Positive exposure for your Rolfing practice can have an enormous impact on your practice. Local media means specifically newspapers, both daily and weekly, magazines, organizational newsletters, television and radio. This article offers suggestions about why and how to generate such coverage and on influencing that coverage so that it serves you more fully.*
Depending on the particular outlet, you may reach more people through media exposure, at no cost, than you could reach in any other way. Every other practice building tool reaches smaller numbers of people given the time or money you are likely to have at your disposal.
A limitation of media exposure is that a fair percentage of the people who are exposed to your material may not be particularly predisposed to be Rolfed and, depending on the format, you may not reach them with particularly in depth or even accurate information compared, for example, to a demonstration or an individual consultation. On the other hand, this approach costs nothing and usually takes fairly little of your time.
Some exposure, for example a strong article, with visual material, in your daily newspaper, may generate an immediate influx of new clients. Other kinds, for example a television talk show that is aired early on Sunday morning, may produce no immediate response. Of course, the first kind of exposure is much more gratifying. Both kinds, however, make some contribution to the recognition and credibility of Rolfing.
Even a splashy article that immediately brings calls and clients will lose its impact fairly quickly. Your enrollment issues will not be resolved by the one shot “bit hit.” Enjoy your moment in the spotlight, by all means, but understand that the long term impact of that exposure is determined by the degree to which you continue to pursue the day to day contacts and follow up that are the bread and butter of most healthy practices. However, your success with these daily efforts will be greater to the degree that the people you contact remember having seen you on television or reading about you in the paper. And, over the years, as people see or hear Rolfing information more than once, Rolfing becomes a bit of a fixture that makes any one individual’s commitment to a first session much easier to secure.
Plan to use any positive written article as a reprint. It can be used as a foot in the door with other media outlets in that it legitimates your newsworthiness. Send it to prospective clients with other literature and use it to help generate speaking engagements.
Sometimes media representatives will contact you for a story. However, those Rolfers who have been successful consistently in getting exposure have more often taken the initiative to generate coverage. Take an active stance with this. The worse case scenario is that someone will say no. Keep in mind that, for many of the outlets you will pursue, you are as desirable to them as they are to you. You have an interesting story to tell and they have the job, not always easy, of coming up with interesting stories day after day. Very rarely will a media representative consider it inappropriate for you to initiate a contact.
* I do not review here the information from a recent Rolf Lines “Rolf institute Service Mark Guidelines”. Please review that material in conjunction with this article.
To initiate coverage, identify a possible outlet as specifically as possible. That is, check the television and radio talk shows on your local stations and identify those that might lend themselves to Rolfing. Notice which of the news programs include a short piece of programming that is not news but is of general interest. Which section of your daily paper might cover Rolfing? Is there a newsletter produced by a local runner’s club or other specialized athletic group that includes health information?
It can help to identify a specific writer or reporter whose material suggests a possible affinity with Rolfing. If you do, start your contact with that person.
Do not be put off if you know that a specific outlet had some coverage on Rolfing at an earlier time, either about you or about another Rolfer. You can get coverage again if several years have passed or if that section of the paper or television show is produced by different people than produced an earlier piece (and turnover is high in these jobs) or if you have a different angle to suggest.
It can help if you can generate an angle that is exciting or at least interesting to your contact.
One reason for this is that editors and producers are extremely busy people. Having a story line handed to them saves some creative thinking time that is hard for them to find. Further, media people are often reluctant to do a piece if it has the overt appearance of being an advertisement for you. The angle you suggest helps to make it a story that is then newsworthy. For example, a locally produced sports talk show might perk up at the suggestion that you be featured along with a panel of local athletes you have Rolfed. A business magazine might respond to a suggestion that Rolfing addresses executive stress. The features section of the daily paper might be interested in Rolfing’s impact on posture, appearance, self-esteem and aches and pains. A new age magazine might start with a focus on Rolfing and spirituality or on Rolfing as part of a broader movement toward alternative treatments. The news section of the paper might respond to some late breaking news, for example, a new research article on Rolfing appears, or you return from a Rolfing exchange trip to another country. These are the hooks you will use to generate interest. The content of the article or show itself, as far as you are able to influence that, is another matter and may be a good deal more general. That is, you interest your contact person in anyway you can, but you do your best to focus the article in ways that will promote Rolfing most widely.
It helps if you can make a contact through a client. If any clients, past or present, work for the media, sound them out on the possibility, ask if they would make an initial contact and inquiry on your be half, or ask them the names of people you might contact.
Once you have identified an outlet, a specific person, whether it be one reporter or the editor of a section of a paper or a magazine publisher, and a specific angle if you have one, write a letter introducing yourself and Rolfing, propose an article or show and include Rolfing literature. Let them know you will call once they have had a chance to review the material. In ten days to two weeks, call that person.
Once on the phone, ask the person if they have read the material. If they have lost it, tell them you will send it again and that you will call them back. They may not have read it. Ask them if a week from then would be a good time to call again. If they have read it, ask if they have any questions about Rolfing and then propose a piece on Rolfing.
