Narrator: Most people will agree that the more traffic you bring to your website, the more users and sales and customers you’ll get. But when entrepreneurs try to think of how to generate that traffic, everyone’s got a different opinion and one of them is to employ an expensive PR firm to do the work for you.
Cameron Herold will agree that publicity is an essential piece to building your customer base but not by shelling out piles of cash to a PR agency. Over the years, he’s built up companies like College Pro Painters and 1-800-Got-Junk by following a series of steps that’s proven effective and valuable to approach media leads, score interviews, and ensure your company gets the press coverage they need to be noticed in any industry. So in this masterclass, Cameron has plenty of examples to share and three key steps on how to generate free publicity for your company without hiring an expensive PR firm.
Cameron: Hey, everybody. I’m Cameron Herold. I’m the author of a book called “Free PR.” And I’m glad to be doing this Mixergy masterclass on generating free publicity for your company. So this is not my normal situation. Normally, I would be paid to speak on a stage. I’ve done paid speaking events now in 26 countries on 6 continents and this content is stuff that I would have delivered over the last number of years.
The book “Free PR” came out last year and it’s getting huge results globally and it gives you the cheat sheets on how to generate free publicity for your company. So before we start, what I mean by free publicity is, or free PR is any press coverage that talks about you or your brand or your customers or your product. And that could be press coverage, whether it’s done by bloggers or podcasters or e-zines or magazines, newspapers, television, offline print magazines, online, whatever. It’s really any coverage that you don’t have to pay for that talks about you, your customer, or your brand.
So I’m going to talk to you about how to generate that kind of press coverage and we’re going to go back and forth a little bit between some slides that will help illustrate the points, me talking about some of the concepts. And then I’m also going to go into a number of case studies on how we’ve generated free publicity over the years. And maybe before I even dive in, I’ll give you a little bit of credibility so that you understand, you know, why I have the credibility to talk about this. I’m not just an author who has written a book called “Free PR.” If you Google my name, just type Cameron Herold, H-E-R-O-L-D into Google, and maybe hit the Google news tab, you’ll see tons of articles about me. Or if you go to either of my websites, the cameronherold.com or the cooalliance.com and you go to the press pages there, you’ll see dozens and dozens and dozens of articles about me and I’m just this guy.
But I’ve understood how to leverage that media coverage. So I’ve been covered personally in “Forbes Magazine,” “Inc. Magazine,” “Entrepreneur Magazine,” and I’m talking to the physical print editions now, not just the online additions, but the actual paper magazine of “Forbes,” “Entrepreneur,” “Inc.,” “Fortune,” “American Airlines Magazine,” all the print editions have covered me as well as all the newspapers, like Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc., etc.
Where we really got or where I really got known for generating free publicity, I was the chief operating officer of a company called the 1-800-Got-Junk. And in the six years that I was building 1-800-Got-Junk, which most of you have heard of the company, I took them from 14 employees up to 3,100 employees in six years, from $2 million to $106 million in revenue in six years. And in that time period, we landed 5,200 stories about our company that were each individually unique stories, and we did that in six years with no PR firm. We did it all in-house by hiring people and training them on exactly what I’m going to teach you today. And those 5,200 stories were all landed before Facebook even started. So if we had Facebook today or LinkedIn or Twitter to be able to amplify that media coverage, we would have been a much, much bigger company than the $400 million than it is today.
So let’s get started. So we’re going to call this the three easy steps to free PR. At the end of the day, the first thing to remember is how does the media make their money? So if you think about a podcaster or, you know, Andrew from Mixergy with his Mixergy podcast, how does Andrew make money? Well, he makes money from advertisers, you know, he’s got two or three advertisers on every podcast and they pay for that placement. In fact, I have for the COO Alliance paid for advertising on Mixergy podcast. If you think about a magazine or a newspaper or a television station, you know, any of those news outlets, they don’t make money off their circulation. They don’t make money off the readers. They make money off advertisers placing ads in those outlets or on those outlets.
