ET9- Getting Great PR as a Small Business

beardenBrittany Bearden is a PR expert. So naturally I wanted to pick her brain as to how to go about getting good press for my small business- or any business, for that matter.

I know that having a third party write nice things about my company is worth a lot more than me buying an ad to say the same thing- but how do you get it to happen in the first place?

And, what happens if the business you are in isn’t exactly the kind people are excite to chat about at cocktail parties? Can you still land press coverage and free media mentions? Yes!

Brittany has tons of good advice and tips for making the most of your PR opportunities as a small business and how to spin things your way even if you aren’t exactly TMZ gossip material.

I was glad to connect with her and the tips she gave me on LinkedIn alone were worth their weight in gold.

Show Links:

Twitter: @atlargepr


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Matt:                     On today’s episode, I am very pleased to announce that I am speaking with Britany Walters Bearden from At Large PR. She’s a small business entrepreneur herself who’s got a PR Firm and is here today to chat with us about her experiences starting her business and what PR can do for small businesses which is something I’m personally hoping to learn a lot from myself. Brittany, thanks for coming on. Can you kinda jump in and tell us how you got started and how you got to where you are today?

Brittany:                Sure. Thank you so much for having me. I got started because I was copyrighter. I’m an English Major and I didn’t really know what to do with it because I did not want to teach. Actually, I’ve become a copyrighter because my mother saw something on Good Morning America about Freelance Writing Jobs. I’ve became a copyrighter and I was writing about 70 press releases a week for different publicists and that’s a very hard treadmill to keep up of writing and constantly being on and constantly being creative. I was getting one press release per an author and I wasn’t really able to just sit down and really get into a project. I just had to write what I was able to do to get it back to the publicists to meet their deadline. When I did have a project when I was able to just really work with 1 author who was doing 60 press releases, I was able to – for example, I actually read their book and get into it more than more time coming up with angles and which takes media. It would appeal to and things like that instead of just a new book about blank. Not all of them are authors but the majority of them are authors. Then, I decided that it would be a lot easier to keep up my creativity if I was able to work with a couple of people very closely than a lot of people on a surface level. So, I decided to make the transition. Also, it was my early 20s so I had a little bit of that arrogance that comes in your early 20s where you think “Well, I can do this better.” I’m sure that a lot of businesses have been started that way when you see someone’s doing something and you think of all the things, if it were your business, how would you do it? Well, if I have all these opinions about how I’ll do that, I’ll just probably do it myself.

Matt:                     Definitely. That’s I think what drives a lot of startups as people looking around and going “You know, I think I can do this at least as well if not significantly better than the person who’s doing it right now, who’s paying me. I think I’ll give it a shot.” After having done all that, PR writing, then you kinda decided to take it to the next level and acquire your own clients? Was that how it went?

Brittany:                That was it. As far as PR strategy went, I would correct I did have a lot of good ideas and I was able to get good coverage and things like that, I just had no idea how much work my bosses were doing getting the clients and things like that. I was not prepared to be an accountant, a sales person and all of the different hats that you have to wear as an entrepreneur. That was something that I didn’t really anticipate and had to learn as I went or find people who knew what they were doing.

Matt:                     It’s definitely a challenge and something that a lot of entrepreneurs overlook. They know their part of their job really well and they kind of overlook the other pieces that go into. That’s where you find a lot of times when people say they are apprentice house painter or something and they’re going “Well, this guy is charging $5,000 to paint this house and I’m only getting $200. I could offer to paint for a $1000 and I’ll $800 more of what I have.” Totally forgetting about insurance and materials and all the other things that go into it and not realizing that there’s a lot more to it than just the total they’re getting charged and the little piece they’re getting paid.

Brittany:                Right. Like how much it costs for each lead. Like how many hours you either spend yourself or pay someone to stand on acquiring niche lead. Things like that or your Google ads campaign or your convention between the booths, the carpet, the table, the electricity that’s not included. For each lead, you spend so much money that you didn’t realize your boss was spending all this time.

Matt:                     Right. You may take 10 leads to get one actually paying client in. so, definitely can add up pretty fast. So, when you were about getting your first client, were you able to compete even though now you didn’t have the whole backing of the organization? How do you kinda go about getting your first few clients when you have these particular references or the whole background organization supporting you?

Brittany:                My first few clients – this is truthfully. It sounds horrible. I found them on Craig’s List.

Matt:                     Nothing wrong with that.

Brittany:                Yeah. That doesn’t sound great at this point but it seems logical at that time and there’s no a lot of competition for PR out there. There was a lot of competition for writing, editing and things like that. But, there wasn’t a lot of publicists out there.

