Have you tried getting publicity or PR for your company in the past? How did it go? Have you struggled with garnering the right kind of media attention to build your company’s reputation? If this is you, then today’s podcast is for you.
Our guest today is Mickie Kennedy, who founded eReleases 24 years ago to help small businesses, authors, and startups increase their visibility and credibility through press release marketing. Ereleases has a database with nearly 1 million journalists, 750,000 bloggers and influencers, and 5,000 syndicated submission sites.
Mickie is giving our listeners a free master class on how to build a PR campaign at: ereleases.com/plan.
Use split testing in all areas of your business, not just digital marketing.
LINKS FROM THE EPISODE:
- FREE master class on PR strategy: https://www.ereleases.com/plan/
- You can visit our guest’s websites at: https://www.ereleases.com/
- https://www.facebook.com/ereleases.press.release.distribution https://www.instagram.com/ereleasespr/
- If you are ready to franchise your business or take it to the next level: CLICK HERE.
ABOUT OUR GUEST:
Mickie Kennedy founded eReleases 24 years ago to help small businesses, authors, and startups increase their visibility and credibility through press release marketing. He lives in the Baltimore area.
ABOUT BIG SKY FRANCHISE TEAM:
This episode is powered by Big Sky Franchise Team. If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):
Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where each week we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team. And as we open today, I’m wondering if you have tried getting publicity or PR for your company and how did it go and have you struggled with garnering the right kind of media attention to build your company reputation? And if this is you and you have, then this is for you.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:31):
Our guest today is Mickie Kennedy, who founded eReleases 24 years ago to help small businesses, authors and startups increase their visibility and credibility through press release marketing. eReleases has a database with nearly 1 million journalists, 750,000 bloggers and influencers, and nearly 5,000 syndicated submission sites. Mickie also gives our listeners a free masterclass on how to build PR campaign at ereleases.com/plan, and we’ll have that in the show notes for you as well. You’re going to love this interview. It is literally jammed full of practical things that you can implement in your publicity strategy immediately. So let’s go ahead and jump into our interview.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (01:18):
My name is Mickie Kennedy. I am president of eReleases. We specialize in press release distribution for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:26):
Well, one of the reasons I was excited to have you on is just to talk about publicity and PR. And just from a high level overview, would you mind just talking about what publicity is?
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (01:38):
Publicity is just about communicating with the media and trying to drum up interest. A lot of people use press releases as a way to contact the media and pitch what it is that they want to announce. Unfortunately, I would say probably 98% of press releases do not generate anything, no media attention. And so I make my mission to educate my customers and other people how to do more strategic types of press releases. Rather than doing a press release about a new hire that maybe only a local paper and one trade publication would be interested in is to maybe do a survey or study within your industry and ask a lot of thoughtful questions that positions you as a thought leader within your industry and also gets, usually, several articles because if you ask the right questions at the right time, people want to know the answers.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:29):
Very interesting. Well, that leads me to another question for you. I know you started your business many years ago and we have something in common. We love helping small businesses and business owners and helping them succeed. And one of the things that I picked up is you like to help increase their visibility, credibility, and growing through PR. So what kind of motivated you to want to help this community?
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (02:55):
Around 25 years ago, I was finishing up a MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. And I just assumed I’d wait tables and write poetry in the evening and just live a little bohemian life. And I did that for a summer and realized I had read nothing, and I had written nothing, and I was exhausted physically and psychologically, and I felt scarred. So I decided I wanted a safe office job, and I got started at a telecom research startup in DC as employee number three. And they said, “Oh, you have a writing background, figure out press releases for us.” And so I did and I got really good at finding stories in all the numbers that we had. We had all this data, but it was hard to make sense of it. But there’d be anomalies and I would ask the staff, the two others, “Why is there so much traffic going to this one Caribbean island more traffic than, say, going to Canada?”
