Catch Mickie Kennedy on the #PirateBroadcast™ - russjohns

Catch Mickie Kennedy on the #PirateBroadcast™

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Introduction: [00:00:00] Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast™, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.

Russ Johns: [00:00:10] What a great day for a #PirateBroadcast™. Thank you so much for being here. And I want to introduce you to Mickie. He has been doing PR for over 20 years and has been a master and a motivator and #inspiration to a lot of people in business about getting their word out, getting their marketing put together and actually get some notoriety in the business. Mickie, good morning. How are you doing?

Mickey Kennedy: [00:00:39] Good morning. I'm great. Great to be here.

Russ Johns: [00:00:42] Yeah, thank you so much for showing up today. I really appreciate it. And for those that don't know you or haven't met you, or haven't connected yet, give us a little snapshot about what you're working on and your backstory about how you got into PR and this eReleases thing because it's a big deal. And a lot of people need to know about it.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:01:00] So about 25 years ago, I was working in a telecom startup and I did a lot of things. One of the things I did was send out press releases and we used a broadcast fax machine and we had just gotten a new one that could hold a hundred numbers, which was like really great. And unfortunately we had 180, 190 journalists we had to fax. So I would program the machine with a hundred numbers, hit send, it would take almost all day to send to a hundred people. And then the next day I had to delete those and put about 80 or 90 more into the machine. It was frustrating, but I started getting calls from journalists saying we received your fax release, could you email it to us? Cause we can copy and paste the statistics and numbers in it much easier that way. A light bulb went off and I was like, email it's so much easier than faxing and it seemed like that would be a great way to communicate with journalists. So I spent about a year reaching out to journalists and asking if they would be in my database and I'd send them press releases. And they all said, yes. I think I had one or two said no, but I started with like 10,000 journalists in the database and that's just grown over the years. As time went on, PR Newswire, which is a Newswire press releases approached me and said, hey, we'd like you to move your releases through us. And I was like, that would be great, but you guys charge a thousand dollars to move a release nationally. And so we went back and forth.  Learned a little bit about them and I noticed that they have an overnight staff that doesn't do much. They're there for breaking news, but there's not always breaking news overnight, but they're paying someone to just be there. And I said how about if I schedule our releases for next day and you guys can set them up overnight and it doesn't cost you any additional labor. And so we worked back and forth until we found a win-win solution. All of our releases now come with a custom national distribution of a PR Newswire and we're nowhere near a thousand dollars a press release. It starts as a little as $200 with a new customer discount up to five or $600.

Russ Johns: [00:02:56] Oh, that's fantastic. That's fantastic. And you're now a pirate.  I love the hat and I love the way that you come across in your public relations and PR and notifications, people forget that a press release is still an impactful way of communicating. It's not just social media. It's, mail, letters, press releases, all of these things that go into it. And we were talking before the show about some of the ways that we can promote our business. And maybe you can speak to that about how you actually promote your own business. Beyond press releases.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:03:35] Yeah. So I predominantly get about a third of our customers from word of mouth. Just happens organically. People tell other people about it that you should try it out. We'd get another third through Google search advertising and some remarketing that we do on Google. And I'd say the rest are through we have an affiliate program and that's pretty much it. I've dabbled in the past with Facebook and it didn't work out. But that's pretty much it. I do a lot of email marketing directly to my customers with promotions, specials, bundles, and stuff like that. I do that four times a year. I don't want to be like a pest for sending them too much, but it works really well. And our customers recognize the value they get in having both the email of their press release as well as that Newswire distribution of PR Newswire and just to speak to the value of that we had last year, a company that did a press release on a dining bond initiative. It was a way in which you could help your local restaurants that are closed down during the pandemic by basically buying a gift certificate at 50% off. And it used the war bonds analogy, and they called it dining bonds. And they got over 150 media pickups and it went international, and they started growing and getting international restaurants included in there, but they got picked up in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, a huge amount of coverage that you just couldn't get anywhere else. The paid advertising of that would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for what they got. It was also at a time where the media was very receptive to positive news and people trying to solve this difficult situation and problem that we're in. Yeah press releases can work really effective if you have the right messaging and that's one of the things that I'm trying to educate my customers about is to maybe not do that press release on a new hire, but come up with something that's a little more strategic and you have a much higher likelihood of getting some media pickup, actual articles written about you.

