I want to you to ask yourself:

What are the three words you want to come after your name when people think of you?

I’m not talking about your professional credentials or certifications. I’m referring to the words that patients, colleagues and referral sources use to describe who you are and what you do.  I guarantee you they are putting labels and categories on you that greatly affect your professional success.

Many therapists believe that if they just improve their clinical knowledge and skills they’ll be recognized based upon the merits of their work. Their thinking goes something like this, if patients get better and I work really hard the rest will take care of itself.

Therapists often make the faulty assumption that if their professional reputation grows to a certain level, word of mouth marketing will fill their schedules. Once they become “good enough” their professional career will take off and they’ll be in high demand.

But that’s simply not reality anymore. Whether you want to be happier at your present job, make a job change or take the leap into private practice you have to make a name for yourself. To achieve success in today’s competitive market, it’s almost certain that you’ll need to develop your professional brand.

Here are 3 reasons why you need to take responsibility for your own professional reputation or brand:

  1. Competition for healthcare dollars has never been greater. Consumers are shopping for the best value and have plenty of choices.
  2. Consumers are more distracted than ever before. It’s difficult to get consumers attention above the noise.
  3. Most consumers don’t have any clue what therapists do, let alone your unique specialty.

Right now other people are controlling how you are being seen and understood in the marketplace.

Now don’t misunderstand me. There is no substitute for being academically prepared and recognizing your strengths as a therapist. However, it’s your demonstrated expertise, not your academic credentials, that count in the marketplace. I know first hand, that advanced certifications don’t gain any extra referrals or additional respect with the public.

A lot of continuing education programs and graduate schools are simply taking advantage of therapist’s status concerns and fears about the future of healthcare.

We live in a busy world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from all the other practioners in the healthcare industry. Whether it’s developing an expert niche or attracting your ideal clients having a clear professional brand is vital.

Taking responsibility for your professional brand is not about ego or making a name for yourself. It’s about having valuable service to offer others and developing the most powerful way of getting that service to the people who will benefit from it.

It’s time to take back control of your professional brand.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a genius or a worldwide therapy guru to make an impact. Applying simple branding principles based upon cultivating relationships within your inner circle can take you a long way.

As in the past, success today in advancing your career is not so much about what you know but who you know. Most therapists already have–or think they have–what they need to know to get patients better.

That’s a given, it’s just the starting point.

To get yourself noticed, to be seen amidst all the other choices, you have to answer the who and the how questions in the branding equation.

In order to have a professional brand that stands out you’ll need to clearly answer 3 simple questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. How do you make people’s lives better?

When building your brand it’s important to blend what YOU want with what OTHER people want. In order to get consumers and referral sources attention to you need to speak in a language that they understand. Their most pressing question when they seek you out is “How are you going to make my life better?” You’ll have about 10 seconds during a Google search get their attention and provide them a clear answer.

To avoid sounding ordinary you’ll need clarity on your own brand for yourself. If you can’t explain your who and do what statement in a simple sentence then you’re almost guaranteed that your audience won’t be able to either.

You’ll need to spend the time developing your most important asset if you want people to know, like and trust you as a therapist. Trust me it’s time well spent. Time better spend than doing to another continuing education course. Here are a few steps to get you started.

6 Steps To Create An Extra-Ordinary Professional Brand

 1. Get feedback from others

 2. Make a list of 3 successful people you respect

  • How are they alike?
  • How are they different?
  • What about them intrigues you?

 3. Brainstorm what you want to be know for

  • List the adjectives you want to repeated after people get to know you
  • Write out your strengths when it comes to skills and abilities
  • Narrow the list down to three words

 4. Compare your list from step 1 to step 2 

  • What makes you stand out?
  • What is distinctive in your mind?
  • What makes you different?

 5. Write 3 words on how you want to be know

  • i.e. ‘strategic, calm communicator or ‘fearless, giving’ this is your brand
  • Who is the audience that my brand needs to speak to?
  • Is this authentic? Does this feel good when you speak with others?

6. Write 5 actions that demonstrate this brand

  • Apply these actions in your personal, business and social life
  • Start building relationships by networking and connecting with others
  • Communicate your brand on social media

A good professional reputation doesn’t stand on it’s own anymore. It’s foundational to be sure but it’s not enough. In order to be successful in today’s healthcare environment therapists need to take control over their professional brand. It’s not sufficient to be clinically competent. There is just too much competition and most referral pathways are being controlled now.

Here are several resources to build your therapy brand:

It’s the responsibility of every therapist to take back their own brand and with it the collective brand of the whole profession. Therapists are leading extra-ordinary lives and helping people in extra-ordinary ways. They truly want what’s best for their patients. But in order to be seen and heard they need to build an irrestible brand with integrity and clarity.

Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his own private practice.

He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and Cash Therapy Practice: Professional Freedom in the New Healthcare Economy. His website and his podcast Functional Freedom are dedicated to helping therapists build their dream practices. Connect with Paul on his website or on Twitter @lifetouchpt. You can also get more free resources at

In the comment section, share one practical step you’ve taken to build your brand.