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (03:50):
And they’re like, “Oh, that’s 1-900 numbers or those are sex lines or something like that.” So I was like, “Ooh, there’s a story.” So I would get this data, I would write a story. I would put it in a press release format and send it to the media by fax. And they responded in kind. We got lots of major articles like The Economist, Financial Times, lots of business publications, Washington Post. And I found that it was something that worked. And I was like, wow, I can’t believe that a small business, by just positioning themselves, this can generate all of this media attention. And we got a lot of sales as a result of it.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (04:26):
And so I started to get these same journalists calling me and saying, “Could you just email this to me in the future? We don’t want faxes.” And that’s when a light bulb went off that email press releases, eReleases, and so I spent about a year just contacting journalists and asking if I could email them press releases. And launched about a year later and had 10,000 journalists in my database. And it’s evolved a little bit over time. PR Newswire reached out to us and we’ve incorporated a national distribution with them and still keeping our prices pretty modest. But it’s a really great opportunity if you have strategic messaging to get articles about you, and it’s just a matter of figuring out what is strategic and what’s important.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:10):
Perfect segue into my next question about how you can be successful in this arena. So you mentioned being strategic. Could you share a few details on what that might look like or the difference maybe between, you gave that one example of a press release that was maybe not very strategic, versus one that might be.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (05:27):
Right. So the survey and study is the one I always recommend to someone who comes in who’s just like, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works.” And I’m like, “Well, you haven’t tried that because I’ve never had it fail.” It generally results in between four to 12 articles when you do a good surveyor study in your industry. That takes a little bit more work, but it doesn’t have to be crazy work. You do a four-page survey on SurveyMonkey, four questions per page, and they make it easy to analyze the results. You figure out what was the biggest ahas, what were surprises. You write a few quotes in a press release as to why it probably skewed that way, positioning you as the analytical person processing the data and then just send it out to the media. Now, some people get tripped up saying, “I don’t know who to send the survey to.” But I advise my clients to find independent or small trade associations, some of which they might belong to, and ask them. And say, “I’ll mention you in the press release I’ll be issuing over the wire.”
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (06:26):
Many of them see that as a win-win. The large trade associations don’t really see it as a win-win, but the smaller ones do. And you really just need a few hundred responses. And they’ll often then promote it through email or through social media, sometimes through both. And it’s really an effective way to get attention. But there’s other ways. Sometimes you can work with data that’s already out there, but no one’s really put it together in a fun and interesting way. Maybe you’ve created a really fascinating infographic and you can include that along with the press release demonstrating something like that. There’s lots of different ways to be strategic, but the really important thing to realize is if you have something that’s important to you, and you want to send it to the media that doesn’t necessarily make it newsworthy. A product launch for example, just having a description of the product and a bunch of features, isn’t newsworthy. And it’s really hard for a journalist to build a story around that.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (07:21):
But if you have use case studies or people who’ve used your product and achieved results, and you get quotes from them and incorporate that in there as well, a journalist can build a story around that saying, “Hey, there’s this new product out. This is what it claims that it does. This is what company X experienced when they used it. And here’s a great quote from them.”
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (07:41):
Do you see that that builds a story? And when you just have the product and features, it really is difficult for a journalist to build a story around that. So anything that you can do to help build a story for journalists is going to help you achieve results, and at the end of the day realize that they’re gatekeepers and they’re just trying to figure out what’s going to be really interesting and intriguing that they want to share with their audience. And if you can sort of reverse engineer that, you will get media attention.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:11):
Talk a little bit how using media coverage, publicity to help improve conversions or to get more results or increase sales, can you talk about maybe a use case or two that you’ve seen this work for?
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (08:24):
Sure. So I had a carpet company in New Jersey come to me. They were a local carpet company, and they wanted to do a PR campaign. And I advised them not to, but they said, “We have the budget, let’s do it.” And so we did a few different releases that resulted in nothing. And then one of the audits that I do is what are the blind spots in your industry? What are the gaps? Things that maybe the trade publications don’t report about? They’d said, “Well, every local carpet company is up against the big box home improvement stores, and they’re terrible. And the carpet might be okay, but the padding is always terrible. And they just hire people on a list who have a contractor’s license to install it. They may have never installed carpet before in their lives. They may not even know what’s stretching is.”