Now, why will an advertiser, you know, why would someone like me advertise on a Mixergy podcast? Well, I wanted to try it out to see if the Mixergy listeners would either go buy copies of my book “Meetings Suck” for all their employees, or if they would take a look at having their second in command join the COO Alliance. And I felt that if the target audience was my target audience, then me putting my content there would matter. So the only reason I was advertising there is Andrew has done an amazing job at building out this massive group of amazing listeners that are my target demographic.
So the media outlets have to attract a certain type of demographic and that’s why advertisers will advertise. Where I’m going with this is your story is needed by the media outlets, they need to cover you to attract more great people. So I’ve been on the Mixergy podcast as a guest twice because my content is really good for those listeners. So every media outlet, whether it’s a New York Times or Wall Street Journal or Oprah, they have a certain demographic, a certain listener, a certain viewer, a certain reader, and they have advertisers that are trying to target those people. The media outlets need your stories, they need your information to pass on so that advertisers will spend with them.
So the next thing to remember about the media is that the first thing that happens every single morning is every writer, every journalist wakes up and sits down and thinks, “What the heck am I going to write about today?” That’s literally the first thing they think about is what am I going to be covering today? And when they sit down and actually kind of go through that process, they’re trying to come up with a new story, a new angle, a new idea. Our job is to pick up the phone and call them first thing in the morning and say, “Hey, do you have two minutes? I think I have a good story for you.” And most of those writers will actually take the cue and listen to us because every single day, imagine trying to come up with a new story for your business or if you were a writer, you’d love to have somebody handing you a new story idea, just makes your day easier. So that’s the framing that I want us all to remember is they need our content and every day they’re trying to come up with new content ideas.
So the three easy steps to free PR, if we’re to frame it out this way for the class, the first step is to know your angle. And by what I mean by know your angle is think about the story that you are getting coverage on, what’s the kind of headline for that story? So as an example, if I wanted to get coverage for my book “Meetings Suck,” the story angle might be meetings don’t suck, we suck at running meetings. So think about your angle.
For all of our companies, we probably have five core angles or five core stories. You know, we have our overcoming adversity story. You know, so my overcoming adversity was how I got hit with a $420,000 tax bill that I didn’t see coming three years ago and how it literally took me out mentally, financially, and how I had to recover from that and what I did to recover from that overcoming adversity.
We have our culture story and how we’re turning our company into a cult or into a magnet for talent. We have our story of how we’re leveraging technology. You know, I have employees that live all over the world. I just got off a call with one of my employees who’s living over in Portugal for three months, so we’re leveraging technology to have remote workforces. Or we have a story about our customer, you know, how are my coaching of entrepreneurs has helped one client go from 40 employees to 750 in the 6 years that I’ve coached him. And he raised $255 million from Warburg Pincus two years ago.
So I have a story about Bobby at BlueGrace Logistics and how his, you know, success happened, or I have a story of how I taught free PR to grasshopper.com and how David Hauser exploded the brand at Grasshopper by leveraging free PR. So there’s a story about David and his growth at Grasshopper and that relates back to me. So those are the ideas around angles that you want to think about in your company.
The second thing is to remember that you need a catchy headline. The headline is that kind of top of the article, and that’s what I kind of hinted that with the, you know, meetings don’t suck, we suck at running meetings. Or if I was thinking of a story about 1-800-Got-Junk, it might be how we turned trash into cash or how someone’s garbage is someone’s gold, you know, that’s the catchy headline about your story idea. That usually catches the interest of the writer.
