"Join over 25 million other readers that have been educated and inspired to transform their life and business"

Start Your Digital Side Hustle
click here

Increasing Visibility and Credibility with Press Releases (Episode 134)

Mickie Kennedy believes that with some effort and a little money, the possibilities are endless. He is an expert at helping small businesses, authors, and startups increase their visibility and credibility through press releases. 

Mickie founded eReleases over 22 years ago after realizing that small businesses desperately need a press release service they can actually afford, giving them access to the media and to a national newswire – all with a personal touch. 

He holds an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from George Mason University. His press releases have resulted in articles being published in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg, and many more prestigious new outlets. 

Mickie lives in Baltimore County with his family and two feuding cats. 

He enjoys British science fiction and acknowledges an unhealthy addiction to diet soda. He still writes poetry most Monday nights (virtually) with a group of fellow misfits in Brunswick, Maryland.

Traffic Guide

Free Download

The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business

 

What you will learn

  • How Mickie found himself writing press releases for businesses
  • Visibility: Why it’s the most common challenge for small businesses
  • How social media impacted Mickey’s company, eReleases
  • The evolution of written word communication
  • Find out how Mickie scaled his company to where it is today
  • Discover why eReleases is different from other press release competitors
  • Learn how to write a killer PR headline
  • How does A/B testing help increase customer lifetime value?
  • Discover why Mickie stopped micromanaging his employees and how he empowers them instead
  • Plus loads more!

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:05 - 00:01:01

Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Mickie Kennedy. Mickie Kennedy is a guru of press releases and has been doing it for a long time and Mickie believes that with some effort and a little money, the possibilities are endless. He is an expert at helping small businesses, authors and startups to increase their visibility and credibility. Mickie founded the eReleases 22 years ago after realizing that small businesses desperately needed a press release service that can actually afford, give them access to the media and national newswire - all with a personal touch and as you can tell with his glasses, he does have that personal touch.

He holds an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from George Mason University. His press releases have resulted in articles being published in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg and many more prestigious new outlets. Mickie lives in Baltimore County with his family and two feuding cats.

Welcome to the show, Mickie.

Mickie Kennedy

00:01:01 - 00:01:02

Thanks for having me.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:03 - 00:01:07

So, cats, what's the problem?

Mickie Kennedy

00:01:08 - 00:01:16

They just don't seem to get along with anyone. They have a very love-hate relationship with people and each other.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:17 - 00:01:33

Well, obviously the press release businesses to make people love businesses rather than feud. So, Mickie tell us a little bit about how you got into the press release business and it started quite a long time ago, almost before the internet happened.

Mickie Kennedy

00:01:33 - 00:03:36

Right. So about 25 years ago I was finishing up a Creative Writing degree and I just assumed I was gonna wait tables the rest of my life and write poetry in the evenings. And so I spent a summer after graduating doing just that waiting tables and what I found is 10 to 12 hours a day on your feet is physically exhausting. And at the end of the day, I was useless. I couldn't read, I couldn't write anything. And so I realized I needed a cushy office job. So I applied and became employee number three at a telecom research startup in Washington D. C. And because I had the writing background, they said you're gonna write press releases and send them out for us. And so I got a crash course in that. And as I was sending out the release through fax at the time, a lot of them would call and say could I email that over? Because we published a lot of numbers and statistics and it was easier to copy and paste. So that's sort of like a lightbulb moment for me that maybe this email thing could be a natural way to send out releases. And so I spent about a year contacting journalists and asking if I could email them press releases. And I would say almost 99.9% of them said sure because email was novel and new and they were like, if you cover my beat, that sounds like a win win. And so I did that for a few years just the email distribution with my database. And then the newswire, PR Newswire approached us and said you should also send your releases through us. And I pointed out that, hey, I charged $200-$300 dollars to my clients and you charged over $1000 to move a press release out nationally. And so they circled back and wanted to work with us because they really liked our customer base were entrepreneurs and small business owners and a segment that they weren't currently really servicing. Most of their clients are like the big giant corporations, the companies that are doing $20-$40 million dollars or more a year. And so we were able to make it work and we've been with them for a really long time.