Matt:                     It makes sense. In terms of, I think maybe part of that too is –I’m not sure that a lot of small business owners really understand the distinction between the variable. They know what sales is but between marketing and PR they’re probably kinda fuzzy. So, what is it that PR professional can offer specifically that’s different from what marketing is or different from just the people pitching SCO or blog writing or any of the other things?

Brittany:                So, what the PR person offers is the connections and the strategy to get you on television, radio, podcast like this one, in the newspaper, magazine and all of that. Because its published by – even if you’re writing a guest piece, writing a guest piece vs. writing a blog post, everyone knows you published your own blog post whereas an editor has to make the decision to published your guest piece or write about a profile about you. Or something like that. So, it has that 3rd party credibility which is why the statistics that they always give is that editorial is worth 3 times what advertising is. For example, I think an ad in fast companies worth $60,000 or something. If you have the same size, either written about you or written by you, it would be $180,000 as the value because there is a much higher value and most people flip through the ads.

Matt:                     Right. They got the magazine or they’re on the website for the content not because they’re shopping for apps.

Brittany:                Right. Exactly. It’s funny to – I write for Entrepreneur so I have a lot of people reach out to me on LinkedIn that they read my article or the funny thing is the times that I always send potential clients different articles just to help them understand PR because so many people are confused. Then, they’ll get back to me and say “Actually, I just realized I read this article last week when I was Googling PR and try to know what I needed to ask someone when I was interviewing for this.” So, it’s funny. Even if they don’t contact you off a bit, then you have the credibility but actually you’re the person who formed the strategy that I was using to find someone like you.

Matt:                     Yeah which is a nice way to circle back and say “Yes. I’m the expert that wrote the article. Who told you how to find me?”

Brittany:                Exactly. That’s been funny at the times that that is happening. That they haven’t directly called but because I was I guess the person who was the author of their strategy then I would instantly 20 times more credible.

Matt:                     It makes sense. There are some business that land themselves pretty easily to PR just by the nature of what they’re doing. It’s interesting. Its kinda constantly create new storylines, new headline pieces. But for a lot of mainstream business as where it’s sort of difficult to differentiate exactly what’s unique about them or they’re not too likely to come up with interesting angles on a regular basis, how do you tell them to approach PR?

Brittany:                Sometimes, it could be personal branding for the CEO and establishing the CEO as the thought leader in that space. Sometimes, it could be a local tie to their local media and establishing them strongly locally but it just can’t be something like gender-bases business announces blah blah blah. It has to have really strong local ties. For example, I work as a sales trainer from Austin and he had, during self by self-west, there’s all these people go to self by self-west and then, they think that they’re just going to get the business by going there. What he was saying was self by self-west is great but you have to have a follow up strategy or you wasted your time going. He was going around doing the interviews about how you can take self by self-west and turn that into actual business. It was a stronger local tie. Its tying in to a local story. Guest pieces, for example, are really good because you’re an expert of a lot of things. Basically, anything someone would want to read on your blog, they would want to read on someone else’s site who gets infinitely more viewers and has a newsletter list that they send out to and things like that. A lot of these publications had people subscribe to their newsletter and just getting access to people who are coming to your blog and using the example of me writing for Entrepreneur, they have roughly 8 million unique visitors per month. Even if I had the best blog in the world, there’s no way that I could get 8 million unique visitors per month to my site.

Matt:                     Right. So, you’re reaching a much bigger audience by being part of a bigger machine there than what you could personally generate.

Brittany:                Right. And then, since we’ve touched on different pieces of things, one thing that entrepreneurs really need to know is to connect a CEO person with their public relations firm and connect their social medias rather just with the firm because with the PR, they’re providing back links and things like that to your site. The SCO’s strategies may have some ideas of things that they would like to see happen to get those quality back links and then the social media person too and the webmaster is important to update your site with new stories. But sometimes, for me, if I don’t have access to a person managing their social media and I just send them a link like your interview slides something like that. I can’t guarantee that it will make to the social media person to post it. Of course, the reason I want you besides your expertise is your network. So, if you’re not posting your things on social media, it’s not as beneficial for any of the shows to have you back.

Matt:                     Yeah. Right. It’s gotta be a team effort to get the message out in sort of a synchronized way so everybody is promoting at the same time. You get the maximum exposure for each event.

Brittany:                Right.

Matt:                     Is social media also something that plays into your PR strategy? Do you help clients figure out how to create a presence and maintain it and then what to post and all that kind of stuff as part of your PR strategy?

