Creating a brand is one of the best ways to generate referrals for your practice. A brand is a story, a set of unique values and ideals. A private practice without a brand is like a person without a personality: They just aren’t very attractive. Creating a brand is an involved process that can be overwhelming. But let’s face it, what value does something have if it comes easily? Let me offer three categories to help you in this process: Time, Consistency, and Grace.
Time. You need time in a couple of ways. First, give yourself time (2-3 years) to really understand what it is that you want to be doing in the private practice space. You’ll make a lot of mistakes in your first few years that will be invaluable learning lessons. Secondly, give your community time to warm up to your mission and values. Lastly, give your practice time to breathe, and cycle through the normal seasons and phases of growth.
Consistency. If you’re giving yourself time to create your brand, but are not consistent in the strategy, you are going to be wasting your time. Time without consistency might be categorized as lazy. For example, if you believe that writing and speaking are two brand-building strategies, then set a goal for doing these “x” number of times per week/month/year. Be consistent in how often you write and speak on a given subject. The more erratic you are, the more unstable your brand will be.
Grace. Finally, you need grace … and lots of it. Grace from yourself and others. If you are human, you will not do everything in your practice right, or even well. Trying to be perfect prevents good things from happening. Don’t be so audacious in your brand building that you absolutely cannot fail, but don’t set the bar too short, either. Unsure of how to go about doing this? Consider some one-on-one coaching to help you with that process.
Update… I ran across this article from Huffington Post about 7 tips for branding that is a helpful addition to what I’ve written above. Though #5 #7 don’t really apply to the world of professional counseling (social networking can be problematic), the other ideas are spot on.