Jeff Bullas

00:03:36 - 00:03:45

So when you started, one of the biggest challenges for small business is getting visibility. So how did you grow your client base?

Mickie Kennedy

00:03:46 - 00:04:16

I, at the time, used forums, there was one that I think Microsoft acquired at some point called LinkExchange and it was based on an ad network, but it had a huge forum base of, you know, tens of thousands of users and people would ask questions and I would talk about PR and publicity and press releases and I became an expert on these forums and it was a great place for people to discover me. And it started word of mouth that it's continuing to this day.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:17 - 00:04:23

So that would have meant spending a fair bit of time online in the forums?

Mickie Kennedy

00:04:23 - 00:04:24

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:24 - 00:04:36

And so obviously the forums you're talking about still exist today, but social media came along. And so how did social media impact your business?

Mickie Kennedy

00:04:36 - 00:05:53

So, it's made it more fragmented, but I also think it's been refreshing because it's a new avenue for people to reach the media. When I started doing releases with PR Newswire early on, we had a lot of problems with bloggers who would come to me and say I'm trying to get journalist access with PR Newswire and they won't accept me because I'm a blogger. And I would point out that this blogger gets 60,000 visits a month and the trade publication for that industry gets 15,000. And so eventually PR Newswire relaxed their rules and accepted bloggers as a real bona fide media source. And and today, they are accepting, you know, people on Instagram who are in the fashion arena as journalists and so they're giving them journalist access to wire and things like that. So I find that it was resistant at first, but they're much more accepting of new media now and they recognize things are in flux. Technology is changing where people get their news is evolving. And fortunately the Newswire are doing a really good job of embracing that and opening up their network to people, influencers from all different types.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:53 - 00:06:20

You think part of the challenge with sort of the old media like PR Newswire, do you think part of the problem was these bloggers coming up and it's like you're just new and don't know what you're really doing and plus they didn't obviously know that the reach of some of the bloggers. And so do you think there was a ego thing with new kids on the block for PR Newswire, you think?

Mickie Kennedy

00:06:20 - 00:07:09

I think there's always a component of human nature in there where we believe that we know how to do things and we know what the proper way to do things are. And I think that the newswires took themselves a bit too seriously and a little too professional journalistic standards and things like that. I've seen a relaxation of AP style on the wire where they really don't care very much. And there were people who used to just be so mortified about sending a press release with a typo in it or you know, a stylistic mistake which isn't really a technical mistake, it's just you know, I titled case off and I shouldn't have with AP style and so uh they don't

Jeff Bullas

00:07:09 - 00:07:11

What is AP style, by the way?

Mickie Kennedy

00:07:11 - 00:08:10

Associated press is the style that most of the Newswire use and it's just, you know, a stylistic way of doing things and the Newswire don't really care anymore. I think that there's been a relaxation and a lot of older people don't like it. I love it because what it's done is this democratized the distribution and what you're sending out and all of a sudden if you have a really compelling message and it's not 100% perfect, you stand a much higher chance to getting media success than the perfect press release, that's just a mediocre safe little, you know, press release announcement that is, you know, constructed through a committee and it's just safe and it really doesn't say anything newsworthy. And so I think that that's really cool. And I see a lot of small companies, especially startups, do really well with the media in instances where I don't think that 10, 15, 20 years they would have.

Jeff Bullas

00:08:10 - 00:08:51

Yeah, there's certainly been, I've been watching over last week, I started blogging in 2009. So, and just the social media came out and I've certainly seen a change in the way we communicate. The phones also changed the way we communicate. And I think we've become a lot more casual in our communication, but it's a lot more real and authentic. As soon as I see a formally written PR news release, I almost, I'm switched off straight away almost. So what's your take on the evolution of written word communication, which is essentially what you're doing since you started?