Russ Johns: [00:05:29] Yeah, that's a great point. And to dig into it a little deeper, what strategy can a business owner think about, what do they need to consider when they're building a PR press release or constructing a press release and a strategy around press release, cause there's some considerations that many of us not know about or think about as we're constructing these things cause it's unique. And there's a lot of skill that goes into it. Your experience, your years of experience, you practice a lot, you see what works, you know what doesn't work. Talk a little bit about the construction of a press release and what needs to go into it and how it needs to help the journalists pick up a story quickly and easily and make an impact.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:06:13] My first book that I wrote was about just writing a press release because I felt like that's really important. I now believe it much less important than I originally thought. You want to have a well-written press release, but it's not that difficult to write a well-written press release. You can actually type in press release sample or press release template into Google and you can see how a release is pretty much written, but just be aware that the most important element is the headline, because when it's on the Newswire, it gets syndicated by headline and the journalist clicks through to it. Some of my clients will create a New York Post style pun, press headline. And those don't work well because journalists don't play the game of, oh, that's intriguing, let me click on it and see if it's relevant for my industry or what I cover. They just want to see the facts and drill down. And because of that, a press release is written in a very objective style. Usually in the third person, if you have something that you want to put in the first person, you usually use an industry quote by yourself or someone at the company. And you want to make that really compelling because the journalist at the end of the day will just paraphrase that and take it out of quotes if it's not said interesting. So spend a little bit more time on your quote and if you can make it really intriguing or irresistible or something like that, that works really well. The most important elements in the first paragraph. And then, just additional background information in the subsequent paragraphs. And usually there's an about section also called a boiler plate that appears at the end. And you recycle that. It's usually the same across all the releases about company X and a little bit about them. And you want to make sure that you include relevant links. If you're talking about a product, a link to the product page would be great. So the journalists could click and learn more information about that. And of course a photo and or logo is really useful. A lot of people are putting their content online, even local newspapers. So having those images is really good because a lot of them will use it because they know that their readers are getting visually stimulated and so that they find interesting photos captivating and it helps the readers as well. And that's pretty much it. You want it to be grammatically correct. You don't want to make any obvious errors. It used to be that you had to have strict adherence to AP style and the Newswire doesn't really care anymore. If you send up a release that's not an AP style anymore, there's very little they correct. Usually the date line they do to keep it consistent. I think that's more for organizational things, but a lot of the other things like title, case of the headline and stuff like that, they're much less interested in these days. And I think that's probably good because I think a lot of small businesses shouldn't be tripped up because they made a simple mistake that didn't fit the style and stuff like that. We are living in a culture where people are using shorthand and we had a president who constantly didn't use spell check on his tweets and stuff like that, and the message still got across. And I think that PR is a great almost democracy of availability and exposure to the media because the small businesses stand often as much of a chance. And in some cases, a better chance of getting media pickup than a large well-funded company. Large well-funded companies generally are not that groundbreaking outside of technology. And the people who make our household products, a lot of them are just making good products, cheaply. And you know that in itself, isn't very newsworthy, but if you have a startup or a small business, that's doing something a little bit different. That's an opportunity for the media to say, hey, I think my readers would find this new company interesting. And what they're doing is interesting because of that.

Russ Johns: [00:09:40] So make it interesting is a theme that can be used on something that is strategically valuable to the market. I would think it sounds like what a good direction to think about.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:09:55] Yeah. I always say that it's good to put yourself in the position of the journalist and their job is not to promote you. Their job is just to put content in front of their readers that their readers will like. And so a lot of people look at this press release and say, this is really important to us. So therefore we want to get media coverage for it. I'm like read it and say, Are there are the elements in here of interest to potential readers. If it's a little weak in that respect, what can you do to pump that up? What can you do to get in there? And they call it PR people, spin doctors for reason. What can I spend and shift a little bit in that press release  to make it perhaps a little more appetizing to readers.

