How can solopreneurs and small businesses increase visibility and credibility with a low budget? By finding affordable PR services. Host Robin Colucci’s guest in this episode is Mickie Kennedy, the founder and CEO of eReleases.com. Mickie shares with Robin about his conviction that publicity shouldn’t be limited to large corporations. That’s why eReleases maintained low prices despite having an impressive in-house database of subscribing journalists. Discover strategies on having affordable PR to increase visibility and credibility. Tune in!
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High Impact, Low Budget PR: Mickie Kennedy Shares How Solopreneurs And Small Businesses Can Increase Visibility And Credibility Without Having To Spend A Fortune
I am very excited to share with you a solution to a problem that I believe many authors face, which is how do I get PR for my ideas, for my book, and for my business if I’m not feeling prepared to spend $4,000 or $5,000 a month with a PR agent? That might not be in your budget now or it is something that you could afford, but you don’t want to put that much of an ongoing, consistent effort into generating PR. Maybe you want to make a longer-term and more gradual approach.
It’s because of the need for this flexibility that many people experience, I am very pleased to introduce to you our guest, Mickie Kennedy. He believes that with some effort and a little money, the possibilities are endless. He is an expert at helping small businesses, authors and startups, increases their visibility and credibility through his company that he founded many years ago called eReleases. He started this company after realizing that small businesses desperately need a press release service that they can afford, giving them access to media and to a national newswire, all with a personal touch.
They not only help you send out your press release, but you can get help to refine your press release as well. Mickie has an MFA in Creative Writing with an Emphasis in Poetry from George Mason University. His press releases have resulted in articles being published in The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg, and many other prestigious news outlets.
He lives in Baltimore County with his family and two feuding cats. He enjoys British science fiction and acknowledges an unhealthy addiction to diet soda. He still writes poetry, most Monday nights, with a group of fellow misfits in Brunswick, Maryland. I think that you will find lots of helpful nuggets, so I encourage you to sit back and enjoy. Have a good read.
Mickie, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
It’s such a pleasure to have you. I was meeting with my team and we were talking about this challenge of getting media coverage. Having a PR firm working for you can be incredibly expensive, but all authors need to get coverage. I know you work with all kinds of different small business people, but authors in particular really need help getting coverage. Before we get into some amazing insights and tips, I would love for you to share with us a little bit about what triggered you even to get involved in doing this in the first place.
Many years ago, I finished up grad school. I did an MFA in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Poetry. I assumed I would wait tables and write poetry in the evening. I started waiting tables, and I found it physically exhausting and mentally. At the end of the day, I was so frazzled, and I couldn’t write. I was like, “This isn’t the career for me. Maybe I’m built for an office job,” so I went and worked for a telecom startup. I was employee number three, and one of the many things I did there was writing press releases and then program fax machine with 100 numbers and hit send.Put creativity in your quote because a compelling quote can save you in a story. Click To Tweet
I started having journalists calling because we were publishing telecom numbers and statistics and saying, “Could I email the press release over?” Because I had faxed it to them. The light bulb went off and I mentioned it to my boss. I’m like, “It seems like email is a natural progression from faxing.” He said, “Someone should start that business,” and so I spent the next year contacting journalists in my time asking if I could send them press releases.
Originally, I was going to do a high-tech sector. I found that as I was contacting more and more journalists, their beats were changing, and it was not strange for a journalist who was high-tech one day to be consumer electronics and then moves over to music or something. I found that my database was growing in lots of categories. It will be 23 years ago, in October 2021, when I launched, I had about 10,000 journalists in it and I offered the service where I would email a press release to journalists. If we had multiple releases in a category, we would create a digest, and journalists seem to respond to it.
Over the years, the PR Newswire reached out to me and said, “You should also send your releases through us.” I’m like, “I don’t know how that’s possible.” My clients were paying me, at the time, a couple of hundred dollars, and I know that a national press release through PR Newswires was over $1,000 for a 500-word press release. We went back and forth. They liked that my customer base isn’t a segment that they serve. They rely on salespeople and their consultative sales.
People are buying the $1,000 press release distribution and adding a $2,500 multimedia element or they’re going to Asia and it’s a $5,000 charge with translation for that. They’re looking for Fortune 5000 type of customers, the larger companies, and they weren’t serving small businesses. We tried to create it so that it would be something that would be worth their while as well as ours.
