Marketing tips give your viewpoint a voice - alternative medicine and public relations - Column
As I also write a weekly, nationally syndicated consumer column called "Terra Wellington's Balanced Living[TM]," I put Out a general media query for naturopaths in March who could comment on heart disease and prevention.
Just like most of the top press in North America, the high-ranking journalist source service I often use is called Profnet, provided by PR Newswire (www.profnet.com). It's a place where I find sources who are usually at the top of their "game" -- lots of branded personalities and engaging people who know how to use the media and get across specific messages.
Although I could have used any number of alternative medicine contacts that I already had in my database, I thought it would be interesting to see how many naturopaths might I) be gaining exposure on a national level and 2) be sufficiently media savvy to engage in a national media playing field.
And, by approaching my source investigating this way, I was representing the majority of journalists -- not the small minority that may have not only a naturopathic knowledge base but also respective contacts.
Disappointment with the Community
Usually when I put out a query on Profnet -- on any number of healthy living topics -- I get no less than 40 to 50 responses within a 24-hour timeframe. And these responses are usually so good, that it takes me a couple of hours to sort and dilute the possibilities to just the two or three that I will end up using.
With this query, however, I was sorely disappointed. Within a week's time, I received only three responses from bona fide naturopaths. And, one of those was not only four days late but also the only one representing a naturopath from a four-year naturopathic college. Talk about lack of credibility.
Additionally, any time I put out a query, I usually get about 10-20% of the responses being not exactly what I asked for but rather closely related to my initial request -- which still give me additional angles and sources in line with my direction.
However, in this case, even the closely related responses were equally as scarce; only three more, but at least they met my deadline. What this told me was what I had long suspected and assumed: the natural medicine community is not doing its job in getting out its important messages, especially on a national level.
Best Practices Comparison
To give you a non-healthcare comparison, I put out a Profnet query for new CD releases and artist information that would relate to "Music to Calm Your Soul and Lift Your Spirits."
One of the responses I received was from the PR firm representing American Gramaphone (www.amgram.com) -- a business that understands entrepreneurship and marketing in the ever-changing, elusive music industry. This organization is the business entity for Mannheim Steamroller and Chip Davis, which many of you may know from his Fresh Aire series and Christmas concert tours.
American Gramaphone is Davis' independent label. And, this business knows how to. use consistent, professional PR to its advantage: selling millions of CDs by reaping constant media plugs, diverse publicity, and reaching a live audience through its concerts. I'm a big fan of Mannheim Steamroller and was interested in Davis' new CD "Romantic Melodies." worked with the PR firm to coordinate an interview. As advance information, I was FedEx'd a press kit and the new release CD before the interview date.
Before the interview date, I spoke with Davis' manager, who offered content ideas and got information from me to prep Davis. His manager also networked with me to determine other opportunities between what I'm doing on a national level and American Gramaphone.
The day of the interview, I was patched into Davis at his Omaha, Nebraska home. And, he was as comfortable talking with me, a member of the media and a national personality (who might otherwise be potentially intimidating for someone who has not had media training or has not had regular media experiences), as his next door neighbor.
Within four hours after my interview with Davis, and although unconventional, I had a dozen roses delivered to my home office with a note about how much he appreciated the interview. The roses are part of the new-release CD's campaign and reinforced the target messages.
Also, within the next five days after the interview, I had a complete set of every piece of music he'd ever produced sitting on my desk, having been carefully packaged in a monogrammed box with custom tissue paper. I had been told this package was coming, with Davis and his manager utilizing the interview process to determine what would be good follow-up material to send me.
It's all about PR for Davis. He is big. Bigger than most any type of personality, celebrity, or expert out there. Yet, he was accessible. I got digestible, usable information. And, I gleaned several story lines from him out of his interview and his PR team. He and his people understand how to make a positive impression and how to work the media to their advantage.
Will I continue to write or tell about this dozen-roses Chip Davis story for a while? Yes! Will it translate into positive word of mouth for American Gramaphone. Absolutely!
As representatives of alternative medicine, you have got to be out there and give your viewpoint a voice, provide useful information, and create "buzz." Send the media your press kits, well-written books, information sheets, and credible products. Say 'thank you' for interviews -- even a quick e-mait or hand-written thank you note will stand out.
Offer story ideas that meet the needs of a particular media's audience; this may require a little research. Learn how to talk to the media in a sound-bite friendly, authoritative, yet down-to-earth way.
If I weren't so determined to have made sure that I would get a holistic point of view (and, again, I represent a small minority) with my column on heart disease and prevention, I would have thrown up my hands with my Profnet query and said "guess this so-called naturopathic profession doesn't know the answers and/or doesn't know how to represent itself."
But, I'm smarter than that, and I have faith in the future of complementary medicine. So, have faith and courage in yourselves. And, next time I put out a source query, I hope to have at least a triple dozen of you respond back - on deadline.
(Note: Profnet also runs a downsized, less-expensive lead service called www.prleads.com.)
Terra Wellington is president of Enfocom and provides public relations and brand consulting. www.enfocom.net She is also the author of The Seven Elements to Balanced Living, a US weekly syndicated columnist for "Terra Wellington's Balanced Living," and a national speaker. ivww.terrawellington.com Contact Terra at firstname.lastname@example.org.