Lights, Camera, Action! Attracting Positive Media Attention
By Kelli Calabrese MS
“You aren’t who you think you are, but who your audience perceives you to be” - Author unknown
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, we need to be constantly searching for ways to rise above the noise, to stand out in the crowd and to grab valuable mind share quickly. We can’t expect the media to come calling for us anymore than we can expect prospective clients to spontaneously wander through our doors with their check books open.
This article is a continuation of the theme I addressed in the April issue of the Health & Wealth Newsletter, where I wrote about “Mastering the Media.” In that article, I covered how to handle dealing with the press.
Now we’re going to take a step backward and explore some ways to go about attracting the attention of the media. We face an uphill battle trying to compete with all of the infomercials and paid advertising from the supplement and weight loss industries, hyping the latest craze of the day. It’s very confusing and misleading to consumers and makes them skeptical about any message they get from advertising.
That’s why it’s so important that we unite as a ground army of trainers to shed light on the real facts and use the media in a positive way to fight the epidemic of obesity and inactivity, and help people be their very best physically.
Mastering the media One of our greatest roles is to service our existing customers with the highest level of excellence, but without media exposure, it’s difficult to attract enough new customers to run a successful business.
So it’s an important part of your job and the job of everyone in your company to be a magnet for media attention. Media attention can increase awareness, enhance credibility, attract new customers, and stimulate sales.
That exposure can come from a variety of sources, including everything from your local daily newspaper, to national forums, industry trade magazines, radio interviews, newsletters, corporate publications and the Worldwide Web. The key to gaining top-of-mind awareness is through the frequency, scope and variety of your media appearances.
Don’t concentrate all of your efforts on getting your message seen in just one form of media. Unless you snag a spot on prime time network television, you won’t be able to reach all your prospects through just a single medium.
Your strategy should include a variety of communications vehicles that enable you to put your name in front of various target audiences. And once is not enough! Be relentless with your media efforts. You want your potential customers to notice that every time they turn around they’re hearing your name.
Guerilla PR Public relations agencies and publicists can be enormously helpful with capturing media attention, especially if you’re aiming for national exposure, but professional help doesn’t come cheap, and there’s a lot you can do on your own if you’re willing to invest consistent time and effort.
In fact, you can get a great deal of mileage out of just positioning yourself as the go-to person with your local media outlets whenever they are covering topics related to fitness. Here’s how to get started. If you haven’t already done so, put together a press kit so that when the media does come calling, you are prepared.
A press kit should include both a professional looking headshot and a fitness shot as well as a biography that tells your personal story and mission. You should also include a resume that highlights your education, experience and accomplishments.
Place your contact information on all documents. Have a hard copy available for your outreach efforts and an electronic version available on your web site.
Your media kit can include recent newsletters, fact sheets, photos, articles, and brochures. Now, how do you get the press to pay attention to you? When approaching the news media, it’s important to focus on news value. Free-distribution community papers can be a good source of publicity, because they reach everyone in town and people do read them.
And because they generally have a very limited editorial staff, they often welcome press releases or “canned” feature stories that they can run virtually as-is. Paid subscription papers, whether dailies or weeklies, typically employ reporters who prefer to develop stories on their own.
While they probably won’t want you to write the story for them, they are always looking for good leads, ideas, tips and information they can use to build an interesting story. Help fill their need for something fresh and topical that hasn’t already been “done to death.”
You can still send them your press release, but remember to play up the news value, forgo the sales hype and fluffy adjectives, and just focus on the facts. Remember to capsulize the main points of your story in the first couple of paragraphs, including the who, what, where, when and why of the story. Attach pertinent back-up information, a list of contacts and photographs that will help the reporter put a story together.
Offer to make yourself available for an in-depth interview and be sure to include your own contact information. Do your homework Before you send out a press release, do a little homework. It’s worth your time to call the media outlet first and find out when their deadline is and how they prefer to receive information, i.e. mail, email, fax, etc.
Try to talk personally with the individual who will make the decision whether to do your story. It may be an editor, producer, feature writer, or someone who covers the “health and fitness beat.”
Do your best to sound enthusiastic, authoritative and helpful when you make these calls, and keep track of who you talk to, so you can follow up with them later to make sure they received the information you sent and to answer any questions they might have. Rather than wasting your time and hard-earned money sending out your media kit to every editor and radio station in town, where it will probably be thrown in the trash, use it selectively.
