Whether they are the director of a namesake spa, the owner of a local spa or skin care practice, or an individual professional working to establish themselves in a crowded market, most skin care professionals can agree – a strong reputation and word of mouth buzz is invaluable.
But how to go about achieving that (and growing it over time) is harder to grasp. With today’s limited attention spans and a seemingly endless array of ways to communicate, it can be difficult to navigate a sustainable strategy. After all, in the job of a skin care professional, it is not fair to expect them to also be marketing professionals, social media strategists, and publicists, as well.
Whether organizing a promotional plan on one’s own or considering how best to structure a support team, this guide will share insights on how to shape an effective PR and social strategy.
WHAT IS PR?
Before diving in, it is important to understand what PR is and what it is not.
At its most basic, PR is the practice of managing a brand’s reputation amongst those that matter to one’s success. As a skin care professional or spa, that means finding consistent ways to reach more potential clients and ensuring that once the spa is discovered, potential clients know it as a brand worthy of being liked, shared, and trusted.
Publicity, earned media, testimonials, awards, and smart social media strategies are all tools that can help support this goal. Through these types of unpaid endorsements, effective PR can help achieve:
PR is not something that can be bought – it must be earned. Anyone can pay for an advertisement and claim whatever they would like to in that space. Advertising can be an effective complement to a smart PR strategy, especially to help with brand recall or to convert clients once a relationship is established. But it cannot be the foundation of a credible reputation.
In order to better outline a strategy, consider this: PR and social media efforts build brand awareness and credibility. They support the widest lip of the sales funnel.
The term sales funnel is often used by marketers to describe the theoretical journey a person takes on their path to becoming a loyal customer. Awareness comes first – someone must learn you exist, and, then, you must pique their interest. At the middle of the funnel there is consideration (often you versus the competition) and the decision to purchase. At the end, there is the purchase itself and repeated loyalty.
Potential clientele will follow a similar journey to landing in the treatment room, so it is important to consider whether the overall marketing plan caters to people at each stage of the funnel.
Many spas and skin care practices make the mistake of focusing marketing efforts solely on the middle of the funnel – focusing on people who are actively considering a purchase. This can include flashing their specials, treatments, or other hard sale components of the business on their website, outreach, and social media. These techniques are helpful for a client who is ready to book a treatment and considering what spa to contact. But jumping into these actions without building overall brand awareness and credibility first is a mistake.
It is understandable why this happens. Marketing takes time and money, so why not prioritize the tactics that are designed to make a sale? Unfortunately, those who use this approach exclusively will eventually reach a plateau where their business is not expanding or retaining loyal clientele.
When faced with multiple options, a consumer is likely to trust their skin (and their dollar) to the spa or professional they already know, like, or trust – a person or place that has already generated awareness and credibility in their mind. If you are not making an effort to build awareness, you are missing out on a lot of potential business. That is where PR comes in.
Here are some thought starters for considering how to plan a business’ PR and social media strategies to maximize brand awareness and interest – the very first and, often, overlooked path to attracting new clientele.
DEFINE YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 brand messages each day. A professional will never stand out in the daily grind with a general approach. What makes someone stop scrolling on their phone? It has to be something interesting, unique, and easy to grasp in a second.
Begin PR efforts by determining what makes your offerings different from any other spa in the area. Perhaps it is being a hydrotherapy-based spa, the city’s number one extractions expert, or a specialist in healing stress-induced skin issues. Narrow it down to six words or less. How can this message be more clearly represented on your website, Instagram bio, storefront, or treatment menu?
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Your voice is unlikely to be effective if you do not know who you are speaking to. Based on your points of differentiation, take time to identify the audiences with whom you can have the strongest success. Many brands or professionals find it helpful to create an actual persona for their audience – a “she,” if you will. How old is she? Where does she live? What is her life like? What does she read? Where does she go on the weekends? How does she spend time with friends? What excites or motivates her? What kind of brands does she support?
This vision can create a strong starting point for all PR activities. It can guide the voice of social media efforts, determine which events are worth investing in, or dictate which partnerships and media outlets to proactively pursue.
You may have both a primary and secondary audience. Perhaps, you are doing well at attracting a certain type of clientele (your primary audience) but see potential in expanding to a certain group you have not nailed yet (your secondary audience). Consider what activities and outreach will reach each of these groups and which areas need the most investment at this time.
BECOME A THOUGHT AND ACTION LEADER
Once you have identified what you have to say and who needs to hear it, it is time to put some social proof behind those claims and make the message heard. Here are a few examples.
It is one of the most powerful tools for building awareness and credibility. It is also one of the hardest because it requires consistent effort and building relationships.
By building relationships with local reporters, editors, public figures, and social influencers that reach your audience, you can become the go-to resource for relevant stories.
Begin by identifying your key media targets and learning who works there, what they cover, and how to be a resource to them. Odds are, your audience is gathering data from national media, like Allure.com or Into the Gloss, but is also watching their local news or reading the newsletter from their yoga studio. There may even be a YouTuber in the area who would be open to hosting a question and answer video. All of these are earned media avenues.
Reach out and become acquainted. Engage on social media. Become a genuine participant in their work and conversations. Invite them in for a complimentary experience and, from there, pitch ideas.
Start by considering what is relevant to their calendar and find ways to work in your own message points when the opportunity is presented. Wedding season? Share tips on the best bridal treatments or ways to celebrate a bachelorette outside the bars. Awareness month that is close to an editor’s heart? Offer advice on skin treatments for those affected by that problem and offer to donate a portion of retail sales to a relevant organization that month. Spikes of skin cancer in the area? Pitch yourself as the expert on prevention.
