In episode 15, Jack talks about PR – public relations. There are countless stories of brands being made by a clever and powerful PR campaign, but it’s not easy. You need to be able to create and pitch an interesting, exciting story.
Make people it a life-changing story and you could get massive coverage that elevates your brand in one .
In today’s episode:
- What’s PR?
- What’s good PR?!
- What channels are used to create a strong public image
- Should you use a PR agency or do it yourself?
- Why you MUST know a little about PR, branding and marketing
- Press releases – what are they, and how to write them
- The massive benefits of a successful PR campaign
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Welcome back to the Fitness Business Asia podcast. My name is Jack Thomas and you know how we roll, we don’t hang around, we get into the thick of things quickly and we make every minute on the podcast is worth listening to.
Before we begin, if you haven’t subscribed yet please do so as we release an episode each and every Monday, alternating between solo podcasts with myself and interviews with industry leaders from around Asia and beyond.
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It’s always great to hear from you on what you’re finding useful and some of the challenges you’re facing so we can try and help out.
OK, so let’s get stuck into today’s topic which is all about PR which stands for public relations
Today we’re going to cover
- what PR is
- what channels are typically used for PR
- whether or not you should use a PR agency
- the benefits of working on PR
- press releases – what they are, how to approach them
We touched on this briefly all the way back in episode 3 of the podcast as one of our five pillars of fitness business marketing.
Since then we’ve found that our most requested topic is marketing and our marketing podcasts have been the most popular episodes so far, so over the coming months, I’m going to delve deeper into each area of marketing and how you can raise your game in each of them.
Why should you listen to me on this? In 2018 we won Asia’s Gym of the Year at the region’s biggest fitness industry awards and this was happened because we’ve worked hard on PR, as well as being one of the best gyms in Asia, of course. I was a columnist for Men’s Health Thailand for over 2 years and I currently write for BK Magazine which is Bangkok’s most widely read and distributed English-language magazine. This has been great exposure for myself and BASE and it’s in line with my original mission getting into the industry, which is to positively impact people through health and fitness. I’ve done this without a background in writing or journalism so I think this experience puts me in a good place to offer some advice on how to get your message out through the right channels
So PR – public relations – the term is thrown around a lot and people often get confused between PR, branding marketing.
So what is PR?
PR is defined as your public image, what people see of your brand and the feelings they have towards it.
In business, PR would refer to the creation and curating of this public image through any channel that displays and represents your brand.
Now I would define this as meaning your own social media channels also, but we’re going to view that as a separate area of marketing. For the purposes of this podcast, I’d like to define PR as your public image as displayed through:
- Online publications such as blogs, what’s on guides and the like
- Other social media channels than your own, such as influencers, review pages or blogs
Now the first thing I’ll say is that getting exposure from these channels is not easy. It often requires connections with publications and sadly, many magazines and newspapers now want payment for coverage. I think this is a really awful development for print media, as what they cover will be dictated by who is paying rather than who really has an interesting or great story.
I think this will be another nail in the print media’s coffin and will make print even less relevant but I guess they’re just doing what they can to survive. Anyway, that’s another topic for another day.
This leaves us with two choices – pay for coverage, or really create a story that’s interesting and exciting, a story that people really will want to read, and then pitch it to the right magazines and publications
I’m going to assume you don’t want to pay for coverage, so let’s look at option 2, which is to create a story and pitch it.
Now with this option, you can get the assistance of an agency or you can do it yourself.
Advantages of an agency are their connections and their help in creating your story and message, but it doesn’t come cheap. You’re probably looking at 2,000USD per month minimum up to 10s of thousands, depending on where you are and your level of service.
Advantages of doing it yourself are that you save money. Going it alone is not easy if you don’t know much about PR, find writing copy tough and you don’t have connections, but as with anything, it’s good to learn the basics at least, so you can recognize good marketing, good PR when you see it. This helps to hire the right help and to recognize what good PR, marketing and branding looks like.
At BASE, we’ve had some outside help and we’ve also worked on a lot of PR initiatives internally. For me and the team, this has been a very educational process and we’ve learned a lot, so if you and your team have the time and inclination to throw yourself into it, you can save some money and learn a lot.