Russ Johns: [00:10:36] Yeah. Make it palatable as possible.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:10:39] Right. Yeah. Going back a little bit to the importance of writing and how I feel that's less important. I think that the important thing now is what you're writing about and it took me several years to get away from it enough that I could understand what that is. And it's just the strategy of determining what you're going to announce. And so many people will come and they've already picked out what it is. They're like, I'm going to write about this new version of our software release and while that's great, that may not strategically be the most important thing you could be announcing. And I recently put together a master class of PR strategies that worked for my clients and work time and time again. And some of the elements in there are like surveys and studies.

Russ Johns: [00:11:25] It just so happens. I just put it right down here below.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:11:27] Thank you. Yeah, and It, it goes through like studies and surveys. The media loves the numbers. And so that's one of the strategies. And if you have you could put together a survey yourself just using survey monkey or Google forms or something like that, and send it to say your customers, your leads. Generally, if there's a hundred or more respondents, the media is pretty accepting of those types of surveys. If you feel like you can't reach enough people, you can always partner with a small trade association in your industry. They love attention, and they love to be mentioned in a press release. So if you say I'm sending out a release nationally through PR Newswire and I'm going to be promoting my survey. I'd love for you to send us to your members and they may want to be co-branded in it. They may just want to be mentioned in the press release of which you're gladly willing to do, because all they're doing is sending out the link probably on social media and email to their members. And it also gives you a bit of credibility, aligning yourself with a small trade association, and that's not much work. The survey monkey software puts together the analysis. Of the respondents and stuff like that. The one thing I do say is always throw in two or three quirky little questions and you really have to put your head on and think about it. Obviously a pirate hat would be great. And think about what could I say that people would find quirky or interesting. And sometimes they're open-ended questions like one auto repair survey that went out said, what's the strangest thing you ever found in a customer's car. And it's just an empty field. And the articles that got written was strangest things found in people's cars from getting repaired and it was like a boa constrictor, grandma in an urn, things like that. And the media, people readers like that kind of stuff. So that's easyto make the survey a lot more interesting. The people who look at the average questions will appreciate it, but a lot more people are gonna know about it because of those quirky little questions that got answered. And that's just one way in which any business in any industry, no matter how non newsworthy you think you are, you can create your own news by doing a survey or study like that. Other things that work well are looking for blind spots in your industry. We had a local carpet company in New Jersey that wanted to do a PR campaign. And I was trying to tell them no, I said, I really think that you're not going to get media attention, being a local carpet company to Jersey. We went through, do you make your own products? There was nothing that they were doing that really stood out as being very unique and it wasn't right. After five months of sending out press releases and nothing happening we were talking and  I asked them who their enemy was and they said it was the big box home improvement stores. And I didn't think of that. I always thinking it was probably another carpet company in the area. And they went through this, rant about how bad they are, that the padding they use is terrible and the carpets are of mediocre quality, but the padding is really bad and they just use pickup contractors. It's never the same people, they cycle in and out. You really don't know who's going into your house. And they're not, you don't know what the quality of installation is. And their business model was to try to come in 2 to 3% less than what they thought Home Depot and Lowe's was going to charge. And they did a release about marketing against the big box home improvement stores. And it was like a David and Goliath type press release. And they got picked up in almost every floor trade publication. We didn't realize there was that many out there, but there was like 10 publications that pick them up and they were excited. They said, we are getting so much positive feedback from our readers who love this. And so they were actually offered a column to talk about marketing and they ended up not doing it because they're not really producing their content. It would be like us having to pay us each month to do a column. But what they did was they put together a binder of all these clippings. That included their local newspaper. Cause they got picked up over time and they continued to get picked up in the trade publications when they talked about marketing. And when they go give a quote, instead of coming in, a couple of percent below what they think, the big box stores, they would strategically say, we're gonna come in 10% higher, but we're going to say, we're going to be a little bit higher, but we use superior padding and here we've been recognized across the country by all these floor and trade publications. And they just let the house owner go through and look at it. And they're really impressed. And they're just like, no one else. That's coming here to give us a quote is going to have, this experience and this kind of media attention. I'm willing to pay a little bit more. So they started closing. And converting more customers at a higher price point. So that was really beneficial and a great way in which they were able to use that media coverage because sometimes when you get picked up at a newspaper, your customers will click through and buy. None of their customers read the floor trade publications. So how could they use that media coverage to reach them? And it was putting together what they call that big brag book.

