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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?

What’s appropriate clothing for work, especially in light of the #MeToo movement? How much cleavage is too much? When is a short skirt too short? Should a man let chest hair peek out of the top of his shirt?

Gillian: In your original article you cited: In Australia, image consultant Jon-Michail offered the media his commentary on facial hair for politicians, whether executives should wear ties showing cartoon characters, and the importance of the school uniform in attracting parents to a particular private school. You referred to a product you had offered on “How to be an Expert Spokesman the Media Love.” How does one become a media spokesperson today?

Joan: In my earlier article, I mentioned this not because the man was a media spokesperson but because he is commenting on issues in the news or interesting topics. Most image consultants have their own businesses so being a media spokesman doesn’t apply to them unless they are representing a brand as a paid spokesperson.

A media spokesperson usually works for a company or nonprofit and is the media’s primary contact. Duties include releasing and controlling the flow of information to the public when the news is good or bad. The best media spokespersons get in-depth professional training on how to communicate with journalists and the public.

Gillian: Are any of the following ideas given in your original article still relevant today? If not, how would you update them?

A. Produce your own TV show on your local cable TV station’s public access channel. You must rent the camera equipment, but airtime is free.

Joan: You can still do this. But for a much farther reach, you’d be better off creating your own show on Facebook Live and uploading those videos to YouTube. A longer show of, say, a half hour, can be edited into 8 or 9 shorter videos. All of them could be put on one playlist on YouTube.

Why a playlist? Because most people want short videos, not long ones. Each video loops from the first to the second to the third automatically, without the viewer having to touch the mouse or the screen. Also, each playlist can be optimized for the search engines because it has a title and a description, just like individual videos.

B. Contact local media people and let them know your areas of expertise. Invite them to call on you when they need background, story ideas and commentary.

Joan: This is still relevant. You can also contact media at the regional and national levels. Research them before contacting them to make sure you’re a good fit with their topic. Let influential bloggers know you’re available for interviews. Suggest three topics. You’ll find lots more tips in my article “How to Avoid Writing a Flimsy Pitch for a Guest Blog Post.”

C. Create your own holiday, or your own day, week or month of the year. Use it as a springboard to publicity and submit it to Chase’s Calendar of Events, the big reference book that’s often used by the media. Visit See Special Report #45: How to Generate National Publicity from Your Own Day, Week or Month of the Year.

D. Contact columnists at local newspapers and magazines and offer story ideas. Columnists often are overlooked.

Joan: Both are still relevant. Also contact bloggers and podcasters who cover your topic. They don’t have to be local. Establish relationships with ezine editors. They are often hungry for content and might welcome anything you offer.

E. Call local radio talk show hosts and offer to fill in for guests who cancel. They will appreciate the offer, and they’ll call on you if they need you. See Special Report #27: How to Get Booked on Radio Talk Shows, Give a Great Interview and Get Invited Back.

Joan: Still relevant. Offer yourself to podcasters whose guests cancel at the last minute.

F. Team up with a local department store, clothing store, gourmet food stores and any business where you can teach a class or give a workshop. Invite the media to participate. See Special Report #42: Tips for Letting Reporters Experience Your Story, Not Just Write About It.

You can also offer your expertise to local Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul stores, and nonprofits that serve disadvantaged women. You can help with a fashion show for back-to-school or back-to-work women.

G. Keep your local business journal in mind. Pitch story ideas about how you are solving problems in your small business.

Joan: Business journals aren’t as relevant as it was two decades ago because, like many other newspapers, they’re shrinking. You’d be better off creating content for your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, or your Facebook page.

If you blog, you can reprint blog posts as LinkedIn articles without worrying that the search engines will view it as duplicate content. However, at the end of each LinkedIn article, include a note that says: “This article originally appeared at the [name of blog] blog under the headline [type the headline and link to the blog post].” Gillian: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about things image consultant should be doing—something you didn’t mention in your original article?

Joan: Yes. Subscribe to HARO, short for Help a Reporter Out. This free media-leads service will email you leads from journalists, broadcasters, experts and authors who are looking for subject matter experts for topics they are covering in articles, blog posts, radio and TV shows and books.

Leads will arrive three times a day, Monday through Friday. Reading them will be like drinking from a fire hose. If you have an assistant who can look through all the leads and send the relevant ones to you for a response, that would be ideal. For more tips on how to respond to HARO queries, see my article “HARO Success Stories Require Persistence and Patience.”

My other tip is to get onto the speaking circuit in your community and speak to Chamber of Commerce groups, Rotary, women’s groups and business groups. Also, libraries are excellent places to speak, especially if you’re a local author. At speaking engagements, you can usually sell products from the back of the room. You can also collect email addresses of people who are giving you permission to email tips and other news items to them.


AICI WEST would like to thank Joan Stewart for the generous sharing of her expert knowledge about publicity. We are deeply grateful for the free resources she has provided to us and for the time she spent helping construct this article. Please see the ending notes for links to Joan’s social media and website details.


Publicity Expert Joan Stewart, aka the Publicity Hound® works with authors, speakers, experts, small business owners and nonprofits that need to use free publicity in traditional and social media to establish their credibility, enhance their reputation, position themselves as experts, sell more products and services, and promote a favorite cause or issue—without an expensive publicist. Every Tuesday, in “The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week,” Joan shares three short tips on how to promote you or your business online and offline. Subscribe here and receive her two cheat sheets “89 Reasons to Write a Press Release” and “The Top 10 Free Tools for Free Publicity.” She lives (and tries to stay warm) in Port Washington, Wis. Find more than 1,000 free articles at her website and blog at

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Gillian Armour, AICI CIP, President of AICI WEST, COE at Fashion Stylist Institute. Gillian has trained over 3500 student/ graduates, has over 25 years of image consulting experience and over 35 years of fashion styling experience.

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