The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant adjustment for everyone worldwide as increased levels of fear and uncertainty became prevalent. As feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, impatience, irritability, and frustration were threatening our sanity, taking care of mental health and emotional well-being became more important than ever.
People all over the world took the necessary steps to protect their physical health, such as wearing masks, social distancing and complying with CDC guidelines – but identifying ways to manage mental health became crucial.
We sat down with Olivia DeJesse, Senior PR Associate at Headspace to discuss the impact of wellness tech PR and how the market is growing during COVID-19. During our chat, we run through the ins and outs of influencer marketing and the importance and effectiveness of wellness tools on mental health.
Why don’t you explain for the folks at home who don’t really know – What is headspace and who is it for?
Headspace is a global leader in mediation and mindfulness and we have an app and some online offerings. We were founded in 2010 and at the time we were one of the first meditation apps in the world. We were founded by Rich Pierson and Andy Pudducombe and together they wanted to de-mystify meditation and make mindfulness accessible to the masses.
Andy is a former Buddhist monk, so he has years of teachings and trainings of traditional meditation. Together they really wanted to improve the health and happiness of the world which is still the mission today at headspace.
We provide meditation techniques but also believe that mindfulness should encompass every aspect of one’s life. Meditation can be involved in your life when you are eating, sleeping, or trying to focus on something. There is always an opportunity to include mindfulness in your life which is really just having a sense of awareness. It is allowing your thoughts and feelings to just come and go without judging them.
There is no limit for who meditation is for. It can be practiced at any age – we even have content for kids who can start practicing mindfulness and meditation at an early age. A lot of people are naturally very curious about meditation or are averse to it because they don’t understand it and Headspace tries to provide content that is able to guide you and make it accessible and easy to do.
So in the two and a half years you’ve been at Headspace, how have you observed that wellness consumer or buyer change in the last few years?
Right now with the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge uptick in people turning to not only wellness products but mental health products as well to help support them and get them through this tough time. People are looking for products they see as essential or have a real impact on helping them and supporting them rather than a quick fix.
The wellness consumer falls under two buckets. It’s people who look for products that provide a quick fix. For example, this could be someone who is stressed or whose skin is breaking out and needs a product to help them in the moment. The other consumers are those who turn to products and brands for a more preventable or sustainable solution. These consumers become the lifetime user. People can switch between the two kinds of consumers or even gradually transition from one to the other. It depends on their personal needs and how much impact and benefit they are getting from the product.
I also think that we’re seeing more and more conversations within the past couple of years about mental health and it is now becoming more acceptable to talk about. You’ll see a lot of that has to do with this new generation of kids who are sharing their anxiety and stress levels on social media. You see celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus or Demi Lovato openly sharing their experiences and so it is really opening the door for people to become more comfortable in talking about their feelings and eases the pressure to have everything together all the time.
We are currently experiencing a boom in the wellness industry and there is a lot for companies to think about from a competitive standpoint. What is Headspace doing to stand out from other apps?
That is the million dollar question. I think a huge part of it is staying loyal to who you are as a brand. You have to take calculated risks in order to get ahead and stand out and be different. The brands that I see really doing this and sticking to their mission are the ones who are reaching their community of loyal members. Especially at a time like now, brands are having to re-establish themselves as thought leaders in their own space. They are having to prove themselves as essential while staying true to their core values.
Headspace offered a free year subscription to those unemployed in the U.S. and the U.K. during the pandemic. At the time, there was a huge surge of unemployment and this was staying true to our mission of improving the health and happiness of the world and making meditation and mindfulness accessible to everyone. This was reaching people in a way we haven’t reached them before. This is a key asset to keep in mind as you continue to innovate and try new things.
What was the motivation behind that campaign?
People around the world were experiencing a huge rise in stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. This new landscape was truly impacting everyone, and people were taking the physical steps needed like quarantining and wearing masks but we wanted to make sure people were taking care of their minds. In order to live by our mission, we found a responsibility in making sure people had the mental health support that they needed at this time.
We launched a number of initiatives right away, we unlocked a free collection of meditation and mindfulness exercises for all consumers called “Weathering the Storm”. We also offered a free year of Headspace to U.S., U.K and France’s healthcare workers. We offered a lot of free tools and guides to businesses and educators to help them get through the times. We also partnered with Governor Cuomo’s office in New York and Governor Whitner’s office in Michigan to launch these curated collections of meditation and mindfulness exercises. So we really stepped in at a crucial time and launched content immediately so that people had access to mental health resources and tools they could depend on.
When you are campaigning and pitching for Headspace, do you factor in the founding story and your founders?
The founders definitely make themselves available to the media which is very useful and helpful from a PR standpoint. Andy is a huge thought leader in this space. He was a Buddhist monk and studied for ten years. He travelled across Asia and studied in Moscow and he knows the traditional teachings and was there in the monasteries.
A lot of meditation apps take on a westernized approach to the practice and so that sort of life experience has been critical for Headspace when it comes to pitching and getting press. In general, it is a fascinating story that people want to hear about. Rich is our CEO and co-founder who can speak to the business but he also has a personal story attachment to the brand and you can hear from him the whole story behind how Headspace got started and why it got started.
If someone is interested in influencer marketing and wants to get the best result, what kind of advice can you give between the influencer and the brand?
We work with a lot of influencers. We’ve launched a few campaigns over the last year which has emphasized story-telling. It focuses on how Headspace has helped people over time and we target mid-tier and micro influencers help us tell that story. We see a higher engagement with micro-influencers that we do with macro influencers. We target influencers who are willing to tell their story and be vulnerable and we see those posts as the most successful because people are opening up in a way that relates to their audience. We allow people to not feel like they need to be perfect of have everything together and it allows them to talk more openly about their personal life on their platforms which they haven’t done before.
In my experience, I think the more hands off a brand is the better. We always provide a creative brief to make sure that the post will at least be on-brand and that the creative focus matches our brand messaging over another meditation app out there. Other than that, we turn to them to be the expert in their own space.
People get advertising and paid sponsored posts confused with influencer marketing. The image or how they speak about a product should be up to them. Their content will be true to their audience and overtime I’ve learned to be more hands off. I think it’s helpful to get more facetime with each other to build trust with each other and a connection so that they are more inspired by the partnership.
Are there any changes you’d like to see within wellness tech marketing or communications overall?
Just continuing to make space for people of all identities, genders, ages and ethnicities is huge. This is important in wellness tech industry as a whole and in PR as well. This is going to take a long time to disrupt this industry. There is a huge call to action in the wellness industry. Right now it looks elitist but the reason these products exist is something that everyone can benefit from. You can be reaching different media outlets and then gage the cultural understandings of what a brand is trying to convey. Ongoing conversations are important but there needs to be disruption for things to truly transform.
You can catch the full conversation here, on our Hacks & Flack podcast.