When you’re pitching your story to the writers, you’re going to have a lot of points, a lot of bullet points that you might want to include. What I suggest is that you leave it to a maximum of five core points that you want this story to be created and drafted around. So, you know, as an example with my book “Meetings Suck,” I could talk about starting on time, stopping on time, doing all the meetings for half the time you first think about booking them for, finishing all your meetings five minutes early so that you can walk down the hall, talk to your assistant, get a cup of coffee and, you know, having a moderator for all of your meetings. Those might be the five core points that we then weave an entire story around the book, “Meetings Suck.” So think about your story, the headline, the angle, and come up with a maximum of five bullet points so that when you’re pitching the story to the writer, they can start crafting the story around that point a little bit.
The second step to think about is to know your target. And what I mean by knowing your target is know the target audience of the outlet that you’re pitching. So as an example, if you think about all the business outlets that either I or 1-800-Got-Junk have been covered in, you know, the “Dallas Morning News,” the “Chicago Tribune,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “The New York Times,” “Forbes Magazine,” “Fortune Magazine,” “Inc. Magazine,” Donny Deutsch, Oprah, all very, very different audiences. You know, when we were on Oprah, her target audience was housewives who, you know, they cared about causes, they cared about emotional pulls but when we were on CNN “Squawk Box,” they were very much, you know, by the book kind of numbers, they wanted data. When we were in “Entrepreneur Magazine,” they wanted the overcoming adversity story. When we were in “Fortune Magazine,” they wanted more of the systems on scaling and business.
So we might be pitching the same story but positioning it or spinning it in a way that matters more to that target audience. So you have to really be aware of the outlet that you’re pitching and why your story is going to matter to their audience. So as an example with Mixergy, I understand that I’m pitching to an entrepreneurial group versus a corporate audience. If I was pitching to a corporate audience, I wouldn’t be sitting wearing a tee shirt and a sweater, I wouldn’t be sitting on my little bouncy stool, and I wouldn’t be drinking my third shot of espresso but with an entrepreneurial audience, I can probably drop the F-bomb a couple of times, we’re all good. And, you know, I understand the audience and I understand even the Mixergy audience because I’ve been a guest on the show a couple of times and, you know, and I advertise on the show. So I really understand that target audience. That’s important when you’re pitching your story to the outlets that you’re pitching is that you spend the time to understand them.
So as I mentioned at 1-800-Got-Junk, we landed 5,200 media stories in just a six-year period. You can see some of the examples of some of the media outlets that we were covered in. What we would do is pick up the phone and this is what was so different from everyone else who is pitching the media. Most PR people, and they’re going to lie to you, by the way, PR people are going to tell you that they have all the contacts, they have all the connections and then they want you to sign up and pay them $6,000 a month to have them do PR for you. Well, if they have . . . how could they possibly have all the connections to land 5,200 stories? They don’t. What they do is they send out press releases and news wires and occasionally pick up the phone. What we do is we only pick up the phone.
So between 9 o’clock and 11 o’clock in the morning, every journalist is sitting down at their desk thinking, what the heck am I going to write about today? Your job is to pick up the phone and call them and say, “Hey, do you have two minutes? I think I have a good story for you.”
This is a photo of Tyler who unfortunately is no longer with us. He passed away about eight years ago. Tyler was our first PR guy at 1-800-Got-Junk. This is when he would stand up and do what he called smile and dial and he would do 35 outbound phone calls a day to the media to pitch them on whatever the story was that he was pitching that month. He usually pitched four stories per year total and just moved city by city. And he found by picking up the phone, calling the journalist and saying, “Hey, do you have two minutes? I think I have a good story for you?” Most of them would give them the time to pitch the story. If they said, “No, I don’t have the time,” he would say, “Can I give you a shout tomorrow or how about Monday?” They would usually agree to one of those days and he’d pick up the phone and call them then.
The reason we liked picking up the phone was when everyone else is sending a news wires and press releases and emails, the average journalist was getting 200 pitches a day via email, they were only getting 4 phone calls a day. Well, if you’re one of the four phone calls, you probably got a 25% chance of getting through to them. And if your voicemail messages, “Hey, it’s Tyler calling. I think I have a great story for you. Here’s my phone number.” They’re going to phone you back. But if you send them the email, you tend to overpitch and then they just say no to all those emails all day long. So that’s really the secret for picking up the phone.
