Market Insights: It's A New Year—Start Your Marketing Engines!

By Sheldon Baker

It’s A New Year—Start Your Marketing Engines!

For more than five years, I’ve been writing about public relations and marketing for Supplement Industry Executive magazine. Perhaps a few of you read my words of wisdom.

As the Spin Doctor, I offered information and suggestions about how to use public relations and promotion to help generate corporate and product exposure. Beginning in 2003, I’ve moved my thoughts and ideas over to NPIcenter beginning with this column. Once a month, I’ll offer new insights about marketing in the alternative health marketplace.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I might say in this inaugural column. Over the past weeks, I’ve been hearing about obesity, dieting, New Year’s resolutions, FDA debacles and medical and health breakthroughs. You’ve probably heard the same things.

Then I hit on two stories that truly caught my attention. One was about a boxing club that helps keep boys and girls off the street and away from drugs. The other story was about the rampant spread of diabetes growing among the Hispanic community. Why did these articles reach out to me? First, they reflect a sense of community. Secondly, and I admit to a touch of commercialism. I saw a way for nutraceutical industry company executives and the industry itself to get behind meaningful causes and generate positive media exposure.

Straight Forward Club

The Straight Forward Club, formed in 1999, was started by Ben Bautista, who works as a consultant at Juvenile Hall in San Francisco.

Housed in the basement of the Ida B. Wells High School, young kids from the Western Addition district put on their gloves and bang on each other. The after-school boxing group is situated in a former storage area in the lower level of the school and it’s free to whoever wants to use it, as long as they’re serious about boxing.

According to the article, the idea was to give kids an alternative to hanging out on street corners and doing drugs. So Bautista asked some local gyms for equipment—a ring, heavy bags, speed bags and mirrors. Those who don’t want to box, have enrolled in a music program started by Bautista.

The article also noted that kids go to the club for a safe haven, looking for a way out and trying to do something more with their lives. And the program seems to be working.

In mid-December, the Straight Forward Club in association with USA Amateur Boxing, hosted a fund raising show. The event featured a fight by a club member that has billed herself as an Olympic hopeful. Several kids performed numbers from the club’s music program. Unfortunately, I missed that event. But I hope to get to one in the future.

As you can tell, this group is being put together on a shoe string. They could use some help. Hello. Anyone out there? Are you with me?

Sure, I’m talking about greenbacks, but I’m also talking dietary supplements, health education, and a chance to promote what the natural health industry is really about.

Let’s move on.

Hispanics and Diabetes

Diabetes is a deadly disease that some try to cure with herbs and home remedies. According to Salud Para La Gente, a health clinic in Watsonville, California, the number of Latinos that are being diagnosed with the disease is continuing to increase, due to a combination of high-fat diets, obesity, lack of exercise and genetics. Experts also say the growing problem of diabetes among Hispanics won’t be solved until there is better access to health care.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), approximately 17 million people in the U.S., or 6.2% of the population have diabetes. While 1.1 million have been diagnosed, 5.9 million people are unaware they have the disease according to the ADA. A lack of testing among Hispanics is higher than the rest of the population.

The clinic is teaching patients how to avoid the complications associated with diabetes. Nevertheless, it only reaches a small number of people in the central part of California.

The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, another organization reaching out to the Hispanic community, wants to educate young students in schools about diet and healthy lifestyles, but so far hasn’t secured the money to fund such a program.

Are we talking opportunities here? Indeed.

The Opportunities are Endless

Supporting kids in the Straight Forward Club and educating the Hispanic community about diabetes are just two examples of how the industry can generate positive media attention and at the same time create meaningful health education programs. We’re talking public relations and publicity in its purest form.

During an educational session held at SupplySide West in Las Vegas last month entitled, The CEO Perspective, Larry Kolb, U.S. operations president of Technical Sourcing International, Inc. said that

“companies might not have the resources to counteract negative media coverage in prime time. Our customers want us to be on the front page of the USA Today, but it’s not easy.”

Kolb is right when he says it’s not easy. Of the thousands of companies and products that are in the nutraceutical marketplace, how many have made the cover of major newspapers or magazines, or been featured on network television shows? You can count them on one hand. You don’t have to hit a home run every time. Singles and doubles will help you win the game.

Developing your own public education program or promotional events on behalf of a non-profit organization, then promoting it through the media to the industry and general public can reap huge benefits for a company and the industry.

For example, Spanish speaking broadcast and print media outlets reach a large percentage of the Hispanic community nationwide. Developing a diabetes educational program for school children can be promoted by using a Spanish-speaking corporate spokesperson (doctor) doing television and radio interviews and the distribution of news releases to Hispanic media.

Hispanic television stations seek professionally produced health news stories and a video news release produced by your company and distributed in Spanish via satellite will enlighten viewers about the XYZ Company and its products.

The Straight Forward Club provides a bigger challenge to garner publicity. Nevertheless, the San Francisco Bay Area is ripe to cultivate promotion, as are regional, national and minority media outlets. You just have to be a little more creative.

If you haven’t completed your New Year’s resolutions and 2003 marketing budget, I suggest you increase the amount for publicity and promotion. You’ll be glad you did.

Sheldon Baker is senior partner of Baker-Dillon Public Relations, a Northern California-based public relations and promotional marketing firm. Mr. Baker has developed award-winning promotional programs for a wide-range of nutraceutical industry companies and is past president of the Consultants Association for the Natural Products Industry (CANI). For information about how to contact the Straight Forward Club and The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, or if you have a marketing communications question, email Mr. Baker at [email protected].

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