Text and free mp3 audio from Brian Carter's 2005 12th annual AOM Alliance Conference Presentation, May 9, 2005; 4:00pm-6:00pm:

"Public Relations Practice Building for Acupuncturists"

Editor: Brian Carter, MS, LAc

Who am I and why am I speaking on this topic?

Some of you may have heard of me, but for humility’s sake, and for the sake of you who haven’t, I’ll assume that none of you have.

  • I’m an acupuncturist, and I teach at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, CA.
  • For 6 years now, I’ve been writing for a website I started in 1999, the Pulse of Oriental Medicine, which you can find at pulsemed.org. I’ve lost track of the total number of visitors who’ve been to the Pulse since 1999, but it’s at least 500,000, possibly closer to 1m. The website is about more than just health now, but right now, to the health pages, we get about 75,000 views per month. In fact, we’re neck and neck with both acupuncture.com and acupuncturetoday.com. And I say we, but I’ve done most of the alternative medicine writing, and all the web stuff.
  • You may find it interesting that although I’ve been writing about it for 6 years, I’ve only been licensed for 3 years. Is that because I like to talk about things I know nothing about? No, not really- it’s because I was so excited about what I learned in my first year of school, that I thought everyone should know what I knew about our medicine, and, for me, the web was the easiest place to start. And I didn’t want to talk about things that were beyond me, but since most of my audience knew nothing, and I knew a little, I could write about a little- and more and more over time.
  • I’ve been writing for Acupuncture Today since 2002 on a variety of topics, but the one topic I’ve covered more than any other is public relations and practice marketing.
  • I published my first book at the end of 2004- it’s called Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure- and if you’re interested, I’ll be selling and autographing copies on Sunday- with some of the other authors here, Matt Bauer, and others. It’s, again, for the general public- the result of 5 years of writing to the public, answering their thousands of email questions, knowing what level they were at, what they were interested in, and so on. Actually, it’s not quite perfect, because most people are interested in only their specific health problems, and this one is a foundational general book- but I thought it needed writing and I’d move to more specific books after that.

So, I’ve kept close to the general public, trying to understand my audience- this talk will be about what I’ve learned about representing OM to the public (including what’s worked and what hasn’t), plus ideas how you as an acupuncturist in your city, and how the professional as a whole can affect more people with our core messages.

But first, we’d better define PR.

What is Public Relations?

PR is simply getting your message to the public – publicity, depending on who you talk to, is basically the same thing. It’s spreading the news about you, your service, or your profession without paying for it.

In PR, we disseminate information- for a word geek, like me, those are pregnant with meaning- to disseminate is to seed widely (note the similarity of semin to semen), and information is forming within- we want to spread our message seeds widely so they will influence the innards of our prospective patients.

We can draw another good analogy for PR from the concept of viral marketing. As medical professionals, we know that a virus infiltrates the host, replicates, then spreads to even more hosts. When you affect someone’s emotions, mind, personality, thoughts, behaviors with your message, they may spread it to someone else… that’s more bang for your buck- or not, if you never even paid for the original transmission. So, PR can be a one time message send, or it can have an effect that keeps rippling outward to others. A really good viral message becomes part of the host, like a latent pathogen… but that’s another topic.

How do you spread your message in conventional PR? Via what we call “the media”- newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and the internet. Remember, the goal is to get your messages out for free. Well, that’s not counting the time you spend, paper, printing, faxes, phone calls… but no advertising fees. No buying newspaper, magazine, radio, or TV ads. Of course, when it comes to the internet these days, it may take a little money to get the word out, but it’s less than any other media, and more targeted. But that’s another topic.

Is PR like sales? No, not really- it’s more neutral and informative, not as emotionally manipulative. It does get messages across, but not via advertising. In fact, if you look at the top 5 brands in the U.S., they are not the top 5 advertisers. None of the top 5 advertisers, like Ford and Pepsi, are among the top 5 brands. Brands are known as an identity, by what they stand for, what you can expect from them- winning brands like Starbucks, Coke, Apple, and Ikea are proponents of PR, and spend relatively little (compared to their revenues) on advertising. Four of these top five brands are not even in the top 100 advertisers. PR is cheaper, more credible because of its sources, more clear in its messages, and overall, just more effective than advertising.

