The BOLD Show | Episode 13 | What is PR?
Understanding PR and getting media exposure for your business can be tricky—but our panelists in this episode of the BOLD Show will share their tips with host Mike Arce on what PR is, how the best businesses in the world are using it and what you can start doing today to boost your own PR strategy.
[00:00:00] [Mike Arce] In this episode, I'm here with KK Hart, Joy Keller, and Alex Nicholas—three amazing professionals that have developed expertise in the PR game.
[We are] at the 2017 MINDBODY BOLD Conference. They participated in a great panel discussion and we're going to share a lot of what they discussed in that panel with you guys in this episode.
[00:00:20] It was just too good to leave it at the conference. So we lined up some incredible questions that are going to help you guys really understand what PR is, why the best in the world are using it, and what are some strategies that you can start doing today to be able to boost your PR level.
[00:00:38] Growing a small business isn't easy, and to be successful, we know three things for sure: You have to work hard. You have to be bold. And you must constantly learn.
[00:00:48] We're gathering some of the best minds in the business world to share their ideas and strategies with you, so you can grow your business easier, be more profitable, and have a lot more fun being a business owner. We’re on a mission to connect the world of wellness. And this is the MINDBODY BOLD Show.
[00:01:14] [Mike Arce] Welcome to the BOLD Show. Are you guys ready be bold?
All right, awesome. So I got some great questions. First of all, just to kick things off for anybody that is a little bit cloudy on the definition, describe your PR. What is PR in its truest definition?
[00:01:28] [Joy Keller] To me, PR is the original social media. It’s what runs the world, and any business owner has to have PR to get the word out. Otherwise, why does a business exist?
[00:01:38] [Mike Arce] Give me some examples of PR.
[00:01:39] [KK Hart] Well, I like to believe, as a local business owner and as a MINDBODY coach, a lot of this is about local and national PR. If you're listening to this podcast, and maybe you own a small business in a local town, it may not be that you need to pitch a large entity or a national entity. But instead, hone in your local calendars for the weekly magazines and the weekly newspapers. Bloggers, people who are influential in your hometown. There's something called the micro-influencer that's come out. And so understanding the people in your local market who are out there and sharing the word—that’s the PR that's really pertinent to you.
[00:02:17] [Mike Arce] OK. And Alex, you did a great job with PR as well. So why don't you tell me a little bit about some of the PR strategies that you've used, that you thought really help your business, and in particular, the ones that you just started with. Right? Before you were as experienced as you are today.
[00:02:30] [Alex Nicholas] Yeah, absolutely. So I retain an unconventional approach to PR. I really didn't have much luck at all with your standard press release and the cookie-cutter way it goes out. Back in 2012, we founded EPIC Hybrid Training, it just wasn't working for us. So I started to get creative. And for our biggest PR [initiative] that we had at the time, [I found] an assistant producer at the Today Show, and I tracked down an email. I knew they lived in the area. I got them to take a class. They loved it. You know, in a one-week period, we had 10 members in my first month and all of a sudden, we have a national spot on the Today Show. And honestly, the steam and the butterfly effect from there was just astounding. We really got it out there and blew up from there.
[00:03:17] [Mike Arce] A lot of people have a hard time really understanding the difference between PR and advertising. So when we run PR campaigns what's the ultimate goal? What do we want people to feel or think about our brand when we're executing PR strategies? Because advertising isn't so much about a feeling, is it?
[00:03:31] [KK Hart] Yeah, I talk a lot about this as a business coach. PR is your own way to own your voice and your brand. It's the only media that we can do that with. In the world of online reviews and hearing what people say about your business, this is the one time you can promote what you want to promote and own your message.
[00:03:49] [Mike Arce] And you guys all know Bill Gates. I think everyone pretty much knows Bill Gates—pretty rich and I think he’s doing well. He has, obviously, a lot of opportunity to do any type of advertising, any type of PR that he wants. But he's got a very famous phrase that I know PR professionals love, which is: If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.
[00:04:07] So why do you think the top of the top think that way?
[00:04:11] [Alex Nicholas] Let’s strip it down to what we were just talking about with PR. It’s public relations. It's how you relate with the public. Period. Any which way you can possibly do so.
[00:04:19] It’s so important that you are playing to your strengths. If your strengths are social media, so be it. Go after it that way. If your strengths are traditional PR and you have success with that, you should be going about it that way.
[00:04:28] Back to that question, it's so important. Because if you're not attracting the public, what do you have? Right? You don't have a membership base. You don't have anybody acknowledging that you're even an establishment or a business.
