Food For Thought 2004 – Improving Our Public Relations

G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN

Volume 22, number 3, 1/29/04, page 14
My ideas on a public relations campaign that really would work.

I just returned from working at the World Triathlon Championships in New Zealand. For the 5 days leading up to the weekend races, many of the 270 plus US athletes (in divisions ranging from juniors to over 70 and athletes with disabilities to professionals) received care from the US Medical team. The busiest and most popular doctor was Sports Chiropractor Ernie Ferrel. While going through my mail, I came upon the December 15th issue of Dynamic Chiropractic which had a front page story about chiropractic and pubic relations. The article discussed the fact that only 10% of Americans see chiropractors and that we continue to get plenty of bad press. It introduced a new campaign that unites a number of groups including the ACA, ICA, National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, The Association of Chiropractic Colleges, Chiropractic Economics, and Dynamic Chiropractic, among others, to support one advertising message—“Go see a chiropractor.”

As I continued through my mail, I read an article on the best-selling information booklet for patients with spinal problems. Robin McKenzie’s “Treat Your Own Back” is in its seventh edition and has sold an astounding 2.5 million copies (and counting).
On the other side of the coin is the continuing avalanche of bad publicity. Here in California, chiropractors became the target for the Workers’ Compensation crisis based on marketing ads in chiropractic publications that blatantly boasted how chiropractors could exploit the system. In an article earlier this year, the current ICA president wrote about signing patients up for 40 visit plans over 90-days and/or 80 visit plans over a 1-year period!

The reason Dr Ferrel was so busy in the United States Triathlon medical clinic was because he significantly and rapidly reduced pain and/or solved problems. Until we bury the wellness/maintance BS and ostracize those chiropractors and marketers who propagate such fraud, we will continue to have a huge public relations problem. If wellness/maintance care is so valuable, where is the proof in peer-reviewed neutral journals with studies from independent researchers absent of funding, publication, and reviewer bias? For example, do wellness chiropractors, their families, or their maintenance patients have:

1. Longer lives
2. Lower lifetime healthcare costs
3. Fewer accidents
4. Less disease
5. Lower absentee rates
6. Fewer injuries
7. Less arthritis
8. Lower rates of disability
9. Shorter hospital stays
10. Healthier children

If research proves that regular care has a positive effect on any of the above examples, the PR boost we would receive would be massive. Billions of Healthcare dollars could be saved. But, there is no proof to support the above examples. Conversely, it would be wise a investment to survey those who do not use DC’s. The clear #1 reason I hear goes like this “I heard once you go, they want you to come back forever.”

Chiropractic has some tremendously talented, bright clinicians with amazing diagnostic and therapeutic skills. A good DC with a combination of manipulative, soft tissue, modality, exercise, rehabilitation, and nutritional knowledge can get great results rapidly. Results may be defined as pain relief without drugs or surgery, diagnosing the true cause of a problem, and giving the proper advice on issues concerning exercise, rehabilitation, nutrition, specialist referral or diagnostic testing. If this became our message—great results rapidly—our problems would resolve, with one catch—after attaining great results, we would then have to get the patients out of our offices, which is something most DCs are very capable of doing when they put their training and talents to work.

Do you think Robin McKenzie would have sold 2.5 million copies of a book that was entitled “I’ll Treat Your Back in My Clinic”? In today’s high-pressure, time-limited society, people want easier schedules. “Treat Your Own Back “ sells well because it enables people to stay away from healthcare professionals. The simple solution to improving our standing in society and increasing utilization is to promote chiropractors as the healthcare providers who get better, faster results with fewer visits and safer treatments.

Of course, we could continue with the PR we currently receive… 39 more visits; yeah, sure I’ll be back. He asked me to send my friends… I think I’ll tell my friends…


916 E. Imperial Hwy.
Brea, CA. 92821

(714) 990-0824
Fax: (714) 990-1917

Copyright 2004, G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824