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PR and Earned Media with Mickie Kennedy

George Grombacher August 18, 2023

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PR and Earned Media with Mickie Kennedy

LifeBlood: We talked about PR and earned media, the value of getting written about by a third party, the process for how it works, what success looks like, how the industry has changed over the past 25 years, and what impact AI is having, with Mickie Kennedy, Founder and President of EReleases.      

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Mickie Kennedy

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Hey, what’s up? This is George G. And the time is right, welcome. Today’s guest strong and powerful Mickey Kennedy, Mickey, you’re ready to do this? I am. All right, let’s go. Mickey is the founder and president of E releases. They are the small business leader for press release distribution. Mickey, again, excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do.

Mickie Kennedy 0:25
Right. So I am a poet. And I have an MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. And about 26 years ago, or so when I finished my degree, I just assumed I’d wait tables and write poetry in the evenings. And I did that for a summer and realize that it was a lot harder than you thought, your body aches, your mind just felt spent at the end of the day. And I wasn’t really reading or writing. So I felt like I needed to stave off his job. I got hired at a telecom research startup in DC as employee number three. And because I had a writing background, even though it wasn’t technical writing, they wanted me to figure out press releases and get them to work for the company. And so I did that, and I got really good at it. And I started to notice that after I would fax now, this was a long time ago, we were faxing these press releases, I would start getting calls from journalists asking if we could just email it to them, it was just easier to work with the numbers and data, copy and paste sort of approach. So that gave me the idea in the back of my head that, you know, email would be like a natural progression of sending out releases. And so I started contacting journalists and asked if I could just email them press releases on their industry beat. And at the time, you know, this is about 26 years ago, most of them said yes. And so I launched just shy of 25 years ago, with about 10,000 journalists in my database. And I was just a matchmaker, I would take press releases for clients and figure out who on my list were the best people to email it to. And I just did that. Until finally a PR Newswire reached out to us and said, Hey, you should also include our distribution as part of your own. And I just felt like that wasn’t going to work because I knew at the time, they were charging 12 to $1,500 for like a 600 word press release nationally. And so you know, we we we looked at each other if they liked the fact that we serve small businesses, their salespeople would never, you know, reach out to small businesses because it just doesn’t justify, you know, what, what they normally spend. So we were able to sort of make it work in a win win situation. So all of our releases go out nationally over PR Newswire as well without having to pay 12 to $1,500. Nice to still write poetry. Lucky I do. I finished a book not too long ago that I’m trying to find a publisher for. And that’s a long process in the poetry world, because there’s every publisher, that’s pretty much in business for poetry is doing it, it’s a labor of love, because there is no real profit or major revenue in it. So it is one of those ones where it’s a little takes a little time to get publishers to warm up to you.

george grombacher 3:20
I appreciate that. How many poems are in a poetry book?

Mickie Kennedy 3:23
Um, I think it’s usually between 50 and 80 pages. So for me, I think I’m about 70 pages with about maybe 60 poems. Got it.

george grombacher 3:34
Wonderful. Well, as soon as that is out, please ring me back. And and we’ll have you on to talk about that as well. Sure. So from the days of faxing, PR releases, to emails, and now here we are, how have you seen? How have you seen, I guess the industry change?

Mickie Kennedy 3:57
So I think the biggest changes are the recognition among media. And the wires that, you know, a media source is, is something that evolves. When I started working with the newswire. I had bloggers that would reach out to me and say, Hey, Mickey, I’m having a hard time getting accepted as a journalist at PR Newswire, so I can have PR Newswire access. And the wire is really important for journalists, because it’s a place where the with login credentials, they can go in and customize their industry feed, you know, they can pick keywords that they want included or excluded. So they make it very specific to them, which is a very valuable tool. And so the the newswire was just really slow to accept bloggers as a new source. And I have to say that they’ve done a 180 Because it’s not unusual now to have on the list for fake fashion, for example, Instagram, Instagram influencers at the wire, who have access to this journal. West. And so I think that people are beginning to recognize that we get our news and media from lots of traditional and non traditional sources. And it’s something that’s we’re changing, it’s always in flux. And so there are a lot of individual influencers, as well as brands that don’t fit the traditional model of a trade publication or magazine or newspaper.

george grombacher 5:22
That makes a lot of sense. And my instinct is to ask, do you think that that’s a good thing? But I don’t know if that’s the right term?

Mickie Kennedy 5:29
Right? I think it is. It’s a good thing. It the lines are a lot more blurred with influencers than you know, things have been in the past, paid advertising looked like paid advertising. You know, having an article written about you by a journalist, looks like an article. And, you know, no, money’s exchanged there. But with influencers, it’s a little bit different, where you’ll have an influencer, that is paid to, you know, do some videos for a specific client and things like that. So it may not always be so obvious, you know, the the line between advertising and, you know, editorial.

george grombacher 6:14
Yeah, that strikes me that that is probably pretty blurry. Which, again, not necessarily good or bad, we, as consumers need to become better educated as well.

