The famous statement, ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity’ is often associated with Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American circus owner. Barnum was known as someone who never missed an opportunity to present himself and his antics to the public. Oscar Wilde, the satirical Irish writer, has been credited even earlier with saying, ‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.’

The idea that no publicity can do harm is clearly up for debate. For someone seeking fame and fortune at any cost, that may still hold true. Gaining notoriety from a scandal, such as Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage, may serve as a means to an end. However, people in positions of authority cannot afford that kind of publicity if they are keen to be taken seriously. For example, Prince Harry’s naked photos stirred up a hornet’s nest of negative press around the globe. Former BP CEO Tony Hayward resigned after the worldwide coverage of the Macondo well explosion and subsequent environmental damage.

In many cases, for aesthetic clinics and doctors, bad press is just bad. In today’s online world, it is hard to bury negative stories because all one has to do is ‘Google’ your name and it will appear. A well-publicised complication not only taints the practitioner and the clinic’s reputation indefinitely, but can have a damaging effect on the industry at large. Furthermore, clinics now have to deal with the additional challenge of managing their online reviews.

Types of media

Marketers distinguish between three basic types of media: paid (print, radio or TV advertising), owned (company website or blog), and earned (publicity). The two main types of earned media, traditional (editorial or press mentions) and social (blog and online community posts), can dramatically affect clinic revenue and growth. Clinics should pay careful attention to how both traditional and social earned media affect foot traffic for services, as well as interest in purchasing products. While it is perhaps true that the impact of traditional earned media activity is often perceived as greater than that of social earned media, owing to the higher frequency of social earned media activity, the impact may actually be significantly greater. One of the benefits of online placements (blogs, websites, social platforms) is that they are more likely to be shared, granting them a longer shelf-life. More and more, social media placements appear to play an important role in driving traditional earned media activity.

[pull_quote align=”right” ]To secure a media placement, you need to deliver a story that resonates with that publication or outlet’s readers.[/pull_quote]

According to the SoDA Report 2012, the Society of Digital Agencies’ outlook on digital marketing, there is a conservative yet steady growth of digital marketing spending, including social media activities and explosive growth of inbound marketing. Social media marketing tends to be less expensive than traditional methods, although it is neither cheap nor free. Word of mouth and publishing content on online channels has quickly risen to the top of marketers’ minds. There is a shift in spending from traditional, expensive tactics (print and television adverts) toward digital and earned media. Clinic marketers appear to be increasing what they are spending on digital media efforts year after year. Consider this: by 2015, Facebook is expected to account for one out of every five digital display ads sold.

Reaching out to traditional media

If publicity is primarily what you seek for your clinic, you are well advised to seek representation from a professional publicist or PR company. It may be possible to make some headway with local or regional media outlets, but if national or international press coverage is your primary goal, hiring a publicist is an absolute necessity. The significant advantage of having a professional on board to manage media relations is that they will know how to present your clinic in the best possible light. If you choose to work with someone who has experience in the beauty and health sector, they will come armed with a solid list of contacts to call upon on your behalf. It is not only a PR strategy that looks good on paper that you need; it is the ability to execute that strategy and deliver good placements that you can then leverage throughout your other marketing platforms.

In most cases, editors, freelancers, bloggers and producers are not interested in promoting an individual clinic or doctor. What they are seeking is innovation, unique real-life case histories that are local to their outlets, controversies, trends, statistics, and research-based opinions. Their goal is to grab people’s attention, incite conversations, grow their audience, promote page views and increase social media shares. Although you may not be featured as the sole source in an article, in many cases, having a few good quotes in a positive feature by a reputable journalist is more valuable than being the subject of a post by a relatively unknown blogger with a meagre following.