Talking Spa at SXSW in Austin, Texas
I had the rare privilege to have been part of a panel arranged by the Edelman PR firm at the famous South By Southwest conference in Austin Texas a few weeks ago. My sister Katrine, who lives in Austin and has attended SXSW many times, continued to correct me each time I mentioned SXSW. She insisted that only “newbies” say South by Southwest. Everyone else calls it “South By.” Ok…so I was a newbie. Perhaps I will get the lingo right next year.
At any rate, I did want to share with you what our panel was all about because I found my fellow panelists fascinating individuals and our topic really profound and important. Here is a summary of the panel…
Health Content Should be Personal: Christie Hefner, Exec Chairman, Canyon Ranch Enterprises
Health Content Should be Emotional: Susie Ellis, President, SpaFinder Wellness
Health Content Should be Social: Quincy Delight Jones III, Founder, Feel Rich Inc.
(And here are the the notes I used for my part of the panel: Health Content Should Be Emotional)
Do you have any idea how many spas there are in the U.S.? Take a guess. Well, the answer is…there are more spas in the U.S. then there are Starbucks in the world! (Actually there are about 20,000 spas in the U.S. and 18,000 Starbucks worldwide – 13,000 in the U.S.)
There is a reason that spas have become so popular and that the industry globally has seen double digit growth for decades. And part of that reason mirrors what we are exploring on our panel here today.
Just as the most successful spas address body, mind, and spirit, successful online health content needs to be personal, emotional and if possible, social. It isn’t enough to simply address the body at a spa and it isn’t enough to simply put data and statistics on a website.
I will never forget the VIP guest who I greeted on a Sunday evening when he checked into the famous Golden Door in southern California where I worked. He was there for men’s week and I was doing the intakes that evening. So I asked him about why he was here and what he wanted to accomplish. His answer? “I run a billion dollar company and I can’t say no to a bag of M&M’s.” At some level, I think we can all relate to that. There is more to making lasting lifestyle changes then just knowing what to do.
Let me illustrate with a letter that was sent to me just a couple of weeks ago. I am on the board of Rancho La Puerta, which is a spa in Tecate, Mexico that is similar in some ways to Canyon Ranch that we just heard about from Christie. I am sure that they have received many letters like this as well. However this one touched me in a very profound way because the woman who wrote it said some very insightful things. Here is the letter – she titled it, “A Love Letter to Rancho La Puerta.”
A Love Letter to Rancho La Puerta (from a guest Feb 2013)
My last trip to the ranch was somehow a memory jogger as I took the time to be alone and just walk and walk. My mind went back to my first trip about 1970 when my 42-year love affair with the Ranch began. It was a lot different then, but in many ways the same. I loved every smell, every star in the clear evening sky and each carefully planted bush and flower. I think that a massage was $12 but it didn’t seem cheap as I was working pretty hard for each dollar.
I remember being in the Jacuzzi under the stars and meeting a woman who ended up being the introduction to a job that has become my lifelong career. And we have been friends ever since. In fact there have been many life-long friendships that started at the Ranch. Being one on one with friends in this enchanted place has bonded just casual friendships to deep lasting relationships. One year I met a woman whose husband was a heart doctor and that same day a close relative had checked into the very same hospital where he worked with heart problems. We put them together and it likely saved her life.
Why does magic happen at the Ranch? After all these years, I have finally figured it out. Magic happens every day but one’s mind is too cluttered to hear or see it. Somehow in the arms of RLP my mind changes frequency and I can accept the information the universe is sending. I can hear the birds sing to me and the frogs croak their evening serenade. (and a few more concluding remarks all written by this happy guest…)
Can you feel the emotion from her letter? Can you sense how important the intangibles of the spa experience were to her success? Notice she didn’t mention anything about how many pounds she lost or what she learned in her fitness or cooking classes. What touched her was learning why the Ranch had become so magical for her.
And so it is with health content. It’s everywhere – magazines, books, TV, radio, online, apps, programs, games, etc. – there is lots of health content. However all that content doesn’t seem to be leading to a healthier population as evidenced by the huge obesity and diabetes epidemic our nation is facing. So at some level when we stop to think about it, we know that just reading health content isn’t enough. One also needs to be inspired.
And that’s where I think all of us here in this room today have a similar challenge and opportunity – those of us here on the panel with the work that we do and all of you in the audience with the work that you do. We need to spend a bit more time making sure that we have engaged our audiences, that we create emotion, that we move people in some way – that we truly touch them emotionally.
It’s not about creating content. It is about creating meaning.
Here is a video that I think makes that point much better than I can with words. Try not feeling emotional as you watch it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448