How to Get Local Media Coverage

Mickie Kennedy

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*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.

Arek Dvornechuck: Hey, what's up Branding Experts? Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And today I have a very special guest, Mickie Kennedy. And Mickie is the founder and the president of eReleases, which is a press release distribution service that helps small businesses, authors, and startups increase their visibility and credibility to press release marketing. So he has over 22 years of experience in the PR industry and has been featured in FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS News and various publications. 

Hello, Mickie. Thanks for joining us today.

Mickie Kennedy: Oh, thanks for having me.

Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. So, One way to gain credibility and authority in our respective niche or space is to get featured in media, right?

Can you talk to us a bit about, benefits of press releases and, on some of the ways to approach those media to get featured in those media.

Mickie Kennedy: Sure. Anytime you get an article written about you it is a huge credibility boost. It is third-party corroboration or some may say social proof and that article really serves as an implied endorsement when a journalist chooses to write an article about you and as a result of that, it's a powerful tool that very few people take advantage of and, the one of the easiest ways in which to reach journalist is through a press release. We work with the largest U.S. Newswire, PR newswire and it's one of the three main wires in the U. S. that journalists go to looking for company press releases and the types of press releases are going to be the most important thing. The strategic type of press release that you do over how well written a press release is, and that's changed a bit over the last 15 years where it used to be you wanted to write the most perfect, written press release, and today the importance is really placed on what it is you're announcing. And you want to be professional and you want to be as well written as possible, but it's not elevated writing. You might be a little elevated in writing a quote because you really want to be concise and say something really powerfully, but the general press releases is a very simple type of product. And I think that's why a lot of people feel like there's not a lot of teeth in them, but what you're really looking for is to have a hook or some newsworthy angle that you approach that could potentially be turned into an article. And the thing you have to realize is there's two goals here.

There's the goal that you have wanting to sell more products or your service. And the journalist's goal, who is protecting a audience, and trying to determine what's worth sharing with their audience and because they're acting like gatekeepers, you sometimes have to reverse engineer what you want to announce to really put that value to the journalist and make it really compelling why they'd want to share this message with their readers or listeners as it may be.

Arek Dvornechuck: That's a great tip by the way. So you actually suggest approaching press releases from the perspective of the journalist, and what they are looking for, because they will obviously want to make sure that it's worth sharing as you mentioned, so that's a great tip.

And then also so we need to have some idea of what story we want to tell,”what is that we want to announce”, right? Maybe prepare our story, our message and so on and so forth. But then do you have any tips of how to approach journalists and where to approach them. Is it on LinkedIn? Do you suggest just searching for journalists who work for certain publications that you want to be featured in? And then approaching them individually or working with companies, like, your company who can, take care of that process. What's your advice.

Mickie Kennedy: So when it comes to this there's two approaches. There is direct pitching where predominantly it's done through email or over the phone. And that's generally what PR firms do. They have maybe a Rolodex of journalists that they've established a relationship with in an industry, and you could do that yourself. I always recommend this to practice with local media, because if you think about it, there's probably less than 10 people that would write about you in a local market, so just find out who they are. Ask for their email address. They're not trying to hide their members of the community and they want to be accessible so that you can send them news and tips and things like that.Just do a little bit of research. If you have a business magazine or business newspaper as well, read it. Figure out who covers your industry, reach out to them and ask for their email address and say, you'd like to send them pitches. You can do the same thing with a specific publication.

The thing about it is it's very time consuming and, as a result, the pickup rate is also not very good. The thing about using a service like eReleases is it's a wire. It's available broadly. There is competition from other press releases, but if you're doing strategic types of press releases, the meaningful types, then you stand a really good chance of getting picked up. An extreme example of what could happen by going over a wire is we did a press release during the pandemic for the “Dining Bonds Initiative”, which was a very short lived project to help restaurants that were closed during the pandemic. And we stopped counting at 150 places that picked it up. Wall street journal, a lot of major publications, a lot of small newspapers as well.

And it generated an excess of 10 million dollars in revenue for the project. It was a release that would have cost 400 dollars. We did it at no charge because we were helping out the project, but it just shows you the leverage opportunity that's there if you have a very meaningful press release and, I challenge any marketer to say put 400 in and pull 10 million out. It's very extreme, but it is possible for things like that to happen. Most commonly it's four or five articles from a very successful press release. So a hundred and fifty plus is an extreme example, but it does show you the power of getting out there and something that would be near impossible to replicate directly.