[00:04:41] So, you know, that's why I think that quote is so important, and [it] comes from such an important person.
[00:04:48] [Mike Arce] I want you guys, for a second, imagine that you just started a small service-based business, right from scratch. Zero funds.
[00:04:54] Right? And whatever funds you have, that's enough to do maybe one thing in PR. OK? And let's call it a fitness studio. But make it so that it can work for some other [business], massage and stuff like that as well. Right? So I say, “Hey look, you can grow your business. But you can only do it through PR. You can't run Facebook ads and stuff like that, like offers. So you could only do PR. And I want you to pick one thing that you guys can use to compete against each other. For you guys to have a more successful business by the end of the year. So what would be the PR strategy that you’d start with?
[00:05:26] [KK Hart] Well, I'll go back to being a business coach again. I'm all about doing things that help you with the return on effort. So I'm going to tell you something that's free-ninety-nine. Absolutely free. OK. Free-ninety-nine. And that is: “help a reporter out dot com, or dot net.” It's an amazing resource because you don't have to come up with a story idea. You are going to find PR professionals, writers, large national entities, and local entities that are looking for stories that you can choose that are relevant. So you can make that inroad, by making sure the story is already out there. You're just providing yourself as the expert and it takes very little effort to do. You can sign up for emails. They come multiple times in a day. You can have an assistant or an intern sort through them, look for certain keywords that are relevant to your business—yoga, martial arts, salon, spa. And then discern: Do I have something that's discernible? Something that's important, that's actionable, that I can do to help this PR professional get their story out there. And of course, the intended benefit is also for your business.
[00:06:26] [Mike Arce] So now, the [people] like you, [who are the best] in PR, what you do. You don't just say, “OK, this is the strategy. I’m going to get in this magazine and that's it.” You know how to get more activity from that one effort—how to leverage that one piece of content in multiple ways. So let’s say I got in a really great magazine. How can I use that feature in order to attract more people? Where else can I show people that I've been featured here?
[00:06:50] [Alex Nicholas] Well, I think it's important that you take that media and you blast it out. Via social media, email blast, everything possible—it's a copycat culture in the media. And you know, if it's an interesting story, somebody else is going want to do a follow up or they might want to do a similar story. It's so important to get that message out to the public. You say, “Hey, this is what we're about.” We just got national media, even if it's local. Let everybody know about it. You never know who's going to come back with a follow-up question, or a journalist that's excited about that story and is going to build off of it.
[00:07:19] [Mike Arce] You know, one of my good friends has this awesome strategy that works great. He will actually get featured, or he'll get somebody featured, and then he’ll run ads to people that work at other competing magazines. And that works incredibly well. He actually gets compliments from them. So just remember, guys, you can put these features in front of other people that you may want to get featured in. [Now, when you] reach out to them, the similarity that exists and it's not so much of a cold pitch. Because how many cold pitches do these publicists get on a daily basis? How many emails do they get from people saying, “Hey, I've got a great story for you to pitch.”
[00:07:52] [KK Hart] Way too many.
[00:07:54] [Mike Arce] Yes. So how do you stand out? How does your email or your phone call or whatever else you use—how do you stand out from the others? What do you guys do to reach out and connect with journalists?
[00:08:03] [KK Hart] Well, I'll give you my own best practice. I'm a local business owner and I'm a PR personality, and of course, I also help people do this. Email marketing, just that basic concept, is one of the best things that you can use to pitch a PR professional. For instance, sometimes your pitch doesn't even make it to the open. So you've got to make sure that you're most relevant, interesting, soundbite, content, and story idea is in your subject headline. That's going to help you to get someone to open the email, to find the relevance in your story, and how they can use it. That's the very first step.
[00:08:35] [Mike Arce] Can any of you guys give me a good example of a really good headline, like a subject line? Anything you can think of, for anything that you've done in the past maybe?
[00:08:42] [KK Hart] I can tell you how I create one. I often watch the media that I want to be on. I create sound bites based on what they are using, as they're “coming up next.” And that gets their attention because I'm speaking in their language.
[00:08:54][11.7] [Mike Arce] Got it. OK.
[00:08:54] [Alex Nicholas] I'm a big big believer in: Get creative. You know, get crazy, basically. Get unconventional and get crazy. So if a journalist is communicating via Twitter a lot. Get on their Twitter feed. Maybe they're big on email, use an email. Find the way that they are communicating most with the general public. If it's Instagram, if it's social media, if it's something else.
