In order to promote his brand, cosmetic dentist Dr Luke Cronin has built an extensive public profile, regularly appearing in newspapers, magazines and on television. By Frank Leggett
While many dentists struggle to promote their business, Dr Luke Cronin, along with his practice Quality Dental in North Sydney, has built an extensive public profile. He often appears in glossy magazines such as Harper’s BAZAAR, Elle, and GQ, and is regularly featured in newspapers and on television. He has successfully created a public persona that has a huge positive input into his business. While some people believe a media presence just happens organically, it actually takes intention and drive to achieve a successful outcome.
“I had a completely planned approach,” says Dr Cronin. “I saw a gap in the market but it still took me five years to get significant media penetration. I started back in the days before influencers appeared so I engaged with people who had a large social media presence to market my brand. My brand received a lot of exposure from those interactions and that led to a point where TV media started contacting me.”
Follow the rules
When promoting their services, all health practitioners must adhere to advertising guidelines—and this can include social media. The Australian Dental Association’s policy statement on advertising in dentistry states that, “Dental practitioners need to make themselves familiar with their legal obligations so that any advertising complies with the statutory requirements of the relevant Federal, State and Territory legislation.” With that in mind, there are still many ways to bring yourself, your dental skills and your practice to the public eye. Creating a public persona can be an incredibly effective technique.
It was Dr Cronin’s decision to relocate to the USA early in his career that would have a far-reaching impact on how he would eventually market and run his business. After graduating in 2000, his first job was on the Gold Coast in Queensland, followed by a couple of years in London, then back in Canberra. In 2007, he went to work in the USA. While he had work privileges, he wasn’t allowed to operate as a dentist—but he worked with cosmetic dentists for the next two years.
“Cosmetic dentistry was booming in the US back then,” says Dr Cronin. “I saw how successful the American dentists were at branding themselves and their businesses. I watched what they were doing and formulated a plan for when I returned to Sydney. It gave me the impetus and the know-how to create the Quality Dental brand and to also brand myself.”
Using social media was an effective—and free—way to promote himself and his business. Eventually, third-party endorsements through big media operators such as Vogue and Channel 9 meant that social media became a less important part of his plan.
“I became the go-to dentist for any dental stories,” says Dr Cronin. “Whenever they wanted a comment in regard to teeth or dentists, they turned to me. For example, news.com was doing a story on electric toothbrushes and they contacted me to get a professional opinion.
“That’s when the real traction in the media started and social media became more of an adjunct to that. For many media organisations, I have become a voice of authority and a trusted resource.”
Dr Cronin noticed an almost immediate and positive impact on his business due to his media presence. While it was a successful strategy, the amount of time, work and effort was quite daunting. In order to streamline his approach, he employed publicist Lisa Hollinshead, founder of strategic digital and publicity management company Comms 101. The company represents a diverse range of clients including American Express Openair Cinemas, Speedo Fitness Club, Pacific Boating and projects with international brands such as Marriott.
Publicity and PR
“Luke had already done a lot of work on his profile,” says Lisa Hollinshead. “He’d already secured an ambassador role with Invisalign and Philips Zoom, and had a number of influencers and celebrities coming to the clinic. The problem was that he was getting a lot of editorial calls that positioned him as an expert in the field but that wasn’t generating leads to Quality Dental. We needed to create a lead generation campaign for his brand as opposed to an ambassador role.”
Hollinshead soon discovered that Dr Cronin was a pioneer of digital dentistry and improving the workflow of that process. He ensures the processes are really tight so the best result is achieved every time. Not only does that change the consult experience but, due to the digital aspects of process, he could also consult remotely.
Hollinshead drafted a profile and biography and pitched them to her media contacts.
Avoiding ‘keyman’ syndrome
Up to this point, the main focus was on creating a brand around Dr Cronin personally. However, when a single person is the brand, it prevents scalability and causes keyman syndrome, where a company can’t operate without a particular person. It was time to shift things up.
“When I purchased Quality Dental in 2013, it was a failing business,” says Dr Cronin. “One of the main reasons I purchased it was because of its name, which I thought was pretty spectacular. I rebranded and updated the practice but kept the original name. Now it was time to shift the branding from me to the practice.”
By making the branding less about him and more about Quality Dental, his business became scalable and transferable to other dentists. The brand is all about the unique selling proposition (USP) of Quality Dental—repeatability and predictability—as opposed to what Dr Cronin can personally deliver.
“I trademarked Cosmetic Smile Design® and it became part of our whole top-to-bottom repeatable and predictable delivery of veneers using CAD/CAM technology,” he says. “This is one of the biggest intellectual properties behind Quality Dental as a brand.”
By upscaling the brand from the personal to the business, Quality Dental had the potential to be successfully franchised. A second practice has already opened in Brisbane, another is slated for Sydney and there has been discussions about opening Quality Dental practices in Canada.
“Quality Dental has very strong branding around the way we deliver our cosmetics,” says Dr Cronin. “Initially, I approached people about franchising but I’m also taking applications. I’m very specific about who I’ll take on as a partner because to be part of the franchise, you need quality assurance. That’s the biggest part about maintaining our brand.”
It’s a good idea for any dentist interested in promoting themselves or their business to talk to a PR company. Just as dentists are experts in their field, PR professional are experts in theirs.
“The main objective of positive exposure is to drive more footfall and customers into your business,” says Hollinshead. “It also helps if the dentist has some media training so they’re able to speak with conviction, stay on message and stay on brand. A publicist will not only coach you but they also understand the media agenda.
“I’m not fond of a ‘spray-and-pray’ approach where a press release or quote is sent to everybody with the most tenuous attachment to anything dental. A good publicist will have key contacts in the industry and be across outlets that are specific to the client.”
Dr Cronin identified a gap in the market and positioned himself and his brand to fill it. Lisa Hollinshead helped place him in the correct media environment to successfully grow and expand his brand. When Harper’s BAZAAR profiled the top 10 Australians in the beauty industry in 2018, Dr Cronin was on the list. Hollinshead’s job was to make sure the magazine and the journalists were aware of her client and his brand. If they don’t know Dr Cronin exists, he won’t be approached.
As well as franchising out Quality Dental practices, Dr Cronin has created and released a home tooth whitening system, branded as QD Teeth Whitening. The whitening gel is painted directly onto the teeth rather than using a tray. After the gel is applied, a tray containing a blue light is used to activate the gel. The most ingenious part of this system is that the blue light tray is connected to a mobile phone from which it draws power. As the user is tethered to their mobile phone for 25 minutes, they are extremely likely to take a photo and post it online. The marketing opportunities are huge.
“I recently had a soft launch of the product and it’s in 10 different practices in Australia at the moment,” says Dr Cronin. “I’ve also just returned from the Aurum Group Innovation Summit in Whistler, Canada, and the interest there was enormous.”
Dr Cronin is also about to launch his Quality Dental alignment company after designing his own brand of clear aligners called QD Active Aligners. This is a major undertaking with the design team located in Costa Rica and the manufacturing taking place in the USA.
“Once again we’ll be highlighting the Quality Dental USP that the outcomes are repeatable and predictable,” says Dr Cronin. “I’ve trained the Costa Rican design team to provide a design check that will deliver quality outcomes to dentists in Australia. Dentists using our aligner system will have the peace of mind that we can deliver a solution that will work for them and their patients.”