Just approaching and pitching 150 individual journalists is a lot more difficult than hitting one button and sending over the wire. And then the likelihood that all the places, all 150 people you've reached out to directly are going to pick you up is very remote as well. So it is one of those things that can work really well, and the type of pickup can include newspapers like that example did, but it can also be trade publications as well.

A lot of food and restaurants. Trade publications picked it up. So there's lots of media out there, not to mention even, we have people who get picked up on like Good Morning America for TV interviews and things like that. The types of media can be really diverse. It does include social media influencers as well. There are particular industries that are served by these new forms of media in which there's fashion influencers on Instagram who receive press releases and report on fashion news and things like that. What is a journalist today is evolving, but the news wires are out there plugging in and reaching all of these players.

Arek Dvornechuck: Now, definitely. It's a great opportunity to get some exposure. And so what would be your advice for small entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who are just building their credibility and their portfolio. Of course, they have some expertise, but maybe their name is not out there yet. Do you think it's going to affect the feedback? When working with a company like yours, let's say when you're small, in your niche, is it going to affect the feedback? Is it worth doing that? Or should we just start small and reach out to some local media and then take it from there and then perhaps work with, PR agency like yourself, or it doesn't really matter? What would you say

Mickie Kennedy: I think it really comes down to your comfort level. If you feel really strongly about just going ahead and going big then I would recommend doing PR press releases and sending them out over a wire like through eReleases. If you would rather dip your toes in, then you can try to do it locally and maybe some key publications that you reach out to directly. And in those cases, you don't need to write a press release. You just need a pitch which is a little bit of a hook as to what you're announcing and maybe you can provide some links for more information. So you don't necessarily have to have a press release written for those. At the end of the day there's lots of different ways to approach PR. But the thing to keep in mind is that, one press release or one pitch is not a PR campaign. And there are people who will do one press release and just feel, press releases don't work for me. And the types of press releases they do may not be meaningful. They're certainly not strategic.

The most common type of press release we get is a new hire at a company, and often it's not like an industry veteran or a new CEO or president, someone extremely important to the company. And as a result, the pickup is usually frontline and difficult to spot. Not very strong, if at all it's usually just a local paper and maybe a trade publication has a tiny little on the move section.

What you could do is do a more strategic type of press release and, by strategic, I mean something that's a little more important. A lot of people practice what's called news jacking. So if there's a major trend or something big that happened in your industry, a lot of people join the conversation and that worked 10, 15 years ago. It doesn't work now and the reason is there's so many voices saying the same thing that you're not going to stand out. But if you're willing to take a contrarian viewpoint, which is against what most of the industry is doing, you could get major pickup as a result of that. You have to understand journalists like to be fair and balanced. And if there's only one viewpoint being expressed in your industry, but a lot, everybody's saying it, you could be that one person saying the opposite or challenging what people are saying. And by doing that, by journalists being fair and balanced, you stand the likelihood that every time an article is written on the subject, you're included because you're the only person that has a quote that's saying something contrarian or negative about it. The only thing I'd caution is you do want to make sure that when you take a contrarian viewpoint that you don't alienate yourself with your customer base. So you want to be reasonable and make sure it's not something that could result in basically a backlash.

Arek Dvornechuck: I totally agree. So basically you suggest that, instead of just hijacking, trying to talk about what's trendy in our industry let's say, take it as an example, AI. Recently, right? Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, but as you mentioned, if you say something contrary to that trend or something that not many people would agree with. That perhaps is going to, get you there more likely because those journalists, they want different perspectives, right? So they want to feature people who have different viewpoints on the subject. That's a great tip. 

And can you walk us through the typical process? So let's say. I have a small business, either I sell products or offer services whether it is locally or, nationally, or on the internet, what's the typical process of working with PR firms like yourself?