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (09:15):
And so we really put together a press release that illustrated the challenges of being a David versus Goliath, and it got picked up in all the floor trade publications. And what they did with that is they put that in what they called a brag book because over a year we had like 30 clippings, about 20 of them from floor and trade publications and others from local newspapers and New Jersey Magazine and things like that. And when they gave a quote they said, “Look, we may not come in the cheapest, but we know what we’re doing. We’ve been around for a long time. Our installers are salaried, not people that are just pickup employees and we’ve been recognized nationwide. Here we are in Floor Trade Weekly. Here we are in this publication.”
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (09:59):
And after they’ve done that demonstration by just adding that brag book, they started converting like 14 to 17% more of these quotes that they got, which for them was huge. They said, “That’s amazing.” And so it shows credibility. And there’s like an implied endorsement that happens when a publication has picked you up. So when people are saying, “Hey, we can save $200 if we go with this other person,” they’re just like, “I’d rather spend the $200 and go with the people I know who are going to do it right and who are recognized industry-wide.” And so that is just one of the huge credibility indicators and conversion tactics that you can use by getting this media attention.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:42):
Very interesting. And one thing that came to mind as I was listening to you talk about this is thinking about the evolution you shared about originally starting with sending faxes out and then to emails and how just the internet has changed things, and now it leads me to think about social influencers and these influencers that exist out there. How do influencers factor into part of this strategy? Or is it even part of it?
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (11:06):
It is part of it, surprisingly. And I say surprisingly because when I started about 15 to 17 years ago, I would have bloggers come to me and say, “I am trying to get journalist access to the wire, and they keep saying, ‘You’re not the media.'” And I would go and advocate on behalf of these people and say, “Look, this guy has more web traffic than the largest trade publication in his industry and you’re saying no.” I said, “This is a lost opportunity.” And it took a while, but they started to say yes to bloggers.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (11:39):
Now I was pleasantly surprised that they do outreach, and they get maybe an Instagram professional who go follows fashion and give them journalists access so that they can publish behind-the-scenes photos and other collateral these companies have. Now, they’ve done a complete 180 where they’re very accepting of the fact that media is coming from lots of different places and not their traditional places that we all know. And so I think that’s really good. I think that’s a positive thing. Some people say it’s a desperation because they recognize that print is dying. And while I believe that’s true to some point, I also believe that a lot of the print has transitioned to online, and they’re doing a really great job. I think it was just a couple years ago that The New York Times digital subscriptions eclipsed what their print sells. And I imagine that that will just continue to evolve.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:35):
One thing I wanted to ask you about, just to kind of get your opinion, we help companies franchise their business. We work with a lot of small business owners who do that. And as franchise companies start to grow, inevitably they add franchisees into the network. So you have this unique franchisor-franchisee relationship where there’s the overall, overarching franchise information that’s being pushed out, but then there’s some local owner, some local, maybe husband wife team or just two sisters who buy a franchise, and now they’re running it in their local community. How would you work with a franchise, or how could a franchise system work with something like this?