Still, you’ll note that in this presentation, I will mention advertising where relevant and helpful, and I do believe there’s a place for it… but I think PR is better.

PR is communication, plain and simple. We publicize our message to influence the perception of others. We can tell them what acupuncture can do for them. We tell them why they should care about acupuncture, why they should trust acupuncturists, why it’s worth their hard earned money.

What are the benefits of PR for us individually, and as a profession?

If we remedy this…

  • We’ll make the road we’ll all trudge together and individually in next decade or two much easier to travel upon.
  • We’ll get more of the general population thinking of acupuncture for their problems,
  • More of them believing it actually works,
  • More of them looking up practitioners in their area,
  • More acupuncturists seeing more patients,
    • Making more money,
    • Helping more people,
    • Getting more referrals,
    • Inspiring more people to become acupuncturists, too, which will of course have a multiplying effect on how many people can be helped. There are perhaps 15k of us now, compared to 800k MDs. So we can afford to grow- there’s plenty of room for a lot more of us here.

PR affects:

  • Public perception of acupuncture and acupuncturists
  • Our income
  • How many patients we see
  • How likely prospective patients are to see us
  • How likely other practitioners (e.g. MDs) are to refer patients to us
  • How likely the media is to decide of their own initiative to do stories about us
  • Accuracy of media coverage (if “everybody knows” such and such about acupuncture, reporters will be forced to fact-check accurately and use us also as credible sources)

What’s the alternative to coming together to fund this and make it happen? Thousands of individual acupuncturists giving varying messages with varying degrees of thought behind them to every single patient they see every day, educating, informing, and persuading each of them one on one instead of en masse; wasting minutes that add up into hours that could have been spent healing more people, resting, or enjoying life.

A successful national PR campaign could change a lot of this- for example:

  • If we could get people to understand that acupuncture is effective
    • Supported many by quality research studies approved of by the authorities (MDs)- for dozens of diseases and conditions,
    • AND it generally has no side effects
    • they’d agree it would be smarter to try that before a drug or surgery with so many adverse effects and risks (cost-benefit analysis) – “if it’s safer and it’s effective, then why isn’t it first? Why is it the alternative? Shouldn’t the riskier option be the alternative?”
  • If we could reach them earlier,
    • they might avoid that complicated downward spiral
    • more people would experience success with acupuncture, and
    • the word would spread
    • we’d get more referrals, more press, more positive coverage, etc.
  • If we could get people to see the overall cost of ignoring their health
    • we could get them to live better, and
    • it would be easier to heal their unavoidable imbalances

Our Advantages:

  • It’s easy to paint a positive portrait of our medicine
    • It does work, and research backs it up- not all of it yet, but most everything it’s been studied for
    • Research explains much of how it works biomedically- probably more than most of you even know
    • It’s holistic and inclusive- it’s nice and natural… as opposed to cold technology or artificially created chemicals
    • It usually doesn’t have side effects or make people worse like chemicals and surgery can
    • Most of us who get into it are more like codependent nurse-personalities than doctors…. We’re people-people who like to give, who give too much, who listen and mirror and educate… as opposed to a cold sit on steel wham bam thank you ma’am prodding and poking 4 minutes here take this pill – which one do most people want?
  • People have gotten to know both sides of Western medicine- the honeymoon is over- and once the truth about what we do comes out, we’re going to get a lot of their business
    • they won’t be too happy- but fortunately, a lot of us want to work with them- and we make a good team…
    • as opposed to the route that homeopaths took (getting shafted and destroyed in the early 20 th c.)
    • or chiropractors (ignoring MDs, going straight to the public, getting persecuted, winning a major lawsuit against the AMA, but still not well liked by MDs)
    • we’re getting into hospitals, hiring MDs in our schools, doing research together- that’s a good PR story- fast friends.

PR Avenues:

Some of this doubles as practice promotion, so it has a dual benefit. Some of it is larger in scope and will benefit others… but another acupuncturist may do the same for you- and we give referrals to people in other parts of the country when we can, don’t we? What comes around goes around.

