Cosmetic surgery, once an option only for the wealthy, famous, and excessively vain, has moved decidedly into mainstream America.
The result has been an explosion of coverage on all types of procedures, from nose jobs and skin peels to breast augmentation and tummy tucks.
"Twenty years ago, it was all still very taboo," notes Jeff Knezovich, EVP of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS). "Now it's a very social thing that people are willing to talk about."
The media have also increased their coverage of men opting for forehead lifts, hair transplants, and rhinoplasty, notes Charles Baase, AACS' marketing and communications manager. However, he adds, "Although more men are seeking treatment, there continue to be barriers when it comes to getting them to talk about it, so it's often a tougher story to do."
Many procedures are less invasive and more affordable. Roger Ryerson, SVP with Gibbs & Soell, suggests cosmetic surgery is also benefiting from a surge in interest in all things medical.
Ryerson, who represents a firm making medical devices for cosmetic surgery, adds, "With stories like the face transplant in France, we were able to get coverage for our clients because their product is used by the physicians who are candidates to do the first face transplant here."
Carla Young Harrington, a senior associate with Susan Carol Associates, which represents a cosmetic surgery group in Virginia, says even getting patients to go public is no longer the challenge it once was. "Patients are now more willing to participate in articles because a lot of them want to be a source of inspiration to others," she says. "And even with doctors, you don't have to do much media training because they're used to talking to patients in layman's terms."
"Reporters and the public today look at a lot of cosmetic procedures as simply an extension of skin care," adds Krisse Mansfield, account executive with Formula PR's New York office. "USA Today just ran a huge story on how executives are getting face-lifts, and magazines like Allure regularly cover the latest cosmetic procedures."
Knezovich warns that with shows like Extreme Makeover, the media may be becoming too cavalier about cosmetic procedures. AACS is working with MS&L on media outreach to remind people that "anytime you have surgery it's a serious procedure, and you need to go in prepared and develop that doctor-patient relationship."
PITCHING... Cosmetic surgery
As cosmetic surgery becomes more commonplace, you don't need the celebrity hook anymore, so just concentrate on finding real-world patients for reporters
Look to expand beyond the health, fitness, and medical beats to pitch cosmetic surgery stories; beauty, fashion, and even general lifestyle reporters may show some interest
You don't have to include the price of cosmetic surgery in your initial pitch, but make sure you can offer the numbers to reporters to show how affordable many procedures have become