Pam Underdown and Antonia Mariconda

As a small business owner and a professional business consultant in the medical aesthetics marketplace, I know that the ability to be your own PR in today’s highly competitive and very transparent world is an essential skill to master. And who better to learn from but Antonia Mariconda?

The award winning media professional has a huge social media following of over 70,000 people and a passionately strong voice of reason in the beauty and anti-ageing world.  Antonia is also the founder of the #SafetyinBeauty campaign. Her objective is to “empower you to the best version of yourself”.  For those of you who don’t know Antonia Mariconda, there are so many wonderful things I can say about this talented and well-respected lady, but I will try to keep it as brief as possible, although that is rather hard for me!

A serious car accident at the age of 22 left Antonia needing reconstructive surgery to her face and body. Thanks to the amazing work of the plastic surgeons helped to restore her smile and confidence, Antonia developed a fascination about image, the body and beauty. A media communications graduate, with a master’s degree, Antonia started her media career as an unpaid intern at CNN to learn about the world’s powerful media outlets.  After a year, she decided to go alone as a freelancer writer, specialising in image and beauty.  Since then, Antonia has spent over 15 years writing about beauty, image and anti-ageing and is now a highly sought after consultant and coach to some of beauty’ leading brands, professionals and experts.  She is regularly featured in the top media publications and is also a presenter on the Fitness and Beauty channel on Sky TV.

Antonia was criticised in her early social media days for being everywhere and talking about everything she is doing, but now her social media success is a template used by thousands of people all doing exactly the same.  In her own words “Twitter made me” and you can see why.  She has over 45,000 followers who all love her no-nonsense approach to what works and what doesn’t in the beauty and anti-ageing industry, which is essential in an age where there is so much confusion about the latest products, treatments and services.

“There is no point in having a quote in the Daily Mail today, if you can’t carry on the conversation on social media.”

Although this was only the second time I have met Antonia, what struck me once again, is that not only is she a hugely driven and ambitious person, this is one lady who knows to make the most of life and its amazing opportunities.  She has this incredible ability to make everyone feel special, valued and listened to and you can see why over 500 people have attended her iCoach workshops in the last 9 months. In 2014 I attended the “How to Be a Successful Beauty Blogger” workshop, so I knew that once again I was going to be extremely impressed with the “How to Be Your Own PR” workshop in the beautiful surroundings of the Indigo Room at the Soho Hotel in London.  I was not disappointed….

The event started with an explanation from Antonia about why she decided created this specific PR workshop.  There were many reasons, but the main one stems from feedback she has received over the years where so many professionals were complaining about the perceived lack of value from professional PR companies.  However, before I begin my review I do need to point out that Antonia wasn’t there to cast a nasty dispersion over the PR industry as she has not only been a PR herself, but she genuinely wanted to share her knowledge and expertise to empower all attendees with the skills that are essential to succeed as your own PR.  Antonia also bought a close associate, Jenny Pabila from Niche PR to both of the workshops I attended and you could clearly see that she highly values Jenny’s experience and knowledge when inviting her to speak and answer questions at both events.

Antonia really does understand that there are many industry professionals, clinics and medical professionals who simply don’t have the funds to pay for a professional PR company.  Particularly when the average monthly retainer is often in excess of £2k a month, which is a lot of money for an average of 2 hours work each week.  Antonia created this workshop to put the power of PR into your own hands, because, as she says

“Nobody knows you better than you.  Nobody knows your brand better than you and nobody knows what you are good at better than you. Therefore no one can sell you better that you”.

Antonia really is a shining example of how sheer determination, tenacity and the ability not to compromise on her values, or bad mouth anyone in the process, has earned her a well-respected reputation and over £250k of free PR over the years.  It was also rather refreshing to learn that Antonia would never hire a PR firm herself, although she says that if she ever did – it would be because her company was making millions and millions and she simply didn’t have the time to do it.  But as Antonia pointed out, in reality how many of us in the room really would make millions and millions? Probably not many of us, which is exactly why it is absolutely essential to be your own, very best PR.

Now, I am not going to give too much away in my review, as you really do have to attend yourself to learn Antonia’s PR secrets, skills and strategies, I am simply going to share my key takeaways with you all:

With a captive audience of over 50 attendees, ranging from beauty professionals, medical cosmetic doctors and surgeons, to an antique dealer and a fashion expert – it was clear to see what the ability to be your own PR is essential in any marketplace, not just aesthetics.  Antonia was clear that we were there to not only listen and learn, but to ensure that we all go back and implement each action point.  She also mentioned that she often observes whether the attendees of previous workshops have implemented the skills she teaches or not.  So make sure that you do take action, after all it is the implementation that will get you the results and not the knowledge.

“Social media plays a massive part of your marketing strategy, especially for aesthetic businesses, a beauty brand or service. There aren’t many other ways for these types of businesses to reach out to their potential audiences without spending a fortune on PR or advertising.”

Always going the extra mile, this extremely likable lady really knows how to create a memorable learning experience, full of unexpected added value, attention to detail and many welcome surprises along the way.  One of the surprises was an open question and answer session from Charmaine Harris, an award winning journalist who shared her personal knowledge about how to get PR, what works and what doesn’t, what to say in your email and what is newsworthy, alongside many other tips and secrets.   This unexpected appearance not only added value, but enabled the audience to learn from another highly respected professional, whilst demonstrating to me that once again, Antonia really does know how to exceed the expectations of every single attendee in the room.

Anyone who owns a service based business can really learn from this.