  • The Written Word
    • Magazines
      • Writing articles: it’s not as hard as most people think to write for magazines- any acupuncturist can do this. You start with smaller ones, and move up as you develop a resume. You can always start with PulseMed.org, e.g. ;-)
      • Providing information to article authors: freelance writers are writing articles like the above all the time, and often need expert opinions and quotes to complete them. You can sign up various places to become an expert, e.g. the “Authors and Experts” website.
    • Books
      • Writing a book takes a lot of work (at least 3x as much as you think), and it’s best to stick to a very specific topic (i.e. ‘Chinese herbs’ is too general), but if you’re a writer, this is worth doing. Publishing is a tough business to get into, and self-publishing has become easier- that’s what I used for my first book.
    • Patient Newsletters
      • These are important- keep in touch with your patients, even ones who aren’t seeing you anymore. Otherwise they’ll forget you. They’ll get sick 6 months from now and may not think to see you, especially if you treated them for something different.
      • You can do this by mail, email, and/or blogs. I’d suggest doing a blog (free at blogger.com), and then emailing your patient base about new posts every 2-4 weeks. This is all free- snail mail is not. See my AcupunctureToday.com article about blogging for acupuncturists.
      • I dislike printed ones because of the time they take, the printing hassles, and the mailing costs. But if none of your patients get online, it might be worth it.
      • Don’t have much to say? You can supplement your mailings with some of my 500 or so PulseMed.org articles, as long as you include the website address and my name as the author (a “special guest author”!).
    • Press Releases
      • These have to be written in a specific format
      • Your job is to interest a journalist and help them by doing some of their work for them
      • Your topic must be press-worthy… something important has to have happened- you may have to create an event or give something away or organize something first, then write the press release
      • You need the emails/fax numbers of the relevant journalists
      • Don’t send it more than once, and don’t call them to see if they got it. Don’t bug them. If it’s good enough and the right time, something will come of it. If it’s not, you’ll just burn a bridge that might have meant something in the future. I’ve sent at least 15 press releases, and probably got 3-5 responses… I got information into a small city newsletter, and I got to contribute to stories in ESPN and Glamour magazines as a result of this.
      • If you really want to go national, you need to specify (at least to yourself) and support your specialties- e.g. are you a fibromyalgia expert? Do you treat a lot of fertility cases? Have you read a lot of herbal pharmacology research? Leverage your specialty now, and worry about other things later.
  • The Spoken Word
    • Local Speaking – please, please, please go to Toastmasters before you try any of this. There’s nothing worse than a bad speaker. Don’t waste your time or money preparing for talks or renting space if you haven’t had any speaking training. Please. Toastmasters is very affordable, and you’ll meet prospective patients there anyway.
    • Public Workshops/Lectures – Once you’ve gone through the Toastmasters basic manual and feel confident enough, start giving free public lectures on interesting and timely topics. Don’t be surprised if you start with just a few attendees. You’ll get more over time. Invite all your patients. Provide snacks and beverage (and tell them you’re going to do that).
    • Radio
      • It’s definitely good exposure to get on the local radio, if you can. Like press releases, you need a specific angle and need to make them aware of you-
      • there are many ways to break into radio- the easiest is to create a sort of press release for radio that’s more about you as a radio guest- list your topics (controversial or entertaining ones) and your credentials- less is more here, just one page- fax it to the producer at each radio station you’re targeting.
      • Here, you can and should follow up by phone. But don’t be annoying. And realize that when you talk to the producer on the phone, that’s an interview, because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you get to talk on the radio.
      • You may need to buy some advertising if you really want to get your msg out on radio. But some stations will end up giving you an entire hour on a wknd if you advertise with them during the week.
      • I think this is probably the most interesting thing we could do nationally- I’d like to combine the acupuncture directory I’ve started with buying radio time to play specially produced spots about acupuncture and OM basics- educational and entertaining, directing people to the acupuncture directory, which will be comprised of those acupuncturists who paid in, because that’s where the money will come from to buy the spots- We’d probably have to start in the big cities- NYC, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, LA, SF, Phoenix, etc. Every acupuncturist in the town would benefit, but the ones who buy in would get more patients. The messages would be the same all over the country, so we could begin to develop a brand/image as a profession. This kind of consistency pays off over the long haul… grooves in memories and emotions into those who’ve heard them over and over.
    • TV
      • TV is still the most powerful medium, the way to reach the most people. But, it’s quicker, expensive, sound-bite oriented, and very image-oriented. It’s not easy to get on TV, and if you do, it’s easy to look bad. It’s not for everyone. You may have, as they say, a face made for radio… but one day we should be portraying ourselves there- it’s probably going to take a lot of money…
    • Advertising
      • Again, radio advertising is one possibility
      • Magazines…
      • Web- not to be overlooked, we can pay small amounts of money to bring visitors to websites for many different purposes, e.g. to be prospective patients, to get their email so we can send them educational info, to give them free educational info, etc. If we attach a small charge to these ebooks or special reports, we can even break even or make a profit on it. – this is PPC advertising- paying a small amt like 10-20 cents for a website visitor.

