Every day I speak with business owners from around the world. Personal trainers, nutritionists, physicians, cosmetic formulators, fashion designers, spa owners, hair stylists, pharmaceutical companies and so on. I really specialize in anything that makes us look and feel good. New exercise classes, superfood snacks, wearable tech, athletic wear, healthy food services, a breakthrough drug, beautiful apparel, etc.
It’s a part of what I do each day and I learn so much about the real pain points that entrepreneurs face as they try to expand their business and build brand awareness.
Every so often I will post real questions from brave bosses and start-up founders hustling to create their dream businesses. Everybody seems to have similar problems and questions, even though they are in different industries. They’re all trying to figure out this marketing game.
I am a business marketing consultant trying to help them. Sometimes I consult and sometimes I build strategies to help organize entrepreneurs so there not marketing by the seat of their pants. I meet all these brave souls on sites like Upwork, LinkedIn Profinder, YouTube, Angel.co, Clarity.fm, etc.
I love working with startups and passionate people in general. It just makes the day better. They are working on the coolest things. What kinds of things? Apps to help us stick to our diet when we eat out; evidence-based reviews of alternative therapies like acupuncture and cryotherapy; a new health and wellness club that incorporates the newest in tech like DNA testing; a seasonless line of women’s wear with styles that enhance what you already have in your closet; a better bone broth; a way to help people allocated their paycheck and a path to financial wellness, and so forth.
One particular entrepreneur/blogger was looking to pitch journalists about her new website. She is obsessed with how technology is helping women stay healthier and live longer.
She sent the link to her new website and had placeholders for blog posts and zero social media content, but she wanted to build a plan to pitch the media and collaborate with influencers to build her network.
Her questions –
1) Can I use the same pitch for lifestyle and health (journalists)?
Short answer, no. Best practices include tailoring the pitch to each individual writer and website/program. General pitching is rarely picked up unless it is a very timely news story. Pitching should be thoughtful. You’re developing relationships with these writers and you won’t be off on the right foot if you start with “here’s my story, now please write it.”
2) Which news categories should I target?
Health + tech. I’d start with those two categories. It helps if you do a Google news search to see who is hot on your topic. Just search in Google News and read the first ten most recent articles. Recent is important. In this ever-changing, fast-paced world, yesterday’s news is long gone. Then start a simple excel sheet and dig for the email address of the writers who are covering your topics. This will be the beginning of your media list.
3) Best channels (online platforms) to approach media for the site?
Email and Twitter. However, you need to start a relationship first. For example, you don’t just DM on Twitter. Retweet some of their stories, comment and like. Don’t just start pitching, it looks like stalking.
4) Other ideas you can provide to accelerate traction (brand awareness) on a tight budget?
Write or film amazing blog content and be the publisher of all things health + tech. That’s what you should be doing in the first place. Media attention and collaborations come naturally from producing excellent work built on honesty and integrity that gets shared.
Watch this short tutorial on the three no BS things you must continually do to grow your business.
- Will targeted Facebook ads bring in new memberships or subscriptions?
- How about creative outdoor advertising?
- Maybe collaborating with micro-influencers?
- Partnering with other neighboring businesses?
- Try a refer a friend email campaign with a promotional offer for each friend who signs up? Should we invest in a new service, like a juice bar?
- A direct mailer with a big seasonal discount?
I am working on a video tutorial today on how to research and test before you build your business. It will also be useful if you are looking for ways to make it grow. I will be sure to share it on this blog once it’s posted. Market research is really important, yet most brands keep on fumbling along without it.
So many companies that I work with tend to build in a bubble. They forget to find out more about their customers, investigate the competition or look for trends on the horizon.
You need to know the lay of the land. You can’t promote just because everyone says “oh this really works”. You need a marketing map people. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing your business and you can’t build anything big in a bubble.
Image from SunCityCamp.com – recreating the Martian experience.
It takes boatloads of courage to act on your gut and it takes an even bigger heroic dose of bravery to say f-ck no to everything else. The path is dark and full of the dreaded unknown, yet you proceed any way. Sure, from time-to-time you’re tempted by a false sense of security, of a “job” and an actual paycheck and all the glittery shiny things it can buy.
But this is not the way of the creative warrior, the emerging designer.
No. You hold out.
You just keep building. You just keep creating. You just keep going. You do anything to make it happen.
You hold the standard. Your standard.