So I want to look at an example of a story that we can probably all at least relate to and can easily be adapted – let’s say the launch of a new fitness studio. It could be a new fitness app, a new spa, coffee shop whatever, the general principles remain the same.
First thing you need to do is create the story – if the story is Jack Thomas is opening a new fitness studio at 123 High Street – that’s not very exciting, nobody cares.
Before we write a story, which will be in the form of a press release, try and put yourself in the shoes of the person reading the story. In Bangkok this might be in BK Magazine, in Singapore it might be a Straits Times supplement, you get the idea.
What would make that story interesting to the person reading it. And don’t forget that this person isn’t your mum, they don’t know you and don’t care about you – so you need to work hard to pique their interest. Peeling off another layer, you need to get the journalist or editor who’s reading your press release to buy into your story enough to think that they can present it in a way that’s exciting to their readers, viewers or listeners.
Let’s go through some steps to help get you to an attractive press release:
- You need a powerful headline. Imagine an editor is looking at 50 press releases one morning. That header is your opportunity to catch their attention. What’s the big headline that will grab their attention and get them to read the press release. In a marketing email, the email subject should get them to open the email, in a press release the header should get them to read the body text.
An example of a strong header might be:
Launch of the Fitness Business Asia app aims to change the way Bangkok works out.
The FBA Foundation is helping 100 young Thai entrepreneurs start fitness businesses in 2019
A new studio in Singapore is helping the country reverse 10 straight years of diabetes and obesity rises
Then you can have some sub header text that strengthens the header.
If we take a recent Apple header as an example
Apple adds Earth Day donations to trade-in and recycling program
And then the subheader i
New Robot, Daisy, Disassembles iPhone to Reclaim Precious Materials
And then there’s a picture of a robot dismantling a phone.
In two lines and an image they’re hitting at a ton of trend topics – recycling, robots and AI, corporate social responsibility and Earth Day.
In one foul swoop there’s a ton of stuff a journalist can work with to create a story, just from this little burst of information.
Of course, this is Apple. Everyone wants to feature Apple because they’re Apple. You’re going to have to work harder to stand out, but over time the more well-known you become, the easier it gets to make people excited
Uber is finally coming to Thailand – can work as a headline now, but if no one knew Uber it would need more about what Uber is, it would need more sell.
OK – so you’ve got your all important headline, sub header and image nailed, now onto the main text.
Now you can Google press release templates for an idea of how to structure it, but I’ll go through the main points:
- The first paragraph should start with the place, in our case Bangkok, Thailand and then you need to powerfully sum up your message – imagine the reporter is only going to read that – it should cover all the main points so that a story could perhaps be written just from this. It should talk about what makes your business different – why is your studio, gym, app or platform any different from anyone else? Why should everyone care?
- There should be quotes, no more than two I’d say, that convey a strong message from someone important. Perhaps the CEO, from someone pivotal to the story. This is a chance to get something more subjective out, an opinion from someone important to the story.
- After the first few paragraphs you can assume only those really interested are still reading – here you can go into more detail on points that add merit to your message , but avoid writing things for the sake of it or adding in pointless or throwing in sales pitches or random facts. What would add depth to the story? Perhaps something on how the idea came up, future implications for the company, that kind of thing.
- Finally, a summary with facts such as price, address, contact details, opening offers or whatever will help to complete the story and, if the person reading it is excited to learn more, contact you.
If you’re not great with words, you’ll need some help on all these points. If it’s written well, you’ve got a great shot at getting your message out there. If it’s written really well, often chunks of text will be taken out and used in articles. This gives you the opportunity to really craft the message that’s put out
So you have your press release – next stage is to get some objective feedback on whether it’s good or not. As I went through in episode 5 – elicit feedback from people who are both knowledgable and are able to give you objective, constructive points free of emotion.
The final point on press releases – and this is where agencies can come in – you need to get it into the right hands and, if possible, follow up with them. Agencies do of course help with their contacts and connections but I’m a big believer in building up a strong network of connections. If you know the main people at the main publications it can really help in pushing things along and you may not even need an expensive agency.