How many times do you have to reach one person? Different sources on advertising say between 3 and 7 times. But obviously you could reach the wrong person 40 times and get no response- so you have to target the right prospects and deliver a consistent message over and over.

The Characteristics of Types of PR Media Avenues

This isn’t meant to be authoritative- it’s based more on my experience and guesses- and substantial variation may occur- e.g. newspapers and local TV in larger cities are harder to access (have more barriers) than in smaller ones; the reach of websites, including yours, can vary as well; and of course specific media programs and locales can lose or gain credibility from time to time. Thus, the barriers, credibility, and reach of each of these types is both a generalization, and relative to one another.


Barriers (1-3)

Credibility (1-5)

Reach (1-5)

Nat’l Mag

Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Time, People

Local Niche Rag

SD Reader, New York Blade

Nat’l Newspaper

NY Times, USA Today, WS Journal

Local Newspaper

Greenwich Village Gazette

Local TV News

Evening news feature

Public Access TV

Cable channel access

Nat’l Radio

Howard Stern, Fresh Air, Michael Savage

Local Radio

AM programs, or FM morning

Nat’l TV

Oprah, Discovery, Regis, FOX, CNN

Major Portal Website

Yahoo directory, Open directory, Zeal

Major Topical Website

WebMD, Motley Fool, CNET, GameSpot, Amazon

Major Niche Website


Mortgage.com, JunkScience.com

Your Blog or Website

(Fill in the blank)

Your Ezine

Sent to subscribers from your website

Your 1-Page Sales Website


Grassroots Guerilla PR

What I’ve learned in 5 years reaching more than half a million people for about $20 per month.

