, and that’s because the patient story is usually what sells a producer or editor on saying “yes” to your pitch and deciding to cover the story. It’s also what ends up making the media interview a winner. So, even if your patient base is 80 percent male, if the narrative of every single guy you’ve talked to is completely ho-hum but that one dynamic woman has an incredible saga, for PR purposes, I’d tell you to take the lady’s story and run with it.

7 ~ Seek a Great Patient-Physician Pairing

Finally, while not essential, if you’re lucky enough to have multiple patients who fit the bill, but only one who has a relationship with a physician who champions your product, you might want to move in that direction.  A great patient-physician pairing increases the appeal for some interviews, because they can tag-team between the patient’s personal journey and the physician’s combined medical expertise and familiarity with the patient.

Selecting a patient for a testimonial or media interview is often as much an art as it is a science. But if you follow these pointers, you’re more likely than not to find stories that editors and audiences are clamoring for and that put your brand in the spotlight it deserves.
If you’ve found success with patient testimonials, what has worked for you?  Please feel free to add to this list if you have a key ingredient that you’ve found is indispensable in selecting the ideal patient for testimonials.

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