This is what bootstrapping a business feels like and what it means to only say hell yes to what you really want.
I’ve been closely involved in the behind the scenes development of fashion brand Orseund Iris for the past two and half years and I am so immensely proud of Alana Johnson, one of my four remarkable bad ass daughters.
I’ve worked with many big brands but nothing compares to the rapid growth I’ve witnessed with the power of social media.
10 Celebrity-Approved Contemporary Labels That Made It Big in 2017
Alana Johnson’s New York–based label, Orseund Iris, was launched several seasons ago, but 2017 was the year it really took off, making the rounds on social media and the street style circuit alike. What began as a collection-based brand that soon developed into a non-seasonal model, it has become a celebrity-approved go-to for reworked classics. Its claim to fame is the corset, which gave way to the three-dimensional bra tops that are every bit as much a hit; whatever the case, both have molded the famous curves of models such as Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski.
Here are three super important tips for new fashion designers to follow –
1. Build your social media following every single damn day. Your business will only be as big and beautiful as the number of people who find you.
2. Press won’t come until you build your own gorgeous content and start confidently shining your own light. So take those snaps, share those stories and connect with your favorites on Instagram and Facebook first.
3. Wear your own designs before you finalize the details., before you cut that first pattern and before you grade. We know you’re inspired by what’s out there, but what make’s it an original – your design – is the very touches you add that no one else can.
Forge on brave one and hold the standard.
xo Madeline Johnson
Note to reader: I have included examples of digital press kits and timely news angles in this article that you can download. They may be helpful for you as you build out your stories to share with top tier media and influencers.
Examples from the Front Lines of Digital Marketing
One of the reasons I continue working with startups and emerging entrepreneurs is because it keeps my ear to the ground and in touch with the true pain points and biggest challenges that many new brands struggle with when it comes to marketing and promoting their products and services. The obstacles they face become my opportunity to help.
Case Study #1 – The More They Burn, The Better They Learn
Matt Gardner is a physical education teacher and health and wellness professional speaker from Novato, California. Championing kids to be more active and healthy on a daily basis, Matt has created PEbyDesign,, a program to help elementary school teachers get their students moving in the classroom for at least 60 minutes a day (a requirement from most states and the federal government).
I have been helping Matt build his side hustle, working with him on everything from his website user experience to building his own authentic voice while creating his digital press kit and all of his social media platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Right now I am conducting one-hour consulting calls with Matt and screen sharing video web chats with him to help him build out his social media strategy.
Case Study #2 – The Best Place For a Financial Wellness Check up
The best place to start your financial future and an empowering tool for financial wellness, I have helped R.J. Irving, a former Morgan Stanley advisor launch this SaaS platform to help Millennials understand how much to allocate to their 401K savings, health plans, and rainy day, emergency accounts. I created his digital marketing decks and press kit and scheduled and executed his strategy for Twitter and LinkedIn.
A sample of marketing collateral and digital press releases in a downloadable PDF file here Melius General Presentation-2.
Case Study #3 – Celebrating The Millennial Home Buyers Journey
Hearth & Beam’s creator Kyle Rothschild hired me to write his digital press kit, timely news stories, and social media strategy. Hearth & Beam was created to document and share everything that makes a house a true home.
Hearth & Beam’s downloadable digital press kit here. A writing example of a creator profile Kyle Rothschild, HearthandBeam.com,
An example of FAQ’s for the media and influencers here HearthandBeam.com Media FAQs
My fact sheet writing sample here Hearth and Beam Fact Sheet
And timely and newsworthy story angles here HearthandBeam.com News Stories
Case Study # 3 – Artisanal Gourmet & Organic Condiments
Brown Dog Fancy is the purveyor of artisanal gourmet mustard. Made from organic ingredients and sold online and in stores, I helped the owners of this condiment brand with their marketing collateral, digital press kits and social media strategy for #HowIFancy
Here are examples of a healthy food digital press release that I wrote for Brown Dog Fancy to share their story Brown Dog Fancy Story
Here, timely, news angles and ideas for reporters and influencers Brown Dog Fancy Story Suggestions
Note: This case study is a summary of a very successful three year public relations and media outreach campaign that I single-handedly created and executed, landing media and influencer mentions in US Weekly, Elle, Shape, Fitness, Allure, W, Health, Prevention and many, many more. It is packed with story ideas, pitches and ways to reach out to the media and influencers for press coverage for your new brand. While I love working with health, wellness, fitness and nutrition brands, these tips are for anyone trying to connect with the media and build their market. If you are looking to build press and influencer connections like a pro, you should probably check out my course The PR Playbook.com as well.
