ERIC Identifier: ED347492
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: O'Bryant, Beverly J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Marketing Yourself as a Professional Counselor. ERIC Digest.
True discovery is not seeing new things but seeing with new eyes. Marketing
ourselves as professional counselors requires that we help our publics see us
with new eyes and that includes new and comprehensive understanding of
professional counselors, the ability to articulate what professional counselors
do, and the realization that only certified counselors do counseling and the
appropriate use for paraprofessionals and interested others in the guidance
THE OPPORTUNITY (PROBLEM)
For all professional
counselors--regardless of speciality (school counselors, mental health
counselors, rehabilitation counselors, marriage and family counselors, alcohol
and substance abuse counselors, and so on) the need for accountability,
credentialing, and documentation is of paramount importance when considering the
most appropriate marketing venues.
Counselors are judged--intentionally and unintentionally--by the public at
large via a mixture of perception and fact; and, while there is clearly a
distinction between the two, counselors must recognize unequivocally that both
are distinct components of who we are and strategize substantive ways to address
Perception, by definition, is the understanding, discernment, comprehension
and/or insight gained via observation, patterns, etc. It is a subjective
estimate, flexible in nature, and subject to wide interpretation by a host of
interpreters; and, therefore, changeable. Fact, however, is a thing known to be
true. It is generally unalterable, learned rotely by most, less subject to
interpretation, and, therefore, not changeable.
The counseling profession, in general, is as strong as its weakest links.
And, its weakest links are the masses of counseling professionals all over the
world who reference themselves as 'just' counselors--who don't understand the
power of belonging to and banding together through professional
organizations--who don't recognize the need for lobbying for appropriate
legislation for each and every one of the specialities--who see their 'jobs' as
just paychecks--and who fail to see or project the sense of professionalism and
commitment required for the discipline to survive.
The weakest links, unfortunately, are often the public's perception of the
profession; but, that they are practicing professionals makes ineffective,
squabbling counselors a fact, a reality, and therefore, undeniable. Hence, the
inscrutable paradox with which professional counselors must deal.
Marketing ourselves appropriately
could be our most powerful tool. Marketing is a venue which could help establish
counselors in the public consciousness so that a multitude of other publics
become counselor advocates and articulate that professional counselors are
skilled deliverers of services which initiate positive change, that they promote
positive human potential, and that as a professional discipline their services
But this scenario will only come to pass when counselors rise to meet this
challenge as a grassroot effort from coast to coast. Our ultimate success as a
discipline and as a profession is imbued in team spirit, team effort, team
commitment, and team unification. Our greatness lies not in our individualities,
but in the magnitude of what we represent as a whole. So to that end, let us
forge on en masse to implement the following in marketing ourselves as
1.Professional stature--walk, talk, and act proud of self as a professional.
Professional pride can be exhibited in many forms, but perhaps none is as
powerful as the presentation of self. The ability to exude pride in self and
profession is a powerful tool, and, it can be done by even the shyest of
personality types. It only requires that one:
with assurance, even when saying "I'm not sure about that, but I'll be glad to
investigate it for you," and
oneself in a professional manner i.e., pridefully, positively, and proudly.
2.Take pride in total appearance. First impressions are often the only
impressions one gets to make. If the first impression is the only impression one
gets to make, it must be inclusive, comprehensive, substantive, assuring and
inviting. It must reflect knowledge, ability, concern and interest, and it must
suggest that a return visit might be worthwhile. Appearance can do that.
professional dress, i.e., suits, slacks and shirt, skirt and blouse, ties.
accessories: briefcase, business cards, brochures and literature on your
program(s) for clients.
3.Self-enhancement opportunities and incentives. Self enhancement is made
easy through the myriad of professional opportunities. Take advantage of them.
to cassette tapes while driving to and from work or while walking and/or jogging
home study programs offered by the American Counseling Association and other
local, regional and national workshops and conferences.
at least one professional journal a month.
to memory titles, authors, major findings and pertinent statistics to use in
with counselors from other schools.