Mickie Kennedy

00:08:51 - 00:09:54

Right, I see a progression where multimedia and having photos and stuff like that are becoming more important because if you have a release that a journalist is considering for a story and it has really great images and he's looking at another story that might be about the same, maybe even a little bit better. But it doesn't have those images because they're more likely to choose your press release to write an article about because you've got these images and they realize that those images are going to resonate with their audience. And I think that we're moving to being more visually oriented. I think the natural progression of this is to move eventually into video. And I think that video is gonna be the medium by which a lot of news is going to be broadcast, but you know, it might be 10 years from now, maybe even, you know, a little bit less than that. But I do think that people who are early adopters with video b-roll and stuff like that to supplement in addition to the images stand a better chance of being more accessible to different types of medium that are out there.

Jeff Bullas

00:09:55 - 00:10:04

So in terms of that, are you experimenting with different forms of video press releases?

Mickie Kennedy

00:10:04 - 00:11:24

Right. So what we do is we allow people to include video with their release. Usually, I think it's on YouTube is the way that the Newswires accepting a YouTube link and embeds it within the release. So there's a video component and the same thing with the images that you can upload with the video. I think that we're not quite there yet where we're at the point where there'd be a video press release. But I do think that that's the natural progression of where we'll be moving towards. A little bit less of the written language and more towards the video because I think that, you know, if you, if you look at the Facebook feeds and Instagram feeds and everything like that, I mean Instagram being just pictures and photos originally, it's now, when I go, it's just full of video and I think that that's where we're heading to, you know, I think with press releases, it's gonna be a little bit slower. I think that a lot of the corporations like the written word, they like getting everything approved. And I think video production is expensive. So, it may not be there for everyone, but I think that in 5 to 10 years it probably will be, you know, 50% or more of releases that move will be based off of, you know, the content being in video form.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:25 - 00:11:58

Yes. The way we communicate has changed a lot. So for TikTok, for example, is one leading edge or bleeding edge maybe concept that might roll into PR down the track. So, now you've written poetry and still write poetry. And you realize that you couldn't do tables and write poetry at the same time. So, how did cutting edge technology help you with innovating the scale as a poet? How did that happen?

Mickie Kennedy

00:11:58 - 00:12:41

I think for me the editing and working with people because one of the things about poetry for me is I can write a poem but then it needs a lot of editing and having good readers that you can collaborate with. So we assume with some of my friends who are my readers and I'm the reader of their work. So we get on Zoom, we share Microsoft Word and we go through the poems and talk about it. So the collaboration tools are really phenomenal where before, the only way you can do this is to sit down at a table together and you know, I'm working with people who are in different states and even different parts of the US.

Jeff Bullas

00:12:42 - 00:13:31

Yeah, Zoom certainly changed the way we do things a lot and it's become like zooming has become like googling, it's basically become a verb. So when you started your press release business, you're actually initially doing it on faxes and some people don't even know what faxes are. One of the ways I did some marketing, direct distribution marketing faxes years ago and actually automated that so and it's important to automate as much as you can so you can scale your business. So now you had a business that you sold during the dot com crash and you learned a lot about scaling it and growing it. Can you tell us about that business? Because that was quite a story just before we got on the call.

Mickie Kennedy

00:13:31 - 00:16:04

Right, so I was bringing most of my money in during the late 1990s through day tips, which was a consumer newsletter business. And I was doing any releases on the side, but it wasn't doing very much, it was just slowly growing. Day tips was doing at its height $50,000 a month in advertising with and I had three newsletters that were over a million subscribers. And it was really cool and exciting. I was able to get those subscribers for very little money. There were so many sites back then during the dot com era where people just had crazy ideas like free lotto types websites that just got millions of people visiting a week and stuff like that. And so I would do cory edge with them where you know, we put the boxes for people to sign up for our newsletters to opt in and get subscribers that way. And so it was, it was exciting. But when the crash was happening, my advertising revenue went from 50,000 a month to something like 12,000 a month to 4000 a month to zero. So in four months it went to zero. And as it was declining, I put my three biggest properties, three newsletters up for sale and sold a couple two Emazing, which was a Sony backed newsletter business and a couple that I sold to a private person, one small and one large list that I sold. And a lot of people said I was making a mistake and I felt like you know if I am I know how to get more subscribers and build up you know, newsletters in the future. But the market never I came back. I still had lots of mid sized newsletters that I could put advertising on. The advertising dollars for consumer never came back after the dot com crash. But the funny thing is you releases grew through that entire time and I continued to focus on it. Funny thing is he releases was part of the day tips family because it was just another newsletter business. I had like 24 different newsletters of press releases that were art and entertainment, press releases that were, you know, high tech consumers, high tech telecom. So I just created a bunch of different little newsletters and I just sort of folded everything that was consumer related and focused exclusively on e-Releases after that.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:05 - 00:16:27