In proposing that piece, address any considerations you anticipate they might have, without being obvious about it. For many of the outlets you pursue, their perception of Rolfing’s marginality or unfoundedness, will be such an issue. Let them know the substantial nature of Rolfing training, the status of the Institute as an approved training institution in the State of Colorado, and its service mark protection. In Vermont I might include the fact that Rolfing is covered by Worker’s Compensation and some other insurances. Mention any well known people you have Rolfed if you have permission from them to make their names public. In other words, legitimize Rolfing in their eyes. Let them know, if it seems to be an issue, that many people are interested in Rolfing, as evidenced by its growth worldwide, the growth in your own practice, and increasing interest among other professions, especially physical therapy, in using the core technology of fascial manipulation.
A second focus, in proposing a piece to your contact person, is to spark their imagination about how an article or show could be made lively. For example, if it is a television talk show, suggest that as part of that show you could demonstrate some Rolfing, with the interviewer or a model you would bring. For radio or television, suggest having some people who have been Rolfed be on the show. For print outlets, suggest interviewing former clients. For television, propose including Before/ After pictures if you have suitable ones. For print outlets, propose Before/After pictures and/or pictures of you working. In other words, help them to get excited about a piece that would have some elements with some sparkle.
Finally, as part of interesting your contact, offer a free first hour as a way to assess Rolfing more fully. Make it clear that coming for that session does not obligate the contact to do a story or to do a positive story but rather is an offer you make to introduce them to Rolfing so they better assess its suitability for their audience. If they accept your offer, relate to them in the first session in a way that acknowledges their receiving it as an informational tool for themselves, but that also communicates the thoroughness of your work and the potency of your insights about their particular body issues. Take their picture beforehand and discuss it with them. If your quick post-session inspection reveals to your eyes that there are readily observable changes, take a post-session picture and let them be impressed by the impact of a single session. Obviously, the most potent use of an introductory session as an enrollment tool is to do a potent session.
Influencing the Story
You have a green light for a story or show. How can you make it as impactive as possible? For radio and television shows, your suggestions as to format may be readily acceptable to the producer or host. Use the suggestions I have already made, including, for television, showing Before/After pictures, a visual of the Rolfing logo, a segment showing you Rolfing, and your invited guests giving testimonials. For radio interviews, give your interviewer a list of questions that might be useful to ask and include, if possible, guest testimonials. If you are a man, select a female former client to talk about her experiences. This may help with some considerations on women’s parts about safety with you and also helps the listener to keep track of who is talking. If you are a female, choose a male client so the listener can keep the characters straight.
Many of the suggestions I made in an earlier Rolf Lines article on creating successful demonstrations will be applicable here. Particularly, for all media exposure, keep the main focus on benefits and on addressing people’s considerations about Rolfing. Of course, include information on how Rolfing works and its point of view about the body. But emphasize why people choose to be Rolfed and the benefits people typically experience. And address the major considerations of pain and effectiveness. If the interviewer does not raise the issue of Rolfing as painful, you can still assume it is on the minds of some in the audience so speak of “refinement in technique” and “going at a pace that is tailored to each client’s ability to release.” Regarding effectiveness, emphasize three sessions as a reasonable exposure from which to make an informed decision about the rest of the series.
Public media is not a good place to raise cost issues or to handle considerations about them. Avoid the issue and if a newspaper or magazine reporter asks directly, tell them honestly that you would rather not have that information be reported because a written story will not usually elaborate on fee with discussion of budgets, insurance ins and outs, sliding fees and other aspects of fees that account for each client’s unique circumstances. If you are pressed, tell the truth, of course, and try to incorporate the fact that you offer extended payment plans if clients need them, if in fact you do.
In any interview situation, for print media, radio or television, subtleties will not communicate well. ideas coming at a radio or television audience are heard just once, amidst a jumble of new ideas, and to an audience that may be distracted as they are listening. Printed material is filtered through a reporter whose ideas of what is interesting to report may be quite different from yours.
You may get a better result if you follow two simple rules. First, regardless of the question that is asked, give an answer that communicates information you want to stress. For example, an interviewer asks “tell me more about fascia.” You answer in a way that emphasizes the benefits of Rolfing, for example, “fascia is the material that influences the shape of the body so that by lengthening it we can help bodies be taller and longer, less twisted and more comfortable. When we do this, people are able to…” Similarly, the question might be “Tell me about Dr. Rolf,” or ” How did Dr. Rolf discover this?” Your answer might be, “she was interested in developing a method through which the chronic pains people experience in their muscles and bones, and loss of flexibility could be changed so that people…”
A second guideline is to dramatically simplify your answer. Do not lie or mislead, but do appreciate the fact that your thoughtful reflections on, for example, pain versus intensity and release will rarely be reported or heard that way in this kind of medium. So, if the question is, “Does Rolfing hurt?” the answer is “Usually not.” If the question is “Are the results permanent?” the answer is ” the results are lasting and additional changes tend to occur for several months after the final session before the body stabilizes in a new place.” Like it or not, your information will communicate in “sound bites”. Have them be the ones you, not the interviewer, have chosen.
A final suggestion in situations where you are invited to write a piece yourself that will be published as you submit it, if you are not a strong writer, or not sure about your ability to write a piece that is enrolling get some help. Depending on how much circulation the piece will have it might be worth spending some money for that help. At the least, unless you are quite good at this, have someone who is not very close to your work read it and give you feedback that might indicate how the piece will be received by your readers. It is worth this extra step if your submission potentially will reach a significant audience.Generating Media Coverage