4.Display professional office decorum. From the youngest child to the oldest
adult, one always needs to feel a sense of security when dealing with another.
The counselor's client is a human being who is often apprehensive, and at best,
skeptical. Attaining comfort, ease, establishing rapport, and earning trust are
at least made easier when the environment:
at least neat and clean.
a comfortable setting.
plaques and honors prominently on walls.
personal touches throughout (family photos, etc.).
professional journals available for anyone to read.
5.Design something to market--and market the outcomes. Every counseling
speciality area has an area of expertise. The skills are delivered through
various mediums and the programs and/or areas are all outcome based. Market the
outcomes--design a brochure, a pamphlet, a PSA, a newsletter, a news release
which summarizes the goal, procedure and outcome of your speciality area. Give
statistics which show the value of your intervention. Use professional journals,
professional associations, and national networks to corroborate your statements.
6. Join your professional organizations. The American Counseling Association
and its divisions is our professional organization. JOIN!!! It is us and as such
exists to promote, advocate, and lobby for us. And, while it is not a bargaining
agent, it is the only entity which speaks directly for us and about us to the
various entities, publics, and legislators. Its strength is directly
proportional to the number of professionals it represents and the perceived and
actual force of its members. We should be a membership of hundreds of thousands,
not thousands. Legislators should worry about offending us, governors should
worry about cutting us, and publics should worry about not having us--and if
they don't, collectively we should find out why and act on it.
7.Articulate the positive--the public is always listening. Pick and choose
the arenas in which we elect to speak--especially when we feel a "good gripe"
coming on. The silent public is always listening, and what we say and project
negatively will always go farther than our intended audience. The public is like
the news media--always looking for an angle. Make sure the angle you give is a
positive one. This is not to say that there are no negatives, there are--but for
once, let us as a profession take responsibility for articulating some of the
positive angles, putting the bad angles in the right perspective and context,
and highlighting positive hooks the public and news media can latch onto and
8.Market specifics. "The secret to success is skating where the puck is"
(Wayne Gretsky). Concurrently, the secret to successful marketing is giving the
public what it wants before you give it what it needs. The public wants to know
what counselors do. The public wants to know what good counselors do, and why
counselors should be hired over other mental health professionals. Tell them.
your publics to programs, events, sponsored by you.
an extensive guest list of all significant publics including school and city
boards, local and state legislators, CEO's and presidents of significant
interest groups, to invite to all events and programs sponsored by the
counselor. That these persons attend is not nearly as significant as that they
know what the counselor is doing.
a PSA before every pertinent event sponsored by the counselor--advertise!
out press releases after every pertinent event sponsored by the
pre/post instruments in the implementation of programs and use the statistics to
write articles corroborating the effectiveness of counselor interventions.
submitting at least one article on counseling to a grocery store magazine.
9.Be politically astute. Recognize that you serve many publics--regardless of
your speciality area. Knowing which publics can assist you, being present where
they are, making it known you are present, contributing a substantive statement
whenever appropriate or possible, will go far in having them become advocates
for the causes of counseling. Be sure to:
your publics, know something about each of their respective needs and agenda
items; identify a need of theirs that you can help them accomplish, and offer
receptions, meetings, workshops, and parties to which you are invited. Make a
positive impression via articulation of needs, facts, statistics, legislation,
research, positive info.
follow-up arrangements (phone, appointment).
Professional counselors must provide the
ammunition for significant others to testify on behalf of counselors in a myriad
of forums, and the ammunition must state unequivocally that clients make
statistically significant gains in overall achievement/progress as a result of
interventions with counselors. The ammunition can come through a number of
venues, but marketing is a clear, concise and expeditious way.
Bleuer, J. (1990). Accountability in
counseling. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel
Hannaford, M. (1991). Counselors under construction. Marietta, GA: Active
O'Bryant, B. J. (1991). Public relations to raise public consciousness about
school counselors: The power based professionals. The ASCA Counselor, 28(3),
Walz, G. R. (1985). The marketing of counseling. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services.