Things I learned from doing the Pulse website

  • Getting it Across
    • You can’t teach people too much at one time
    • People like to hear a new twist on an old subject
    • Know Your Audience
      • If you haven’t learned “know your audience”, you’ll find very few people responding to your messages
      • There’s a big difference between what you think is important to say, and what people really want to know
      • If you want to take someone on a journey, you have to find them first, and help them take the first step, or the next step, not the very last step. You can’t assume they know that your destination is the one they need to go to.
    • Prevention is hard to teach and learn because people tend to ignore their health until disease occurs
    • Explaining Acupuncture
      • It helps to explain acupuncture as more like physical therapy in that you have to see the practitioner a bunch of times, because it works thru the nerves, muscles, etc. It’s not a magic pill.
      • I use two “how it works” explanations- the qi in meridians one, and my own acupoints as keys on the keyboard that send msgs via nerves to your brain and the brain tells your body how to get healthy again
      • Know and talk about the research
    • Explaining Herbs
      • It’s hard to explain herbal formulas
      • People want to know what every herb does in just a few words
      • People expect there to be one good herb for each disease or symptom
  • Credibility
    • If you’re not selling anything, people trust you – to a point
    • If you sell them something good and satisfying, they love you more
    • Expert Status
      • You can establish yourself as an expert, which gives you more credibility with the GP, press, etc. The most important elements of expert credentials include your education, your certification, getting published, and doing publicity.
      • Being an online/available/known expert brings about all kinds of opportunities you can’t foresee- e.g. being interviewed for a magazine in India, meeting future business associates, etc.
      • If you provide the A to a Q, you’re an expert
      • If you’re from out of town, you’re an expert
      • If you have a professional looking website, you must know what you’re talking about
      • Getting interviewed by someone also elevates your expert credibility- obviously someone thinks you have something important to say that lots of people should know. Even if the reader/listener doesn’t know you, they take in your responses differently because you’re being interviewed.
      • People attribute more intellect and wisdom (deserved or not) to writers. I was surprised to find that even before I graduated and became licensed, just because I was writing articles for my pulsemed website, participating in practitioner email discussions, and writing for Acupuncture Today (albeit with a column then entitled “Student Corner”), an acupuncturist assumed I was licensed, too. He wondered how I had time for all that and a practice too. Point? I was an expert in the mind of some before I even was licensed.
  • What People Want and Need
    • Self seeking:
      • People mostly care about themselves and protect their own interests.
      • People really are interested mainly in dumb things like sex, food, weight, and love – in our medicine, dumb things like ginseng, sex, weight loss…
      • If people pay for insurance, they want you to be covered by it
    • Outlets/Discussion
      • A lot of people have been “wronged” by Western medicine – or at least a lot of those who come to alternative medicine have
      • There are a lot of people who haven’t responded well to medications who have no place to express that or get help
      • Acupuncturists most likely to respond to my: offer for directory spots if they write an article, and my opinions about qi
    • Effective Solutions
      • People will try a lot of things, but are looking for things that work, and have little patience for things that work slowly
      • People want practical tips and advice
      • People would rather read about fixing their own problems than hearing theories about soft concepts like wellness, healing, energy, etc.
      • There is a subgroup of people who love to hear about the mystical, spiritual, philosophical, etc., and many of these people are attracted to acupuncture as an “energy medicine”- but this is a small subset of the American population, and can’t be our only audience if we want to grow
      • There are plenty of diseases, conditions, and symptoms that aren’t treated satisfactorily by western medicine
      • People are ready for herbal alternatives to drugs
      • Most email responses to: Sex, Fibromyalgia, Bacterial Vaginosis, endogenous depression, social phobia, Christian acupuncture
      • Most viewed topics: Sinus infections, yeast infections, staph infections, Diabetes diet, Natural cures they don’t want you to know about, how to gain weight, love handle exercises
      • In Sept 2004, after analyzing web traffic for years, I concluded that most PulseMed visitors come in via search engines looking for specific info about their complaint- sinus infections, infertility, migraines, whatevah. Most leave after reading the page they came for. But some realize there is more here - not just more articles, but an entire system of wellness medicine. In a typical month this year, 10% of PulseMed readers were return visitors. 5% came back three or more times a month. And one out of every 83 of them comes 10 or more times a month. But most (89%) are looking to heal their chief complaint and move on.
      • People really do need alternative medicine general practitioners they can see with their specific health complaints- about 10% of my email has been people giving me endless details about their health problems- and from a distance I can only give general feedback- they need someone competent to oversee their case and make sure they get the tests they need, etc. Much of this is because MDs are too busy… e.g. how many of you see people with the symptoms of hypothyroidism who haven’t had any thyroid lab tests? A lot of these people want to know if our medicine can help them, and I have to say- maybe, probably, but no one will know until you give it a shot- try it 6-8 times.
    • Of those who read the Pulse and weren’t avg people as described, another subgroup was those thinking about becoming acupuncture students, and they didn’t have a good way to choose one school from another. TCMStudent.com has an alumni survey that’s the only way I know of that to help people make the decision after they’ve read what the schools say about themselves.
  • Obstacles
    • People are getting used to medicines that don’t work that well – their standards have been lowered- cures are thought to be fantasy
    • Misinformed/Underinformed/Biased
      • People don’t understand how acupuncture works
      • Some people think acupuncture is “all in the mind”, a placebo
      • Even patients who get better from acupuncture sometimes say, “It may just be a coincidence, but…”
      • Some thinkers believe acupuncture is quackery – most of these don’t buy the energy medicine explanation
      • Some Christians think acupuncture is from the devil
      • Most people, including acupuncturists, don’t know how much good research there is on acupuncture mechanisms and effectiveness (not to mention herbal pharmacology)
      • Lots of MDs think all Chinese herbs cause liver and/or kidney damage
      • People don’t know the full scope of things we can treat/heal/cure
      • Most people don’t have the time to learn much about our medicine or why they’re messed up- even if they do, they need to be spoon fed one bit at a time.
      • People really are kinda dumb. The Murphy’s Law of communication? If they can misunderstand you, they will. That’s why consistency and clarity are so important to getting a message across.
  • Methods of Publicity
    • Print Media
      • You can send a good press release, that you think is important and noteworthy, that’s been edited by an experience press release writer, and only get a response from a small Kansas City rag- but you don’t get to see who saves your release and/or name in their file of experts/contacts- you don’t always know what leads to finally being contacted by a big league writer or editor
      • You can talk to a journalist for 15 minutes and they may only use two sentences of what you said.
      • A journalist may take you seriously on the phone (even in reality), but their article may rely on an MD or someone with more conventional credibility for the last word.
    • Web
      • If you look at what people search for online, very few of them are looking for the general concepts we associate with our medicine. For example, on one search engine, in March 2005:

