When we start to feel the need to muscle up for term protection, defending scope of practice, etc... it all comes from a good place -- that the public consumer needs to be FULLY AWARE of what they are buying and who they are actually buying it from.
Still... we don't want to come across like this guy:
"This guy hates charity." - Monster's University
Positive media will always beat out negative media as it pertains to change. Sure, negative media gets more "press"... (contradiction in terms)... or, rather, is likely to get more attention. However, it may not actually get any action.
So, how do we do this? How do we go about protecting ourselves, our customers, and the consumer at large without looking like we're trying to nitpick, or even worse, come across like we're bullying other professions. Here are my suggestions:
1. Forge Strategic Alliances.
For every profession, there exists a continuum of excellence from totally amazing to "shouldn't even be in this profession." We see it all over healthcare, we see it in other professions, and certainly in personal trainers, chiropractors, etc.
Instead of saying the proverbial, "Get off my turf!" I suggest we approach the best of the trainers, chiros, acupuncturists, massage therapists... anyone who would otherwise seem to be a "threat" and make THEM our champions. After all, kind words mean a LOT more coming from someone who may be perceived as a rival. Some of the most successful cash and out of network physical therapists I know create alliances with those that would otherwise be stereotypically considered "the enemy."
It should speak volumes that such personalities are THAT successful because their mindset is not on the scarcity of resources; but, on a growth mindset that there isn't a piece of the pie to be had... rather, to make the pie bigger!
2. Get Public!
How many chiropractors, massage therapists, and TENs representatives do you see at your county fair, farmer's market, or local health fair? And... how many PTs? #PointMade
Truly, if we even wish to hope to have some semblance of professional brand awareness amongst our consumer base, we need to at the very least GET PUBLIC. GET VISIBLE. GET OUT THERE. We can't blame consumers for going to the most visible brands for substitutable expertise and solutions. We only have ourselves to blame on that one.
Therefore, what must be done is for physical therapists to capture every opportunity out there to get publicly visible. This means social media, health fairs, conferences, county fairs, conventions, community events, schools, sponsorships, ads, local news, the local paper... you name it! Anywhere there are people, ears, or eyeballs... PHYSICAL THERAPISTS SHOULD BE THERE. That... is the only way we can point the arrow to the practitioner of choice regarding physical health, the movement system, pain, rehabilitation, etc.
3. Approach Everything via Consumer Concern.
It's all about protecting the consumer. Just like we want accurate food labels, we want accurate labels on exercise, fitness, wellness, and healthcare.
This is where we can approach from a legal standpoint of false advertisement, misrepresentation, etc. We don't need to publicly blast people for doing (knowing or unknowingly) what is against the law, or at the very least, is inaccurate or unethical in terms of advertisement. What we can do, is come at this from the angle of concern for the consumers. After all, no one wants someone post-op to get hurt because they went to the wrong person, right? After all, no one wants someone who has a healthcare concern to be cared for by someone who is unlicensed, right? After all... it's all about making sure the public is protected, knows their options, and are free to make their best choice as consumers.
Coming at it from the lens of social responsibility is a powerful focus and gets a lot of positive attention, even regarding uncomfortable topics at hand which require hard changes.
Some Closing Thoughts
As PTs, we definitely need to advocate for our consumers, protect our profession, and defend our scope of practice. We can do so with strong allies on all sides, rather than by pointing fingers at misdeed. We can do so by being a beacon of hope and constructive thought in the eye of the public. We can do so by demonstrating genuine concern for the consumer, over our own "turf," "scope," or "gain."
It is through such angles of approach that we gain favor in the public eye -- that we constantly aim for the betterment of all through transparent mindsets of mutual growth and societal benefit at large.