The way that you have to pitch the media is different from how you might expect. I think often we come in and we pitch a little bit too strong. We come in and pitch a little bit too fast. The journalists are much quieter, much more analytical, much more amiable and often we come in as a little bit too gregarious, a little bit too strong, a little bit too animated. We need to tone it down a little bit and come in a little bit of their level and then raise their energy level up one or two.
So if you imagine that a writer is probably a level five on energy, you want to drop your energy level down to about a six and come in and say, “Hey, do you have a couple of minutes? I think I have a really good story for you.” And you kind of bring them along that energy trail with you. But if you come in and really pitch with all this energy, you’re going to scare them away. So remember that you have to pitch them and bring their energy level up a little bit.
I really, really love opening every pitch to the media with, “Hey, do you have two minutes? I think I have a great story for you.” By the way, if can’t pitch your story in under two minutes, you haven’t thought through it clearly. It’s just the angle of a headline with five core bullet points and let the writer create a story around that for you.
The next thing I really liked thinking about from the journalist perspective is that when a journalist says no, a salesperson thinks yes. What I mean by that is the PR people you should be hiring are salespeople, not marketers. If a salesperson picks up the phone and calls the journalist and the journalist says, no, the salesperson thinks to themselves, I just didn’t explain it properly but at least I know that this is where their desk is, I know they’d pick up their phone, I’m halfway to a yes. If a marketer gets told no, they usually run away and hide. And I’ll give you a case study of this later when I talk about how we pitched the “Associated Press” and how I got 16 noes before we ended up getting covered in 220 newspapers. And I’ll cover that in a few minutes.
So if we’re going to be building an in-house PR team, my approach to building an in-house PR team is to first off remember that public relations is a subset of marketing, sorry, it’s a subset of sales, not marketing. So you have to think of PR reporting to your sales department, reporting to your sales leader. So you’re hiring in-house PR people who are really salespeople not marketers. You don’t want to hire the sleazy Johnny sales guy, you really want to hire somebody who is keen, someone who’s eager, someone who is good at picking up the phone, somebody who likes picking up the phone, somebody who can also handle rejection. You know, one of the things we learned from Tyler, our first PR guy, was that if he was making 30 outbound phone calls a day, he was probably getting told no 25 of those times. Well, it takes pretty thick skin to be told no 25 times, and that’s why you’re hiring salespeople or cold callers, not marketers.
You’re hiring people who can ask questions and listen. You know you’re going to be pitching a story but then your job is to turn to the writer and say, “What do you think about that? What do you like about the angle? What or where else do you need more information? Would you like to talk to our CEO? What else can I provide you for the story? How can I help you?” So if you’re just there pitching the whole time, you’re missing the point. You’re trying to create interest with the writer and then ask questions of them so that you can help them craft a better story.
You really want to hire someone in PR whose glass is half full, somebody who’s got good energy, good optimism, who can really kind of see the positivity because again, they’re going to be handling a lot of that rejection over time.
And you want to hire someone who’s got a very good phone voice. So I often will do the first interview of people only over the phone where I won’t actually see them in person. I don’t need any bias on what they look like, I just need to know what they sound like because if they’re going to be pitching someone all day long on the phone, that’s really what I need as my first, you know, bias or my first point of reference for them is how do they sound on the phone.
You’re also looking to hire someone who can spell but not a writer. So you need someone who can spell and has proper grammar in short emails but you’re not looking to hire journalists. You’re not looking to hire writers. You’re looking to hire someone who can sell to a writer so that those writers can write the stories. So remember that. It’s important that you’re not looking to hire writers or marketers or journalists here, but you’re looking to hire someone who can at least spell.
