PR and communications consultant Julia Kendrick provides practical tips for holding a press event in your clinic to raise your brand image while building valuable relationships and coverage opportunities
Although 2020 has not exactly been the year for events, with the end of lockdown looming, now is a good time to think about how you can re-engage with press and host an event, when safe to do so. When planned and executed correctly, press events can be an effective tool to build your clinic brand and reputation. By developing relationships with key local and national press, bloggers and influencers, you can establish yourself as a source of information and authority whilst reaping long-term benefits from new business leads, to sales and brand-building opportunities. In addition, a press event gives the opportunity to raise your profile with prospective brand partners whilst outshining local competitors.
Most clinics only consider holding events at their launch, however a regular event schedule can be highly successful at building and maintaining not only your profile, but your profit margin. Whether you enlist the services of a PR or events company, or choose to run your own event, this article will outline the key steps to success to generate long-lasting benefits for you and your clinic.
The most crucial element is focusing your event on a topic that will be of interest to journalists/influencers and their readership demographic. If you fail to sufficiently grab their interest, they will likely not attend – or may attend and not write any articles afterwards. ‘Newness’ is always a good starting point – perhaps the clinic is new, or you are launching a new treatment approach – you may be the first in your area to have a certain device or technology. Making it timely (wedding season, summer body), or in line with current beauty media trends or consumer demands that will also be of interest for the target demographic. The aim of a press event should never be to SELL or appear purely commercial – the goal is to profile yourself and educate on your offering – providing information in an engaging, creative manner which gives journalists good content to write about, or share on social media. Your strengthened brand profile and press relationships (alongside patient bookings and sales) will be the outputs further down the line.
For national press, we often hold breakfast events from 9-10am to maximise the chance of attendance and to avoid a knock-on effect on the rest of their working day. I have found that it can be tricky for press to get away from their desks at lunchtime or in the evening, unless the event is more exclusive or personalised in nature – such as an intimate press dinner. For regional press and freelancers, timings tend to be more flexible. You can always hedge your bets by including two timeslot options for your press event on the invitation and hold two sessions, or see which option garners the most positive responses. For breakfast events, we would always recommend light drinks and nibbles, as press will often not have the chance to get food if coming straight to your session. Do check local business guides to ensure there are no other events planned on your day which will monopolise the journalists’ time!
Where appropriate, your press event should be held in the clinic as this is the easiest way to get people through your door, experience the treatments/brands on offer and understand your offering. Make sure you clear your booking calendar for an hour pre and post-event – you don’t want the stress of ushering patients out when you’ve got an event to run. If your clinic is not suitable for hosting groups, you could consider local event venues such as hotel meeting rooms, restaurant private dining rooms, or bespoke event spaces. Points to consider for external venues are obviously cost and availability, but also whether they will allow you to bring in/administer your treatments, equipment or beds.
With social distancing likely to be the new normal, many brands have pivoted to hosting virtual press events which can be a great way to showcase your business without the associated costs and risks of hosting an in-person event. However, approach with caution! Based on our press insights, virtual Zoom events have now lost their novelty appeal, and will soon be over-used and uninteresting for press (also it’s even easier for virtual ‘no shows’ to leave your event flatlining). To mitigate this, you could host an engaging ‘live’ event broadcast on social channels (which you can promote online in advance) and then save down as an evergreen piece of content to continue to drive awareness and engagement. Additional video presenters and participants from different locations/disciplines or expertise, alongside pre-recorded segments and live Q&As will help keep the format interactive and enjoyable.
Research beauty and news journalists from your local and regional newspapers and magazines, alongside influential local bloggers and influencers who focus on beauty, wellness and aesthetics. If you need to verify or expand your contact list and aren’t sure where to begin, start by raiding the newsagents and buy samples of local press such as newspapers, magazines and ‘what’s on guides’ to review their content and identify relevant journalists. Also investigate local business or beauty bloggers, alongside Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, and ‘what’s on’, local business directories. Checking with your patients about what local titles, blogs and influencers they read can also be a great source of information!