We started scheduling all of our releases for the next business day, so that way, they have an overnight editorial team that isn’t very busy but has to be there. In that way, they could set up these releases overnight and get them scheduled for the next business day. We tried to create it to be a win-win between the two of us.
Does the client pay you and then you pay PR Newswire?
Correct. We act as a co-op of small business owners. We work with predominantly entrepreneurs and small businesses. The average customer is doing three releases a year, and they’re spending anywhere from $800 to $1,200 to get those three releases out. It’s not a price point or a segment that the Newswire would ever reach out to directly. It really became a win-win between the two of us and I’ve been happy to be able to offer that because it’s a great value add. If you have something that’s newsworthy, it can go gangbusters. The leverage that can happen through PR is accelerated when you add a Newswire distribution on top of it.
I’m curious because I’m thinking about when you got started. I’m a former journalist myself, so I’ve seen it from both sides. I know it can make a huge difference if you already have some direct relationship with the journalists. Even these 10,000 in your database at some point had direct communication with you. Do you find that you get better results when you send it to the people in your database versus the Newswire, or maybe you do both all the time, so it’s hard to know?
It’s a healthy mix of both. I would say that for a lot of our clients that are a little quirkier and more newsworthy, the wire does better for them because it’s a wider net, and sometimes you get caught up in lots of cool little places. That normally wouldn’t happen with our database of journalists that we send to. That being said, I always say that email send helps. It’s usually micro-targeted. It’s much more specific.
These lists of influencers are growing beyond print and beyond online. They’re even incorporating fashion, for example. Instagram influencers make up a huge opportunity for people to reach because they do review press releases and accept press releases. They will sometimes pitch something on Instagram and get 15,000 clicks, which is way better than many trade publications.
I’m hearing you say that PR Newswire is more targeted to the news media, but your database includes social media influencers. I would imagine podcasters of all types.Present something in a different way than what’s already represented out there. Click To Tweet
To be honest, the Newswire is doing a good job of reaching out to these influencers as well. Years ago, I saw the Newswire say no to bloggers and not accept bloggers as reporters or journalists. Bloggers wanted to get access to these log-ins with the Newswire. The releases are publicly available, so you can always go and search and find a press release, but if you have the log-in at the Newswire, you can go in and customize it. You can have it so that it excludes certain keywords.
You can make it very customizable. The bloggers wanted that access too. The Newswire initially was like, “No,” but they woke up over time. Now, they’re very accepting of anybody of influence. The media is growing and expanding. I love that the Newswire is being much more open and accepting of lots of different influencers, social media, and all different aspects of media.
You said you started out writing press releases. Do you also write press releases for your solopreneur clients?
We do. We write about 40 releases a month. The volume might differ a little bit, but I do challenge people to try to write it themselves. The thing about press releases is they’re not magic. My background is in creative writing, and they’re not using a lot of creativity. I do tell people to put a little of their creativity in their quote because a good, compelling quote can save you in a story. A lot of times, the journalists will look at something and say, “That’s a maybe,” but then if they see a knockout quote, they’re like, “I can build a story around that.” That’s also a great way to save you.
Sometimes, a press release will inspire a story, and so the journalist writes it, including the small little company that issued the press release, and the managing editor looks at it and says, “Why did he include this little company I’ve never heard of?” He crosses it out, but if you have a very compelling quote, that managing editor is going to go, “I’ve never heard of this company, but I could see why he mentioned them. That’s a great quote.” If you do want to use some of that creative writing, the place to do it is in that personal quote.
Outside of that, it’s very straightforward. The structure of a press release is usually written in the third person. It’s the facts and the most newsworthy element first. The headline is the most important. All the rest of the stuff can be figured out. I always recommend that people do a search for press release samples or press release templates. We have some templates on our website as well at eReleases.com. Look at it and you should be able to create something yourself.
This is a complete 180 from when I started. The first book that I wrote was how to write a great press release. I believe that if you wrote a great press release, you could get media attention. What I found was there are a lot of great press releases not resulting in any media attention. I started, over the years, to recognize that a lot of my clients that are doing well aren’t writing the same press release everyone else is writing. A press release announcing a personnel change, a press release saying your website is mobile responsive, or we just gave a donation to a charity.
