How Image Consultants Can Get Free Publicity

AICI West President Gillian Armour, AIC CIP, reached out to Joan Stewart, aka The Publicity Hound, to get an update on advice she provided to our membership once upon a time. Not only did Joan update the information in her original article, but she added more links and resources to help us market and promote ourselves. We are deeply grateful for her support and advice.

A bit about Joan – (more at the end of the article): For more than 22 years, publicity expert Joan Stewart, aka The Publicity Hound and a former newspaper editor, has mentored, coached and taught more than 50,000 authors, speakers, experts, CEOs and small business owners how to get thousands of dollars in free publicity and tell their story to the world, without a $20,000 publicist.

Gillian: Years ago, you generously provided AICI with a very helpful article on How Image Consultants Get Free Publicity. In the article you detailed how some of our number got creative with approaching the press to generate publicity for their image consulting businesses. I recently found this article in my files and was struck with how things have changed in the past decade around PR and getting publicity. As you are an expert in this field, I thought I would catch up with you to ask a few questions.

In your original article, consultants interviewed mentioned “contacting the press,” “writing a journalist” or even “piggybacking” on a story they read by responding to the writer. However, with the advent of technology and the online world, most people no longer use print media to get their information.

Have you noticed the change in the work you do? And what advice would you give now about reaching out to get a story told or heard?

Joan: The biggest change is that today, anyone can create their own news channels via a blog, YouTube, a podcast, an electronic newsletter, Pinterest boards, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. This is known as “the new media.”

There’s far less emphasis today on traditional media: newspapers, magazines, radio and TV though they are still important.

Promoting online is a disadvantage for image consultants who aren’t interested in creating a social media presence and sharing helpful content with followers. It’s a huge advantage, however, to those willing to work hard to create a platform and keep in touch with their followers by sharing valuable content, because you don’t have to rely on the media gatekeepers.

The best social media platforms for image consultants are YouTube, Facebook and Instagram because they’re so visual. And you don’t have to do them all. Sometimes excelling at only one and posting content consistently, can pay huge dividends. I also recommend LinkedIn for making valuable business connections.

In terms of “reaching out” to traditional media, my best advice is to send fewer customized pitches to relevant journalists, rather than more generic one-size-fits-all pitches to dozens of media outlets.

Why? Because media audiences are more fragmented than ever. Newspapers are shrinking,

and print versions of most papers will be gone within several years. General news magazines are disappearing too. But many niche publications, print and online, are holding their own in terms of circulation and clicks.

Once you’ve chosen a media outlet, do your research before pitching! Is the journalist on social media? Do you follow her and share her content before you pitch her? Do you know what she covers? Does she blog? If so, have you read her blog? Do you know which topics are important to her? For more tips, see my article “Want publicity in magazines? Research, then pitch.”

Know the difference between a press release and a pitch in a two-part series I wrote at my blog. Read “The pros and cons of press releases vs. pitches” and “When to use a press release and when to deliver a pitch.”

Gillian: Are press releases a thing of the past? Or have they evolved with the technology? How does one go about getting the “word out”?

Joan: Lots of so-called publicity experts, and even journalists, proclaim that “The press release is dead.” What they really mean is “The CRAPPY press release is dead.” Crappy press releases are self-serving documents that either have no value to the reader, or they bury the most interesting angle of the story.

Crappy press releases include “B.S. quotes” that sound stilted – nothing like the way people actually talk. Crappy releases also don’t have a specific call to action. And most of them aren’t optimized for the search engines. That means they’re missing the keyword phrases that people would use when searching for that type of information on Google.

Excellent press releases have a compelling angle, a gripping headline, short sentences and paragraphs, sizzling quotes, and at least one call to action. They also use hashtags. If the topic lends itself to other than the written word, excellent press releases often include links to video, audio or infographics.

The most important change in the world of press releases is that today, we write them

primarily for consumers who can find them online when searching for answers to questions. But even with the technology that we’ve been using for the last two decades, today’s press releases seldom result in the type of huge media stories we all love. Publicity seekers usually must email a customized pitch to a specific media outlet, and then link to the press release where the media can find the details.

Image consultants and anyone else can learn every aspect of how to write, distribute and use press releases in my free press release writing course. The 89 lessons are divided into 11 modules that include topics such as headline writing, how to write the body of the release, search engine optimization, how to use photos, how to incorporate audio and video, and how to use free and paid press release distribution services.

You’ll also find 35 sample press releases including several before-and-after makeovers. I’ve included an entire module for authors and publishers.

Gillian: What type of commentary (top ten lists, how to articles, videos?) is relevant in this new age and what is the best way to communicate tips or advice?

Joan: The medium you use depends on the topic, and which form of consuming information your audience prefers. If I’m an image expert and I want to give women five tips for tying a scarf, I’ll create a short video because seeing it will make it easier for women to understand. But if I’m giving tips on how to make the best use of your voice to match your image, I’d use either video or audio.

If I’m discussing a topic in-depth, I will most likely write an article.

People love “Top 10” lists and quizzes. Frequently Asked Questions about a topic often get good search ranking.

Facebook Live is an excellent way to deliver advice, capture it on video and upload it to your YouTube channel so that viewers can see it even if they aren’t on Facebook. Some Facebook Live producers strip out the audio and use that for a podcast. You can also take a video recording and turn it into an audio, and then transcribe it for print.

Gillian: With regard to piggybacking – how can one use this effectively in today’s social media world? What are the best methods for piggybacking?

Joan: You’re referring to news-jacking, the phrase coined by PR expert David Meerman Scott after I wrote the first article for you. It means taking a breaking news story and offering your own commentary, angle or hook quickly, while the news is still fresh. Celebrity news remains red hot.

Image consultants can offer advice when, for example, a celebrity woman gets married and her arms, shoulders or back include tattoos which distract from her gorgeous wedding dress. Call your local TV stations and offer to comment on the best and worst dressed celebrities immediately after the Oscars or Grammy's.

Keep your eyes on the presidential debates! You can comment on how the men and women candidates are dressed. Viewers have criticized Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang for appearing in debates without a necktie. What do you think? Is this a valid criticism? Or does he deserve a pass because few techies own neckties?