[00:09:19] If they have a phone number that's listed, call them. Don't be afraid. I think so many people just don't have the confidence to be unconventional in the way that they reach the media and journalists. And don't be afraid if you get shot down. It's OK. Come up with a new pitch. Come up with a new idea. But the three things that every studio owner, or fitness professional, or any professional should have are an interesting story, something that's relevant, and a creative pitch.
[00:09:43] [Mike Arce] I want to dig into that for a minute. The person that's watching says, “OK, I would start this PR stuff. I've never done it before.” So you start and send 10 attempts, 10 emails. How many failures is OK for him to be like, this is normal?
[00:09:55] [Alex Nicholas] Out of 10? Sometimes it's 10.
[00:09:59][3.7] [Mike Arce] And then you just keep going.
[00:10:00] [Alex Nicholas] And then, if you get zero [responses], you just keep going. But start trying other ways, too. Maybe email is not your thing. I'm not great at writing emails, but I'm pretty good at writing social media [and directing] blasts at [individual] people and journalists and getting their attention. I say, “Hey, I read your article. I thought it was awesome. You know, our studio is featuring this.” So, you're giving the journalist some props. Right? They're pumped about that. And then, all of a sudden, you're giving them more to the story, that they're already interested in, because they already wrote an article about it. And now they can write a follow up article. Then they're excited. They're getting feedback that they did something right.
[00:10:35] [Mike Arce] That's awesome.
[Joy Keller] And it does work. I like to use the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid. Yeah, just keep it simple.
[00:10:43] [Mike Arce] OK, so I have a question for you, Joy. Let’s say, once you get this relationship done. They say, “Yeah, let’s go ahead. We’d love to run your story.” Would you start pitching follow-up stories right then and there? Or would you wait for it to release? How would you nurture that relationship to be able to keep getting more opportunities with that one journalist?
[00:11:01] [Joy Keller] I would ask them if they're open to hearing more pitches immediately. If I had additional ideas that were natural segues to the original [story], I would probably pitch in threes. But I wouldn't pitch more than three [ideas].
[00:11:14] [Mike Arce] Now, you say 10 out of 10 failures can be normal. And you have to keep pushing through. Obviously, as you start becoming more familiar to a lot of these journalists, you get less failures because they know you, they trust you a little bit more. Maybe they’ve worked with you in the past or they’ve seen your work in the past. So, eventually, you get there. But some people quit early, and sometimes they even feel like they’ve been burnt by a PR experience. Whether they hired a company or they want to do it themselves, and they went 0 for 10. So how do they know when it's time to start up again?
[00:11:41] [KK Hart] I'll tell you, as a business coach, it goes back to return on investment and return on effort. It may be that you have to think first about your goals. Is getting your brand out there the best thing for you? Define what “out there” means. Is that your local community? Is it a national reach? So it's almost going back to the basics to really understand, you know, what's going to get me the biggest thing from my buck? Because I'm a local business owner and I know how that is. Every dollar matters. and so that dollar needs to work for you like Bill Gates, 20-fold. And so thinking about the strategy that you have, first, is really deciding that answer to that question: Is it time now? Is that going to reach my goals? Or is it just the feel good? And understanding what each of those will mean for your business.
[00:12:22] [Mike Arce] And when you have a business, that we do everything for everybody, right? That may actually be the case. But when pitching PR, is it easier to have a focus? Whether it's on, “Hey! For new moms.” Or for pregnant women, or for dads on Father's Day. Or do you guys recommend getting a focus for your PR pitches? Or do you recommend just saying what you normally say every time you open your door?
[00:12:44] [Alex Nicholas] Relevance is key. Relevance and focus are key. You really need to have a concise message. Hopefully, it has something to do with what's going on with that media outlet and what they're covering. And it also has to be relevant for what you're pitching. So it's hand in hand. Both things have to happen at the same time. That will give you the best chance at being successful with media.
[00:13:07] [Mike Arce] So I'm going to ask all of you the same question. And I'll start with you, Alex. With all the stuff that you guys have done for yourself, or for clients, or even just friends you've seen who do stuff right, what's been the most powerful PR strategy that you've executed or you’ve seen executed? And you go, man, that was pretty cool and it works really well.
[00:13:28] [Alex Nicholas] Something that we have done: I challenge all of my coaches and employees. They are branding themselves all the time via social media. How do I get them to be cognizant of our studio? So it's a double pitch. And it's like, all right, let's make it a game now. A lot of people don't like to do PR and they don't like the whole media or social media. Well, make it fun. Make it a game. Provide some incentives. If one of your coaches or one of your employees loves it, let them run with it. Tell them to write a pitch. Tell them, “You read that magazine?” Great. Let's [create a] hashtag [about] what we're looking to feature and hit up that journalist. So, you get everybody involved.
