Reminder: You Don't Know What You Don't Know

i-dont-knowSome of America’s best and brightest students had to spend their lunch hour listening to a PR guy today. But that’s OK. They signed up for it.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit is teaching second-year medical students how to be physician leaders. It’s a groundbreaking program that is teaching them about advocacy, the real world of health care, government affairs and today, communications and PR. The School invited me to talk about the new realities of marketing medicine and the mindset shift needed for them to be successful.

I want to share part of my message to them, as it’s one we often have to articulate, sometimes gingerly, to “professionals” with degrees highly valued by society. They don’t know what they don’t know.

These students, like the physicians they will join in practice in a several years, made it into medical school and onto that career path because because they are good at science. That doesn’t mean they are good at everything, nor should they be expected to be. But our culture anoints them to such a high level and for some, it leads them to think they they are the ultimate authorities on all matters of business.

Today’s environment requires doctors (and lawyers, accountants and others in the service industry with advanced degrees) figure out how to think like businesspeople and marketers in order to be successful. But the problem often lies with the fact that they are neither. Like with every business, communications can be a differentiator from increased competition. But if you don’t know what to do, how much to spend and have the time or inclination to stay on top of the trends, how does it work?

The answer is pretty simple. They need to admit that they don’t know and align with professionals, either within the organization or from an outside firm, who are as good at communications as they are at science. Complementary skills, working in collaboration, make for positive relationships and business results. That’s what I hope these students will remember from today, no matter what their field looks like when they arrive after their training.