One good opportunity to use your press kit is to offer it to the reporter during your follow up call after sending out a press release. Here are some typical opportunities to issue a press release:
* Launch of a business, program, product or service
* Forming a business partnership, merger or acquisition with another organization or trainer
* Beginning or ending a fund raising campaign
* Announcing new staff appointments
* Relocation or change of name or services
* Upon receiving professional recognition or an award
* Announcing the results of completed research
* Issuing a health alert Remember to look for story possibilities that have human interest, such as a client reaching an impressive health, fitness or weight loss milestone.
(It doesn’t hurt if the client happens to be the mayor or high school principal!) Increase your media success Also consider how you can offer the local media a tie-in to national or regional issues in the news. There is certainly no shortage of interesting fitness, weight loss and nutritional announcements and stories for reporters and editors to choose from. Here are a few creative ways to significantly increase your odds of getting coverage.
* Think big Ask yourself; “What is going on in the world that impacts my product, service or event? For example, the low carb mania and the un-regulation of food labels. How is that affecting America as a nation and what are the true facts?
* Ask the newspaper for a copy of their editorial calendar to help you plan a timely release of your information to correspond with their health and fitness inserts and tabloids.
* Take full advantage of partner relationships and their existing marketing support to maximize your reach. For example, if you have a strategic partnership with a spa and they are having a press worthy event, offer your services to show support of the event. It will give the spa’s event credibility and value and you may get some press time.
* By tying your event, product launch or new service to a larger issue or news topic, you can offer the news media a local angle for their coverage. For example, if there is going to be a new report on the complications of gastric bi-pass, you might offer to train and coach someone as an alternative to gastric bi-pass and the news can follow the story for weeks and even months.
* The Internet is today’s definitive media tool. A simple point and click lets your business reach millions of potential customers. With that kind of reach it is important to make your message clear and compelling. Go through your web site from a media relations perspective. Does it reflect your key message. Will they quickly see your experience, mission and samples of your work?
* Use endorsements and testimonials to enhance your credibility and position yourself as an authority. Articles with personal stories are appealing, and they’re more believable than a paid advertisement.
* If you have a specific niche (i.e. seniors, prenatal moms, athletes, children, etc) seek media outlets that will allow you to reach your target audiences. For example, if you target children’s fitness programs, you may want to pursue family magazines, or a radio station with family programming.
* Find out which reporters in your local papers, magazines, radio and television stations cover health, fitness and “local human interest stories.” Watch local news to identify the medical reporters. Call the radio, television, newspapers and magazines directly and offer to be a fitness correspondent who can review products, answer subscriber questions, respond to new research and so on.
* A community media guide may already exist in your area, so check before you start from scratch.
* Local newspapers and radio are supportive of community efforts. Submit a “who, what, where, when and why” to your local editors a week in advance of any events you are supporting. Notify the media of something before it happens as well as after the fact.
They are often more likely to cover events coming up versus ones that are in the recent past, but a follow-up story can capture descriptions of what happened at the event and include quotes from people who were there.
* Be quick to respond when someone from the media calls. Many reporters are working on tight deadlines and whoever answers first is likely to get the spotlight.
* Make your own media list. Pay special attention to reporters who have interviewed you. Make a database with names, titles, media affiliation, phone numbers and addresses. You can then rely on that media list for your next book release or audiotape.
* Build relationships with key media representatives and make a point of keeping in touch. Personal touches like sending the reporter a thank you note go a long way for future interviews. The relationships I established with the media as the lead fitness expert for eDiets and eFitness still garner at least one interview a week from major publications such as WebMD, Prevention, Health and so on.
* A topic like childhood obesity or exercise for cancer patients may strike a personal cord with a particular reporter or editor.
* If your topic appeals to them personally they may be likely to support your message.
* Another popular way to attract coverage for your event is to involve a celebrity. A well-known person often provides a news organization with a hook that is more interesting than the event itself.
* Since we are in the fitness industry, we can do more than plan a boring meet and greet. We can get crowds engaged in activities, hold contests and let the media get physically involved to make covering your event more interesting and appealing.
As you begin reaching out to the media, prepare yourself by having several different formats for them to view your work. Print media rely on written word and photographs, radio relies upon on air or taped interviews and television relies on stories with visual elements.
