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The Marketing Coach

By Cary Bayer

About the Columnist
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PR Outlet Shopping: Think Global, Act Local

A major step in your public relations program is to find suitable outlets for your publicity material. Once you've located a variety of outlets for your message, it's wise to develop the many different elements of your message: press releases on news items, pitch letters for round-up stories, pitch letters for profiles, queries for bylined articles and queries for ongoing columns.

It's smartest to focus your public relations endeavors into print media on the local level, with minor attention on the state and national levels. Think local first: people will only become your clients if they can drive to you in less than an hour. Most communities have weekly newspapers; if it's a market that has its own daily newspaper, frequently the weekly paper will be free. In more rural areas, the weekly paper is the major source of news and usually has a small price tag.

The Weekly Read

Get a copy of the paper and study it — do they use columnists? If so, is anyone writing in each issue about health or stress management? If not, why don't you seize the opportunity and fill that niche? That, of course, is a rhetorical question. Naturally, you should look to become the expert in your paper. A letter to the editor, along with a sample column of the length of the other columns in the paper, could address this.

If they aren't using any columnists, don't let that stop you. Send off a letter to the editor, along with a sample column of about 400 words, in which you could propose that the paper add the kind of column that you have in mind. Make certain to indicate that you reside in the area — or that your business is headquartered in that locale or, if you do traveling massage, that you visit the homes of clients in that area. This is extremely important to the editors of local weekly papers whose entire focus is their specific small domain.

The Daily Round-Up

newspapers - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark our daily newspaper is also a possible outlet for publicity about the work that you do as a massage therapist. Very few daily papers worth their salt, however, will offer you a forum to write guest articles. Instead, they would be more likely to prefer round-up articles that would be written by a staff reporter or a freelancer about different facets of massage and would involve interviews with several therapists.

State of the State

It's quite likely that your state has a monthly business publication. If you live in a very large city, there may be a business publication that comes out monthly. New York City, for example, not only has its own business publication, but it has one that comes out each week.

Does such a magazine run a regular column on health or stress management? If so, great, pitch them to become a columnist. If not, maybe it's time that they did and propose just that. When I was running my own PR/marketing firm, I once interested The New York Times advertising columnist to do a profile on a commercial director, even though both he and everyone else who preceded him as columnist never gave any coverage to that profession. In my pitch letter, I acknowledged that the Times never profiled such people and then I proceeded to explain why he should make an exception. He called me the next day saying that I was right and he did the interview. My client was both thrilled and astonished that I had created a PR miracle. He broke out the champagne for me and we toasted that miracle, a miracle that was borne of thinking outside the box.

While it's difficult for a massage therapist to score publicity in statewide outlets, it's certainly worth one letter. The reason that I recommend the story have a business angle is because most states have a business publication rather than a health publication. It's much more difficult to interest the editor of a business publication in a story about health than one on business — unless, of course, you propose an article that looks at how stress negatively impacts health and how that negatively impacts business.

All-American PR

National media hire the best reporters and editors in the country, so securing publicity here is going to be far more difficult for a massage therapist compared to local and state venues. Still, it never hurts to try. The basic letter that you wrote to your daily newspaper editor can be tweaked for the national media.

Why shouldn't publications like USA Today, Time or Ladies Home Journal, for example, carry articles on the benefits of and research on massage, specifically as an antidote to these harried times when people are worried sick over the economy, job insecurity and home foreclosures? If they run such an article, it would be written by either a staff writer or a freelance writer, so don't even suggest that you would write it. The reporter would interview massage therapists from different parts of the country; however you'd be the only one interviewed in your area, and the value of you being quoted in a national publication is a big deal and could bring a huge surge in your business. Naturally, it would be up to you to make sure that your clients and prospective clients see such an article.

The Web

There are also opportunities for PR on the Internet. There are places like the Huffington Post, for example, that are read by a general-interest consumer. There are also many sites dedicated to holistic health that are read by people seeking out non-traditional means of self-improvement.

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