The interactive learning all started with a detailed PR audit, which was essential in finding out exactly what was missing in our own businesses and the steps we needed to take to ensure maximum success in the media spotlight.  Twenty questions were explored in detail and each attendee was encouraged to complete their own audit honestly.  From the interactions with the audience during this process, it was clear that many people were struggling to put lots of ticks in the boxes, but that was exactly why we were there.  To find out exactly how to create a PR strategy, with a hot powerful biography, aimed at sharing your knowledge and opinion in a way that will ensure your targeted media contacts sit up and take notice of your story where appropriate and you attract and retain new customers and followers because of it.  Antonia even kindly offered to review the biographies of every single attendee after the workshop, which was just another shining example of the extra added value that I really notice from her.

During the workshop Antonia shared numerous strategies, techniques and secrets including: exactly how to get on TV, how to find a radio slot that would benefit from your expertise, how to get local and national print media coverage, how to increase your social media following, how to be seen at the latest events and exactly how to sell or pitch anything to anyone.

The most important skill for anyone who wishes to grow their media profile is to know exactly who you are and have the ability to pitch your biography in a clear, concise and powerful way.  An interactive session with the audience showed how difficult it was for people to do this.  Many people find it difficult to sell themselves, but the ability to confidently “brag” about your expertise, experience and achievements is absolutely critical if you do really want to be your own very best PR. It is also essential to really believe in yourself and your abilities.  After all, if you don’t, then who else will? Don’t be shy, make sure you use your professional achievements, as well as your sporting and charitable ones – as these will often stand out more when you are selling and pitching your story.

“If you don’t have a strap line or a strong and quirky word or title that sums up who you are, then find one.”

You then need a clear strategy that details exactly what you want to achieve and why.  Is your PR needed for you personally? Or do you need the PR for your business? Or perhaps it is needed for your product or service?   Be very clear about your objectives before you proceed.  You need to know who your audience is, where they ‘hang out’ online and offline and exactly what your message is – so you can grab and keep their attention. Once you have created your PR plan, you need to be able to identify opportunities to raise your profile and once you have done that, you need the sheer determination and drive to push yourself out of your comfort zone, pick up the phone and speak to that media contact to make sure your story and your opinion is heard.

To help do this, Antonia shared some essential tips on exactly how to find the right contacts (which is the hardest part and half of the reason why you pay so much for the contacts of a professional PR firm), exactly what to say to journalists, editors and TV / Radio producers when you send your email and follow up with a phone call.  She even included step-by-step examples and scripts to help everyone create their biographies and ‘hot pitches’, as well as how to find an ‘angle’ on the latest news and use it to express your expertise and opinions.

“Good PR is also listening”.

And good PR is also about responding to bad PR.  If you receive any bad PR, make sure that you respond and get it removed. But if it can’t be removed, then make sure that your comment is also up there, so that the public can see both sides of the story. Remember that PR stands for public relations, this is specifically your relationship with the public, so it is essential to never, ever leave negative PR untouched, thinking that if you don’t respond, it will go away.  As your spotlight grows, there will be people who will love you, like you or dislike you.  You need to be aware of the people who dislike you because that is the PR you need to stay on top of.

It is also essential to make yourself available to journalists, no matter how busy your daily schedule is, otherwise you will kick yourself if you miss an opportunity. This can be quite hard for those in services based industries such as aesthetics or beauty, so always make sure your team, your receptionist, your assistant, or who every answers your phone is fully prepared.  Ensure you are always quick with your response and never leave it too long or you will miss out. Don’t turn off your Twitter alerts, be on the ball and be available. If you set yourself up to be available then make sure you are. Don’t miss a trick, it could be worth thousands of pounds of free PR to you and your business.

Always giving and “investing in the human soul”, Antonia will use this workshop to find another ‘diamond in the rough’ and turn them into a bright shining diamond.  A great example of this was when she bought the lovely and brave Melissa up to share her personal story and experiences during the time that she has known Antonia.  WOW! What a hugely inspirational story, where Melissa has taken her own personal weight loss journey and turned it into a careful monitored media success story with Antonia’s professional guidance and coaching.  Not only did Antonia help Melissa to find the right surgeon to remove folds and folds of excess skin when she lost her weight, but she helped her carve a career and earn income from her story.  You could really see from their bond that Antonia’s involvement with Melissa was a very personal and selfless way of helping her succeed.

I have recommended that all of my own clients attend the “How to be Your Own PR” workshop specifically for medical aesthetic professionals on the 16th May.  I will be there once again with bells on, as Antonia will be sharing recent learning from the GMC about what is acceptable on social media for aesthetic and cosmetic doctors.  Did you know they have a whole floor dedicated to monitoring the social media of their members?  The world is now so open and transparent, with more and more litigation, so it is absolutely essential know the impact of everything you say and do.

Being your own PR really means that the sky is your limit and it is. Antonia does it every day and creates her own destiny. She can pitch herself to anyone she wants and nothing is off limits. When you are your own PR, you can approach anyone and do practically anything you want. And that’s the best thing, when you are in control of your own PR, you are in control of your message, your brand and your future.

In summary you really need to do all you can do to succeed. Take the ordinary and make it the extraordinary and then own it. You are your own PR.  Work it, even though we all don’t have much time, just take a fraction of the time you do have and really work at it and if you do, you will be a fraction more successful.

A massive thank you to Antonia, Charmaine, Jenny and Melissa from Pam Underdown, owner of Aesthetic Business Transformations.