I love the charitable ones but they don’t result in any media attention. It’s always great to give back, but it rarely is reciprocated in media attention. What I recommend is to be more strategic. For example, the media loves data, numbers, and statistics. I’ve used this with a lot of my clients that say, “I’m not newsworthy.” I tell them, “Do an industry survey. Send it out and we’ll publish a press release about the results.” Invariably, I get them saying, “I don’t know who to send it to. My list isn’t big enough.”
I’m like, “There are small, independent trade associations all over the place that don’t get a lot of love.” I recommended this to an auto repair shop in Pennsylvania, and they got an independent auto repair center’s trade association to send it out to their members and got over 800 responses. I always recommend this. Always throw 1 or 2 oddball questions in there. In this case, we left the open field and it was, “What’s the strangest thing a customer left in their car while being repaired?” That was what blew up and went viral.
Over ten auto trade publications picked it up, several newspapers, including their local newspaper, which I had warned them that you might not get your customers reading this but they were looking for links for SEO purposes because their website went dark. It was somehow tied to their yellow page ad, so they had to create a new domain name and they were looking to get influenced. They went to an SEO guy who they really respected and he says, “If you can get links from auto industry trade publications, that will boost you the quickest,” so they came to me with that as their goal.
I told them, “Being an auto repair center in Pennsylvania, there’s not a lot you’re doing that’s newsworthy, so we’re going to have to manufacture the news by publishing a survey or study.” That being said, if you’re an author, anything that you can take like your book, position it with numbers and statistics and it’s going to be relevant, even if you didn’t author the study. If you bring together a lot of good data that’s out there and position your book in alignment with those numbers, you can do well. It’s a great end and opening in which to anchor your book and your announcement. That is one way in which you can use data and numbers to work for you.
I want to chime in and say that everything you’re saying is accurate. I was a news aide at The Washington Post when I was in college in the mid-‘80s and part of my job was opening press releases that came through the mail and deciding which ones went into the mail slot of whichever reporter. I can tell you that the vast majority of them ended up in the round file, quite literally, in the trash and never even seen by a reporter because they were like that, like, “We promoted someone. We made a donation.” It’s like, “The Washington Post is not interested, generally.” That’s all really great advice. What are some other ways that a smaller business, a startup, or a solopreneur organization can get attention from their press release? I love this survey idea.
Another thing that’s worked really well some of the times has been to research your industry for blind spots. I had a carpet company in New Jersey that was looking to get recognized in trade publications. It’s very much a business that’s replicated throughout the US. They’re not doing anything that’s unique. The conversation after five failed press releases was like, “You got to give me something more. Who’s your enemy?” They immediately said the big box home improvement stores, and I said, “Are they represented in the trade publications?”
He said, “No. The trade publications are for other local carpet places like us.” I said, “We could do a big David and Goliath angle here about having to position yourselves against the big box home improvement stores,” and they were telling me why they’re so terrible. They’re like, “It’s not unusual for Home Depot and Lowe’s to use pickup contractors as long as they’re licensed. They may have never installed carpet before ever.” They don’t care. They don’t vet them. They just say, “Do you have a license and proof of insurance? We’ve got jobs for you starting tomorrow.”
Generally, the contractors who do the work cycle in and out when they don’t have other work going on, so you’re not getting someone that even Home Depot and Lowe’s has much experience with. They also talked about all the difficulties of having to come in and re-stretch carpets that were done improperly, and the padding that they use is not great. We put all that in a press release and talked about how hard it is to market as a local carpet company in New Jersey and over four trade publications picked it up. There were some we’d never heard of before. They must have come through the Newswire because they weren’t in my contact database.
They did well. We continued to milk that marketing angle for the next six months doing various versions of marketing-type press releases, and altogether, they did get some newspaper coverage and a New Jersey state magazine covered them. They got over 30 articles published in a one-year period. All of it within the last 6 to 7 months of it, because there was nothing in the first five months.
One of the things that they did was they showed me that they had put all of these into a binder, and they called it their big brag book. They said, “Every time we go to someone’s house to give them a quote, we take that with them and we walk through it with them. Showing that we were picked up in floor trade weekly, or we were picked up here. We would tell them the same thing we’ve always told them that our installers are salaried. Many of them have worked for us for decades. They know how to install stuff. We rarely have to come back into re-stretch a carpet, and it’s usually a manufacturer issue if that happens. We use superior padding.”