You really need someone who can multitask as well. You know, the job of working in PR is a lot of moving parts, right? You have somebody who’s handling lead flow and follow-ups and coordinating meetings for the CEO to get on calls or getting the IT team on a call or providing additional follow-up information or researching the target audience or understanding who some of the competitors are or understanding that the writer might work for three or four different media outlets.
You know, I was covered by an HR magazine years ago. They covered my work around teaching companies how to have great company cultures. And at the end of the interview for this magazine on HR, I asked the writer, who else do you write for? And she said, “Oh, I’m a regular contributor for ‘Entrepreneur Magazine.'” And she said, “Whoa, I’ve got a great story idea for ‘Entrepreneur Magazine.'” And she said, “I thought you might,” and six months later, I was in the print edition of “Entrepreneur Magazine.” So you really have to hire that person who can multitask, who’s a problem solver, who’s a salesperson who can think outside of the box as a key part of that role is the multitasking.
And then I think of the PR role, like someone who’s managing a sales funnel, right? All the leads are coming in the top of the funnel, you’re identifying the target audiences or target markets to sell into and then you’re trying to have the qualified stories drip out the bottom of that funnel.
You also want your company to be camera ready. So these are just a few examples of companies that I’ve either built or coached over the years. So we just kind of remembering that you have to have the media-ready content either, you know, clothing that has big, you know, ugly logos on the back of it but it’s perfect for photos or having your branded vehicles in a way that you can get them into photos and teaching your employees where to stand when the photos are actually being taken.
So you know, one of the things that I would look at on the College Hunks Hauling Junk picture is the guys are standing in an absolute perfect place with their arms crossed, that is how they stand in every single photo. Nick and Omar, the two founders teach their employees how to stand, where to stand. 1-800-Got-Junk, the same thing, we were always taking our photos with our back to the camera with our head turned and trying to get the truck logo in. So often you think that wow, they really got lucky to get that photo in the article. No, we asked the photographer, we asked the journalist, you know, “Hey, I’ve got a couple of good photo ideas that go along with this. Would you like me to send you some or do you want some samples?” They often say yes because you’re making their job easy.
So the shovel, I always throw this in as an example of a shovel doesn’t dig a hole. You know, you think about the old, I think it’s a Japanese or Chinese saying, shovel doesn’t dig a hole. You have to pick up the shovel and use it. Well, these tools that I’m teaching you on “Free PR” they work, but you actually have to pick them up and use them. I would urge all of you today before we even go into the case studies, you can press pause and try pitching some of your local media outlets and you’ll be amazed what happens. If you sit down and think of an angle and think of a couple of bullet points and pitch some of your local media, you’ll be amazed at how fast you get some of these success stories.
So again, I’ve covered all of the content in my book “Free PR.” I would tell you to get a copy of it for all of your salespeople and all the people in your marketing department. This is really how to get chased by the press without hiring a PR firm. One of the things that we cover in the book “Free PR” and I actually co-authored it with one of my former coaching clients, a CEO that I used to coach, Adrian, who built a company called CanvasPop. We talk about what we call the digital trifecta. You have your earned media. The earned media is the press coverage that you generate there with bloggers or podcasters, magazines, etc., that’s your earned media. And then you take that content and you put it on your owned media. So you put it on your website, on your press page, on your Facebook page, on your LinkedIn page, on your Twitter page, you take that content and you repurpose it and you push it out onto those outlets.
And then we like to amplify it by using paid media. So we’ll take our Facebook page, we’ll take the article in “Forbes Magazine,” put it on our Facebook page, and then we’ll buy ad traffic or boost it, so more people see it. You know, we’ll send it out to our email list. So I send every month, two or three of the media pieces about me, I sent it to all the speakers bureaus that represent me. So every month they just get another email with two or three more pieces of media coverage on Cameron Herold that amplifies my brand.
So for us, that’s what we call that digital trifecta, is the earned media, the owned media and the paid media. And that’s where I think back to, you know, our days of building 1-800-Got-Junk, if we had had Facebook or LinkedIn back then to be able to really drive traffic to all of this press coverage, imagine how many more people would have seen the 5,200 stories if we could’ve put it on Facebook and driven traffic towards it? So that’s where you’re really putting gas on the fire.