Email is usually the preferred method for press invitations – you can usually find journalists names as a byline next to their articles, and their email is usually on the publication’s website. If you are connected on Instagram, you can send a direct message to ask for the best email address to send an invite to. Begin with a properly personalised cover note using the journalists’ name (no ‘Dear all’ emails as this looks sloppy and impersonal) and give a brief elevator pitch about you and your business, and what the event will entail. Explain what they will learn from the event and why this will be of interest to their readers. Paste a simple, yet visually appealing invitation design into the email body and also as an attachment – beware of making the file size too big as these can often bounce or be blocked by spam filters. Canva is a great online tool for creating your own designed materials for free. I usually give at least a month’s notice for national press events – but two to three weeks’ notice should be sufficient for regional events. Remember to always follow up after a few days and thereafter once per week until you get a response.
Aim to keep your event to a maximum of 1-1.5 hours and ensure there is a clear agenda set in advance – this allows plenty of time for people to mingle, ask questions and see what is on offer at your clinic. Bear in mind that people rarely arrive bang on time – expect at least a 15-minute delay to your given start time – particularly if it’s a breakfast event.
Your agenda should include an introduction covering who you are, what you do and why, covering your unique selling points, ethos and values. If you wish to use PowerPoint for your intro, avoid slide overload and where possible, mix with live demos, videos and even case study testimonials (video or in person) to really showcase your treatments. Consider profiling easy, non-invasive and quick treatments during the event – these can be performed by a member of your team to leave you free to talk it through and engage with attendees.
Goody bags are a great way to pass out marketing materials – such as clinic brochures, treatment information leaflets, your bio/business card, a press release on the key event topic and special offers. Invest in reusable branded bags if possible – it’s great advertising! You can also include other branded goodies at your event to give out, like eye masks or cookies (Figure 1). Consider also reaching out to suppliers and non-competing local businesses for support – they may be able to provide free giveaways or special offers.
To minimise stress on the day, ensure the venue is set up (décor, catering etc.) and pack your goody bags the night before. Prepare a registration list based on invite responses so that confirmed attendees can then be ticked off upon arrival (get someone to help you with this as you’ll be needed elsewhere!).
Consider booking a photographer or even paying to have the event filmed – this creates a wealth of content for your website, social media and patient newsletters. Providing good quality photographs improves your chances of local media coverage, as many smaller publications can’t reliably get their own photographers to attend events. Be mindful of consent and ensure attendees are aware of photography/filming going on and ask anyone who doesn’t wish to be included to make themselves known.
Many practitioners have had poor experiences with offering free press treatments in return for coverage. For an educational press event, the aim would be that the content of what you are presenting is valuable enough to secure the coverage on its own merit. If there is a specific treatment launching, consider the value of the treatment and perhaps only offer a free session to the highest value press contact. Then carefully discuss this on a one-to-one basis with the journalist to establish what you’d need to see by way of outputs; for example, a one-page feature article and social media post. Remember that there is no guarantee of a positive review – it will be based on the journalists’ individual experience so do consider this possibility when offering free treatments. As always, consider industry guidelines on responsible promotion, patient care and time-limited offers when it comes to goody-bag offers and vouchers – such as the MHRA Blue Guide and the Committee for Advertising Practice guidelines.1,2
The critical tool in securing coverage is the press release, which should be included in the goody bag and on any follow-up correspondence. Press releases encapsulate the essence of the event news – what is new, how does it work, who benefits and why should people care. It must contain all the information you want the journalist to impart within their article in a succinct and punchy manner and should be one page maximum. You can learn how to create an effective press release by reading my article published on the Aesthetics website.3 The day after your event, send a friendly ‘thank you’ email to attendees – share some of the images/videos of the event and where appropriate, prompt people to come in for their consultations/special offers. Re-attach the press release and offer to help with any questions. It’s also worth reaching out to those who couldn’t make it with a mini event synopsis, the press release and imagery as they may still cover anyway. Whilst it’s tempting, don’t chase too hard for coverage outputs – the journalists should give you an idea if and when they are planning to cover, and a polite follow-up once per week is usually the best way to keep track of anticipated outputs. When coverage appears, share it via your website, social media and patient newsletters. Ensure you tag the journalist and publication to thank them for their article. This keeps relationships warm and ready for your next event!
Press events are a highly valuable business strategy to build your brand profile, secure media coverage and expand your visibility among local target audiences. With some streamlined forward planning and attention to detail in the execution, clinics can create a regular events schedule that helps educate prospective patients and drive demand, alongside strengthening business relationships with industry brands, local businesses and suppliers.
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