For small business owners with a loyal fan base, a small advertising budget and a yen to boost online reputation scores, review sites like Yelp are absolute treasures. By asking loyal customers to write reviews, these businesses can get the exposure they’re looking for without spending a whole lot of time or money.
But if you’re a social worker, therapist or counselor, review sites can’t help your reputation. That’s because the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct from the APA specifically prohibits you from soliciting testimonials. Even if clients like you and claim they could write in a way that protects their privacy, just asking them to write a review violates your ethics.
And if people do write a review about you online, those same ethics might keep you from responding. After all, admitting that you had a therapeutic relationship with a client could be a violation of that person’s privacy, and your company’s ethics.
So if Yelp is out, what can you do instead? Here are six ideas.
#1. Claim your spot on Google.
It takes less than 10 minutes to sign up for Google My Business. All you’ll need are a few pertinent details about your practice, such as:
- Your physical address
- The hours in which you take appointments
- Your phone number
- Your website address
By tapping in that data, your practice will show up in all sorts of places. When people run searches for professionals in your area, your practice will appear on maps and at the top of search listings. It’s a quick and easy way to get a top-of-mind mention, with no reviews required.
#2. Write a blog.
Want another way to claim space for your practice in search engine results? Write a blog about your industry. Well-researched and well-written articles are intoxicating for search engines, and each entry is tacked back to your name and the name of your practice.
It does take time to write a well-researched blog, of course, but it’s not necessary for you to write each and every day. In fact, some bloggers suggest that writing just two or three blogs each week is a better tactic. Loosening up your deadlines allows you to write better, more comprehensive blogs. And that’s a much better use of your time.
#3. Publish in reputable journals.
When you were working through medical school, you were probably expected to do a little research and get the result published in journals that relate to your field. If you’ve fallen out of the publish-or-perish model, it might be time to brush up your skills and get back out there with great research.
By publishing in a medical journal, you accomplish three pretty nifty goals:
- You demonstrate your expertise.
- You get free publicity for your practice.
- You have something you can share and promote.
Best of all, these benefits all come to you without the need to violate privacy rules or ethics. And, you might just contribute something meaningful to the medical community as a whole.
#4. Speak up and speak out.
As a therapist, you’re probably accustomed to speaking to very small groups of people. But, if you brush up your speaking chops just a bit, you could end up reaching a much larger audience. By holding one or two speaking engagements, you could get all sorts of free publicity.
Speaking engagements are often covered by news media outlets, which could mean that you’ll get a mention in the local paper that helps to boost your local reputation. And, each person who attends your talk might discuss your ideas on their social media channels, which could get you an even bigger boost.
The benefits don’t stop there, either. If you pull together formal notes for your talk, you could share those on SlideShare. This website is designed to publish and promote speaker’s notes, and according to some estimates, the site gets about 60 million unique visitors per month. That’s a huge number of eyeballs, and you could get them with notes you’ve already produced.
#5. Donate your time.
Pro bono work allows you to reach out to people who might not be able to pay for your help. Giving back to your community like this can give you a mental boost, as you’ll know you’re helping people who really need you. But the benefits of donation can also extend to your reputation.
Some volunteering opportunities come with a chance at self-promotion. For example, if you’re holding a few hours of clinic time per month at a local woman’s shelter, you might see your company name in the shelter’s printed thank-you newsletters that head out to the community. Or, if you’re holding group meetings at the local correctional facility, your name might appear as a benefactor on that facility’s website or in that facility’s newsletter.
In addition, the work you do in your community has the potential to bring you viral exposure. People often enjoy reading about or hearing about how others give back. These stories are inspirational, and sometimes, they inspire people to think kindly about organizations, just because they do good work.
If you simply can’t donate pro bono therapy time, consider other ways to give back in order to get these benefits. You could:
- Donate a few weekend hours to walking dogs at your local animal shelter.
- Sponsor a children’s sports team for the season.
- Serve meals at the local homeless shelter.
- Donate to a wildlife rescue.
Anything you do that has the potential to inspire good feelings and get you a little press is a task well worth undertaking.
Ethics concerns could keep you from connecting with clients via social media sites. But, you could link up with colleagues, reporters and industry experts online, and chances are, you have a great deal of content to share.
Everything I’ve mentioned here makes for excellent social fodder. Share your writing, pop up your slides, take a snap of the dogs you’re walking, or use Facebook to check in at the shelter for your volunteer time. All of these actions help you to spread the word about you and your work, and that could be vital to an excellent reputation.
Protecting the privacy and safety of patients is a top priority for anyone who works in the mental health field, and that means that asking for reviews is out. But I think I’ve made it clear that you can do a few other powerful things to boost your reputation as a mental health therapist. If I missed any tips you’ve found helpful, please share them in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.
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