It’s also an important point to remember that just because you get covered in the media and no one’s necessarily going to beat a path for your door. You know, we were on Oprah back in 2003, we had about a six-minute piece on the company, lots of photos of the trucks and our people in uniforms but that didn’t necessarily drive traffic to the company. What did drive traffic to the company was for 16 years being able to talk about the fact that we were on Oprah, showed clips of the Oprah episode, you know, reference it in other media outlets. So it’s pouring gas on the fire, giving copies of your PR content to your salespeople and your marketing people so they can amplify it and run with it are really important as well.
So I’m going to give you a couple of little case studies on how over the years we’ve landed or I’ve landed different PR pieces and how you might be able to apply those in your business. So I’ll start with piece number one. 1986, I was running a painting business called College Pro Painters back in Sudbury, Canada. So I lived four hours north of Toronto and I wanted to get press coverage about my business so that every time I went to do an estimate, I could show the homeowner, the press coverage to make me look more important and they would sign up with me to help me paint their houses. So I just looked through the newspaper and looked for somebody who wrote what I called fluff articles but they were really articles about just general stuff. They weren’t newsworthy. They weren’t anything that was like super important.
And I saw this guy writing about just like general kind of stuff happening in the city. So I thought, well, maybe my general story is that I’m a university student and couldn’t get a job, so I decided to create my own job and hire a bunch of students. So I called Tom Hewlett up, who was the writer. I decided not to go to the news desk, not go to the city desk. And I phoned the actual writer, his name was in every article, so you could see his name right in the newspaper and they still do that today, every magazine, every newspaper, the writer’s name or the photographer’s name are listed.
So I just picked him up and said, “Hey Tom, it’s, it’s Cameron calling. I think I have a good story idea. Do you have two minutes?” And he said, “Sure, what’s the idea?” I told him and then I said, “If you want to come by a job site, we’ve got a job really close to the ‘Sudbury Star.’ You could come by and do a quick story and photograph it.” And he goes, “Great, I can be there at four o’clock. Does that work for you?” And I just said, “Sure, four o’clock works great.”
That’s another quick lesson as well, by the way, when the media calls drop everything. So the media, if they say, can you be there at four o’clock? Say yes, four o’clock works great. Everything else can wait because that media coverage is more leverage than you’re ever going to be able to get. So that was case study number one was just picking up the phone saying yes, telling him that I had a job site near their location to make it easy for him, and then being available.
Another case study that we had was back when we built 1-800-Got-Junk. This was Tyler our PR guy. He and I were sitting down and trying to come up with some stunts, some ways to get creative to create news basically, to create media. And Tyler recognized that the Vancouver Canucks were going into the first round of this, the Stanley Cup playoffs that year and the Vancouver Canucks colors were blue and green. And so Tyler decided that we would wear blue wigs and stand out on the street with our 1-800-Got-Junk blue shirts and our 1-800-Got-Junk blue trucks, our blue wigs that we didn’t have any yet but we went to a Halloween store and bought them and we were waving at traffic and saying honk if you support the Canucks.
And we phoned the media to say that we were wearing blue wigs to support the Canucks, and we wanted people in the city to go crazy for the Vancouver Canucks, and we wanted the media coverage to kind of create that frenzy. So they did, they started covering us. And then Tyler, in his amazing wisdom and lack of planning at the same time, told the media that we were handing out 1000 blue wigs, five nights later at the opening first round of the playoffs that we were going to hand out 1000 blue wigs to fans in Vancouver. So they said that on the media and then more media coverage picked it up. We ended up handing out a thousand blue wigs, then we ended up bringing in more blue wigs to sell them.