By having ready-to- go samples of your work in print, video or audio or in electronic format on your web site, you gain instant credibility. To get started gathering the information, tape yourself the next time you give a presentation or are on a radio show.
Keep hard copies and or links to anything you do in print or on tape. I usually don’t recommend placing ads, but one of the few exceptions is when you are interviewed for a story in a special health tabloid section of a newspaper.
It can be beneficial to place an ad with an offer related to the interview subject so readers are stimulated to act on the powerful information you provided. For example, if you were interviewed for a story on motivating your teenagers to become physically fit, your advertisement in the same section might read, “Teen fitness classes beginning for summer”. Register by “x” and receive an early bird rate of “x.” Some of you may be nervous about putting yourself out in the media.
You are always taking a risk anytime you speak in public that someone may disagree or your message may be misconstrued, but better to take that risk and make an impact than to miss out on what may be your greatest marketing opportunity.
Putting yourself out there may mean having to debate an issue, backing up your statements with research, and being prepared at a moment’s notice to give a statement. But in the process, you are influencing people about fitness, shaping public opinion and garnering positive media attention.
Consider taking a course on working with media. The more you learn, the quicker you will become more adept and confident at taking the spotlight. With experience comes excellence. Give an editor or reporter a reason to reach out to you by engaging in newsworthy events like the release of the Power of Champions book.
If reporters or editors choose you over someone else, it’s almost always because the information you have to share can benefit or make a difference for their particular audience. Another tip that has worked with me personally is to train the editor of my local paper in exchange for bartering her writing services.
Everything that I write, I send to her (including this article) so that it’s media ready. When the media pick up an article I have written, I can be confident it’s grammatically correct, in the format they seek, has a catchy headline, and my New York accent” has been softened. We all need to soar with our strengths and sometimes the way we think or write is not always the best way to deliver our message. Media exposure is probably the most cost-effective way of communicating with your marketplace.
Follow these tips and you will discover that it is surprisingly easy to get exposure for your business. Don’t give up Try not to get discouraged if the media don’t use your story right away. Perhaps another story broke or they were short-staffed that day.
It happens all the time. Maybe they just weren’t interested, and if that’s the case, try to find out why and ask how you can better help them in the future. In doing this, you will almost certainly find more effective ways to get their attention and obtain the coverage and publicity you seek.
Once you receive media coverage, you can continue to get mileage out of that presence. While that is a whole other topic, I’ll share one example of a fellow Champion Doug Jackson, who had an article published in Personal Fitness Professional last month.
One day after I got my copy, I receive an email from Doug (I’m on his mailing list) that he had an article published and directing me to an e-link to read the complete story.
So now everyone on his mailing list is privy to Doug’s educational article, which further enhances his credibility. Let your followers know to look out for you in upcoming magazines. Make the articles available on your web site. I’ll share one more quick story of another champion who has a creative idea to keep people looking for his name in the media.
Champion, Stephen Holt, gives his subscribers a reward for spotting his name in print. It simply heightens their awareness for expecting to see Stephen’s name in their favorite magazines. Think about how you make purchases for products and services.
Are you more likely to see an ad in the paper for a massage therapist and book the appointment or, are you influenced by reputation, word of mouth recommendations and prominent community presence? The media can serve as an important link between you and your customers. It can be your most valuable avenue to reach the public when you’re opening your next facility or launching your new book.
We all need to start somewhere. While writing this article I got a phone call from a production company who was looking for a fitness expert to comment on products, answer viewer questions, review fitness programs and possibly become a spokesperson.
Without meeting me, they said that they were impressed with my credentials, but because I did not have TV experience already, they had to pass me up. They said they could see that I had exposure in the fitness industry, but no one knew me outside of the fitness industry. Talk about a catch 22. The good news is that they gave me a contact person who wants to meet me regarding PR. Stay tuned for the details.
The people you run into today or tomorrow may not be your instant customer or the ones to write about you in a national magazine, but sooner than you think, your media efforts will pay off and you will be able to positively influence readers, listeners and subscribers about your message, products and services. Getting media exposure does take time, but the payoffs are worth it.
Kelli is on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Personal Trainers, An Expert Fellow for the National Board of Fitness Examiners, and has attained over 20 fitness and nutrition certifications. Kelli is the co-author of Feminine, Firm and Fit and is available for fitness consulting. She can be reached at Kelli@KelliCalabrese.com. For more details go to www.KelliCalabrese.com