So in terms of scaling that, like you must, I suppose when you start you would have been doing it all yourself. And so initially you focused on email. So how did you scale the business because quite often people become just stayed being a solo preneurs, how did you scale e-Releases?

Mickie Kennedy

00:16:28 - 00:18:39

Right. So for e-Releases, I just started pouring whatever money I had back into the business and overture or go to dot com launched with the concept of pay per click. And that was a real game changer for me because most of my people were coming to me through word of mouth and you know, forums and stuff like that. All of a sudden if someone typed in press release writing or press release distribution, they would see my ad and could click and come to me. And so that really opened up the world. This was pre-Google, this was pre, you know, Google paid advertising and stuff like that. So that was, that really changed. And all of a sudden, you know, I went from like $1500 to $2500 a month in revenue to like $7000-$8000 a month in revenue. And I was like, I could live on that, you know, after paying expenses, that's enough for a English major poetry guide to make a living. And I just continued to pour as much as I could for as long as I could. And I had gotten that big windfall of cash by selling the assets of day tips, the consumer newsletters altogether, that was probably like $400,000 that I got from selling those newsletters. And so I was able to use that to live on and have a little nest egg for buying my first house. And not have to worry about taking money out of the e-Releases for the longest time. And it was like putting fuel on the fire when it came to pay per click. You know, Google launch with their paid advertising very similar to overture. Actually, I think that they ended up having to pay a settlement because they stole the technology from go to dot com and overture to build their pay per click. And it was just really instrumental. And the thing that hasn't changed is word of mouth and referrals. Each month we still drive two thirds of our new customers come from direct traffic, just people typing in e-Releases and people telling other people to go check out the e-Releases. So that's been a really cool and exciting thing about, you know, being a really good resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:40 - 00:18:49

So in one sense, you were lucky with your timing because you started when pay per click was actually quite cost effective. Was that right?

Mickie Kennedy

00:18:49 - 00:18:50

Sure. Absolutely.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:50 - 00:18:59

Yeah. So if you tried to build a business on paid today, it's much more expensive and would be, you have to spend a lot of money, wouldn't you?

Mickie Kennedy

00:18:59 - 00:19:26

You do. And a lot of my competitors didn't spend as much as I did because they didn't, I suspected they didn't know their numbers. I know that the lifetime value of my customer is like, you know, $3,000 so I can afford to spend more money to get that new customer in that I'm gonna get in that first transaction. And a lot of my competitors, they don't know they're numbers strong enough to be able to do that.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:27 - 00:19:43

Yeah. It's understanding your lifetime value. The customer is very important in terms of what you're going to spend. So you're writing yourself, when did you say well, I need to get some more people who will need to build a team. When did that happen?

Mickie Kennedy

00:19:43 - 00:20:52

Well, I'll be honest with you. I was in my basement, I was over 300lbs because I didn't work out. You know, I just stayed in front of a computer for 60, 80 hours a week and running everything myself. And I got really fat. And a friend of mine, she was going through an employment crisis and she was thinking about leaving a nonprofit she was at and I told her, I said I could really use someone and I convinced her to come and work for me. And she did for several years. And she was employee number one. And I tell people that I was very hesitant about hiring an employee because I was afraid of what happens if we have a bad month and I'm responsible for their salary. And you worry about stuff like that as when you're first starting out. And so when I hired her, I probably needed to hire two employees at that time because I put it off for so long. And we just started adding more people after that. Currently, we had six editors, a managing editor, office assistant and project manager, not to mention the technology team. And a lot of freelancers that we use for writing.