Over a two-week period, we ended up with 67 media pieces covering 1-800-Got-Junk in the city of Vancouver alone. We ended up with our pictures on tickets, we ended up in cartoons with blue wigs cheering on the Canucks, we had four TV stations covering us simultaneously one night. And it was all because we just hijacked something that was already happening. We didn’t go to the Canucks to ask for permission. You don’t need permission to cheer for your team. We just cheered for the team and created a frenzy and created photo opportunities so the media would come out. And we phoned all the photographers and the photographers told the journalists we’re going to get this photo op and that’s how the buzz started. So it’s an easy way to kind of create buzz is find a story or create a story and then create a photo op and that’s where your bigger buzz will come from.
If I think about, you know, how did we get on some of the news wires like “Bloomberg News Wire” and “Associated Press” You know, Bloomberg was really an all-news station. And I called the Alex Armitage, who was one of the writers for “Bloomberg,” pitched him on the story idea of this roll-up consolidation play and his business play. And he kept asking about all the weird junk that we hauled away. So I would tell him about the weird junk. And I kept trying to go back to this roll-up consolidation play, and he kept asking me about weird junk.
So all of a sudden, I realized he wants the weird junk story, so I just decided to talk about weird junk. I said, “You love this weird junk angle, don’t you?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “I could give you a whole list of all the weird stuff, like Buddha statues and truckloads of escargot shells and, you know?” He goes, “Yeah, give me more on that.” And I said, “Well, do you want me to put you in touch with the CEO and you guys can craft the story?” And he said, “Well, let me just talk to my editor and I’ll see.” He put me on hold, 30 seconds later he came back on, he said, “Yep, we’ll do a story.” Two days later we were on the “Bloomberg Wire.” We had 43 newspapers covered us on that day.
So I then turned to Brian, the CEO, and I said, that’s cool that we got “Bloomberg.” We were only a 20-person company at the time. We were only in I think 15 or 16 cities at the time. So we decided to call “Associated Press” and we contacted. If you look “Associated Press,” they’ll write one story and it’ll will end up in a lot of newspapers, one writer will write the story. So I called the Canadian bureau chief, Tom Cohen. I said, “Hey Tom, it’s Cameron, you don’t know me yet. I think I’ve got a good story for you.” He said, “Sorry, I’m really busy,” and he hung up the phone. Now a marketer would have run away and hid. I’m kind of more of a sales guy and I thought, I know that’s Tom Cohen. He picked up the phone. I know he’ll pick up the phone when I call him again. I’ll give him a couple of days.
So I called him two days later and I said, “Hey, Tom, Cameron Herold calling.” He goes, “Busy,” hung up the phone. Called him a week later, “Cameron, I’m pretty busy right now, I’m dealing with this whole . . . ” And it was right around the September 11th tragedy that had happened. “Dealing with this whole September 11 thing, I just can’t take your call.” So then I wrote him a letter, put the letter in the mail, didn’t pitch the story. I just said, when you’re busy or when you’re not busy, I have a good story idea for you, give me a call back.”
Over the course of three months, I made a total of 16 phone calls and emails to Tom Cohen, never once telling him what the story was, but telling him that when he had time, I had a good story idea for him that I thought he would love. On a Tuesday morning, the phone rang, I picked up the phone and Tom said, “Hey Cameron, it’s Tom Cohen calling from “Associated Press.” I felt like saying, sorry, I’m busy and hanging up but I didn’t because when the media calls you drop everything. And I said, “Yeah, what’s up?” He said, “Well, you’ve got this good story. What is it?” And I told him the idea and he said, “You know, I’ve got time on Thursday. I think I’d like to come out and cover you guys.” So I said, “Great.”
So Tom Cohen flew out from Toronto to Vancouver, a five-hour flight. We had Tyler our PR guy go and pick him up at the airport in a junk truck with junk clothing that we made Tom get changed into. And on the way back to the office, they stopped and hauled junk for two hours. That’s how we greeted the Canadian “Associated Press” chief. We ended up in 220 newspapers over the course of a one-week period because we realized that we had a story that mattered, and we could position it in a way that would work for them. And we didn’t take no for an answer, and we kept waiting until they were ready, and then we told them about the story.