Mickie Kennedy: Great. Basically you would approach our website's You can call or email or chat and speak to an editor and they can walk you through the process. We do offer writing services, but I think most press releases are very simplistic. And so if you just look at a press release sample or a template on our website, I think you would probably feel pretty comfortable writing it on your own. You do want to make sure you're doing strategic types of releases, not the average ones. We get a lot of product launch, press releases, and they're usually here's the new product and here's. A list of features, and it's very hard for a journalist to write an article with that.

However, if you were to add a use case study, maybe a client who beta tested it, what their results were, and shared a quote by them talking favorably about the product, that gives the journalists a lot more things to work with in developing an article because at the end of the day, journalists are story builders and it's hard to build a story with, here's a product and here's features. But if you give a story where there's a problem, here's a client who utilizes this product, these were the results that they saw, here is them saying something amazing, and then here's some features. It rounds out the article and gives them a lot more to work with. Just keep that in mind that you are writing for journalists who are acting as gatekeepers, and you want to give them as much information as you can for them to develop a story because they like the story arc. If you read lots of articles, you'll notice after a while that they all have an entry and they take you on a path and that path is the story arc and it can vary a little bit, but there has to be enough information to build that out. So keep that in mind whenever you're doing releases, but types of press releases, you could consider that a more strategic approach would be doing a survey or study within your industry. I coach a lot of clients through that. It's not as difficult as it sounds. It's a few minutes and the surveymonkey doing a four page survey for questions per page for a total of 16 questions. It's then taking that link and sharing it with your industry. And if you don't have enough people in your industry in a database, it's easy to reach out to independent or small trade associations in your industry and ask them if they'll send that link to their members in exchange for you mentioning them in a press release you'll be issuing over the wire.

The smaller and independent trade associations see this as a win and so they'll often send it out to their members in exchange for that pickup. And then when you get the results. You tally them. You figure out what the big surprises were. What were the things that people would want to know? And then maybe focus on two or four of those questions and answers in the survey. You don't have to use all 16 questions, of course. And put some great quotes in there and analysis of why you felt the results turned out the way that they did. And that's a really great way to shine. Most of the time that gets between four and 14 articles every time you do a really good survey, you want to make sure you're asking really relevant questions that are timely. You want the question to be, if you ask today, it's going to be different than if you ask in 6 months. So you really want it Pick things that are in flux or challenges that you currently have, or you suspect the industry is facing and ask some specific questions around that. It might be, challenges with hiring people wanting to work remotely, how you're addressing that. Is that an issue for you? Is it, could it be economic? Are you? Scaling back your marketing budgets over the next quarter or two quarters, or are you going to be spending more having the results of that is a really good indicator on the health of your industry. Just look at what's going on in your industry, maybe talk to colleagues. What are the questions you would ask if you went to a conference or an event where other people from your industry were there and you're just like, “Hey, have you been experiencing this as well?” Those could be good topics to ask. There's gonna be hit or miss. That's why you have 16 opportunities with 16 questions, and you really only need two or four to really be meaningful with the results to pull together a great press release and result in a really good article.

Arek Dvornechuck: So just to sum up for our listeners. Case studies would work well, instead of just promoting a product or service and talking about their features or even benefits. Just rather focus on telling the story and indicating some case studies. So that would help the journalist with the storytelling. As you mentioned, we need to focus on them and help them write a great story, right? And another thing you said that works really well are surveys and studies, right? So you can run some surveys, or some studies in your industry, ask some questions, gather some feedback, and then talk about that. And include some statistics and things like that, some data to make it more interesting. So that's great. So I think we've covered pretty much the topic in general. If our listeners want to learn more about you and what you do, what's the best way to connect with you?

Mickie Kennedy: Sure. So is the website. All of our social media is on the lower right. We do have a free masterclass that goes through about eight strategic types of press releases you could do. So if you are considering PR, it's a good place to start. It's a less than an hour long video and really walks you through the types of releases that are meaningful. So if you were to build a PR campaign with that. You would have a much higher chance of getting media success. And it's at P L A N. And again, it's completely free. I'm trying to educate my customers to stop doing the releases that don't work and focus on the ones that do.

Arek Dvornechuck: Great. Great. Okay. So we're going to link to the video. It's a one hour long video and it's totally free. And you talk about eight different types of press releases, right? So you guys can check it out. Also thank you Mickie, thanks for joining the show.

Mickie Kennedy: You're very welcome.

Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you so much.

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