Brittany:                It depends. I do if they do not have a social media person already. I’d like to work with them rather than stepping on their toes. Also, sometimes people are open to suggestions about that. Like I hired you to do this one thing. I’ve had people when I looked at their social media and said “Well, it’s great that you’re posting all these stuff but what’s leading back to your website?” or “it’s great that you this newsletter but you put the whole article in the newsletter instead of read more on your website. No one’s going back to your website from this.” They just are not interested. If they are open to that, ill happily give them advice. I’ll help them pick out proofs on LinkedIn, things like that depending on how involved they want me to get. I’ve had clients who loved that and I’ve had clients who just aren’t interested like do this one thing I asked you to do.

Matt:                     Everybody’s got a different set of needs. Some people are open to more. Some people are just, this is it. It’s one discrete project then you’re done. Which is fun.

Brittany:                I’m sure you’ve run into this with the accounting part of things. I think that sometimes when you make suggestions, people have invested time and money in the way that they’re currently doing it and you’re saying what you’re doing is good but you could do better if you did it this way. But they almost feel like it’s an attack on what they’ve spent their time and money on.

Matt:                     Yeah. Some people like with anything business coaching. Some people are open to suggestions and other people just kinda want to put a stake on the ground and say “No, this is the way I’m gonna do it and its good enough for me.” That’s okay too. Where do you go from here in terms of At Large PR? What are your kind of plans for you future? How do you grow? Will you use PR to grow a PR firm?

Brittany:                Yes, we do use PR to grow our PR firm. I’m talking to some conference organizers about speaking in conferences which I think would be a very big thing. One thing that’s great too is my husband is a motivational speaker so were really looking at the speaking industry because I understand it so well from working with him on his business so I’m able to provide so much unsolicited advice speakers. Be on with their paying me to do. I’m able to give them a lot of advices as far as what’s worked for my husband and what organizations and conferences are good and things like that, different sites that they can get on. I really understand it and I really understand the struggles that they go through because I love to. The other great thing about him speaking is that I’ve had to develop massive resources for pitching him. Were actually expanding to be speaking agents in the future. Right now, I’m just an agent for my husband but we now have the resources to take that and apply it to other speakers.

Matt:                     So, people could contact you or worked for you as sort of like speaker’s bureau where you’d connect venues with speakers and pitch proposals and sign people up? Okay.

Brittany:                Right. That’s the next thing which I think is going to be really big because the sales for that is you don’t pay me unless you get paid. That’s the easiest pitch ever. And there’s a lot of people too – my husband and I have talked about this a lot. There’s kind of this thing on the speaking industry where an agent isn’t willing to take you until you have gotten so far that you basically don’t need one anymore.

Matt:                     Right. Like you threw in the screen actors guild until you’ve been a successful actor but you can’t get to be a successful actor until you’re part of screen actors guild.

Brittany:                Exactly. It’s that kind of thing. As your build your speaking business, every time you speak, someone in the ideas who sees you and connects you to other things and everything. So by the time you’re qualified for an agent, your calendar is already booked because of all the speaking gigs you’ve done. We’ve talked about that and there’s a lot of new people who are really great and there’s just no one who services that segment of the industry.

Matt:                     Are these people who primarily are looking to speak as a primary revenue source rather than people who are doing speaking as a way to, as one of the legs maybe of the PR campaign? I can imagine sort of 2 different types of people, 2 different motivations to do that.

Britany:                its 2 different types of people but it’s kind of the same thing. For people who are looking to grow their business to it especially if they’re in some kind of startup or technology industry, I’ve noticed a ton of conference crying for speakers. They’re just begging for them. I don’t know if it’s that so many technology people are used to sitting behind their computer so they can’t find a lot of people who want to speak or if it’s just the technology is so big right now. I’m not quite sure what it is. But if anyone who is listening is in the technology industry and thinks that they can’t do it, there’s a lot out there and they can definitely do it.

Matt:                     That’s interesting. I actually love public speaking. It’s hard to keep me off the stage or get me to shut up. There’s not a lot of – for the business that were in, it’s probably my issue to. I haven’t spent enough time trying to research it and really promote that because there’s so many other angles to pursue. But, that’s something that I would love to do more of it if it was possible but were not in a particularly – were one of those mainstream business kind of business as a service business. We’re not specially sexy or industry. We’re not likely to be a unicorn, billion dollar Evaluation Company in the next few years so it’s a little tougher pitch for maybe for us.

Brittany:                I can email you for some unsolicited advice later.

Matt:                     Fantastic! That would be great. I think, PR Speaking is maybe out of reach of most mainstream businesses but I think there’s a lot of other aspects of PR that they could put to use. They’re just not either not aware or don’t have the time or not exposed to the idea.