# Searches

Search Term


Weight loss






Alternative Medicine


Pain relief




Holistic medicine


Chinese medicine


Oriental medicine

Do you see the pattern? They care less about our medicine than they do about their problem. Want to reach them? Think about their problem, their needs first. Know your audience. Also, isn’t OM the term our schools and organizations use? How come more than 5x as many people search for CM? And wouldn’t we be better off talking about Alternative medicine, since more than 2x as many people looked for that than acupuncture? We do more than acupuncture, after all…

      • More often than you’d expect, a web visitor reads only one page and then leaves. Just because we think about our entire website doesn’t mean they do. Of course, people may be more focused and task oriented online… except when browsing- and I suspect the group of people who wander around aimlessly online is small, and that activity is infrequent. Offline, e.g. listening to radio in the car, people are more open minded, because they have fewer choices, and they’re busy driving, hopefully.
      • When you have a website, you can use polls/quizzes to find out more about your readers. I even did this for my book title. I brainstormed about 200 titles, had some experts help me whittle that down, and then I gave the people about 10 choices. After they chose “Powerful Body Peaceful Mind” I could see how the others weren’t as good- and most people reacted well to it
      • I also had readers I could appeal to for opinions on the first draft of the book- I offered them a free copy of the final version, and in exchange, they read a PDF version and responded to 10 questions about it… some even sent back specific editing suggestions. It was worth it- I virtually rewrote it from there, which seemed like a big deal, but that was the point of getting the feedback, and it made the book 2-3x better.
      • If you keep doing a website or blog long enough, participate in online or email forums, etc., you can get good traffic to your site.
      • It’s virtually impossible for a new website to compete on topics as broad as health, alternative health, or medicine. Even acupuncture is saturated. It’s best to focus on very specific topics. There are loads of people searching for very specific information, and if you design your pages well, you can reach those people.
    • Radio
      • You can speak on the radio and not know if it’s worth it- the first few times, no matter how big or small the spot, you over prepare and learn that you can’t really script it- it takes practice and experience- so you just have to do a number of them to get used to it.
      • I spoke on an FM radio show in Iowa that turned out kinda cheesy- it was a pop station and the DJ introduced me by asking if this was “Brian Carter, the acupuncture GOD?” – I wasn’t prepared for that and didn’t roll with it too well! I had contacted some local acupuncturists there and gotten the lay of the land, so to speak, and found out how the locals were responding to it, what their needs were, and included that in what I said on the air. It was only about 10 minutes, but other than the initial fumble, it was fun and maybe somebody took something from it. You never know.
    • Advertising vs PR
      • Even in our profession, you can see the advertising vs. PR approaches- e.g. Richard Tan and John Chen spend a lot of money on full page advertisements in Acupuncture Today. For them, it’s appropriate, because they’ve already established their brands via publicity, etc. Now they can maintain their image and sell things with it via advertising. On the other hand, I’ve gotten responses from acupuncturists for various things from writing columns for Acupuncture Today. They don’t pay me, but I’m not paying for an ad, either.
    • Writing
      • You don’t have to be a great writer to start writing. In fact, writers only become better by practicing. Online standards, for many websites, are much lower than they are for print media. Some of my first articles really suck compared to what I can write now. So, online is a great place to start. Of course, you need some basic English skills, and you may want to do a grammar refresher. Check out Purdue’s OWL. Start a blog at blogger.com. Submit some articles to ezinearticles.com, and to small websites related to your areas of interest (find them by searching on your topic, and “submit article” in quotes). The more you write, the better you’ll get, and the more you’ll enjoy it. Remember, writers write. And they write things down as soon as they think of them because they know they’ll forget them.
      • There are a fair number of acupuncturists who also want to write to the public- but they also begin with the lack of understanding of audience, thinking mainly about what they want people to know, rather than where people are at and what they need next
      • People like lists (a la Letterman’s Top Ten)
      • People don’t like to read a lot of words
      • You need to use a lot of whitespace
      • Hemingway was onto something with the short sentences
      • People like Q&A articles
    • Some readers think that alternative medicine resources like the Pulse should exclude western medicine- i.e. not mention it- however, I thought the higher road was to include both, and that approach is better for patients, too- they should get the best care regardless of our beliefs

