RLI Summit: Radiologist, brand thyself

What attributes, aims and aspirations characterize your personal brand? Where does your brand mesh with, and diverge from, the brands and missions of your practice and your health-provider system? And are you building your personal brand intentionally—or passively letting outside forces shape it for you?

Those were among the questions taken up by around 120 attendees—mostly although not exclusively radiologists—at the American College of Radiology’s 2016 Radiology Leadership (RLI) Summit.

The powwow took place at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Sept. 8 to 11. The program on personal branding, held last Friday morning, produced a number of intriguing insights and anecdotes.

Amy Kotsenas, MD, of Mayo Clinic described in a panel discussion how her efforts at personal branding paid off in, for one thing, her being selected to receive the 2016 Women in Neuroradiology Leadership Award.

“I happen to be passionate about radiologists coming out of our dark rooms and talking to our patients. I put that on social media, I’m invited to write blog posts, and that’s become part of my brand,” Kotsenas said.

This was not the first year she applied for the award, she added, stressing that social media has come to play a key role in her approach to networking as well as branding.

It turns out those two activities can be closely connected.

Kotsenas related how several colleagues took to Twitter to encourage her to again apply for the award. Plus she got a personal note from the influential radiologist Geraldine McGinty, MD, who offered to write a letter of recommendation.

“In that letter she talked about how I am forward thinking and technologically savvy, putting patients first and embodying the tenets of Imaging 3.0,” Kotsenas said. “So, in advocating for this award for me, she really articulated my brand. I am very grateful to Geraldine, and I thought this was a very clear example of how you can use personal branding to achieve your goals.”

Kotsenas emphasized that branding and social media can be used to advance larger causes as well as one’s own career.

“You can talk about your research,” she said. “I do epilepsy imaging, and I have a particular interest in autoimmune epilepsy. It is really gratifying to see stories about the work we are doing at the Mayo Clinic in helping to diagnose and treat these patients. It helps to promote not just myself but also the work that the whole institution is doing in that regard.”

Social media, she said, can go a long way educating the general public as well as referring physicians about what it is that radiologists do.  

“I have had people directly ask me how the ACR feels about gadolinium deposition in the brain,” Kotsenas said. “‘Is there any new research? Do we know what this is doing to patients?’ You can become that expert in that area if you put yourself out there.”

Dual identities, singular vision

James Brink, MD, chief radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained why he and the institution have dual-branded his department: It’s still the radiology department to professional and academic peers, but it’s now Mass General Imaging to patients and referring physicians.

“I think this [change] really reflects my personal brand, because I view myself as a collaborative and inclusive leader,” Brink said. “And to really be inclusive of all our core missions, including our community-service mission, we needed to come up with a brand positioning that enabled all of those missions to flourish.”

Patients can experience the word radiology as a form of radiation, which can “sound like a scary thing,” he continued. “But it’s also important to recognize that we are a science, and we are proud of our science and of the discipline of radiology. To the NIH and to other granting organizations, and to our academic peers, we want to be proud of the discipline that we were trained in and that we represent. And that’s why, to those audiences, we [remain] the department of radiology.”

Hospitals are us  

Cheri Canon, MD, endowed chair of radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a member of the 2016 RLI Leadership Summit faculty, wrapped the branding program on a humorous yet sobering note.

“We have some bad branding to overcome,” Canon said. “If you look at TV shows, the radiologist is always a creepy guy in the reading room drinking coffee with an upside-down chest radiograph.”

Opportunities abound for re-branding, she suggested, not least because radiology is an area of key strategic consideration for hospitals as they continue to consolidate into larger health systems.

“We are a hospital-based practice, so that puts us in a unique relationship with those administrators,” Canon said. “We also represent some of the largest capital in the practice of medicine. So we are uniquely positioned to be the experts on the acquisition and maintenance of that capital. We need to capitalize on that.”

“As we think about how we brand ourselves, realize that we have a lot of tools at our fingertips,” Canon concluded. “And for the profession and for our practice, Imaging 3.0 is our toolkit for our branding. We need to tap into that.”

Complementary branding

Following the branding program, J. Mark Carr, MBA, the Babson lecturer and business consultant who led the discussion and moderated the panels, told HealthImaging he was impressed with RLI members’ “forward-looking” approach to change management.

“They are struggling with a changing environment, both in terms of reimbursement and technology, and they are really interested in advancing their profession,” Carr said. “They’re willing to wrestle with some really important issues. Not every profession and not every association is that forward-looking.”

Asked how individual professionals best go about branding themselves without stepping on the toes of their affiliate organizations, he replied that it’s largely a matter of remaining maximally aligned with the values of the organization you’re working with.

In this endeavor there is generally more opportunity than challenge, he added.

“To the extent that the organization shares some of the values that you have as an individual, that [overlap] serves as a platform on which to build your own brand,” Carr said. “They provide a lot more resource and messaging out there in the community and are likely creating more of that impression around those values. If there is conflict, you need to wrestle with that. You just don’t want your brand to get too far in front of theirs.”