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Two weeks ago, we converted my cash-based physical therapy practice in Austin to performing all of our patient treatments online via telehealth. I have to say it’s gone better than I expected, especially since we are known for being a hands-on manual therapy practice.

With that said, we’ve been able to maintain a little over 50% of our current physical therapy patients as telehealth patients. But knowing we’d lose plenty of patients no matter what, I’ve also been developing and implementing a direct-to-consumer marketing plan for our new “tele-physio” services.

I’ll go into more details on what I’ve found to work well in the coming weeks, but I wanted to share something today that has already landed us new telehealth patients … free PR.

I was able to get us featured on one of the top three news channels in Austin!

Here’s the story announcing our telehealth physical therapy services to Austin.

So how did I do it and how can you also earn some PR for your cash-based practice?

I’ll give a few overarching concepts and strategies here. If you want all the details as well as my personal guidance on marketing your services and keeping your business afloat during this pandemic, see below.

A “warm” connection is always a big bonus when pitching a story to local media, but it’s not a complete necessity.

Do you have any friends, family, past/current patients, or others in your network who work for any local media outlets?

If not, do you know any of the above who might know someone? Ask them … put the word out that you’ve implemented telehealth services so people choosing (or being forced) to stay at home can still get the help they need to deal with pain and injury. And let them know you’re looking for local media connections to help get the word out.

You’ll then need to craft a good pitch of your story.

Always keep in mind that you must craft the pitch in a way that focuses on “What’s in it for THEM?” The story and the way you frame the pitch cannot look like you’re just trying to get free PR. You have to point out the reasons this will be beneficial and interesting for their viewers.

Acknowledge the stress and craziness they’re dealing with as editors and journalists and make note that you hope to be helpful by providing a good story that is perfectly relevant to current times and the needs of many of their viewers.

Follow up, follow up, follow up!

Everyone in the media is crazy busy right now, flooded from all sides with news and pitches, so please don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back. Give them a few days to get to your pitch, and then follow up (NOT the very next day … a few days after you send it).

This is a seriously important point … most story pitches don’t get a yes on their first attempt. follow up!

Another example of the power of follow up beyond getting an initial yes: Like I said above, the news coverage for my Austin-area cash-based clinic was first just a text story on their website that they extracted from the video interview clips they did at my clinic.

I wasn’t satisfied with that, so I followed up a few times to send them more of my videos and gently nudge them to put together the story on video for the evening news.

I drove a ton of traffic to the text article on Facebook via emails and asking friends to check it out and share their Facebook post … proving to the news agency that it would make sense to piece together a nice video version for the evening news. BOOM!

Parlay, Parlay, Parlay!

As I just mentioned, drive as much traffic, shares, comments, etc. to your story as possible … make them happy and impressed with the interaction and response. You shouldn’t have a single family member or friend that you don’t hound until they’ve shared or at least commented on the media channel’s Facebook post featuring your story.

Follow up with the media/journalist thanking them again. Further, ask if there’s any content you could help create that they think might be beneficial to their viewers and to the station. This ask should also be accompanied with a pitch of a few ideas. Don’t expect them to come up with the idea. They don’t know what you can create nor should they be tasked with thinking about it.

Perhaps you could start a weekly video series on how people can stay fit and pain-free from the safety of their home? A “working from home” series/article on how to properly set up their new home office? Even if it’s something you do on your own YouTube or Facebook page rather than theirs, you might be able to compel them to regularly link to or share your stuff.

Get creative. There’s tons you can do and create that will be useful and entertaining to your local community, and highly shareable by your local media.

Use social proof to get other media outlets to pick up your story

And when it comes to parlaying a media appearance, it’s also about parlaying it into PR from other publications/media outlets.

Show a competing editor that your story got a big response on social media and that you could create an interesting spin on that topic for their publication/channel as well. This is a tactic many PR agencies and businesses use to move up the chain to bigger and bigger media outlets … taking a piece of local news all the way to get national attention.