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What Role Does Branding Play In Podiatric Practice?

What comes to mind when I say the following phrases?

"Rice a Roni, the …"

"Melts in your mouth, not …"

"Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh …"

If you could finish these well-known jingles, the companies achieved one of their primary purposes: for you to remember their product. Aside from the football itself, what do many people look forward to during the Super Bowl? Yes, the commercials. Companies spend millions of dollars to attract you to their products and their brand. Just as companies have a brand, every worker, manager, leader, physician, patient, etc., has a brand. Your brand can derail your career or enhance your success.

Even celebrities have brands. Think about the basketball star Michael Jordan.  Experts widely consider Jordan as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.1 His excellence on the court led to multimillions in endorsements and sponsorships. Compare him to one of his teammates, Dennis Rodman. What comes to mind?2 Probably something like missing practices, the clothes he wears and socializing with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un.

However, Dennis Rodman earned the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Defensive Team honors seven times and won the NBA Defensive Player Award twice. He also led the NBA in rebounds per game for seven consecutive years and won five NBA championships.3 states that he is "arguably the best rebounding forward in NBA history."3  

Here are two excellent NBA players but two vastly different brands. 

To further illustrate the point, Tiger Woods’ scandal caused significant damage to his brand. Shareholders of Woods’ corporate sponsors reportedly lost upward of $12 billion collectively back in 2009 when the public learned of his extramarital affairs and subsequent arrest.4 Clearly, managing your brand is paramount to your success.

Like a product brand, your brand consists of personal characteristics, behaviors and skills people see every day. What you say or don't say, what you do and don't do, affects your brand. Your brand is your identity. It is who you are.

Think of your brand as a mosaic, made up of many different impressions that combine to form a picture of you in someone else's mind.5 For physicians, it is your reputation, the way you are perceived and experienced by your patients, staff and the community in which you work. 

Managing your brand requires mindfulness and the recognition of the elements of a brand. To better understand brand elements, Keith Levick, PhD (Yes, my father) created a BRAND Model.6 The following is a description of the model.   

Building relationships. This element shows your energy, your attitude and how you shape the outcome of your social interactions. It stems from your social-emotional intelligence. Questions you can ask yourself include: 

• Are you aware of your feelings? 

• Are you collaborating with your patients or are your conversations a monologue? 

• Do you manage your emotions or do you quickly fly off the handle? 

• Do you listen to understand or listen to respond?

• Do you respond to your patients with empathy?

In order to successfully build relationships, you must be aware of your and other's emotional states, manage your emotions, trust your "gut" feelings, and recognize non-verbal communication. As always, strive to empathically connect with others.

Reality. You’ve heard the adage: perception is reality. Patients, staff and all you interact with consistently judge what you say and do. As social creatures, this is how we are wired. With that said:

• How do you present yourself to others? This includes all behavior, the clothes you wear, how you communicate, cleanliness of your office, etc.

• How do you behave and present yourself when you are not working? 

• Do you post political comments publicly on social media?

• Do your Instagram posts get noticed? If so, what messages do these posts send? Just because you post something "right" or "favorable" does not mean others perceive it that way. 

Recognize the reality that people are watching you. No, it is not a paranoid statement. Rather, it is a truism of human behavior. It is important to have accountability for knowing how others perceive you. 

Asset. Think of your personality, knowledge, skills, accomplishments and failures as assets. Therefore, you may want to pay attention to the following questions:

• Are you actively growing your practice and skill set? 

• Are you expanding your practice or are you comfortable with the status quo?

• How does your office look? Is it outdated? 

• What networks can you develop?  

Like sharks, human beings need to keep moving (growing) to survive. Keep in mind that complacency is the enemy of excellence.

Notice. Earlier, we discussed the importance of how one presents him or herself. Many resources are devoted to the packaging of products. Take, for example, Apple products. Apple goes way beyond the "computer brand" label. The company creates products for its target market, loyal customers who believe these products make life better, easier, more fun and cooler.7 As a physician, you (the product) want to appeal to your target audience, create loyal patients, prescribe treatment for an eventual pain-free life and look cool and friendly by doing it.

Patients and others take notice of doctors in several different areas, including … 

• Appearance

o Do you professionally dress for work or wear scrubs?

o Do you have pieces of paper falling out of your white coat? 

o What is your hair style or color? 

o What is your wardrobe like?

Remember, clothes may not make the person but they do drive perception. Your overall appearance should reinforce your professional brand.

• Communication

o Are you clear and concise when communicating with your patients or attendings? 

o Are your SOAP notes readable? 

o Are your treatment plans clear to your patients? 

• Environment

o We are visual creatures and judge by what we see. 

o How organized are you? Is your desk piled high with files? 

o Is there fungus growing at the bottom of your coffee mugs? 

o How does your waiting room look?

It is the little things that make significant differences in people's minds.

• Your Team

Your parents probably told you that people judge you by the company you keep. They were correct. You may want to consider the following.

o What is your and your partners’ (associates') reputation? 

o How do your front-line employees greet patients and/or answer the phone? Also, how does your office manager interact with the front office?

o Are all members of your team adhering to your values, policies and ethics?

Delivery. Self-promoting is subtle and not done arrogantly. It is not taking credit for someone's work, putting yourself above others or talking incessantly about your accomplishments. Just being a "good doc" may not be good enough in our competitive environment. It is okay to "toot your own horn." 

Ask yourself:

• Who needs to know about me, my team and my work? 

• What do they need to know and how can I be of service to them?

• Can I conduct some research and/or write an interesting article? 

As you encourage your patients to return for routine checkups, it may be time for you to do the same. Check your professional brand and perform the necessary maintenance to keep running smoothly every six to 12 months. Also keep in mind what Naira Marley, a Nigerian singer and songwriter, said, "Your degree is just a piece of paper. Your education is seen in your behavior." 

Dr. Levick-Doane is a Diplomate of the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, and the American Board of Podiatric Medicine. She is a foot and ankle surgeon at Kipferl Foot and Ankle Centers in Des Plaines, Fox River Grove and Algonquin, Ill. Dr. Levick-Doane is also an affiliate attending for the RUSH podiatric residency program in Chicago.


1. NBA Encyclopedia. Available at: . Accessed November 18, 2020.

2. Skidmore S. 23 years later, Air Jordans maintain mystique. Seattle Times. Available at: . Published January 10, 2008. Accessed November 24, 2020.

3. Rodman, Mullin enshrined in hall of fame. Fox Sports. Available at: . Published August 12, 2011. Accessed November 24, 2020.

4. Tiger Woods scandal cost shareholders up to $12 billion. Reuters. Available at: . Published December 29, 2009. Accessed November 24, 2020.

5. Hodgkinson S. The Leader’s Edge: Using Personal Branding to Drive Performance and Profit. Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse; 2005.

6. Personal communication with Keith Levick, PhD.

7. Patel N. 7 key strategies that you must learn from Apple’s marketing. Available at: . Accessed November 18, 2020.

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