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PR Marketing or "Free Advertising"
    Ah, ha . . . free advertising!  Just the words "free advertising" alone seem to bring a smile to most doctors' faces. Yup, it brings a smile to my face also.

    So what is this free advertising that I'm talking about?  Well, it's more commonly known as "PR" (public relations) or press releases.

    In essence all it is, is media giving you free publicity.  But why in the world would your newspaper or television station give you free publicity when they make their money by charging for advertising?

    Because you present to them something which is newsworthy, and while they make their money by selling advertising, they get their circulation (which in turn leads to a base to advertise to) by providing news which their readers are interested in reading about.

    The most common form of PR is based on the press release.  In fact, this seems to be the method that is used exclusively by many companies.  I want you to know that this method is not the only one that is effective (in fact I'll be sharing with you a method that is even more effective), but since it is the most widely used, I'll go into it right now.

The Press Release

    A good press release is not very difficult to do, as long as you use simple English.  Don't try to impress the newspaper or television station with your complex vocabulary.  Just like good sales letters and advertisements (we'll get to that soon), a press release should contain 70%-80% one-syllable words, and be easy enough for an eighth grader to understand.

    The next thing to keep in mind is that your press release should (unless you are very skilled at writing press releases) not exceed one page.  Also, you will want to type the press release in double spaced format.  This way it's easy for the editor to read (and believe me, he gets plenty of press releases on a daily basis, and you don't want to make him go blind).  You will also want to keep the layout easy to read.  Don't try to be cute with fancy layouts just to grab attention.  More than likely, this will find your press release in the trash can.

    While spelling counts for advertisements and direct mail letters, they count double for press releases.  Editors don't have the same patience for misspelled words that the common person has, so make sure you're spelling and grammar are accurate.

    On each press release, you will want to include the following information on the header (usually top-left hand corner of the paper):

  • Date (the editor might assume that the info contained in the press release is outdated if you don't include a date)
  • Contact person (whom to contact for more information.  That's normally you.)
  • The words "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" (this way the editor will know that he can include the info right now)

    You will also want to write the press release on your stationary paper.  This will give it an air of professionalism, and will help legitimize your press release.  Also, make sure that you are printing a good copy, and it doesn't look like it was copied on a bad copy machine.  For best results use a laser printer.

Who Do You Send it To?

    Everyone and anyone.  Well, maybe not.  You will however want to make a list of all the magazines, newspapers, publications, radio stations, television stations, and any other media outlet that you can think of.  The easiest way that I've found to do this is to create a database on your computer.  This way, every time you create another press release, you only need to do a mail merge and most of the work is done for you (if any of these terms are confusing, ask your local computer nerd, or give me a call).

    When making a list of media sources, call them up and ask them for the name of the editor to address press releases to.  This is important, as it will ensure that it gets your press release into the right hands.

What Do You Say?

    Believe it or not, there are tons of things to write press releases about.  In fact, if you want to, you can probably write a different press release each day of the week, and you still won't run out of ideas to write press releases about.

    But when you are choosing topics to write press releases about, you will want to pick topics which adhere to these requirements:

  • Is newsworthy (anything that people might be interested in reading about is)
  • Deals with current trends (editors love to write about things which are trendy)
  • Is of interest to local subscribers (remember that the goal of the media is to provide information which effects its subscribers)

    I guess I still haven't answered your question though: how do you find stuff to write about.  There's two basic ways.  The first is to write on stuff that deals directly with your practice and the second is to write on items which deal with chiropractic or health in general.

News Which Deal with Your Practice

    Even though you might not be aware, there are many things of interest about your practice which are newsworthy and would fit well in a news release.  Even things which are common to your practice, or to chiropractic practices in general, can be used as long as you add a spin to them and tie them to something of interest to the editor.

    Just in case you can't think of what to write about, here's a brief list.  Of course not everything will apply to you but I bet you can find a lot more things to write about than I mention here, so use your imagination.