Mickie Kennedy 6:27
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I think that one of the biggest things that, you know, people recognize is, you know, what an ad is. And so it’s not unusual for people who are in the marketing space to talk about a landing page, they’ve created for an ad that’s converting at, like 7%. And that’s like a great outcome. Because when people, you know, click on an ad, their defenses are up, and they’re looking through everything through a very critical eye. And what happens with a article when a journalist writes about you is completely different. I mean, it’s, it’s not seen with the warnings and filter of advertising that goes along that with with that, instead, it sort of is like a implied endorsement, that happens, sort of like third party corroboration, when a journalist writes about you. And it’s not unusual for my clients to come to me and say, Hey, we had like, 400 visitors from this article, and like, 200 of them converted, that’s like a 50% conversion rate. Is that right? And I’m like, well, it is. But you have to realize that not everybody who read the article, click through to you, only the people that really engaged with it well, but you know, they engaged with it as an original article. And, you know, it’s sort of like the some, you know, social proof that you’re a real entity, and this is what you’re about. And it’s not you saying it’s someone else saying it about you. And so when someone reads and gets a good feeling about a company, I do this sometimes with Kickstarter campaigns, I’ll go to a blog, and I’ll read about what someone’s doing, it’s really interesting. And I’ll get like really wrapped up in it. And then I click through, and I just want to buy, I want to support that person. And that’s a very human, you know, nature to, you know, to love the story, get involved in the story, and then buy as a result of it. And so it’s very different than traditional marketing, where you’d have paid advertising and things like that. It’s definitely superior to that. But the downside of is, is there’s a loss of control, you don’t control what URL necessarily, they’re going to put in their website, it may not be, it’s probably not going to be a tracking URL, it’s going to be very hard to measure conversions and things like that, unless you have a lot of things in place to make sure that you do. But that being said, you know, it is one of the things that works when you obtain other people’s audiences. So you know, this magazine picked it up, you’re now exposed to that magazines, audience and their readers. But it also can be useful with your own leads and customers, you know, when you get media pickup, you know, share those links, when you’re on your social media, put it in your newsletter, you know, make screenshots, put it on your website. All of this is that same sort of social proof or implied endorsement that happens, this credibility that happens with an article can be conveyed to your customers. And why is that important? Because customers shop, you know, it might be yearly, or every couple of years, they think maybe we should consider a different vendor in the space. And if they see that you’re really serious and getting media attention, it sends the signal that this company knows what they’re doing and they’re, they’re on the right path. I don’t need to shop them this year. Same thing with leads, you’re always gonna have people who are on the fence about working with you. And if they get that, read that article, see the social proof, they might be more likely to to actually work with you and engage with you So it’s definitely a tool that has a lot of value from the standpoint of the audience’s that you capture, but also using using those articles in front of your own customers and leads.

george grombacher 10:12
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense of the opportunity to, once you do get mentioned or written about to the publication are included in a publication that you’d want to utilize and repurpose that as often as frequently as many different ways as you can. It’s a question I probably should have asked at the top. And I think you’ve answered it in a lot of ways. But what what is success as a small business that engages with the releases? How do you think about this is a successful engagement,