Core Messages of our Medicine That People Need to Know

  1. We get to know and can heal the whole person
    1. Everyone is different
    2. Every person needs different acupuncture points, and even in the same person, the healing points may change as your health changes
    3. Every person and condition responds somewhat differently to acupuncture- it can take a few visits for a good acupuncturist to narrow down your most effective acupuncture protocol
    4. Our medicine is personalized to balance you
    5. We are general practitioners- we can treat your body, mind, and emotions. Many people know we can relieve your aches and pains, but we can also help you get over colds and flus faster, help you with digestive and bowel problems, and more
    6. We can also treat, or be complimentary in serious diseases like AIDS, Cancer, and Hepatitis. In fact, the hospitals in China that did the best against SARS combined both western and Chinese medicine.
  2. Acupuncture works and is safe
    1. Acupuncture research proves that acupuncture treats more than pain
    2. Acupuncture research explains in detail how acupuncture works via the nervous system, immune complement system, and blood coagulation system.
    3. Acupuncture virtually never causes any serious adverse effects when performed by trained and licensed practitioners
  3. Acupuncture is just one part of Oriental medicine
    1. Acupuncture is traditionally based in an entire system of healthcare that includes diagnosis, prevention, and other therapies like herbal formulas, body movement exercises, and food cures.
    2. There are many (at least nine) types of acupuncture, each with its own experts, traditions, and treatment style.