Why Vanity Metrics Matter
Everyone knows that influencers can actually sell through your product, bring real return on investment to your conversion funnel and actually have you making some money off your new business, but you tell me, how do you plan on paying for all that sponsored media? You need a balance of both blogger and persuasive top tier mentions and connections to convince and convert.
Same Problem, New Solution
I digitized these press clips and organized them into case studies with helpful tips for you to demonstrate that the news cycle in health, wellness, fitness and nutrition is a continual loop of how to look and feel our best. What is old again, is new again.
How to Pitch Like a PR Pro
It is not enough to tell the world you have built something brand new. You MUST share the problem you solve and why your product is the ultimate solution. In order to do this consistently like I did, with press in every media outlet imaginable – from Brides to Marie Claire; Town & Country to Oprah and Travel & Leisure to Vogue, you have to be very, very creative. No blogger, vlogger or journalist in their right mind wants a mass blanket pitch.
One of my first clients in beauty was a complex collection of skincare products (read: over 125 SKUs) from a brand called Yon-Ka Paris.
The challenge: Accumulate international brand awareness and celebrity cult-like status for an obscure, botanically-based skin care line created by two eccentric sisters living in the countryside of France without heat, electric or plumbing.
- Create an influencer & celebrity worthy experience while delivering five-star results at a world premiere event, like the Cannes Film Festival.
2. Don’t just focus on the masses. Branch out and persistently and consistently land press coverage in specialty (niche) media like I did here with bridal and new moms.
3. Pitch story angles around each individual product for additional reviews and inclusion in specific problem/solution stories.
4. Build upon product coverage and reviews by promoting spa and retail partners to build a clip book of the best of spa and wellness experiences in top tier media outlets, like Allure, Vogue and W.
5. Stay on top of all consumer trends and connect the brand to everything that is “hot”, on newsworthy, while climbing the charts – always sharing with media outlets in a timely fashion.
6. Create a charticle and/or listicle with products that offer solutions for every health and beauty challenge under the sun.
7. Never miss an opportunity to let the world know that your product is coveted by insiders “in the know”. Yon-Ka featured here in The NY Times.
8. Research, uncover and reveal blogger, vlogger, model, celebrity and influencer hacks, secrets & ways to look and feel their best. Then share it with those who want to look and feel like a star.
9. Highlight and tout exotic ingredients, or even every day house hold items and edibles like grapefruit as the next super food, miracle cure and foundation of youth, while sharing the benefits backed by science.
10. Show everyone short cuts to reduce stress while recreating an at-home mindful spa & wellness experience.
More ways to create story ideas around your products and brand . . .
- People can never have enough ways to eliminate the signs of anxiety and exhaustion.
- Help followers, customers & prospects pack for travel and another season and reason of self-care.
- Vet products, curate collections and share other complimentary brands in your story.
- Offer up new survival tips and products for every day annoying, yet common problems, like dark under eye circles.
- Collaborate with all-stars, including your strategic partners, retailers and professionals for added press coverage.
- Reposition your products for a new market – like men’s skin care.
- Position your more expensive, luxury product as an investment.
- Make sure your products are in good company and in the hands of professionals – and share their know-how with the world.
- Niche markets like “pregnancy” may have a shorter customer lifetime value, but they are open to product suggestions and recommendations. Especially when positioning your product as safe and effective for everyone.
- You’ll build more trust when you sound believable, so keep it really real. Don’t just make up your CEO’s quotes. Let them speak from the heart. Be believable.
- Popularize a certain part of the body and zone in on care for that one particular area.
- Promote soothing, safe, natural ingredients – like botanicals for specific skin conditions.
- Take an age old problem, and propose a new way to deal and heal it.
- Sampling sizes always work to give customers the opportunity to try before they buy.
- Does your product have an exceptional color? texture? Share the beauty of what’s inside the bottle.
- Understand your customer persona. What is her personality type? Naturalist? Futurist? or maybe just pure Becky. It doesn’t matter, just be sure to pitch to the media he/she reads, views, likes and shares.
- Go local – Connect with city guides in areas of dominant influence.