Mickie Kennedy 10:40
right, so the end goal of any press releases to get that earned media. And that’s where a journalist writes an article about you. When you go through a service like ours, and go over the wire, you’re gonna have syndication that happens, where your press release will appear on different websites, most of them are financial or business related, even if you’re like writing about fashion, or something that’s completely different. But that, you know, I always tell people that the syndicated part isn’t really important, it doesn’t reach as many people, it’s not really something to, to find of great value, the end goal is to get those original articles that what we call earned media, and the you know, it may be one or two articles, it may be none, I’d say 95% of all releases that go out don’t generate any earned media. That being said, you can look at the releases that generally go out, and you cannot understand why they don’t do very well, we get releases about personnel changes. Not necessarily like, you know, landing an industry veteran who’s been in the market for 30 years, you know, that might be worth sending a press release about but a lot of them are just like a new VP of HR, or something that just isn’t really extremely significant, you know, take those messages and send them directly to your local newspaper, you know, send them to a trade publication or two, if you want, they usually put them in the on the move section and things like that, you don’t really need to spend money to go over a wire to to for those types of releases. That being said, it’s the most common press release we get. Also people will send out product launch press releases that are just here’s our product. And here is a bullet list of all the features of this product. And you have to realize that journalists are storytellers, and stories generally have an arc. And it’s really hard to build a story around a product launch, that it’s just a list of features, things that I would encourage people to do is, I’m sure there was people who tried the product out, see if it worked, what was their experience is sort of use case studies. Talk about the company, what its problem was how this product solved it, what their results were data is really great. And then include a quote from them talking about how this product, you know, fit their needs, and what they have to really say about it. So that is something that journalists can build a real story around and say, here’s a new product, here’s someone who used it, this was their experience. This is you know, what expectations that you might have. And that really rounds out the story so much more. So just keeping that in mind and focusing on the types of press releases that are probably a little bit more significant and newsworthiness. And I always have clients to come to me and say, We’re just not newsworthy, we’re not important. And I always challenge them that, you know, there are a lot of things that you can do to make yourself newsworthy. One is a survey or study within your industry. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, it’s just putting yourself out there with a survey in your industry, building the surveys, pretty straightforward using something like Survey Monkey four questions on each page, four pages, 16 questions overall, just ask things that are really timely, like today, what are the things that are going on in your industry, you know, is the spending over the next couple of quarters going to be less? You could ask about that. And that might you know, sort of foreshadow a recession in your industry coming forth? Or you can talk about challenges with work, you know, is it getting more difficult to get people to go back into the office? So these are all things that you can look at, you know, what are the interesting questions that you would ask someone, a colleague in your industry, if you were at a trade show, you know, the water cooler talk, you know, have you noticed that it’s taking, you know, 60 to 90 days to get paid for it used to be net 30? Is that sort of foreshadowing something going up? You know, difficulty going on tightening of capital in your industry. So those are all the types, you know, questions, you can be really creative. I always tell people include at least a couple of left field questions in your survey, you can put them on the last page. So if they, if they if they balk at that point, you’ve still collected like 75% of their results. in that poll, and you know, there are a lot of other different types of strategic types of press releases, you could do, but most people, when they send out a survey, and get the results, they pick out the two to four, aha moments from the survey, focus that into a story in a press release, include a quote, of why you feel the numbers skewed a particular way in that issue. And, and then send it out on average, my customers generally received between eight and 14 original articles about that survey or study. And it really is just asking really good questions. And then, you know, getting it out there. And, you know, my customers will come back and say, I don’t know who to send the survey to. There are lots of small and independent trade associations in every industry, don’t go to the large ones, but go to the ones that might be like, you know, 1200 members strong, or a couple of 1000. And ask if they would share that link for the survey with their members and exchange, tell them that you’ll include them in a press release, we’ll be issuing over the wire, the smaller independent trade associations don’t get the media attention that the large ones do. So they often will see these as win wins for both of them, you and them. And so they’re more likely to just you know, share that link, whether it’s social media, or in a newsletter, or sometimes both of those things away. And that allows you to get some data.

george grombacher 16:28
That’s super powerful. I appreciate that. I love a step by step framework for how to actually do something. So thank you. How are you feeling about our thinking about artificial intelligence? The chat GBT is the world.

Mickie Kennedy 16:42
So I think we’re pretty fortunate with press releases, because they’re really designed for the journalists. And they generally don’t get turned into the article. And so if you were writing, you know, articles, or like your own blog post to put on your website with AI, I would advise against it. Because I think that Google knows pretty well, what’s the AI language and what’s human language. And I think that Google, based on his past actions with links and other things, is going to want more natural results, more human written content. But if you’re writing just for a journalist, and it’s a story, I don’t see a problem having AI help you draft a press release. And you know, for the for the media. That being said, you certainly want to review it carefully. AI has a reputation for sometimes embellishing especially with data and numbers or making sources up and things like that. So you do want to be careful with that. But I found that the content that playing with chat GPT 4.0, that it was pretty good at putting together a press release, I found it work best when I knew very distinctly what I wanted the press release to focus on and how I wanted it structured. So I’d say here’s the first paragraph, this is what I want. Now here in the second paragraph, I want you to focus more on this. And here’s a great quote that I want you to include. And I see no problem with it, I think that it’s it can be a really valuable tool, especially for people who feel like they just writing is not their forte. And they’re just feeling like coming up with a press release in the third person just is a little difficult of a task for them. So I had no problem with it. I don’t see it being a major problem in the industry, as long as it reads well. And you know, what it says is true. And what you’re focusing on is, you know, the real, you know, strategic type of press release, rather than having a safe press release. So if you just go to chat GPT and ask write me a press release. And here’s the company, I think you’re going to end up with a really soft article, type press release is not going to do very well. But if you come to it, and you have really good ideas for what you want to focus on, and you feed it the right data, I think that you’ll come away with a good press release.

george grombacher 19:06
Excellent. Well, Mickey, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How and who should be engaging with you?

Mickie Kennedy 19:14
Sure. So the website is e And you can chat with us or call you’ll only speak to an editor and I have a free masterclass where I talk about building strategic types of press releases. So if you are ever looking into considering press releases or building a PR campaign, these are the strategic types of press releases that do get media pickup, and that’s e p l a n

george grombacher 19:41
Excellent. Well if you enjoyed as much as I did show, make your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to E And check out all the great resources if you’re interested in that free masterclass Mickey was just talking about it’s e And and start getting the start getting the word out start getting some earned media for your company your opportunity whatever it is thanks again making you’re very welcome and until next time remember do your part by doing your best

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