Whether you have a traditional medical centre, allied health centre, or you offer complementary health care – creating and implementing strategies to increase community engagement is usually the responsibility of the Practice Manager.
Healthcare centres can play a civic leadership role by becoming community hubs in health education and promoting community wellness. Your most powerful tool is how often you communicate with your clients, and there are many enjoyable ways to drive community engagement.
7 Ways to Increase Client and Community Engagement
1. Always get email addresses
One of the most precious resources you have is the email address of all your adult clients. Email provides you with an instant communication channel to use for appointment reminders and newsletters, to sending urgent health alerts. Remember to respect your client’s inboxes and always use email to add value and educate.
2. Send a regular newsletter
Newsletters that offer advice, expertise and genuinely help clients are the most effective. Consistency and frequency work best, so plan to send one a month or one a quarter/season. Linking the newsletter to your website and social media pages will expand reach beyond your client base and it is also a good idea to keep printed hard copy versions on your reception counter.
- Keep it short – one page with three columns is enough.
- Catchy and relevant subject lines are useful, e.g. “FLU SEASON! Are you ready?” works well as a winter theme newsletter.
- Content ideas that work well are; healthy lifestyles, health hazard alerts, a featured team member, promote upcoming events, charity spotlight and community events.
3. Get savvy with social media
Social media is a proven community builder. To choose the right platform, consider the amount of time you can allocate and the average age of your community. The best pages are interactive so give your clients an opportunity to ask questions, post thank-you’s, or photos which the page admin can filter if necessary.
4. Create a website that clients will want to visit
Your website is often the first point of call for potential clients, so it needs to reflect the vibrancy and trustworthiness of your business. A website is only as valuable as the number of people who both visit and repeat visit. You can influence this by ensuring the website address is used on letterheads, social media, newsletters and all promotional material. Review your website often to ensure all the information is current and a ‘go to’ information source. Archive your newsletters as new visitors can find this informative. A monthly website blog can provide more extensive editorial on topics summarised in the Newsletter. Consider having an online appointment booking service via your website.
5. Share workshops and seminars
Educating your community can be as simple as holding small information seminars that are relevant to your clients and the community at large. Start with one, then add more as your time and experience allows. Schedule sessions on a convenient day and time, and for 1-2 hours only, any longer is often difficult for clients to attend. Use newsletters, social media and your website to flag the event at least six weeks ahead and remind clients weekly. Give flyers to clients who attend the clinic and hang inviting posters. Offer prizes to those who bring a friend. Welcome attendees warmly and serve them light refreshments. Take home ‘showbags’ with free samples and add-value information are also appreciated.
6. Hold health information open days
Open days are a useful way to introduce all your services to both your current clients and the general community. Start with one a year at first, held over four to six hours. Begin your promotion a minimum of two months in advance. A good idea is to give your open day a festive themed feel and decorate the clinic accordingly. Give out balloons, pens, brochures and booklets, etc. Offer free tests such as blood pressure, hearing, or stamina. You can hold several short, 10-20 minute presentations from key staff and consider first-aid or wellness techniques you can demonstrate.
7. Be a community advocate
An effective way of promoting your business is by sponsoring community events. Investigate local sporting clubs and events, school health and sports days, fetes, and other community events.
You will find that connecting with your community will be a rewarding and heart-warming experience for all practice managers.