We’re delighted that Anna Mason, Managing Director of The Healthy Employee, who previously founded a company called Distance Dieters, has agreed to share her experiences of trying to interest newspapers in stories about her new business – and to provide some handy tips and hints!
Just over two and a half years ago I decided to make radical changes to my business. It was the perfect time despite the recession, let me explain.
For the last twenty five years I have been a personal fitness trainer. This fitted in well with my family life, involved seeing my clients on a one to one basis for usually an hour at a time and working odd hours to fit around my family and my clients.
Business was good, I had clients lining up, but by the nature of the business the business would not grow unless I opened a gym and employed staff. This was an idea I had toyed with for a while. However, having spent time in various local gyms this was an idea that didn’t hold appeal.
All of a sudden my daughters were of an age that gave me more time. Time I could use to focus on growing a business. As if by magic the answer arrived.
I was contacted by a colleague of a previous client. This colleague was based in Glasgow, I was and still am based in Warwickshire, a huge geographical difference. Now this chap Charlie was in need of losing weight and improving his fitness level.
Clearly it would not be possible for him to become a personal training client so I put together an eight week bespoke weight loss and fitness programme that offered telephone, email and text message support. Charlie successfully lost his weight and upped his fitness level over the eight weeks. This was the beginning, Distance Dieters was born.
Here I had the opportunity to grow a business from scratch, utilising my skills and relying on my personal training income for the time being.
Now comes the issue of marketing and press coverage. All the press coverage I had enjoyed previously had found me. This was new ground and still is to a certain extent.
A press release was paid for to help launch Distance Dieters and was sent to a large list of local and national newspapers. Just a couple published it.
One was a paper that was rapidly failing and the other was the newspaper local to where I had been brought up. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I managed to get myself all excited and then nothing much happened.
Over time I wrote pieces for the local press, to gain coverage for a workshop or raise awareness about Distance Dieters and occasionally pieces would be used. I have a couple of contacts involved in PR and they kindly send me requests from journalists requiring hints and tips for magazines and publications. Again sometimes these are used and sometimes not.
It’s hard getting stuff out there, that’s the conclusion I have come to. Also it can be very time consuming. I know I should be writing short pieces almost constantly and getting them out there but you know there are only so many hours in the day and my time is probably better spent on my clients. Just listen to that whinge! Reading it back and can hear myself, it’s painful.
It’s tricky when there is only you in the business. One’s time needs to be divided up into the most productive areas.
I now see the necessity for targeting the most beneficial publications. A splatter of pieces, no matter how carefully written, to the wrong publications is simply a waste of time.
The mistakes I have made:
- A press release declaring Distance Dieters launch – the only person who is really interested in this is me
- An expectation that the local and national press would express an interest
- Not making the best possible use of the list of contacts I have
- Missing opportunities to forge relationships with journalists
- Using up precious time to write pieces for untargeted publications
The things I have learnt:
- Newspapers are only interested in ‘hot topics’, make your piece relevant
- Target your publications with care, thereby avoiding wasted time and energy
- Submit pieces to your targeted publications regularly
- Build valuable relationships with journalists
- Find out exactly what the publications are interested in
- Work to a plan of action doing little and often each week
I think so many people try to go this alone. It all sounds very obvious and simple but when you are running a business it becomes something else to do and can all too often drop off the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.
Like anything to be successful it’s having the knowledge, the ‘how to’ in order to utilise time and effort in the best possible way to gain the most advantageous publicity.