[00:14:08] [Mike Arce] That's pretty cool. The more they do it, the better they get at it. And when they win, it's exciting and they keep doing it. Also, when they win, it probably gets the other employees feeling that, OK, this can be done.
[Alex Nicholas] Exactly.
[Mike Arce] That's pretty cool and smart. How about you?
[00:14:22] [Joy Keller] Yeah, I know someone—a personal trainer—who had a client who loved daily and LaDainian Tomlinson...Before he was [LaDainian Tomlinson]. And we ran an article on that, or someone wrote an article on that, and other athletes became interested. And next thing you know, the guy is world famous.
[00:14:37] [KK Hart] Mine is very short and sweet. Don't be afraid to be a “do it yourself-er.” I'm proof that you don't have to have a PR professional. You don't have to have someone to do this for you. You can learn all of the tools and tactics that we've learned through self study and really go out there and make a difference for your own PR.
[Mike Arce] Do you think PR is necessary to be successful?
[00:14:56] [Alex Nicholas] 100 percent, in one way or another.
[Mike Arce] If you were to go back in time to yourself when you first started your business, what advice would you give in regards to PR? Would you say, “Hey, don't worry about that yet.” Let's get this out of the way. Or would you say, “Dude, you have to start this right away.”
[00:15:10] [Joy Keller] Get a handle on it.
[Alex Nicholas] Yeah, more target marketing also. Figure out what your message is. I didn't know exactly what my message was. I think I was fortunate in a lot of my cases at the start, were a lot of people aren't. Have that message and target market. So, if you're a martial arts studio, you don't want to really target yogis who don't want to be in contact [with you]. Figure out where you're going to go with that marketing and make sure it's targeted correctly.
[00:15:35] [KK Hart] I agree. People always say, “Know thyself.” Know thy brand. Know what's going to be best for you.
[00:15:41] [Mike Arce] That's awesome. Last question for all of you: Let’s say somebody is just starting now, and they want to start learning the basics, the fundamentals. You guys were at that point one day. Right? What are some books that you'd recommend, or podcasts that you recommend, or courses, or blogs that you would recommend for that person to get their feet wet before they really start playing big?
[00:16:04] [Alex Nicholas] I like Barbell Business. I find it to be interesting. I don't always agree with their points, but I like that they're always thinking and they're creative. So there are little bits and pieces.
[Mike Arce] And that’s a podcast?
[Alex Nicholas] That’s a podcast, yes. There are little bits and pieces that I've found on that, that I thought were great. It doesn't always fit what my opinion, or my alignment is with how to get into PR. But, you know, maybe down the road it will. So that's something [where] I've found some things that I've been able to incorporate.
[Joy Keller] The title and author escapes me at the moment but any book that is related to experience economy, because this is really about experience and relationships. If you don't have a customer experience to share, then the PR efforts will probably fall flat.
[00:16:49] [Mike Arce] Right. Right. So being able to use your actual customer experience. Is this learning how to do that more?
[Joy Keller] Leverage it.
[00:16:54] [KK Hart] I have a little bit more of a structured approach. I actually work with Alpha and ACSM—two of the governing bodies on helping to get your certification. We created a CEO course so you can get your [continuing education credits] done—which we all need to do as fitness professionals—and teach yourself this from nuts to bolts.
[00:17:08] [Mike Arce] Okay, great. Is there a site for that?
[00:17:10] [KK Hart] Yeah, you can see it on my site: KKHart.com
[00:17:12] [Mike Arce] Awesome. Can you guys share sites, if we want to learn more about you?
[00:17:16] [Joy Keller] Sure, go to IdeaFit.com.
[00:17:19] [Alex Nicholas] I'm the owner and founder of EPIC Hybrid Training and it’s EpicHybridTraining.com.
[00:17:24] [Mike Arce] These people here, these awesome people, are great at what they do. They were asked to speak on a huge stage here at the main conference for MINDBODY because of that. And so, I hope you really appreciate this and understand how important PR is, based on what you're hearing. And if you have any questions, go check them out and see what they're doing. Other than that, guys, thank you so much for everything you shared today and at the conference. And we will see you guys next week.
[00:17:49] Thank you so much for joining us today. If you like this episode then subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher, and to our YouTube channel to never miss an episode. You can get all the links by going to BOLDShow.com. Thanks and see you next time.
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