While veterinarians are of course encouraged to advertise and market their services, they may not make use of testimonials in doing so.
A testimonial, in the context of advertising, is “a statement from a client, former client, or other person that is solicited (directly or indirectly) by a veterinarian and used in an advertisement for the purpose of demonstrating esteem, admiration, gratitude, or praise for services provided by or experiences with the practice”.
By their very nature testimonials are subjective and, as such, are rarely unbiased. For an animal owner making a decision on the health care of their animal, testimonials are neither reliable nor verifiable. It is preferable for clients and the public to base their individual confidence on their encounter and outcome with the veterinarian, rather than on testimonials which are based on personal feelings or opinion. It is difficult to verify who created a testimonial and what the circumstances were under which it was made. It is also not possible to determine its accuracy.
Testimonials have long been a restriction of regulators. Regulation 1093 clearly states that testimonials are prohibited in veterinarian-controlled advertising. This applies to all forms of advertising including websites, social media, print, etc.
Third party vendors hired by veterinarians to help with advertising and marketing initiatives may recommend the use of testimonials as they do with other business clients as they are not always aware of the profession-based responsibilities. Veterinarians are responsible for ensuring that testimonials do not appear in the advertising they develop and control, including clinic websites. Providing links to review sites on a clinic’s website is indirectly soliciting testimonials. Veterinarians should refrain from posting pictures of thank you cards from clients on their clinic’s website as this is a form of testimonial. Displaying thank you cards within the veterinary facility is permissible as this is not advertising to the general public since the audience is the existing client base. Asking clients to post reviews or ratings on third party internet websites, with or without incentives, is generally considered soliciting testimonials and is prohibited.
The College understands there are times when comments are posted by members of the public on third party websites and social media without a veterinarian’s encouragement and/or approval. These postings are beyond a veterinarian’s control. In fact, with current marketing strategies including websites, Facebook, Twitter and other online media, the posting of comments and reviews by members of the public is quite common. The College has no regulatory authority over third party websites; veterinarians also do not control this dialogue. The College does not expect veterinarians to monitor and manage social media which is in the public domain.
In summary, a veterinarian should let the work they do in the delivery of safe, quality veterinary medicine speak for itself.