It’s all of the stuff that they always said. They said after showing them that book, more people believed them because they started converting almost 20% more of those things. For them, the amount of money that meant to them was huge to be able to close 20% more than you normally did, and that’s just looking at industry blind spots.
I can give you an example of a place where it didn’t work. I worked with a company that was involved in online security. They did a press release talking about a lot of vulnerabilities that are out there on every website like Amazon.com and Apple.com. They thought it was going to blow up and be very big. Instead, they got a lot of backlash from their industry saying, “We all know this. There’s nothing that can be done about it, so keep your mouth shut.” Sometimes, an industry blind spot is there for a reason.Own your story. Be authentic! Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, you either have to ask around or trial and error to determine if it’ll work, but sometimes, looking at certain things that are popular or unpopular and talking about them within your industry is a great way to get discovered and to get mentioned. I think that anybody who writes something, if it’s nonfiction, is generally trying to present something in a different way than it’s already represented out there.
That is your end. What is it that you wrote about, the way that you wrote about it, and the way that you compiled it that makes it unique? If you can bring that across in our press release, that’s a compelling thing because obviously, it was a blind spot. I don’t think that you’re publishing something that you know is already out there.
That would not be the goal. It’s so interesting to me that with these mom-and-pop service places, you’re having them go for the trade mags, which is not where their customer is, but it’s this credibility thing that they can then use with their prospective customer, so that makes a lot of sense to me. Do you also work with people? I’m thinking, do you also work with people to help them do press releases that are more targeted to the general mass market media where they might come in direct contact with a potential customer?
In 2020, we did a pro bono press release for the dining bond initiative. It was put together very quickly to address closed restaurants because of the pandemic. It was built on the war bond initiative, so they created this concept of dining bonds and they made it so that you could nominate your favorite local restaurant and then they would be asked if they wanted to participate and if you gave them money, the money went directly to them quickly.
It wasn’t like it was held for 90 days or anything like that. The money went to them directly and you got a promissory or a gift certificate for making that donation to your local restaurant. It blew up. We stopped counting at 150 publications that covered it. Newspapers across the country, small and independent, weekly ones, and the local dailies, all of them covered it. All of the big newspapers covered it as well, like the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The New York Times. It was great.
It’s a case study on my website. It was created to live for a few months to serve, and it created millions of dollars in revenue that went directly to these restaurants initially across the US, but it grew internationally, so there were international restaurants in there as well. It created so much goodwill. The people themselves were going through something that was difficult and there was something that they could do to help, and that did really well.
I’m going to bet there were spin-off programs that offered a similar thing because I bought some gift certificate-type cards for one of my favorite local restaurants.
It did inspire a lot of other people to do it themselves. Some did it themselves and some smaller groups spanned together and did things that were more regional. That gives you an example of that huge leverage you get with the Newswire. Mickie’s database is great but Mickie’s databases aren’t that great. Those were the heavy hitters. All the food trades covered it as well as the big newspapers, but what created most of the revenue was probably the small newspapers. The little towns where they were able to help their little local restaurant by first nominating them and then being able to give to them.
That’s the real magic of something like this that happens. What normally would have cost $200 to $400 created millions of dollars in revenue and you just can’t replicate that with paid advertising. I challenge anybody no matter how good you think you are with Google or Facebook ads, you’re not going to put in $200 to $400 to get a $10 million-plus return on it. It doesn’t happen, but with PR, it can and that’s an extreme. I think in a lot of cases, a really successful client might do a series of releases and maybe get $20,000 to $40,000 in revenue from 4 to 6 releases that they spent under $1,200 doing.
Invariably, it is important to look at PR as a campaign. I hate it when people do one press release and it doesn’t do what they wanted it to do. I’m like, “That’s a lesson but that didn’t work. Here are 3 or 4 other ideas.” You have to continue the effort, but you also have to learn from the effort that you did, so what was it in this release that you feel didn’t resonate, and let’s make a hypothesis of something slightly different that might and test that.
There are lots of different approaches. A lot of people in PR are used to the concept of what they call newsjacking, where you ride the coattails of something that’s trending hot in your industry. The problem with that is everybody does it, so there’s a lot of noise. If you are going to newsjack, there are elements that you can put in place that would make you stand out. For one thing, if everybody is zigging, how could you zag?