The more reliable you are, the more media will come regularly for comments and opportunities. This also puts you in a position to pitch your business for “The Best X Treatments in the City,” “The City’s Best Aesthetician Shares Her Advice for Glowing Skin,” and similar high-profile recognitions.
There are a plethora of awards and industry recognitions available on a national and local level, from lists of “best bikini waxes” to the “top 10 spas in your metro area.” Often, award winners are chosen on a voting system, which provides yet another avenue for exposure as new audiences review the finalists. Research all awards and “best of” lists and awards applicable to your brand and proactively reach out to those responsible to understand the qualifications and how best to submit.
The retail lines carried in the spa may also have positive press or editorial award wins – treat these like your own and use them to boost credibility. Ask the spa’s account representative what press and seals they have and how to incorporate them into displays and marketing communications.
Panels, Classes, and Speaking Engagements
Just as credibility can be built online, on social media, and through the press, it can also be built in real life. This is especially beneficial for founders or owners with a compelling personal story or expertise to lend. For example, if specializing in CBD-infused therapies, seek out (or even organize) a panel event that addresses this trending topic across all areas of wellness that matter to the community. Search meetup.com for local events that match the audience’s interest areas, and offer to sponsor a session in exchange for some airtime. It does not really matter the size of the audience, as long as those you are engaging with are passionate about the subject matter. It will be very personal, meaningful time spent.
BUILD SMART COLLABORATIONS AND BRAND EXPERIENCES
Meet your audiences where they are by building smart collaborations and brand experiences. It is no small feat to encourage 30 new clients to come to the spa for a treatment or event. There is a time and place for this, of course. But it is much less challenging to meet potential clients where they are by identifying their interests and daily touchpoints.
Refer back to who the target client is, what they do throughout the day, or what brands they love. Let this spur some creative thinking. For example, Drybar and It Cosmetics recently collaborated to launch a volumizing mascara that was a “blowout for your lashes.” They found a common ground in their audiences – a love of volume. And, with a smart collaboration, they bridged the two worlds, each able to tap into the other’s customer base. If targeting busy businesspeople, a spa food truck activation downtown on lunch break would be genius! If offering plant-based facials, consider a collaboration with the community’s artisanal vegan restaurant. If new to the area, invest in having a presence in at least one quarterly community event, and do more than set up a booth. Connect with the directors to figure out how to support the core philanthropic cause or provide a hospitality suite for local leaders speaking on site.
CREATE MEANINGFUL CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
There must be a reason to be included in someone’s digital life. Instead of using social media only to promote deals or showcase the spa, consider how to be a valuable part of potential (and current) clients’ worlds. If targeting skin care fanatics, your Instagram should include cool live videos of new treatments or interesting new ways to maximize an at-home routine. If trying to appeal to busy mothers, add some quotes that bring levity to their day. Social media content should read like the brand’s personal magazine – focused less on conversion and more on building community. Also, proactively seek out conversations, hashtags, and accounts that support this philosophy.
One of the best strategies for a smart social feed is to develop a monthly calendar framework. Instate a few regular series that recur each week and plot the themes in advance. Include a few spaces for testimonials, quotes, a treatment spotlight, a fun fact – whatever is valued by the audience.
Investing time and effort into any of the strategies mentioned above will create opportunities to capture valuable content. Consider how to position it so that it is relevant to those viewing on their screens. For example, instead of saying “Great day at the fall festival! Loved meeting you all!” share the recipe for pumpkin cider learned on site and highlight the skin-loving ingredients.
USE YOUR CLIENTELE AS INFLUENCERS
Many have seen (and grown quite tired of) inauthentic influencer endorsements floating across their feeds. Brands large and small are catching on to this. Even the world’s largest companies are turning their attention to micro or nano influencers who make authentic recommendations and are highly trusted. The spa already has these resources right at its fingertips – its current, loyal clients.
At the end of the day, influencers are those that have the highest likelihood of generating more awareness of or interest in the business. Invest in the clientele who have the power to increase awareness in their circles. This may include a referral program but could also mean taking it one step further with top clients, asking what groups, activities, or causes they are passionate about and letting that shape the PR plan.
CONSIDER A PR PARTNER
If this seems overwhelming, that is because it can be. Many spas, aestheticians, and dermatologists rely on PR firms or in-house professionals to drive these efforts as an extension of their team. They supply the expertise in how to best build awareness and absorb the hours it takes to research, pitch, plan, and execute, so you can focus on building and carrying out those hard-earned points of difference through your practice. PR professionals also have strong relationships with the journalists and outlets appropriate for your business and will understand the best ways to reach them. For example, one editor might prefer to hear story ideas every Monday morning before a meeting with her boss, while another wants to see clinical studies on any spa treatment before she will try it, while another will prioritize whichever skin care professional can answer her the fastest.
Consider a partner if:
MAXIMIZE ANY AND ALL TRACTION
Many have heard that an individual needs to be exposed to a message seven plus times before acting on it – even more for luxury services that require time out of their day. So, when lucky enough to get a beautiful testimonial, win an award, or be featured in the media, do not hesitate to share that with the spa’s audience and remind them multiple times.
Examples of ways to “PR your PR” include:
Once groundwork is laid and buzz starts building, it is amazing to see how momentum builds upon itself. Skin care professionals will also be able to see which efforts resonate best and amplify the focus on those areas. Generally, with six months to one year of focused work, the framework for success becomes much sturdier – just in time for the media landscape to shift again or the newest social network to launch.