by Judy E. Hall, Ph.D.
We built and launched www.findapsychologist.org in August 2006 to reach out to and educate consumers, and ultimately increase referrals to Registrants. We have created a site that arms consumers with critical information and a way to search for professionals who meet the standards of a national credentialing process for psychologists. The site contains practice and contact information on our 12,000 Registrants, as well as articles and other information on psychological issues, links to self-help groups, and a rich assortment of credible websites for consumers to learn more about their specific concerns. If you have not visited the site, we encourage you to do so.
Even though we spent a considerable amount of time assembling the resources and building the site, promoting the site to consumers is a much more daunting task. Our efforts of the past six months taught me a lot about how psychology does - and does not - succeed in promoting its unique and valuable services to consumers. I was initially overwhelmed by the possible avenues of outreach - TV, print, radio, and web - and hundreds of major markets in the US alone! The National Register, like most of the credible psychological organizations in the US, is a nonprofit organization with limited resources for a broad consumer outreach campaign. So we started small.
The first step was to maximize our Internet/search engine exposure. We successfully incorporated tags and relevant keywords to make the site more visible to search engine users. For example, type “find a psychologist” into the Google browser and you will see www.findapsychologist.org as the third listing. However, we needed other, more active avenues of exposure.
We hired a Washington, DC public relations firm to work with National Register staff and our new public Board member, Janet Dewar, who has considerable experience in marketing and business development. We decided that the most efficient way to reach out to consumers was through print, radio, and television.
ISSUES DRIVE MEDIA INTEREST IN PSYCHOLOGY
Our public relations firm started by contacting hundreds of media outlets. Many of these television and radio stations were very interested in the psychological aspects of news stories, and invited me to participate in their broadcasts. The preparation for these appearances is quite time consuming, but I am very excited about the opportunity to promote Registrants and www.findapsychologist.org directly to consumers.
Some of the topics I have been asked to discuss include:
• The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
• Psychological Aspects of the Anniversary of 9/11
• Bullying and School Violence
• Depression in the Elderly
• Holiday Depression
• Job Loss
• New Year’s Resolutions
• Psychologists as a Member of the Fitness Team
• Marital and other Relationships
• Problem Gambling
• Patient Advocacy for Seniors
• Military Deployment
Consumers can access video/audio files from several of the interviews on www.findapsychologist.org. In preparing for those interviews and publications we researched what other credible health care websites provided in terms of information and linked to those documents. In addition, we described for the consumer how best to search for a Registrant who has expertise in various areas.
We are also pleased with our print exposure. Consumer Reports on Health (March 2007) and Family Circle (January 2007) are two high profile examples of print publicity we generated for www.findapsychologist.org. We have also written articles for a number of publications which reach many different audiences. Our press releases have stirred interest in this new web site and in using the National Register as a resource on health issues.
At the same time we continue to evolve the site to be more consumer-friendly. As I am interviewed on these various topics, NR staff creates pages on the site with related links and resources. We post articles authored for consumers by National Register Board members, including John Norcross, Ph.D. on New Years’ Resolutions, Rosalind Dorlen, Psy.D. on Postpartum Depression and Carl Settles, Ph.D. on the impact of Military Deployment. Throughout the year we will continue to post articles contributed by board members and Registrants.
THE IMPACT OF OUR EFFORTS
We measure the impact of our efforts in hits on the site and queries on Registrants. As we continue our efforts, we plan to survey Registrants on the results as well. But as of right now, I can offer the following progress report.
Page Views: Page views refer to the number of hits on a specific page with a website. The chart below describes the page views on the www.findapsychologist.org home page from August 2006 to March 2007. As you can see, following the initial push we have steadily built awareness of the site through continued exposure.
Queries on Registrants: When consumers search for Registrants by location, areas of expertise, or some other search characteristic, we record the referral query. Measuring from the launch date of the site in August 2006 to March 2007, consumer searches have produced 625,134 Registrant names, for an average of 78,142 per month. For comparison purposes, our “old” searchable database on www.nationalregister.org averaged less than 20,000 hits on Registrant listings per month during the same time period a year ago. In large and small markets across the United States, consumers are learning about www.findapsychologist.org. And more importantly, they are going online and learning about Registrants.
HOW DO REGISTRANTS MAXIMIZE THEIR EXPOSURE ON WWW.FINDAPSYCHOLOGIST.ORG?
1) Be certain that your www.findapsychologist.org profile accurately and completely informs consumers. Have you documented five areas of practice, or any additional languages spoken, or age groups that you are specifically trained to serve, such as children or older adults? Go to www.nationalregister.org and login as a Registrant to review and update your profile. If you have not taken advantage of this feature you should, as consumers may not know your name but they will search for someone who works with the type of problem for which they seek help. The information on the site is oriented towards helping consumers search once they have identified specific problem(s), and a complete profile helps consumers refine their search.
2) Authorize National Register staff to add the Consumer Email Contact feature to your listing. With this feature, consumers can email you directly from the website through a confidential email form, which means that your email address is not displayed on the site. That feature makes you more accessible but at the same time keeps your email address confidential. To date, more than 1600 Registrants have opted in for this free service, and consumers emailed Registrants several hundred times. To add this feature to your listing, email Jacquie@nationalregister.org.
3) Link your own website to www.findapsychologist.org. If you have a web page for your practice, email us the link and we will add it to your Registrant listing for no charge, as long as the website meets National Register standards. You can also take advantage of Registrant Profile Pages. A Registrant Profile Page is like your own website, complete with picture, personal statement, and much more information about your practice. You can sign up for a Registrant profile page by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $75 annually, which covers setup, development, and hosting.
We appreciate the interest in www.findapsychologist.org. We will continue to promote the site to consumers in order to increase visibility for Registrants. If you have any questions or comments on the site, please email me at email@example.com.