Everybody is a pro-environmental or a pro-electric car, but if you come across as the friendly contrarian saying, “I think this is a great laudable goal, but I don’t think we should adopt it too quickly because the mining operations and minerals that are used are not environmentally sound. We haven’t solved what we’re going to do with these batteries at the end of their life, which is another environmental hazard.”
That’s a reasonable assumption, but nobody is really saying it, so a journalist who wants to be objective and cover both sides, if they come across your release, they’ll file it away saying, “When I cover that topic, here’s a good person to do the cons of this particular issue.” As a result, you’re much more likely to get picked up because there’s going to be a lot less people in that space of representing the cons and a lot more people riding the coattails.Keep testing and trying to get more results. Learn from your experiences! Click To Tweet
That’s a great point. Any other newsjacking tips?
One of the things to think about when you’re newsjacking is, is there a way in which the conversation is so generalized that I can make it very specific? Years ago, the Target credit card was breached. It brought out every cyber consultant in the world. For six months, there were people doing press releases about their take on it, and I can’t imagine it did much for them, but if you did a press release where you said, “Are you a small mom-and-pop retailer with a credit card terminal on your counter? You could be sitting on a multimillion-dollar liability. Here’s a checklist to determine if you’re at risk.”
If you were to do something like that and you were focusing on small business retailers, that’s a slice of the pie that is relevant and interesting, and you’re actually elevating the conversation by talking about one specific aspect of it. That’s another way in which you can ride the momentum of a topic, but make it very specific and niche-oriented so that again, journalists would say, “This could apply to all small business retailers. I think I should write an article about this. It seemed like really great tips.”
These are great ideas. We have found industry blind spots and newsjacking. What’s another technique that you found to be effective? In particular, we can maybe even lean into authors. You could have as many ideas that you could categorize, but if an author wants people to know about the release of their new book and nobody wants to do a press release on the author’s new book unless you’re already a brand name author, what do you suggest to help people raise awareness about their upcoming new release or their new book that’s coming out without being like, “You’ve never heard of me, but I just wrote a new book.”
I would say own your own story. Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to show warts and all. I’ve had clients that share embarrassing stories, and I’m like, “We need to include that in our press release,” and their first thought is, “No.” I remember one who told me a story about having to fill packages on Thanksgiving Day instead of eating Thanksgiving dinner with their extended family. They said they were all in the garage shoving stuff in packages because they got overwhelmed with orders, and they were a new mom-and-pop business. I said, “That’s a great story.”
It got picked up in Inc. Magazine that anecdote really resonated with people. Anything that makes you human and can make you better come across your experiences, your flaws, or the mistakes that you made that took you to the point that you wrote this book, what is so personal in the book that resonates with you, bring that to life and put that out there.
People are so reticent about putting the spotlight on them and about sharing their vulnerabilities, but those are the things that will get you picked up because they are the things that you resonate with. Your experience as a journalist, if you’ve read something that was heartwarming in human interest, and it also was something that could feed your audience, you’re much more likely to put all that together and develop an article.
It is what people remember, right?
People like to feel good. Anything that you bring across that they can relate to is going to make it so much easier for the journalist to write an article about you. The journalist’s job at the end of the day is to be a gatekeeper, and he or she has to decide, “Is this worth sharing with my audience?” If you make it such a no-brainer that this is a great story, a great experience, a cool concept, product, service, or a book, they want to share it with their audience, and the audience will often respond in kind. It’s not unusual.
I’ve had this happen so many times that people will say, “We got 200 or 400 visitors from that press release campaign from a couple of these articles. That’s not a lot of traffic to us, but those people bought.” The one thing they never do is they don’t click on an article that inspired them or open a browser and do a search for the company that was in the article. They don’t go to that website, find you and then start price shopping on Amazon. They want to do business with you because they have this warm feeling that happens from almost an implied endorsement when someone writes an article about you.
They have this goodwill and this heartwarming feeling, so they’re very loyal customers. The conversion rates are insane. I had someone tell me that he sent some pay-per-click traffic to an article on a third-party website despite the fact that you can’t tag them because you don’t have that access to that third-party website, but they said, “I just send people to that traffic, they read the article, and they come back to me to convert.”