Brittany:                I think a lot of problem is – you have 2 types of people. There’s the type of person who either thinks that PR is for someone not them because they’re not good enough or whatever it is, I don’t know, they need to do some affirmations or something. They think this is something for – their business isn’t big enough. They’re not smart enough. At any rate, I’m very small. I’m very young. Alright, I like to still think I’m very young. I’m 27 and I started doing on myself when I was 25 so I obviously was not – and that was my sales trainer and said “You know, there’s a lot of people who are interested in PR. why don’t you do PR on yourself?” and I said “Doesn’t it PR on PR redundant?” and he said “No! I wish I had some real resources when I was looking for your services to determine how to find you.” So, I was 25. It wasn’t like I had years of experience or anything like that. It’s really a lot of the time just the matter of putting yourself out there and asking and having the right hook. Just an example of the right hook would be, I have a client who is a celebrity florist. There’s maybe only 18 big floral publications. So I thought “Okay. What should you do with that?” then, you have the whole wedding industry but all the hooks for that should be related to flowers for your wedding. Then you have domestic lifestyle which has things like ladies home journals and all of that. The pitch for that is more about flowers for your home. Then, there’s affluent lifestyle which is more of the high-end like the Palm Beach luxury type publications and the airlines first-class magazines. That’s more about doing flowers for some grand event or grand home or something like that. In domestic lifestyle, your hook would be like flowers on a budget and then affluent lifestyle, your hook would be more like lavish flowers or something like that. You just really have to think about who you’re approaching and approach them with the story that you could see in their publication. Just put yourself out there and ask and the other key thing is to ask a decision maker. Ask the editors and the producers not the reporter because they are usually still going have to go to their boss and ask for permission.

Matt:                     That makes sense. I think that’s a theme that I heard a lot in the entrepreneur world. I’m an advocate too. Nothing happens until you go out and make the effort. You may have to ask a bunch of times. You may get some No’s and some “No thank you!” and some “Get out of there, Kid!” but sooner or later you’re gonna get some Yes and that’s where you start to build your foundation. As long as you’re doing it right and you’re learning from your rejections, you’re gonna keep making progress unless as you keep putting yourself out there but nothing is gonna happen if you don’t put yourself out there.

Brittany:                Exactly! Sometimes, I have to be reminded of that. When my husband was starting his speaking business, I was talking to the sales trainer again and she said “Well, you’re doing PR on Jeff, right?” I said, “Absolutely! I have this whole plan month by month, everything else.” Then, he said “Well, why haven’t you done anything yet? I suppose, “ Website is not done. I’m waiting for the website to be done.” He said, “if you’re always waiting for something to be done, nothing is ever going to happen because the website is not going to be done until you have induced tabs on it.” it will all contradict and you can’t have anything for the news tab until the website is done. So, he said “Just try and do it.” so, I though okay we’ll see how this goes. Then, he got on a bunch of television shoes and great publications and he only had a couple really small speaking engagements and his website wasn’t done. So, it’s really just putting yourself out there. Though, there’s the other kind of person who thinks that they don’t have the time to do it which is another kind of personality that you kind of have to say “Okay.” But the good thing about for example doing a podcast, because they’ll say “I want to do a national drive time radio show.” I’m like “Okay. I can do that.” But you’re missing out if you’re saying you don’t want to do a podcast because the people who are listening to a podcast are listening more closely than someone just flipping through the stations because they went of their way to listen to this.

Matt:                     Right. I think all exposures are good. It’ll can build and lead to other things. You may only have that one key person that happens to be listening that turns you on to some huge contract or some huge deal. Who know? Everything comes down to individuals regardless. Even if you got a millions listeners or you got 10 listeners, if you got the one right listener it doesn’t really matter how big or small your audience was.

Brittany:                Right. So, the national drive time radio show sounds a lot better on your Bio and on your news tab and things like that but the small podcast has a lot more engagement so it kind of depends on what you’re trying to do.

Matt:                     Awesome! Well, I wish we have another half hour or more. We could probably keep going and going.

Brittany:                Probably.

Matt:                     But in the interest of wrapping things up, let me ask you this. For people who are interested in putting together a PR strategy or getting in touch with you for some consulting or help, what’s the best way for them to reach you and to get in touch?

Brittany:                The best way for them to reach me is either through LinkedIn. I accept almost everyone unless they send me a really weird message. I can’t say everyone but for the most part I accept everyone and I offer a free 30-minute consultation to the people who connect with me on LinkedIn.

Matt:                     Excellent! Well, that sounds like a really terrific deal and I really appreciate you’re taking the time enlightening us on what PR can do on businesses particularly on small business and sharing your expertise with us. I definitely appreciate your participation here today. Thank you!

Brittany:                Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

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