A couple of other quick ones we’ve got, I was standing on a stage speaking to a group of entrepreneurs and I noticed in the audience, the publisher from “Forbes Magazine” Rich Karlgaard was sitting in the audience in the front row. And I knew Rich, I hadn’t met him personally, but I knew who he was. And I just had this idea for one of my books that was coming out called “Vivid Vision.” And I stopped in the middle of my speech and I turned to Rich and I said, “Hey Rich, can I grab you after my speaking event. I think I’ve a really good story idea for you for ‘Forbes Magazine.’ It’ll only take a minute?” And he said, “That would be great. Grab me right afterwards.” I went over afterwards, I pitched him for one minute. I ended up in the physical print edition of “Forbes Magazine” two years ago, it’s in online as well. But Rich Karlgaard wrote a full-page article about me and the “Vivid Vision” concept because I pitched him using the same pitch that I’ve been teaching you today.
And then the last kind of case study I’ll give you is on how we generated press in the trade journals. So you think about a boring trade journal. You know, one of the most boring trade journals you could get would be for the waste industry. You know, there’s four trade journals that cover the garbage industry and the only people that read them are garbage companies like Waste Management, Allied, BFI, Republic, etc. So we wanted to be covered in those trade journals because we wanted to do deals with the big garbage companies so they would refer customers to us. So we were going to big trade show called Waste Expo where we didn’t know anybody. There were going to be 5,000 people there.
So our PR person phoned all the trade journals the week before the conference and the pitch was if you have about five minutes at the trade show, our chief operating officer Cameron will be there, he’d love to meet with you for coffee and tell you about a new partnership that we’re announcing at Waste Expo. So all four of the trade journals agreed to meet with me for an interview without knowing what the partnership was. The partnership was the one that I was at the trade show trying to land with any of the top 10 companies, so there was no deal, but the partnership was one that I wanted to land.
So I was at the conference pitching the partnership idea to all 10 garbage companies. A week after the conference ended, when all those garbage companies’ executives went back to their office, we were on the cover of two of the trade journals and we were on the inside of the other two trade journals. So all four trade journals covered us, covered me and the partnership idea that we were pitching to the garbage companies. And that’s how we landed OAKLEAF Waste Management was because we actually leveraged the PR and tied it with our sales and our marketing, and we gave them a story that helped them out. You know, these writers were all going to the trade show and they all needed stories. They just didn’t know where they were going to come from.
So that’s it. That’s how you land free PR. You know your angle, you know your target, you pick up the phone, you leverage that digital trifecta. Again, I would have all of your employees that are in the sales and marketing side read the book “Free PR” and while we’re on it, I would have every single employee at all of your companies also read the book “Meetings Suck.” I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, but meetings don’t suck. You suck at running meetings. “Meetings Suck” was written not just how to run meetings but also how to attend them and participate in them.
Now so if any of you have any questions, if you want to ping me on Twitter. My handle on Twitter is Cameron Herold, that’s Cameron Herold, H-E-R-O-L-D. My website is cameronherold.com. It’s got all of my videos on my speaking events and more information on me and my programs and then all five of my books, “The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs,” “Vivid Vision,” “Free PR,” “Meetings Suck” and “Double Double” are all available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes as well. All of this information just works. Again, it’s like a shovel. You have to pick up the shovel and use it. You can’t just read the book and think it’s going to happen. So I encourage all of you to take the ideas, put them to use, and then drop me any comments or questions or I’d love to hear how this stuff works for you as well.
Narrator: We hope you’ve enjoyed this masterclass on how to generate free publicity for your company without a PR firm. If you’d like to learn more about Cameron Herold or check out his book, “Free PR,” visit cameronherold.com. And we’ll see you next time here at Mixergy.