You can’t just write a book and be like, “Here’s another thing I did that was great, and here’s another big one that I had.” You’ve got to share with them your failures, the times that you stepped in it, the times that you were embarrassed, and the times you didn’t succeed because not only does it make you more relatable, but it makes them believe like, “If this incredible author who’s accomplished so much can overcome that, maybe I could do it too.” It becomes inspiring in that way.
I remember from my journalism days, one of the things you said was getting straight to the point and I can remember so many press releases that I never got past the first paragraph because it was so irrelevant to anything that it just went in the round file. Say a little bit more about that because I think there is a tendency to put in a little too much runway before we get to the lead or the point of why I should even read this.
I think sometimes people feel like, “I’m not sure what I should lead with, so I’m going to warm up to number 1 slowly, number 2, here’s the kitchen sink, and here’s something else. I’ve left all these great things, and they could pick the one that they want,” but journalists don’t read like that. Nobody does. If you look at how you interact with news, like with me, it’s mostly scrolling headlines. Maybe I will click through 1 out of every 20 headlines that I see, and a lot of times, I get my information based on the headlines.
I’m a skimmer, and journalists are skimmers as well, probably more so because they have to do so much on limited resources, so you want to pick what you feel is the most newsworthy aspect. You could be wrong, it could actually be element number three, and that’s why you do several releases. You focus each one on one specific strategy or focus of interest.You have to state obvious facts and put them front and center to get them across. Click To Tweet
You can certainly have additional background information in the press release and supporting stuff, but it’s important to lead with that and don’t bury the lead. Put it up there front and center. Get it in the headline or in the opening paragraph. Make it very clear that this is why your press release matters and what’s you’re announcing.
One little tip I give my clients when they’re writing a chapter that might apply at least as a starting point in a press release, but it’s definitely a different animal, so I don’t want anyone to take it too literally. I do a lot of editing of chapters, and this also helps get rid of writer’s block too because the first paragraph you write doesn’t have to be the first paragraph in the piece, but you should keep writing.
What I have found is that paragraph 4 or 5 is usually where the point shows up if somebody is just writing for the chapter. If I’m not seeing it in the first couple of paragraphs, I’ll jump down to paragraph number four, and I’ll be like, “There it is.” I’ll cut it and paste it, and then what comes next is supporting material, but it’s not the lead or the core point. Maybe it would apply to press releases. I haven’t tested it.
It’s not always easy using press releases to get media attention for books. Authors have a very difficult time. It’s easier for non-fiction than it is for fiction, but despite that, I’ve had people who are fiction authors that get immediate success who stick to the tried and true of, “I’m going to keep trying different strategies. I’m going to put my best foot forward and I’m going to write for the gatekeeper.” I’ve had them breakthrough. I had a self-published author get the front page of the entertainment section of USA Today.
It was. What wasn’t impressive was the amount of sales he got from it. We were both wildly disappointed in the number of readers or people who buy books that read USA Today. It was just a few hundred copies sold, but he was able to leverage that because he was really demoralized because his local bookstore wouldn’t let him do a reading.
I told him, “Take that to the bookstore now and see if they won’t give you a reading,” and he did, but I told him, and this is a secret for authors, “It’s very unusual for a bookstore not to take any reading that comes their way because often they’ll say, you pick a slow night and I’ll bring people to come here and browse your shelves. I’ll promote it, market it and get people to come in.”
It’s like a no-brainer for many bookstores, so I told him, “That’s strange that this bookstore took that tack with you, but they also might have a bad day where they got 3 or 4 people who are self-published and maybe they did the effort, looked at them and realized this is not a good fit.” In this case, it was a really great book and ended up doing pretty well, but the USA Today thing was a big kudo that sounded better than the results. A couple of minor newspapers picked it up and those almost sold as much as the USA Today post.
I wrote an article on Forbes.com about this very thing that publicity is not for a certain cause of book sales. It can contribute to book sales, and it helps to raise awareness. Publicity and social media are tools to raise awareness of your brand, your book, and your offering. The things that cause book sales are more like public speaking, bulk sales like actually selling the books in bulk.
There was another one in the article that you’ll have to look up because I don’t remember, but there are three things that cause book sales, and publicity is not one of them. I think that is something that people should maybe get clear in their minds because there’s nothing to be disappointed about getting the front page of USA Today, Sunday Magazine or whatever magazine it was because the awareness of what that can raise for you is incredible.
