Freelance Journalist Interview with Mark ‘The Spa Man’ Smith

Mark Smith, a.k.a. The Spa Man, is a self-confessed spa superhero (kind of  you'll see…) and shares his reviews and recs on his blog as well as a varietry of other outlets. You can get a sampler of his recommendations in today's interview – read on for reminises on water massages in the Blue Lagoon and more-relaxing-than-they-sound Freddie Kruger-esque face masks.

About your journalism

What do you write about and where are we likely to see your work?

I mostly write about spas and male grooming, with the odd travel review. This includes spa and treatment reviews, new product launches, tried and tested and spa business profiles and interviews. I write for European Spa Magazine, The Spa Traveller, Out in the City and my own site – The Spa Man.

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve worked on?

My favourite spa review was of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. I got to have a water massage in the lagoon while it was snowing. It was surreal, then I came back and reviewed it for Spa Secrets magazine. More recently I compiled a feature on the convergence of fitness and wellness in the spa industry for European Spa Magazine – that was really enlightening.

Is there a feature you’d still love the chance to do?

I would love to take a year out and travel the world visiting spas and write a regular column for one of the weekend supplements.

What is it about the spa and grooming sector that keeps you inspired to write about it?

The spa and grooming sectors remain quite buoyant, despite the economy and there are always new launches to write about and new spas to visit. What I find more interesting is the way that spa is developing more within the wellness sector and that people are seeking spa breaks and retreats for more than just pampering. People are seeking expert help for modern problems that the NHS often overlooks or treats very poorly. Stress, digestive problems and sleep disorders are three areas where I have seen the most growth in spa.

About The Spa Man

What prompted you to start The Spa Man? Can you tell us about the kind of thing you’ll be featuring?

I decided to launch The Spa Man because no one is writing about spa from a male perspective. Lots of guys go to spas and you see them and they look completely lost – I wanted to both educate and inform them. I also wanted to have an editorial outlet of my own. I get so many great opportunities and can’t always place them.

The fine fellow in the towel on the logo for the website… is that you?

I wish! My friend designed the logo and had in mind that The Spa Man was a kind of super hero – I can assure you I don’t have any special powers, but do know a thing or two about spa.

Will you trial absolutely anything for the website, including products that contain ingredients that seem rather icky?

I will try most things – that’s the only way you can properly review them. I would stop at fillers and other surgery like that and am not so keen on weight loss and lipo-style treatments. But yes, I’ll generally give anything a go.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve tried out for review?

It’s actually a new collagen face mask, I looked like a cross between Freddie Kruger and someone who had suffered massive facial burns. But afterwards, I looked refreshed and alive again.

About you and PRs

As someone with some experience in PR, does it give you an advantage when dealing with PR companies as a journalist? Are the two roles are overlapping more and more as journalism evolves?

I wouldn’t say I have an advantage, perhaps I am a bit more understanding and I try to answer all emails – even if it’s a 'no thanks, it’s not right for me'. But what is eye-opening is that you quickly realise that some PRs leave a lot to be desired.

I do think there is some overlap, especially with the advent of social media and blogging, for example, lots of beauty PRs have a beauty blog.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?

I find them useful as you get so much more out of them if they are well organised. But I don’t think that every single product warrants a press launch.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?

Maybe target press releases a bit better. I get a lot about female fashion and feminine hygiene.                             

About you

What’s the most expensive spa/grooming treatment or product you’ve trialed? And did it do what it was supposed to?

I tried a two hour body treatment in a spa in Greece that used goat’s milk, honey, rosemary, salt body scrubs, massage, a body wrap and was over £300. I was exhausted by the end of it and ready for it to end. My skin was smooth, my body relaxed and I did feel amazing. But I wouldn’t spend that in a normal setting.

Is social media very important to you with your work? Do you have any recs for us to follow?

Social media is vitally important to what  do – I have Twitter open on my desktop all day. It keeps me up-to-date on what people are doing and thinking on a daily basis.

The best spa insider tips are @SpaFinder.

A great spa and travel PR team are tweeting @PRCoUK.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?

Conde Nast Traveller, ShortList, Waitrose Kitchen, Grooming Guru, The Good Spa Guide.

Is there a particular grooming product you couldn’t live without?

Aromatherapy Associates Bath Oil. 

You can get super spa secrets at The Spa Man and can find Mark Smith tweeting @MediaMarkSmith

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