What Private Patient Advocates Can Learn from Paula Deen*

pauladeenHey y’all!

If someone had asked you on the June 20, 2013 to describe Paula Deen, you might have described her as a bubbly, vivacious, popular Food Network star, author, well-merchandised cook or chef. Whether or not you liked her, and no matter what you thought of her approach to food, you at least had to admire her empire and popularity.

Over the next week, her empire collapsed, seemingly because she fessed up to using the N-word during a lawsuit deposition.*

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. It makes no difference whether or not Deen’s fall was fair or right. It happened. It remains to be seen whether she can recapture what she had.

We can think of other well-known people who have “fallen” too. Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson, even Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton. With varying success they have come back to their original popularity, although for the rest of their lives, their names will always be accompanied by an asterisk.

Do you see any patterns? Except that they were all “big” – until they weren’t – it seems their only similarity is that each made a misstep, even though their missteps were entirely different.

But let’s look at the bigger picture here, because it’s through the bigger picture that you’ll see why this point is important to you and your patient advocacy practice.

In all cases, the person they were the day before their demise, vs the day after, is exactly the same. Paula Deen is not a different person today, but she’s not as popular as she was. That’s true with every other name in this post.

The difference is that they have all tarnished their brands. Paula Deen didn’t change because she used the N-word. Her brand did. OJ Simpson was the same person the day before his wife died as he was the day after. But his brand was destroyed. Tiger Woods, nor Martha Stewart changed – but both their brands did.

Each of us has a brand. I’m not talking about an icon you burn into the backside of a steer. I’m talking about a brand in the marketing sense – that picture in someone’s MIND of what you represent. The representation of a brand might be your face, or it might be a logo or certain colors. But it’s what is BEHIND the brand, what SUPPORTS the brand that is important.

Golden arches mean hamburgers with a specific flavor and number of calories. You can count on those golden arches to yield a certain quality of food. What would happen if you learned (I’m making this up! it hasn’t happened!) that the company that makes those hamburgers was using horse meat? You would never again trust what those arches represent.

Brands are built over time – and that’s one of your goals as an advocate in private practice. You must strive for consistency in your brand. You want the people you work for to trust you, to admire you, to appreciate you, and then, later, to tell others how trustworthy you are. That you, above all!, were able to support their needs and find them peace of mind. It’s a bonus if they believe that when they hear not just your name, but your company’s name, too. That is your brand. It’s WHO you are.

But just like Deen, or Woods, or Stewart, or Clinton – one misstep and you’re toast. Word about those missteps travels far faster than word about your positive work does. The minute your consistency is, well, inconsistent in a negative way, is the day your brand becomes permanently tarnished.

It’s the day you have acquired your asterisk. Nobody wants that asterisk.

The Health Advocate’s Code was developed to provide goals and descriptions for the consistency you’ll want to seek. Read it, subscribe to it, share it with clients and potential clients, and reread it on occasion as a good reminder of what is important for your consistency, too.

Keep your brand polished. It’s good for you, your practice, and other health advocates, too.


*As for the reason Deen’s empire collapsed, I don’t believe it was the N-word that did her in. Read more.

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