You may have noticed the small but growing number of dental care professionals who have started to create and promote their own personal brands. In recent years, there have been a number of dental hygienists and dental therapists who have developed a strong personal brand so isn’t it about time those working in orthodontics get to share some of the spotlight?

The concept of creating a personal brand isn’t new, influencers have been doing this for a while but within dentistry, we have tended to rely on practice branding rather than personal branding to create relationships with our patients. A small number of dentists and an even smaller number of orthodontists have created personal brands alongside their practice brand and an even smaller number have done this exceptionally well, allowing their strong personal brand to replace almost all other forms of promotion for their practice.

So what is branding and why should you consider creating a personal brand?

Branding can be defined in many ways but in this context, I like to think of it as the process by which you communicate your personality and how you use it to influence the impression a patient has about the experience of orthodontic treatment. Jeff Bezos was quoted as saying “a brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room” which, when we get it right, is a great summary of what we hope to achieve with successful branding.

There are many advantages to creating a successful personal brand and in the context of orthodontic therapists and nurses this might include a growing number of followers on social media, opportunities to represent your practice and profession in the media, opportunities to work with larger companies such as Invisalign as one of their brand ambassadors, opportunities to speak at networking events and conferences, invitations for collaborations and career progression.

You could also think about some of the many patient benefits including education (e.g. the KeepStokeSmiling campaign), better understanding of treatment options and improved compliance. You could also support the ongoing marketing and promotion of the practice and gain recognition as a key contributor to a growing number of new patients starting treatment.

So how do you go about starting and growing a personal brand?

Firstly, a word of caution. Make sure you understand any GDC or indemnity guidelines that cover self-promotion. If you are employed at a practice rather than contracted at a number of practices, you will need to check this isn’t against your contract of employment and should ideally discuss this with the practice manager or owner first.

If you get the go ahead or do not have these constraints, think about where your niche might be and why people might want to follow you. Patients are generally not interested in a long CV so what is it about you that makes you interesting? Why should I, as a prospective patient, follow you and allow you to take some of the valuable real estate on my Instagram feed? What will make me stop scrolling, view your content and engage with you? Think about who you are trying to reach out to. You can’t and shouldn’t attempt to speak to everyone through your branding so if you were to describe just one person to aim your branding at, who would that be? This piece of work is called positioning and it’s essential you do this first otherwise your branding will, at best, be inconsistent and most likely, ineffective.

Once you are clear on who your audience is, think about what your visual identity might look like. What type of images might you share, will there be any dominant colours and what do you want to be the overall look and feel of your brand? Think about your tone of voice, what might you say and how might you say it? Conversational? Warm and friendly? Experienced and knowledgeable?

If you are struggling, take a step back and work out what your audience might like to see. Spend some time viewing other successful personal brands and try to identify what elements others have used to be successful. You shouldn’t copy them, just get an understanding of how they have evolved and positioned their brand.

You next want to think about how you tell your brand story. What is your why? Why do you do what you do and why should others be interested in what it is that you do? You don’t have to give away too much but remember people tend to follow people and the more authentic you can be, the more likely they are to engage with you and help you to grow your brand. You need to set some boundaries as everyone is entitled to a private life and of course, patient confidentiality is key.

Your final action is to decide where you are going to share your brand story. What channels might you use and how often should you publish content? For many, Instagram is a great place to start and if you look at some strong personal brands, you will see that where the person started is often very different from where they are just 12 months on.

The secret to creating a great personal brand is to just get started and to learn from what works well. If you get great engagement on a post, do more of this. Engage your followers by asking questions and make sure you always respond to those who engage with you.

Creating a personal brand won’t happen overnight. It will take time and effort and you will get frustrated that your brand might not be growing as fast as you want it to. Remember, everyone else started with their first post or piece of content so what’s stopping you from captioning that recent selfie and starting your personal brand today?