Anything that’s out there that allows you to be discoverable is only going to help. The thing about PR is sometimes it can push a book. David Meerman Scott, who wrote a lot of people consider one of the Bibles of PR, The New Rules of Marketing & PR. I didn’t see this in the print version, but when I listened to the audible version of it. He talked in the intro foreword that he wrote this book about PR and he sent out a press release and nothing happened. He said, “I can’t, in good faith, continue with this,” so he ended up doing more than twelve press releases for his book.
He said it ended up making the book a bestseller. He said it took trial and error, but he found messaging that eventually resonated and he was able to keep testing, trying, and starting to get more results after learning from his experiences at the beginning. This is someone who is a practitioner of PR. You would think that the first press release right out of the start should have done something, but it didn’t. I think more than twelve press releases are a lot to promote one book. I also don’t have my reputation as a PR person tied to it, so maybe I would feel a little bit different.
I think he sold a lot of that book.
He did, and it continued to sell. You talked about speaking engagements, he would speak to companies, the bulk sales, and things like that continued to work for him.
I remember for sure the cause of book sales. Word of mouth, so when somebody says, “I read this book. I think you’d love it. You should read it,” and I agree PR can help, but as a direct cause, if I had to bank on it, I’d go for the bulk sales or the speaking.
I agree, but that being said, if you have a budget and you’re willing to test PR, it could help drive sales.
This has to be the same as social media. You use that to raise awareness, and then if you can also be doing the things that you know for sure cause of the book sales, then you can really blow up too. The only reason I brought it up is that I think that people get unrealistic expectations about what PR is going to do.
I have the weirdest little anecdotes of what PR has done for people. I had one person say that their press release had an employee who had given notice and then when she saw the press release they sent, she said, “I worked here for more than three years, but I didn’t know what the hell we did, but I read it in the press release and It finally clicked. I would like to continue with my job but I would like to work on this aspect.” I think it was a marketing thing, and they said that she’s their right-hand person leading business development and growth.
They said for them, she had already given notice, but she’s like, “How did you guys finally synthesize in putting here what we are about?” There’s an about section and she goes, “It’s not even on our website.” That’s one little anecdote that someone had. I had another person who said that they were declined for a refi of a business loan. They sent out the press release and it was about them signing a new major distributor. I told them it wasn’t very newsworthy but they said, “You don’t understand. In my industry, this guy is a big deal. I want people to know about it.”
I told him, “Maybe a trade publication will pick it up.” He said the bank called him back and said, “I saw your press release here.” I made another call and said, “These guys are killing it. They just signed the big distributor,” and it was a name that everybody recognized. I think it was John Deere. They just said, “We got to do this refi.” It’s the strangest little thing that happens with PR because it is one of those things that get you on people’s radar and you immediately either respond to it or take note of it. It becomes something that’s in the bank that maybe you’ll be able to cash on later.
You send it to your leads when you have a press release that goes out. You send the press release or articles that you get and share them with your customers and your leads. Maybe that lead will say, “This is the tipping point. I probably was eventually going to buy or not buy, but this is a deciding factor that today is the day.”
It’s one of these things where it takes multiple touches sometimes to lead to a sale or a conversion, and press releases are one of those ways to get out there and reach people from media. It is something that wildly can work. It takes finesse, strategy, putting your creative hat on and trying to figure out, “How can I make this work for me and try to position it for the audience? What do I have here that would make a good story then put that out there?”
Something is occurring to me, especially with that story of the woman who had given her notice and then wanted her job back. I’m gathering that even crafting your press release instead of farming that out. I’m presuming you go over their press releases. Do you do little tweaks?
We do. We review it. If something is glaring, we point it out to them. If we have a suggestion, we’ll do that. Sometimes we’ve suggested an alternate headline, making the headline a little more concrete, specific, or throw in some active verbs. There’s always room for improvement.
Now I’m convinced this will be the same. I love your idea of writing your own press release because what it can do is make you better at communicating the value that you’re actually bringing to the table. I see this happen with authors when we’re working on their books with them. When you shared that story about the woman who had quit her job because she didn’t understand what they were doing and it wasn’t on their website, I guarantee you it is now.
