(This post is being published in May 2020 – in the midst of the pandemic – when many advocates are working from home, and hopefully taking time to update and improve their business practices. I hope the message here rings true for those of you – the few of you – who need it, and that necessary changes will be made accordingly.)
True confessions here! I met my husband on Match.com. We met and married in 2006. Today we continue to live our happily ever after.
Prior to meeting him, I dated a handful of other (so-called) gentlemen I met on Match.com who weren’t “all that”. And, sad to say, (or, at the time, what seemed appalling to me) when I met them in person, after reading their profiles and seeing the photos they had posted, I was amazed at how much they had either stretched the truth or, in a couple of cases, out-and-out lied. From posting photos that made them look 30 lbs lighter or 20 years younger, to claiming they were far younger than they were, to saying they were widowed or divorced, only to learn they were really married… yikes.
(I had to wonder how little regard they had for me, or any other woman they hoped to connect with, that they didn’t think we’d ever figure out the truth? Then what?)
So what does this have to do with building an advocacy practice?
As advocates, our work is so very personal. The relationships we build with our clients can also become deeply personal, even when we try to keep a bit of distance and not get so personal.
No, we aren’t looking for lifelong partners – that’s true.
But the entire foundation of a hiring decision made by a client is based on trust. A prospective client must trust you before he or she is willing to put life and limb and financial security in your hands. That trust requires honesty up front. Without it, either a prospective client will not hire you to begin with, or, if dishonesty is exposed later, trust will be lost, the client will feel burned, and the damage to your reputation may be irreparable once word-of- mouth kicks in.
Yet, I am continually amazed at the advocates who post bogus information on their websites and/or directory listings, or who claim degrees, certifications, or memberships they haven’t earned, or who post photos of themselves that are 20 or 30 years out-of-date (as if they think they’ll be dating!) In addition…
- They have lied on directory applications.
- They have lied about organizations they belong to (in hopes of getting a membership discount).
- They have lied about certifications they claim to have earned (but haven’t.)
- They have submitted bogus testimonials on their own, pretending to be a client.
- Not long ago, one person submitted three directory applications, each claiming a different website (a requirement for being listed in the AdvoConnection Directory), none of which were her websites (they belonged to someone else.)
If someone can’t be truthful on an application, how can they be trusted with already vulnerable patients? If a vulnerable patient ever trusted and hired them, how can we be sure the person who lied her way into becoming an advocate would actually do right by the patient?
(I have to wonder how little regard these advocates have for potential clients they hope to connect with that they don’t think those clients will ever figure out the truth? C’mon! Just think – if your photo is 20 years old – that’s a disconnect when they meet you without words being spoken!)
So – what’s my point about you and your advocacy practice?
The point is that you are warned – and begged – to help us continue to establish our relatively new profession of health and patient advocacy and care management as the highly ethical and honest profession it was founded to be, and must continue to be.
While we do have a handful of ways to confirm claims made in applications and directory listings (the folks we have caught can attest to that), it’s a very unpleasant experience for everyone when we find a claim that isn’t true.
So here is our advice. When it comes to information you will make public, including websites, directory listings, other marketing materials, social media pages, and others:
- Do not lie.
- Do not shade the truth.
- Do not withhold important truth (which is really just a lie by omission.)
- Do not take creative license.
- Do not use photos professionally that do not represent you well, or that suggest you do something advocates don’t do.
Or, phrased more positively:
- Be honest.
- Be trustworthy.
- Be transparent.
- Keep your public information accurate, current, and updated.
- Make your colleagues, and our entire profession, proud to consider you a colleague.
- Uphold the ethical standards the advocacy profession was founded on.
Don’t risk the possibility that bogus claims can come back to bite you. It’s not worth it, nor will you be rewarded, if you can’t be honest in all your business dealings.