Margaux Lushing is the founder of healthy city guides company Well + Away and former luxury travel publicist who loves to write about the wellness world, with a special focus on fitness and healthy travel (while creating the W+A VitalGuide series she had contributed to Well + Good, Refinery 29 and RobbReport.com). Well + Away has won awards in magazines from Departures to Sunset. Margaux has a bachelor's degree in art history from UCLA and a personal training certification through NASM.
Daria: Tell us about the genesis of the VitalGuide series:
Margaux: I had been traveling for years as a publicist for international luxury hotels and then again when I led communications for the Napa Valley tourist board. Work would send me all over to meet with editors in back-to-back meetings, over sooo much wine and food (#napaproblems). There would be barely any time to go and grab a smoothie or organic salad in between meetings, and even less time for workouts, so I started creating lists for all of the cities I was visiting. I would map out the cool healthy, vegan-friendly restaurants and cult yoga studios I learned about from meeting with local journalists. I started booking work meetings at places that seemed like standard culinary hotspots but who also served gluten-free, vegan options so that I could eat at the same time as everyone else, still get to see local hotspots and not have to scarf sad purse protein bars in my room before meals. I ended up with tons of lists and the knowledge that keeping a healthy routine on the road doesn't have to be impossible. So together with an amazing designer friend and an amazing editor friend we created the first VitalGuide for the city of San Francisco. Our readers are a combination of locals and visitors who want to feel their best without sacrificing cool local experiences. They are now carried in hotels, branded for corporate gifts and of course available to download from our site at Wellandaway.com. We just launched a 2018 edition of San Francisco, London's next and then Philadelphia - I cannot wait!!
Daria: How did you make the transition from PR to VitalGuide creator?
Margaux: I loved my work in PR, and through an editor friend received my first writing assignment, for Refinery 29 when they still wrote local city coverage. I started covering wellness for them and other outlets like Brit + Co, Robb Report and others while working in PR and learned that I really wanted to create my own content and live my life in wellness 100% of the time rather than promoting wellness as one of seven or eight other concepts. In the middle of creating the 2016 edition of the SF guide, I realized I was ready to take the plunge to go out on my own and left my corporate job, though not PR entirely. While working on the guides, I still take on one or two really really special female-led, wellness PR clients because I'm still passionate about sharing amazing stories about awesome women doing beautiful things. There will come a time when I am 100% on the guides, when we have enough cities to leave me zero bandwidth for anything else, but until then I'm mostly on the guides and still have a toe in the PR game.
Daria: How do you define at what point do you need PR?
Margaux: It can honestly never be too early or too late for brand PR, though it can be too early or late for a product, both ways timing is important. Let me explain. Timing is right when you can be sure that you have either a. budget to support it or b. the time. If you're still in beta and going to be making a lot of changes before something goes out to the public, it's likely not the right time. If you have a new product, but no pictures of it, that's also not the right time - what kind of imagery will the reporter you are pitching share with their text? If you are launching something amazing, say a new yoga studio or natural beauty line, and you have the time and/or budget to invest in PR, then the time to start sharing your story with editors is right at launch, or just before. With the rise of smaller brands and shrinking of news rooms, reporters are inundated - so they will run stories on the newsiest things first, before writing about something that's launched months ago and is no longer 'news'.
Daria: Which are the best PR channels for sales boost?
Margaux: This is a great question, because people in the PR world traditionally do not measure success by sales, but by media placements. This is helpful to know when you are hiring someone to handle your PR. They and you both should be measuring how well they are doing by the quality of placements they are securing on your behalf. If the placements are in publications that your target demographic is reading - than that is a huge win. On the flip side, knowing which channels or media outlets will move the needle in terms of sales is next to impossible. Sometimes it's the New York Times that does it (which we all probably think is a huge sales driver) but other times national outlets only result in a drizzle of interest, and it ends up being local stories are the ones to really drive sales. In my experience, there hasn't really been a rhyme or reason to the exact media outlets that make it rain, so to speak. I think diversifying in media outreach within the outlets your core demo reads is a good strategy to learn which types of publications really do make an impact with sales.
Daria: How do you pitch a journalist so the person answers you/your email?
Margaux: Ha, if I had a nickel for every time I had this conversation! I mean, having met them in-person before is a huge advantage. Having a close personal, text message level with them when you know their inbox is overflowing is better. If you have a budget, hire the people that can do this, they are worth the premium you will pay!! But if you are DIY-ing or working with a super tight budget, it will come down to quality of your pitch, timeliness with which you reply and consistency in following up. There are some basic 'do's and don'ts' that could help! Do send personalized messages and read the stories of the people you are pitching. Show them you like their work and respect it. Once you do this you will also be able to tell whether your product or service will resonate with them - and if you have a feeling your story will resonate, then tell them why! If not, then move on to the next person. Don't send out a mass email to 100 journalists and be bummed when you receive crickets in return. I probably receive 100 pitches+ per day for our VitalGuide series, and we are a small outlet still. Imagine what the biggies are receiving in their inbox each day! Don't send a journalist generic info on your product and ask them to write about it. Think about it from their perspective - why should they be doing you a favor when they have other, newsier story ideas in their inbox from people they know better and product launches to cover that they know will receive huge traffic to their site. Really invest time and effort into personalizing your pitch emails to writers and ensuring, before you send, that they are the right person to be sending it to.
Daria: DIY PR - is it possible?
Margaux: It is totally possible, if you have the time. Time is key. If you can invest time in putting together a quality media list and finding email addresses for those reporters, time to draft personalized pitches and time to respond to writers in a timely manner when they respond with interest - then you can absolutely DIY. There will likely come a point though at which it makes more sense to outsource this to someone who can do it faster and already has a foundation of relationships built. It's all about quality and relationships.
(!) Check out Well + Away's VitalGuides here, and use code SUPERGIRLS for 20% off of any guide order. You can see which healthy city guide is next by following them at @wellandaway.
#womeninwellness #womeninhealthwellness #DIYPR #wellnessPR #MargauxLushing
About the author:
Daria Tsvenger is a co-founder of Supergirls Club - women-focused health & wellness community. She is also a yoga teacher and the ultimate powerhouse of creativity. She can be found on instagram @dariatsvenger