Russ Johns: [00:16:29] Yeah, the humble brag. And I want to give a shout out to Mike Baker and a few pirates in the room. Good morning, Russ and Mickie. Hiett Ives from Houston. Good morning, fellow pirates. It's Good Friday. Be blessed. Absolutely. Jesse says hello and Happy Easter. Thanks for being here. Darleen, hello, fellow pirates pirate family. Howard asks a great question. Any advice on best PR services, for small emerging brand. Well, talk to Mickie.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:17:03] Yeah. I would just say that we're the only service out there offering a custom national distribution over a major Newswire like PR Newswire and anywhere near our pricing. There are some people that partner with PR news wire, but it's a web only distribution and it's not a national distribution that's actually reaching the media and in the space of press releases, there are a lot of people whose only focus is to syndicate. And that's where your press release appears on a few minor websites, but it's duplicate content. Those websites generally don't have a lot of traffic or the pages that these appear on don't have a lot of traffic.

Russ Johns: [00:17:40] I think Howard in particular, I could see an amazing press release going out for Howard's product. He does a very healthy mouthwash, toothpaste and a product line that is not chemically induced and unhealthy, it doesn't have the warning label on it and he's doing a great job. I use it every day and I love it. I love his product and I just think it would be great, like you mentioned, a David and Goliath press release would be really amazing  to develop.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:18:09] And people are being a lot more concerned about stuff like that, what they're putting in their body, what products they're using, there's definitely a move and a shift towards using stuff that's either natural or sustainable or hopefully both. And everything from household cleaners to detergents are slowly being transformed. And even the mainstream people are beginning to acknowledge that and make changes to their product lines. Yeah, I think the timing is ripe for a product like that to get some media attention.

Russ Johns: [00:18:40] There's so many of the things when you're not thinking about it, you're not in the industry. You're not thinking about how to position this stuff because you're really positioning a press release to help the journalist provide quality content to their audience. So you have to be developing it to that message and that intent. So there's a lot of things that you need to think outside the box. So do you help clients and people that are creating and generating their own press releases like a small business like Howard or myself or anybody that's on #PirateSyndicate™ or #PirateBroadcast™.

Mickey Kennedy: [00:19:21] We offer writing services, so we can help you compose it. We also have no salespeople. So when you call or chat, you're speaking to an editor. And if you want them to look at your press release and make suggestions they may not get to you until the next day, but they can do that. They can look at your release, make some suggestions. They're also available to talk. If you want to talk strategy or whatever it is that you're working on. So yeah,  we help a lot of small businesses do their first releases and we're used to holding people's hands and walking them through the process.

Russ Johns: [00:19:51] Darleen says, this is really informative. And it says, morning, Russ and Mickie. Pirates in hats, welcome Mickie. Ahoy. Darren says, good morning, Russ and fellow pirates. We got a great community here and I just love this interaction. I love sharing and highlighting people like yourself, Mickie, because this is what makes things move. There's a lot of things that we can do every day. And there's a lot of activity that we can build momentum in. However, If nobody hears you or nobody knows about your business, it's really difficult to continue to grow and expand. So public relations is key. Marketing is key and it's not just one and done kind of activity. So what kind of frequency, public relations you have to think about compelling stories, strategic, and I can't imagine that somebody would want a press release that frequently, yet there's probably a standard practice or a best practice that we can follow or think about. What are your suggestions?

Mickey Kennedy: [00:20:59] I say, try to stretch yourself and do a release every other month, or at least once a quarter. That way you're staying relevant. You're being in the circulation of the media and journalists and the more they see your name or come across you, the more likelihood when you have something strong and relevant form there, they're going to pick it up.

And I always say that. Startups and people that are fast growing have the potential to be doing releases much more often. We work with probably about a third of the people that appear on Shark Tank and they tend to be able to do a lot more releases because they're usually doing lots of different projects. They might be aligning themselves with a new vendor. They might be getting a partnership where it's available, like in Bed, Bath and Beyond. And so there's a lot more things going on with them. And they tend to have a strong understanding of what they're doing. That's a little bit different than everybody else. And so that makes it a little bit easier for them to get that newsworthy title when they're putting together or considering doing releases.