Things I learned from Writing my First Book about OM for the Public

  1. Obstacles
    1. Writing a book is a lot harder than writing however many separate articles would equal the same number of words- the book has to be organized and coherent, and editing it took forever- I edited it somewhere between 5 and 12 times- not sure because I blanked out a lot of that period of my life.
    2. It’s very difficult to write about anything holistic in this age, because people want a book to be focused on one topic for one audience… they’d rather see a book on acupressure for chronic sinusitis than my book, which covers three therapies for all kinds of problems.
    3. It’s also hard to promote a holistic book, because radio programs, web searches, magazine articles, etc. all tend to have very specific topics, and they want to mention resources and use experts in that narrow band. They can’t mention my book on every radio program about health ever, although I wish they would.
    4. If people can’t open a book and immediately see a practical application, they’re not as interested.
    5. Getting published by major publishers, especially in the last 4 years or so, has become mainly a game for those who already have big platforms- i.e. famous people, radio show hosts, politicians, etc. Publishers want to know how you’re going to sell the book. They’ll only run it for about 3 months, and if it doesn’t sell well right away, it’s gone. If you’re a first time author, they expect you to do almost all the marketing… these are the reasons I went toward self-publishing.
    6. Just representing the medicine means taking sides on certain issues in our profession that divide us. For example, I think of qi as mainly a metaphor, a concept we use to choose the right points, herbs, etc. to heal the patient. I think the meridian system is a brilliant attempt to explain and exploit the nervous and immune systems before we knew they existed. But that view makes some people very angry. To them, qi is as real as you or I, energy work is essential to effective treatment, and qi as energy may even have an important place in their spiritual beliefs. This group has been the one, right or wrong, that has represented us for decades in the U.S. And it is the combination of qi as energy and Taoist cosmology, spread by writers and speakers all over the place that has caused some of the more reactionary Christians to decide that if qi is spiritual energy, it must be from the devil! The more scientific MD types also take issue with an energy that has little research to support it. And the ontology qi is just one controversy I had to confront. Another is the fact that there are sub-traditions in OM, some of which are rather brash about being right and the others being wrong… all of this is very difficult to explain to general public readers who don’t know the first thing about acupuncture, qi, etc. They just want to feel better. Some of them, to be sure, are interested in the eastern mystical history associated with Chinese medicine. But some aren’t, and some are definitely interested in avoiding it. So it’s hard to represent a medicine like that- because people also aren’t necessarily interested in the controversy. But if you edit it out, you’ll not only offend part of the profession, but also not tell an important part of the story.
  2. Solutions
    1. I wish we could get everyone in the world to get the maximum benefit out of OM, but cost is a major factor, and so is the condition in which most people finally come to see us, so my plan would be: start treating them, sell them my PBPM book which will help them understand the medicine, and then teach them how to prevent future problems with the info in PBPM and your own ideas.
    2. Print on demand is a much better route- it’s a new technology where, once you set up the book and the cover and everything, you can get one book at a time printed. And they look really good. That way, you have much less risk starting up from the ground floor. Because it only cost me about $200 to get set up, I earned that back in a month or two.
    3. After publishing the book, I figured out how to make a lot of money with advertising on the pulsemed.org website- I spent about 6 months on that - and as I come back to the book now, thinking about how to promote it, I get again the same response from a new marketing expert that I got from my first literary agent- the book is too general, and thus hard to sell. I did the best I could with it- and I’ll sell as many of them as I can, but obviously, it’s easier to go a more specific direction. The Blue Poppy series, “Natural cures for (fill in the blank)” is actually a pretty good model- I haven’t read any of them, tho, so I don’t know how well they executed the idea. Also, I don’t know how they’re reaching their target audience, or if they intended acupuncturists to sell the books for them? That’s one of the things I was thinking of for PBPM
    4. So, in the future, I’ll write about things like sinus infections, migraines, weight loss, etc.
    5. Yeah, it’s dumb, but people really do care about those dumb topics that magazines write about. Maybe they’re appealing to the least common denominator, maybe it’s not sophisticated, but most of us feel the same way- admit it- you want to look good, feel sexy, have good sex, and be loved. That’s what most of it comes down to- lose weight so that I feel better about myself and so that people will love me more. Perform well in bed so that I feel confident and capable and he/she won’t leave me. And so on. If you think those things are too pedantic, too crude, I understand- I have reacted the same way- but I’ll tell you this: if you can help most people lose weight and have good sex, you’ll never be poor. And lots of people will be finding out about acupuncture.

That is, I’m not saying that all national newspapers reach twice as many people as local niche rags do. Each of these three criteria is on a scale- 3 barriers means difficult, two means moderate, and 1 means easier. I think those with 4 and 5 stars of credibility have a lot more than 3’s do… and 1’s don’t have much. Media with 5 people in reach may get a lot more than 4’s do, and 4’s may be more similar to 3’s… so don’t make any mathematical inferences out of this.


Free audio mp3's down the right side coordinated with notes



Speaker Introduction Brian Carter





















Acupuncture PR publicity intro














































































PR Avenues- Your blog, get on someone else's website



PR writing for magazines





Writing books




Patient newsletters, ezines and blogs








Press releases













Public Speaking






Getting and Speaking on the Radio

Your own radio show








Acupuncture Directory + Radio Idea








Getting on TV ?


TV: The Importance of Soundbytes




Pay per click advertising and one page sales sites

















































Acupuncture Guerilla PR Introduction


What I learned from doing the website about getting the message across















Credibility & Expert Status
















Getting People What They Want and Need




































Acupuncture PR Obstacles














Publicity Pearls, Web, Blogs, Writing










































































Acpuncture and Oriental Medicine Core Messages- what are they?

















Book writing pearls of wisdom and conclusion to talk

All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of local experts, doctors, or hair stylists.
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