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (13:15):
I’ve seen it very rarely, but in some cases I’ve seen where franchisers will build a publicity component for their franchisees in which they give them instructions on how to reach out to local media. It’s the advice that I preach where when it comes to local media, you don’t have to spend money on a service like eReleases. You can just reach out to what would probably be less than 10 people in your market. There are probably less than 10 people who would write about you, your local paper, your business magazine or newspaper, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has one, maybe radio and TV shows or programs where some of them might have a spotlight, like there’s one that appears on Saturday where they talk about personal finance, but every once in a will we’ll do a business spotlight in your area.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (14:05):
So for the print publications as well as the online ones, you’re looking for the writer. Just figure out who generally writes articles that would cover your industry and ask for their email address. They will give it to you. They’re not trying to hide. They’re accessible. They’re parts of the community. And then just introduce yourself. You don’t need to write a press release. All you need is just a pitch, a couple of sentences about something that is perhaps newsworthy that they could cover. If you see something trending, and you would be a good example company for that trend, you can just introduce them and say, “Hey, in our industry, this has become a really hot phenomenon, and I would love to talk to you and share about my experience of doing this.” It’s just a matter of reaching out to these people.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (14:49):
For TV and radio, it’s producers or bookers that you’re looking for the email address as opposed to a writer. But once you have this little Rolodex of less than 10 people, just do community outreach as you have newsworthy events. And what you’ll find is the more you do it, three, four, five times a year, you will become front of mind so that when that journalist is working on a story and they’re looking to plug a company in, they’re going to say, “Oh, I remember this company.” And they’ll reach out to you and say, “Hey, could I get your quote for the story I’m working about,” something that’s completely different from anything you pitched. And you’ll find it’s the same reason that we see the same companies again and again in our local papers. It’s because they’ve made a connection and a relationship with the media, so it’s just easy to plug them in.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (15:35):
And so I think that the franchisers who provide a little bit of this education to their franchisees are putting them in a really great position so that they will be front of mind, and they will be part of the community and hopefully get some print. It’s not going to happen with every publication, but the more you try, you just do it on a regular basis, three to five times a year, I think you’ll do really well.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:59):
That’s phenomenal advice. And I would imagine what you’re suggesting not only works for a local franchise, but just a local small business owner that is ingrained in their community serving their local region. I think that’s wonderful. Mickie, this is a great time in the show for us to make a transition where we ask every guest the same four questions before they go. And the first question we ask is, have you had a miss or two along your journey in your career, and something you learned from it.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (16:24):
I mean, I have. There’s been lots of things where I just missed the boat on it. It was Google advertising for the longest time. I was a little slow in realizing the value of that and how important that could be to growing the business. I certainly caught up, but sometimes when there’s new technologies, it’s like knowing how to figure out to make them work and how to a apply them.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:51):
How about the other side, a [inaudible 00:16:54] or two that you’d like to share? You’ve certainly talked about a few throughout the interview, but I’d love to see if there are others.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (16:59):
I had huge turnover in my business. I think people on average stayed about a year. And I was part of a marketing mastermind, and every three months when we’d meet, I would complain about the high turnover and how my staff just weren’t doing a great job. And finally, one of the people there who was a HR consultant for large companies said, “As a personal favor to you, I will get to the bottom of what’s going on in your business.” She interviewed all my staff, interviewed my customers, came back to me and said, “You are the problem. You micromanage your staff. They’re doing a great job. The customers love the customer service they get. The only person not happy is you, and you have to stop micromanaging.” I tried. I couldn’t help myself. So in April of 2015, I made an announcement to the staff, “I’m not coming into the office anymore.” And I haven’t since then other than we have book club or some little meet and greet or something like that. But I don’t go into the office anymore.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (18:01):
I need to be away from my staff and let them do what they’re doing. And as a result, we’ve grown considerably since then, and the ratings of customers is really favorable. And everybody that was there when I left in 2015 is still there. So we have gone from a one-year turnover to we’re now like seven years plus. So it completely revolutionized my business by realizing I’m the problem. Probably what made me a good entrepreneur was being a micromanager, but makes me a lousy boss.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:35):
That’s a testament to you actually gathering that information and acting on it. There are a lot of folks who may have just not changed anything. So I commend you on doing that. That’s tremendous. Let’s talk about a multiplier that you’ve used to grow yourself or your business.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (18:51):
I discovered with pay-per-click advertising, split testing. And the concept of split testing is just an amazing one where you take two things, you make a small incremental change, and you see if it’s material. And if it is you save that, then you test something else. And I have approached that in many facets of my business. I used to send a welcome care package to every new customer. Somebody came back to me and said it seemed a little unprofessional. It was a whimsical box, a lot of fun stuff, confetti, some Baltimore crab chips, stuff that I thought was awesome. And it came across, they said, as unprofessional. I didn’t know whether they were right or wrong, but I knew I could split test it. So I spent six months sending half the new customers that, and the other half just got a book that I’d written and a letter welcoming them to eReleases.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (19:49):
And then we watched those two populations. And after two years, the people who received the book and letter, over two times the revenue of the people who had received the shock and awe package, the fun package. And so I do lots of things like that in my business. If there’s something you’re like, “Hey, someone says we should do this instead,” and I’m like, “Maybe we should. Let’s test it.” And we’ve tried and we’ve failed and we’ve tried and we’ve won and then we win again. And so just these incremental changes have been so important to the business.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:24):
That’s a brilliant strategy. I haven’t heard of someone applying the A/B testing. I hear it often described in digital marketing, where that comes across where it’s relatively easy to do. I love that you’re applying this to physical deliveries or welcome packages that you’re providing to your customers. I think that’s incredible. Well, Mickie, the final question we ask every guest before they go is, what does success mean to you?