Think of the ripple effects of that. They were able to describe it in a way that made this woman want to stay with the company. You start to ripple that out to prospective customers because they’re going to change how they communicate about what they do from that point forward. Writing your press release forces you, especially with help or guidance like you and your team will offer, because then you can learn how to communicate more effectively the value that you’re giving people. I call it a superpower. It gives you superpowers because if you can communicate the value, then you can do anything.
Many people don’t lead with value. They’re so close to it that they don’t even see it sometimes, or they take it for granted. The value is all here. It’s all wrapped up inside. Sometimes, you have to state the obvious and put it front and center and get it across. I didn’t have a company mission statement or anything until someone had pointed out that we had an about section on our website. It was just about the staff.
My story and my staff’s story are nice, but they were right, so we added a little piece of the front of who we are and how we serve. It’s important. I’ve taken it for granted for years that people would figure out what your releases are about. You have to state it. You have to get it out there and put it down in words. It makes it so much easier to communicate once you’ve written it down.
If somebody wanted to get your assistance with some PR campaign, what’s the best way for somebody to reach out to you?
Visit eReleases.com. Our social media is on the lower right. I respond to LinkedIn if anyone wants to reach me personally, but on the website, you can chat with one of the editors. You can call and you’ll speak to an editor. You’ll never speak to a salesperson because I don’t have any salespeople. We have no commissions. If we talk to you and feel like we can’t serve you, we’ll be really honest. Just like I told that carpet company, “I don’t think PR is going to work for you,” but they said, “We have a budget to do it for a year,” and at month five, I felt guilty taking their money and nothing happening, so that’s when we found the, “Who’s your enemy?” Line and we’re able to use that.
We do try to help. We’re all about small businesses and entrepreneurs. We work with a lot of authors, speakers, and experts in different things. We love PR. We see it work for people who are strategic, and it excites us. For me, it excites me that for a little bit of money, sometimes a small gem can be discovered. Journalists act as curators, and they’re bringing to light into their audience these little discoveries, and you could be that discovery. That could be a meaningful bump in traffic, sales, links for you, your business, your book, or whatever it is that you’re promoting.
I think we’re about up at the hour, so I’m going to respect your time. My last question is, “What question should I have asked or do you wish I asked that I didn’t?”
I think what press release for a client are you most proud of. I had a client who was a Russian entrepreneur who was here in the US and he did releases with me. Sometimes they were okay and they did good, sometimes they didn’t, but all of a sudden, he sent a press release to me and then a special appeal saying, “I want a flight to return back to Russia. I had amnesty in the US for my experience with the Russian mob.” All of a sudden, the court system has said, “Denied. After several years of being here in the US, you’ve got to go back to Russia.”
He said he had already been contacted by someone in Russia saying, “You’ll be dead within an hour of your plane touching down.” He had spent $100,000 in legal fees at that point and had exhausted every appeal. The only thing he had left was persuasion through a press release to the media. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about it immediately on their website and his local congressman reached out to him and intervened. He swears that I saved his life. He said they had already bought the ticket and he knew the seat number that he was going to fly in back to Russia.
He said, “Your press release saved my life.” I was like, “That’s going to be really hard to beat,” and that was years ago, and it is. I haven’t had anything that gives me goosebumps like that. I’ve had a lot of cool stuff happen and a lot of little anecdotes of really meaningful things, but saving someone’s life who had exhausted every legal appeal that they had and nothing happened until the press release got out there, The Wall Street Journal put it on its website, his local congressperson intervened and was able to get it resolved.
I got goosebumps hearing that story. This is why I love asking that question because sometimes it means you saved the best for last. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing so generously with us.
You’re very welcome. It was a lot of fun.
- PR Newswire
- The New Rules of Marketing & PR
- LinkedIn – Mickie Kennedy
About Mickie Kennedy
Mickie Kennedy believes that with some effort and a little money, the possibilities are endless. He is an expert at helping small businesses, authors, and startups increase their visibility and credibility. Mickie founded eReleases 22+ years ago after realizing that small businesses desperately need a press release service they can actually afford, giving them access to the media and to a national newswire – all with a personal touch.
He holds an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from George Mason University. His press releases have resulted in articles being published in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg, and many more prestigious new outlets. Mickie lives in Baltimore County with his family and two feuding cats. He enjoys British science fiction and acknowledges an unhealthy addiction to diet soda. He still writes poetry most Monday nights (virtually) with a group of fellow misfits in Brunswick, Maryland.
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