Now we have an idea on how to create a story, I want to go through some ideas on what to talk about. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we are incredibly lucky in our industry to have a ton of amazing stories each and every day. We are literally changing lives and we’re in a growing and exciting industry, so it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with some big ideas.
- Your first story will probably be the launch of your business, what’s great about you, what makes you stand out
- New programs or products you’re launching – why they’re different, what they’re going to do for people, what problem they solve, what they’re going to do for society at large
- New partnerships – what benefit they give people, shared values, why you coming together as partners is something to get excited about
- Events – why you’re having the event, why you cannot miss it, why it’s one of a kind, what the attendees of the event will experience
- Awards, this is a good chance to talk yourself up a bit, without just bragging. So when we won Asia’s Gym of the Year, we talked about why this was a major development for Thailand’s fitness industry, to be recognized on the international stage. How we beat competition from around the region’s top fitness markets, future plans for the company. By making it a story about Thailand’s industry, it helped get more exposure and we got many interview and feature requests from this press release.
- Big new hires: again, make sure it’s genuinely interesting. Have you hired a Noble-prize winning physio or the world obstacle course race champion as your new head coach? Your hire doesn’t neccesarily have to be this big but make it a story, not just Joe Bloggs passed his probation and is now a full time coach with us.
- It could be about research: if you do a study or survey, or you see one that says – I don’t know – child obesity is at its highest ever levels and some children are getting type 2 diabetes. You can create a story about how your business is tackling this and reversing this scary trend.
- A client success story. This has to be big: there was a viral video a while back about a young man who cound’t move due to a severe back injury. Over the course of a week a physical therapist cured him. It was incredibly powerful and moving and everyone involved got huge exposure, interviews with big publications and the like. In the most successful cases, you could get a talk show host to interview you and the subject but damn, that needs to be a great story.
When coming up with any story, give it this litmus test: would someone you don’t know, someone who doesn’t care about you, care about this story. For this reason, don’t ask your mum or partner unless they’re very capable of giving objective feedback.
So why should you invest time into this process? Is it worth you doing? If you’re not yet sold on this, I’d like to go through the benefits to getting this process right:
- One: is the obvious one: being featured in magazines, newspapers, guide and the like is good, free exposure
- Two: Once you start to come up with these stories you don’t have to limit them to just press releases to journalists, you can use the ideas for channels such as social media posts, blog topics and newsletters. Let’s say your press release is on one of your clients who avoided major surgery and saved their life through exercise. As well as the media pitch, you can interview them for a blog post, make a video about them, put their story in an email newsletter and tell their story on all the socials. So even if the media don’t pick it up, you’ve still got the story out.
- The third benefit: when you get featured you can have the As Seen In that you see a lot. I noticed that a new gym in London which had just opened had an As Seen In on their website and it had Vogue, The Times, Mens Health, GQ and all the rest. They undoubtedly had all these features so early on as they’ve invested heavily in PR, almost certainly through an agency. 1Rebel, one of the my favourite London gyms, have a quote from GQ that they use constantly which is ‘King of Gyms’. How did they get that? With good PR.
- Four: increased opportunities for more comprehensive coverage. Getting press releases right is not easy, but if you do this well other opportunities can come from it – magazines may want to do follow up interviews, TV shows might want to send a presenter to your business for a feature. If your press release and pitch really rocks their world, then you could end up getting free exposure that would fortunes. Sometimes brands are built and made from an incredible PR campaign.
That wraps up my thoughts on Public Relations. Investing in this process and learning more about it has earned us tremendous value at BASE and I’d strongly recommend you invest in it too, whether that’s an investment in time by learning about it, or a financial investment by hiring people to take charge of it for you.
I always say that even if you hire someone to do a job, you should have a good idea of what you’re looking for and what doing that job well looks like. This is very true of branding, marketing and PR – there are a lot of clowns out there who are good at making it look like they know what they’re doing, so by educating yourself you can select the right people to really elevate your brand.
Thanks for listening – if you haven’t subscribed yet please jump in as we release a fresh new episode each and every Monday and if you have a friend that might benefit from what we put out, please do send them our way.
Wherever you are, have a good one and I’ll catch you next time…