- Even in an age of influencers by the dozen, stars and celebrities still have pull.
- Plan an amazing product giveaway for your audience, fans and followers.
- Plan a splurge vs steal story – and include products at every price point.
- Help people get ready to reveal more for a new season – summer slim down and beach beauty prep.
- Have experts speak on your behalf. They need the publicity just as much as you do.
- Promote your product by lifestyle – cross over with fashion and accessories. Create the ultimate beach guide.
- Notice an ingredient trend before an influencer does? – help them select products for a round up .
- Have you opened a new retail account? Launched in a new online store? Tweet and share the news.
- Even if you are not pitching a story or new product it is important that influencers know what you are up to – so they can include you in their upcoming stories. Stay in touch with your VIPs.
- What happens when you have a fierce sales team, a loyal customer base and a winning marketing team – it’s a recipe for magic – it’s explosive.Work together.
- Show people how to relax, de-stress and unwind during distracting times.
- Help people transform themselves. Read: A complete vegan makeover.
- Are your products in a new hot destination spot? Promote it.
- Added tip: Make customization as simple as possible. As a matter of fact. Make everything as simple as possible.
- Take one ingredient – like geranium – and promote the hell out of it.
- Get people out of a bind – like when they over tan or burn their skin .
- Keep it exclusive and promote win its aka “contests” to attract new audiences.
- Promote B2B and B2C – which also helps boost employee morale.
- Promote experts from within your company to speak about their skill set.
- Seed out your products to celebrities.
- Offer tips on how to choose the best products in a category – like self-tanners.
- Go niche – pitch to smaller media and combine products with partners for the ultimate story mention.
- Pimp out celebrity users when they are launching a new movie or track. They need the publicity now more than ever.
- Reveal confessions.
- Ask your followers what their favorites are and report on that.
- Enter awards for your brand and promote the honors.
- Focus on problematic issues, like sensitive skin.
Want more ways to build your brand with media coverage? Check out my on line video course, ThePRPlaybook.com a short cut to learning how to pitch the press like a pro.
For those of you sitting on the fence about starting your own dream business, I urge you to start now and take advantage of all of the amazing tools that can help you reach a global audience. I’m not just talking about social media like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. I am also very excited about the hundreds of other ways in which you can reach your audience in countries around the world and the collaborations happening in my industry, health, wellness, fitness and nutrition.
My name is Madeline Johnson and I am an marketing and media strategist based in NYC. I help startups and entrepreneurs build brand awareness and sales revenue by creating easy to follow marketing plans and courses like ThePRPlaybook.com.
Here is my new intro video.
In May of this year Instagram officially announced it’s new business tools, making it easier for startups to pay to reach their target audience.
Before you start buying Instagram ads, be sure to watch this quick and super helpful tutorial on how to get your business started on Instagram.
I am in the process of filming a full series on how to grow your fans, followers and customers on Instagram and as soon as it is ready, I will add it to ThePRPlaybook.com
In the meantime, I thought I would share this first lecture with you so you can develop a great profile, bio, content and hashtag strategy.
If you have any questions, please comment on the video on my YouTube channel. I look forward to hearing from you.
I work with a hell of a lot of startups in the fitness, health and wellness industries. These are great people with really wonderful ideas. However, what I have observed is that too many business owners are in complete denial about what it takes to really grow their customer and client base. Some are under the impression that if they build it, they will come.
Others think it just takes a couple of big press hits to get the brand awareness ball rolling.
Most are incredibly impatient.
Sorry, folks, unless you do the deep research about who your customer is and if they even want a product or service likes yours, you are going to run into trouble. You also need to wake up to the reality that all marketing is pure experimentation and some activities work better than others. Depending on your target market, if you scurry around without a plan you will be hitting your head against the wall, wondering why your sales aren’t spiking like you thought they would.
You will be lost in the matrix of marketing hell.
It’s also very, very easy to get overwhelmed by what type of marketing you should be doing for your brand.
This is why I recommend building a plan first.
This plan does not need to be an 80 page manifesto for building your business. It can be as simple as focusing on the core elements for a plan of action.
These elements include –
- competitive market research
- defining your target audience
- a strategy for owned, earned and paid media
- a realistic budget
- metrics to measure your success.
This will help you create a realistic situation analysis and summary while giving you a clearer picture of what you must do first and a marketing strategy that will have you overcoming obstacles and threats as you build brand awareness for your business.