We Need To Improve our Approach


Having been involved with chiropractic for over 30 years and
closely associated with chiropractic education and
communication for many years, I have seen some changes taking
place.  In the early 60’s there was virtually no
communication, no “message” that the chiropractic profession
had to offer the public.  Perhaps it was our low self-esteem
or dwindling numbers.  Perhaps it was in part due to the
leadership in our profession who said advertising was
unethical, unprofessional and even passed laws to make it
unlawful to advertise, to promote chiropractic or
chiropractor.  Whatever the reason or reasons there was
little in the area of chiropractic education directed toward
the public.  There were no course in chiropractic college on
patient education, virtually no one did lay lectures.  Other
than Jim Parker there were no practice building seminars, no
practice management consultants (which may have been more of
a blessing than a problem!).  In the mid-60’s the profession
began to attack medicine and challenge its authority.  It
became acceptable in that anti-establishment period.
Medicine was about as establishment as one could get.  Some
new seminars, D.E., Living Principles and others came into
existence.  State organizations became more active, laws
restricting advertising were thrown out.  The advertising
period was upon us.  Unfortunately much of it was poor and
while representing the straight chiropractic of the 60’s and
early 70’s, it was not acceptable by today’s understanding of
straight chiropractic.  I looked at some of my own personal
ads during that period and cringe.  The only thing good about
these ads was that I look much younger in them!  Well, there
was something else good about them.  They attracted patients.
Presenting chiropractic as good for every condition affecting
man really brought in the patients.  But as our understanding
of chiropractic increased, it became evident that we could
not continue to present chiropractic as a cure for medical
conditions or a substitution for medical care.  Ads backing
the practice of medicine inferred that chiropractic was an
alternative.  Some of the straights of the day stayed with
that idea of getting sick people well and became the present
day traditional straights.  They have large practices,
diagnose to determine whether chiropractic can cure the
particular patient and use a few other things like nutrition
and sports rehabilitation (sports chiropractic).  They talk
about chiropractic getting people well from every disease
known to man.  But most of us moved on, Unfortunately, the
chiropractic that we now practice (objective chiropractic)
does not market well.  We cannot make grandiose claims.  We
do not claim to cure or treat anything.  We do not even
advertise that we can help musculoskeletal conditions.  Most
of our profession is dwelling on that and our straight
marketing/patient education/public relations/advertising must
overcome that image.  The problem is, we are not doing a very
good job of it.  How do you get the big idea across in a 30
second spot or in a newspaper ad?  If we had 60 hours to sit
down with each new patient and give them Chiropractic
Philosophy 101, we would have no problem getting the message
out. But to try to get across the idea of health in a disease
conscious world is really tough.  To get across regular
maintenance care when the prevailing thought is only go to a
doctor when you are sick is difficult.  Trying to get
patients to come regularly to have vertebral subluxations
which cannot be seen or felt corrected is a challenge.  Our
only guarantee of outcome, that their body will work better,
not that they will feel better is not the greatest of
enticements.  At this point in our evolution it takes quite a
bit of effort, energy and time to get that message through
the patients skull, especially if you are not a gifted
speaker or possess a charismatic personality.  The message of
straight chiropractic is simple and clear, almost too simple
and clear and most of our new practitioners do not have the
skills necessary to impart it.  As a result they are
struggling.  The teachers putting on the seminars are usually
charismatic individuals who articulate chiropractic much
better than most of us and we have a difficult time
identifying with them and an impossible time imitating them.
Does that mean that the average new graduate with debt up to
his or her ears must go through a starvation period or
compromise principles in order to achieve a level of success?
I hope not.  But I believe we must make some changes, not in
our philosophy, but in the many ways we present it to the
public.  We need to develop in people a health maintenance
consciousness, a need for regular chiropractic care.  We must
give people a practical knowledge of what the innate
intelligence of the body is and how its fullest expression is
vital to their life.  We need to develop new media, new
techniques and new methods to reach a public used to getting
its information in 15 second sound bites and through the
visual effects of the television.  The use or lose law has
caused the average person to not be able to hold their
attention to anything for more than 5 minutes without all
kinds of sensory bombardment.  We need good, eye catching,
new patient stimulating advertising that is still
philosophically sound.  We need literature that is
interesting, will be read and does not compromise our
straight philosophy.  We must replace the public image of
back doctors with our idea of chiropractic.  Until we do this
the general public will not flock to our doors.  And until we
can show the rest of the profession, which is image
conscious, acceptance oriented and monetarily focused, that
this is the best way to practice we will continue to lose
ground.  I am not belittling the efforts the straights
schools have made in the past, nor the efforts the seminar
givers and leaders are making.  But we cannot rest on past
efforts and we cannot fool ourselves into believing we are
individually or collectively doing enough. We need some
monumental efforts from philosophers, teachers, leaders,
entrepreneurs, state organizations and our national
organization.  With all these people and groups working in
their individual areas we can turn this profession around.
Without it we will be stuck as a minority within a minority.
Each of us must step back and say “what am I doing and what
more can I do?”v11n2

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