Russ Johns: [00:21:56] That makes a lot of sense. Darren says, as a retired cop, I always need help with a crayon to print conversion process. I love that. Kelly says hi from New York. Kelly's an awesome individual that's introduced me to a lot of amazing people. Which news outlets redistribute press releases from your platform. Can you give an example of some of them?

Mickey Kennedy: [00:22:21] So when you issue through PR news wire, there is up to a hundred websites that will syndicate it and put it on their website. They're not really very major. Yahoo finances there. We have some reports on our website. I think it's, but I would just caution you that's really not the goal of press releases because even if it appeared on 300 websites, you're not going to get any real traffic from it. And the only thing you can possibly do is put as seen on somewhere with a few logos of an ABC affiliate in Arkansas that no one knows. And so that's that the real goal is to get actual media coverage. And, for some people it doesn't happen. So having that syndicated report is good, but for when it does you're talking about, maybe you're getting a mentioned in an article in Huffington post, maybe getting an article and let's say New York times and a couple of other articles, and those are unique articles. They took the press release and they turned it into original content. And when you get traffic from that, The customer is more likely to buy because it's an article, not a duplication of your press release. It's not an ad. And so my customers find when they do get traffic from earned media pickup they're getting more conversions and the customers turn out to be more loyal with a higher lifetime value. There was an implied endorsement that happens when an organization writes about you, you get that credibility and that comes across. When people link to you, there's also the SEO benefit that you get when these sites link to you and you also get an SEO benefit when they don't link to you. A lot of SEO people have known for years that we get to pick up in the New York Times and they don't link to you, your SEO still slightly improves. And a patent came out years ago that Google did and it basically Google says we can contextually tell who this article is about, and if it's about you, we're going to give you the credit as if there was a link, even though there isn't one.

Russ Johns: [00:24:17] Wow, that's interesting as well. All of these things are fascinating, Mickie. I really appreciate you stopping by and becoming a pirate. And you're always welcome back and we'll continue to talk and have conversation around this amazing subject. And if you want to connect with Mickie what's a good way for people to connect with you, Mickie that you appreciate and enjoy,

Mickey Kennedy: [00:24:38] if you go to, I have all my social in the lower, you can connect there. LinkedIn's a great place to connect to me, cause I do tend to be a little more responsive there. And again if you don't know anything about PR, the greatest thing I would suggest is to learn strategy. So at that Masterclass I have, is highly recommended. It's less than an hour and I guarantee that you'll know more than 90% of the PR firms out there about press releases. Because I tell you, I get some of the weakest press releases from PR firms. And I don't know if that's because the press release has to be approved through committee or what, but it is disappointing that some of the most non-strategic press releases come from people who really should know about it.

Russ Johns: [00:25:22] Yeah. It's interesting. My experience with journalism has always been in help a reporter out, which is slightly different model, I think. It's not the same. You're putting an article out there that might help somebody out, but it's not necessarily a press release. And I know there's a lot of different ways that we can get information out there. And it sounds like press releases are a great way for businesses  announce special events and activities that are transformational in their business. That might be interesting to other people as well. So it's fantastic to learn more about that. Any last words of wisdom or anything that you want to leave with us today, Mickie?

Mickey Kennedy: [00:26:07] Big thing is just to tell people that if you are going to try press releases or PR to try to commit to a proper campaign of six or more releases. It's disappointing to be judged by people who say I did one release and it didn't do anything. And then I look at the release that they did and it wasn't strategic. And I'm just like, if you had done several strategic releases, I guarantee you would have gotten media pickup of some sort. And it could have, it can be transformative for our company. It's not unusual for people to get really strong sales and have a real big boost as a result of a PR campaign that they do. And it's always exciting to see small businesses who otherwise couldn't afford the advertising and marketing that could be generated through that to really get some success and get some wind in their sails.

Russ Johns: [00:26:55] That's fantastic. Oh I appreciate you being here, Mickie and as always, pirates connect, introduce yourselves. Let us make you know that you're a pirate too, and make sure that you have an opportunity to have a conversation. Cause you're only one conversation away from doing something amazing. So #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree and we want you to #enjoyyourday. Thanks everyone. Be well.

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