  • FREE spinal screening (you bet it's common, but it can still get you media attention)
  • New technique that you are using
  • A study that you've conducted
  • A grand opening
  • An anniversary celebration
  • A kids day (or seniors day)
  • Community program that you sponsored
  • New business hours
  • Addition of new equipment
  • Seminar that you are conducting (can be very effective)
  • An award or recognition that you received
  • And the list goes on, and on, and on . . .

    As you can see, there's a pretty big variety on what you can write a press release on, and whatever you do, make sure that you don't let the list above impose any limitations on what you can do.

News Which Deal with Chiropractic or Health

    If you're like any other chiropractor out there, you've got a pretty large collection of chiropractic journals and publications and you get more and more on a daily basis (or at least is feels that way).

    What do you do with them?  I hope you don't say you just read them.  You need to share the info in there with the rest of the world and in the process get yourself tons of free publicity.

    Instead of just writing press releases on news which deal directly with your practice, why don't you write up press releases on new studies published in these journals.  There's plenty published in each issue.

    All you need to do is mention in the press release the main points of the study, who conducted it, and which publication it appeared in, then tie it to your practice somehow or comment on it (this will allow you to benefit from the "good grace" of the study), and you're ready to rock-and-roll.

    Some of the studies that are published are a real boon to chiropractic, and you can get tons of exposure to your practice (and build your image as an expert) by sharing this info with your community.

    For your press release, you will want to include all the necessary information in the first paragraph.  Since an editor will frequently have to edit a press release for lack of space, the less work he has to do, the more likely your press release will get published.  So in the first paragraph include important points like who, what, when, why, and where.  Towards the end of this manual, you will find a sample press release that you can use as a template for your own press releases.

Write an Article

    Another way to get free publicity is to write articles about chiropractic or health and submit it to your local publications.  This is an excellent way to build your image as an expert, and you'll find that patients who come to you through this source will treat you with much respect, and they will see you as the expert in your field (they will take your recommendations with much less hassle).

    A good way to know what topics to write on is to write about a current trend, or calling up your editor and ask him what topics his publication is interested in having written.

    Once you do have an article published, get as many reprints of it as you can, and distribute it to your patients and prospects.  This will further strengthen your credibility, and will increase patient retention and referrals.

Invite a Reporter to Your Practice

    An excellent way to get publicity is to invite a reporter to your practice.  This will increase the likelihood of getting publicity, since the reporter will not want to have invested her time, and not gotten a story out of it.

    If you are holding an open house, or something of that nature, call up the reporter and invite her over.  To find out which reporter would likely cover your story, call up the media company, and ask them which reporter deals with health, lifestyle, and/or community events.

    Another method is to contact the reporter and invite her over for lunch.  The truth of the matter is that most reporters don't make much money, and will rarely turn down a free lunch just make sure you take them to a nice restaurant.

    Of course when you use this method, make sure you have something of interest to share with the reporter if you want publicity.  A reporter won't write about you if you don't give her anything to write about, no matter how much she likes you.

    We've already discussed ideas that you can use for a press release.  These same ideas will still work for a face-to-face meeting.

Sponsor an Event in Conjunction with a Media Company

    The last publicity strategy we'll talk about is sponsoring an event or a fundraiser.  While many doctors use this strategy often, most of them do it absolutely wrong.  They sponsor the event or fundraiser, and expect the media to write about it.  WRONG!

    You need to be one step ahead.  There are ways to ensure that you will get publicity and plenty of it at that.

    The way you do this is by "teaming up" with a media company to sponsor the event.  Find an event or fundraiser which a local media company would also be interested in sponsoring (how do you know what the media company would be interested in?  Ask!), and sponsor the event in conjunction with them.

    Every single time that the media company gives publicity to the event (which it will probably do often) your name will be there along with the media company's name.  You'll revel in its glow.

    Hmm . . . I guess this chapter was a little longer than the rest, but I think that you've gotten plenty of good information on how to make the best of publicity.  Now go and get some!
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