Interview with Casie Keaton, Au.D., CCC-A - Clinical Sales Manager, Neuromonics
CAROLYN SMAKA: Casie, Tinnitus Awareness Week seems like a great opportunity for professionals to promote an awareness of tinnitus and effective treatments.
CASIE KEATON: We agree. In addition, it is a great opportunity for professionals to promote themselves and their expertise.
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), 50 million people in the U.S., or 16 percent of the population, suffer from tinnitus. Since tinnitus usually co-exists with hearing loss, many patients coming in for hearing testing and audiology services have tinnitus. According to Google AdWords, the keyword "tinnitus" is searched nearly 1 million times per month, with more than one-third of those searches happening in the U.S. People are looking for information, and they should get that information from professionals.
Since May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, ATA has designated a week during May each year to focus specifically on increasing public awareness about tinnitus and the need for increased funding for tinnitus research. This year, it's May 13th - 19th. Tinnitus Awareness Week complements all of the other extraordinary year-round advocacy efforts of ATA.
As you know, tinnitus can be a real source of anxiety for people who suffer from it. In addition to proven, effective treatments, there are new purported "miracle cures" for tinnitus being touted every day. Hearing care professionals are an unbiased source of evidence-based information in this area. While not everyone who has tinnitus will be candidates for tinnitus treatment, they will often have questions about their tinnitus that may motivate them to make the appointment with you in the first place. By using Tinnitus Awareness Week to promote your expertise and your practice, you may be able to pick up some new referrals as well as use the increased awareness to help market to your existing patient database.
SMAKA: So what kinds of things can professionals do to help raise awareness of tinnitus, and at the same time market themselves and their practice?
KEATON: There are many things professionals can do, and many free resources are available to assist them.
First, you can do something as simple as add a tag line to the email signatures of your practice. It can say "Tinnitus Awareness Week, May 13-19, 2012" and include a hyperlink to tinnitus information on your website. This will reach everyone to whom your practice sends email - from patients to referral sources (such as physicians) to your contacts in the community.
Regarding your website, make sure that you have a section with information on tinnitus to capture traffic from all the people we know are searching for tinnitus info on the Web. You don't need to re-invent the wheel here. Better Hearing Institute, ATA and other non-profit agencies such as National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) have great general information on tinnitus, and much of it is available for hearing care professionals to use. Neuromonics has consumer information that you can use on your website and in your marketing efforts as well.
SMAKA: What kind of tinnitus information should you put on your website - how detailed should the information be?
KEATON: That's a great question. Google AdWords and other sources tell us that people are searching for general information, such as "what is tinnitus," "what is tinnitus caused by," and what treatments are available. One mistake professionals often make is putting too much information or too many details on their websites. Consumers' attention spans are short;they are inundated with information in our digital age. Concise information that is written at a basic level without industry jargon, and that leads to a call to action such as making an appointment for an evaluation or an invitation to a consumer seminar, is most effective.
Other easy online efforts to promote tinnitus awareness and your expertise include using social media. Post interesting facts about tinnitus to your Facebook page and Twitter account, linking back to your website. Facts such as, "Did you know that tinnitus is the No. 1 service-related disability for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan?" and "Effective treatments are available" are helpful to consumers, and serve as great ways to link back to important parts of your website. Keep posts informational and positive, and when possible, include a call to action. This could be a link to make an appointment or to RSVP for a consumer seminar.
Connect with other organizations' pages such as ATA and Neuromonics and share posts that may be of interest to your followers. At Neuromonics, we have short videos that highlight patients who have successfully treated their tinnitus that you can link to in social media. ATA also has a great video library, including some that feature celebrities like William Shatner and tennis pro Jennifer Capriati discussing tinnitus. These kinds of things can make your social media posts more dynamic, and encourage sharing and discussion among your friends and followers.
SMAKA: You mentioned that social media posts can link to a consumer seminar. What advice do you have for professionals interested in offering a consumer seminar on tinnitus?
KEATON: Consumer seminars are a popular way for professionals to showcase their expertise in an area such as tinnitus. Community centers, senior centers, libraries and the local veterans' clubs may also welcome you as a guest speaker on a topic like tinnitus. Neuromonics has tinnitus sound demos on its website that can be used as part of a seminar or community talk. There also is patient information on the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment Program.
You can promote a consumer seminar by sending an email blast to your existing patients, posting to social media as mentioned, and by sending a news release to local media. Sample news releases for Tinnitus Awareness Week can be found at ATA and BHI.
SMAKA: ATA also mentions the need for increased funding for tinnitus research.
KEATON: I'm glad you brought that up. There have been a lot of advances in tinnitus research that have furthered our understanding of it, but there is still much about tinnitus that is unknown. There are many ways that professionals can support tinnitus research and tie it into their marketing efforts at the same time. One example is writing to your legislators, asking them to support any increases in appropriations to organizations seeking funding for tinnitus research - organizations such as National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense and the Veteran's Administration. Ask your patients to do the same. A sample letter is available on the ATA website.
You can donate or raise funds directly. For example, for every patient who refers a friend to you during the month, you can donate a set amount, such as $5, to ATA, on his or her behalf. This may help increase referrals, and at the same time supports a great cause. Another example of goodwill marketing is donating a book, such as the Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus, to your local library. Be sure to include a nameplate in the book that indicates that your business donated the book, and that includes your contact information. It is an easy and inexpensive way to help get your name out there. Be sure to mention all of your efforts regarding Tinnitus Awareness Week in your patient e-newsletter and communications.
SMAKA: Casie, what if I'm not up to speed on tinnitus or am not offering tinnitus services in my practice?
KEATON: Approximately 10 to 15 percent of audiology practices are really committed to treating tinnitus patients. Today, there are effective treatment options available for the right candidates. It can be incredibly rewarding to be able to give patients their lives back through successful treatment. It's not that difficult for professionals to treat tinnitus if they take the time to prepare and educate.
At the very least, professionals need a baseline of education and current understanding about what is available for tinnitus patients. Professionals have an obligation to educate their patients on tinnitus and to know who and when to refer to when indicated. At Neuromonics, we're committed to providing the training and the tools to help audiologists deliver positive outcomes to their patients with tinnitus. Professionals who are interested can contact Neuromonics customer service number, 866-606-3876, to get in touch with one of our Clinical Specialists. They can help get the professional registered for the appropriate training courses that are relevant to their experience and interest. For example, if a provider doesn't want to make tinnitus treatment a main focus of the practice, it may still be worth an hour or two of time to get a current understanding of tinnitus basics.
SMAKA: Thanks so much. Those are great tips on making the most of Tinnitus Awareness Week, and for marketing in general.
KEATON: It's been a pleasure.
For more information about Neuromonics visit www.neuromonics.com or the Neuromonics Web Channel on Audiology Online.