By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
The following article by Healthcare Success Co-Founder (and pet owner) Stewart Gandolf was featured as a guest post on the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) blog, brandBUZZ. AAHA is a companion animal veterinary organization serving approximately 6,000 practice teams in the US and Canada.
If the holiday season is slow around your shop – and that’s the way it is for most animal hospitals – it’s a good time to capture some free publicity. More than any other time of the year, the news media is hungry for feature and human-interest stories that connect with the season.
The media also likes stories that have local roots; local people, local veterinarians, local staff, local pets and owners. (Plus, regular news is sometimes scarce around the holidays.) And what companion animal hospital doesn’t have a wealth of emotionally compelling experience under its roof?
Did I mention that it’s free? There’s a bit of work involved, and you can’t always count on the media to use your story idea, but when they do, the publicity can be priceless. We’re talking about visibility in the local media including television, newspapers and radio.
First, find a compelling holiday news hook.
The media doesn’t need a fancy press kit, but they’ll jump on an idea that’s timely (in this case seasonal), original and interesting. Start brainstorming. Take an inventory of your own strengths, special knowledge or other ideas that might be of interest to the media’s audience.
To find your angle, ask yourself what can we say or do that connects the practice, the season, and is likely to be attention getting or unusual. Consider:
– What is legitimately the first, newest, latest or unique?
– Do you have a new way to solve a problem?
– An insight to an emerging trend or something of benefit to a large number of people?
– Is there a celebrity angle? …a “hero” angle? …an unusual hobby angle?
– Can you provide expert commentary about a timely topic?
– Is there a message, event or activity that helps the community?
– A story that is truly heart-warming, tear-jerking or emotionally compelling?
Brainstorm many…narrow to several…and refine the best two or three story ideas.
Ideas that sell are the ones that help the media attract an audience of readers or viewers. Remember to look beyond the obvious daily newspaper and include community weeklies, ethnic or special interest publications, regional, monthly or quarterly magazines, and the like. Each of these appeal to a specific target audience, so tailor your idea accordingly.
Some hypothetical headlines:
City Animal Hospital Warns of Christmas Trees, Chocolate, and 27 Other Holiday Pet Hazards
Local Reservist Veterinarian and Service Dog Are Home for the Holidays from Tour of Duty
Veterinary Clinic Provides Free Class for Kids and the Pets They Got for Christmas
Four-Legged Friends: Pet Hospital Sponsors Visiting Animal Program at Retirement Village
With that in mind, call the specific reporter, news editor or producer and pitch them on the idea. If they think it may be of interest, they may ask for more details by email. Be prepared to answer their questions and to send supporting information (about the idea and the practice) when requested.
Tell the story in your own media.
You can get extra exposure for your ideas and the publicity you generate through your own media. Post your news releases, news clippings and videos on your own website. Include them in your newsletter or emails. And circulate article reprints in the office.
Holiday season publicity can tap into warm feelings and win friends and clients for the practice throughout the year.
There’s more information about veterinary marketing and advertising on the Healthcare Success website.