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (20:52):
I think for me, it’s having a healthy balance, work-life balance. I’m still that poet, having graduated years ago, so I devote a lot of time to that still today. I read two books of poetry. I wrote a poem. I’ve edited several poems, but I’ve still been in the business and looked at the Google Ads campaign and stuff like that. So I find being able to still nourish that personal part of me that has this creative urge to write is important. And for many years when I was growing the business, I didn’t allow myself that. So I feel like having that balance is really the definition of success to me and being able to be fulfilled personally as well as in business.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:38):
Before we go, is there anything you were maybe hoping to share or get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases (21:43):
I do talk and educate my customers a lot about strategy, and I do have a free masterclass on strategy at ereleases.com/plan, P-L-A-N. And it basically is like a one-hour video audit, and you can go through. There’ll be things like the survey and study that I talked about. But there’s also lots of actionable things that might apply to you. And if you run through it, you could see are these newsworthy ideas that potentially I could do to build my own PR campaign?
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:14):
Mickie, thank you so much for a fantastic interview. Let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is the technique and strategy he gave about building a survey and a study to use as a way to generate interest in getting publicity and PR. And he said, “By creating this survey and study, it has worked every time and generates typically four to 12 articles out of that.” And he said, “You can do this through a simple survey program like a SurveyMonkey where you take four questions on four pages for a total of 16 questions and survey the audience.” And he said, “Find a list, either maybe your own database or through a local small trade publication that you are already a part of or familiar with.” And he said, “If you can, you’re ideally looking for few hundred responses, but that generates a lot of buzz and is newsworthy.”
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:10):
Takeaway number two is when you’re submitting your publicity and PR that you want to help that journalist build the story. So make it easy for the journalist to tell a story. It’s not just about bells and whistles and features of your, let’s say, new product or new service. It’s the story behind that product or service.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:33):
Takeaway number three is how to tap into local PR and get local publicity. And we were discussing in the one part about franchisees, local franchisees, but this could also be for a local branch within your organization or maybe just for your own small business or your own company that you’re running right now. And he said, “Generally there are roughly about most likely 10 people in your community that are journalists that you can contact directly.” He said, “Just ask them for their email. Introduce yourself and send them a quick one, two, three sentence overview of what you want them to write about.” And he said, “If you’re going to local TV or radio, you’re looking for the producer’s email and contact information.” So I thought that was just a great takeaway on how to build your own little local community database of journalists and media contacts. And now it’s time for today’s win-win.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:31):
So today’s win-win comes from when Mickie was talking about his multiplier. And I thought this was phenomenal. There were a lot of wins in today’s episode, certainly building your publicity strategy. And one thing that really stood out was a technique that Mickie has used throughout his business in many different avenues, and that’s split testing. Sometimes you’ve heard it called A/B testing, and I love that he’s doing this in all facets of his business, not just digital marketing or Facebook ads or Google ads or something like that. It’s also in gifts and packages he’s mailing to his prospects or customers. And I think the win here is thinking about how you can apply this to your own business. What are some ways that you can run an A/B test or a split test for your own company, maybe a new product or service you’re thinking about launching? Could you try option A and option B and see which responds better?
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:31):
Or it might be for… potentially, it could be a marketing campaign. It could maybe be for some new type of structure that you’re offering to employees. Who knows? There are a lot of different ways that you could go about this. And I just thought that was a great takeaway and a great win-win because when you submit multiple options and you see which one produces the best result, well, that’s going to be certainly a win for you, but it’s a win for the people that are your customers, employees, the people that are benefiting from that because you’ve helped figure out and identify which is best for them.
Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:07):
And so that’s the episode today, folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at bigskyfranchiseteam.com. Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.