Jeff Bullas

00:20:53 - 00:21:43

Yeah, So you sort of get your point, I'm knocking myself out and I think I got to a point going, I was getting up at 4:30 AM to write before I started my day job and to get my blog posts out but what I did is I did a lot of writing, which is great. And I discovered I loved it and enjoyed it. And I got the point going, I need to bring guest writers in and because I built an audience, I was able to give them attention. So there was a trade, so we've got a lot of guest authors who write for free because we give them attention on the blog.

So in terms of technology, you're building the team. So what some of the technology you're using today, you know, for press releases?

Mickie Kennedy

00:21:44 - 00:23:20

So for most of our staff, the editors are really in the customer service business because they're dealing directly with the clients and it's over the phone, over chat, it's over email back and forth. And so one of the technologies that I found out several years ago because I was using Zendesk and my clients hated it. They hated the ticket system when they email, they just didn't like it, it feels like you're talking with a robot and you're waiting for a human to respond. And so we moved to a service called Help Scout, which is a ticketless ticket system. It worked just like Zendesk from our standpoint, but from the consumer standpoint, they just sent an email and there's no numbers on the subject or anything like that. It's the email they sent and so that really was a game changer for us because it has all the back end processes of a ticket system, but it's completely to the consumer, it's ticketless and that was a real big game changer, chat was also another game changer using chat for people because some people just don't like picking up the phone, they're afraid they're going to deal with a sales person and it's gonna be, you know, heavy handed and, you know, all of that stuff and there's something about chat and especially with younger people, they really like chat and text over email and phone calls and things like that. So we just evolved to be accessible through lots of different mediums and allow the customer to determine how they want to talk and interact with us.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:21 - 00:23:56

It's fascinating about chat and different messages, like got, you know, all sorts of, you know, we got WeChat, Facebook Messenger. You've got text on your phone, SMS. I've got to a point sometimes going, I remember someone sent me a message two days ago and going now, where is it? Which platform did they reach out to me on? So do you just let your team operate with a customer basically, however they feel most comfortable with, is that correct?

Mickie Kennedy

00:23:56 - 00:24:35

That's correct. I mean I gave up a long time ago trying to steer my customers in one exact path. We have writing services that we offer and we would have a form that people would complete and answer specific questions for us to write a press release. Only about 20% of our customers did that. The rest were just like, I don't wanna do that, can you just give me a call and we'll talk on the phone. And I was just like well if that means keeping the sale, we will certainly do that. And so I just found that be accessible in all the different ways in which customers want to interact with you, you'll get more money that way.

Jeff Bullas

00:24:35 - 00:25:03

So let's have a look at the process you do because you offer, obviously, it's a very cost effective PR e-Release. So what's the process and what makes you guys different? So let's look at the process first. No, let's look, let's talk about what makes you guys a bit different in terms of what you do compared to your competitors.

Mickie Kennedy

00:25:03 - 00:29:13

The distribution that we have is a national distribution over PR Newswire. It's something that they charge about $1,200 to move a 500 word press release nationally and we offer that and we have a new customer special, we can get in for around $300 for a new customer. So it's a 75% savings over going with the directly to the newswire yourself so you know that's the real value of us. That being said, I think that the real value of us is that we are very customer centric, we're very into helping and assisting the customer. We provide resources for our customers. For example, I put together during the pandemic, strategies for building strategic types of press releases. So many of my customers do standard types of press releases, new hire, a new product launch. And many of these don't result in media pick up, no articles get written about it. So I suggest that they try strategic types of press releases that generally do result in articles. For example, I've never had this fail, if you do a survey or study within your industry and you then tabulate the results and do a press release on that. It generally results between anywhere from 6 to 14 original articles every time they do that. The least I've had a client do is they got four articles from it. And so you know there are PR firms that charge $4,000 a month that guarantee no media pick up. And I can say to my clients, if you do this type of press release you will at minimum get four media pickups and it does take a little bit of work. My clients like to push back on work and I always tell them you can sign up very easily and create a multi page survey with something like SurveyMonkey, you could even use Google Forms. But I like SurveyMonkey cause it's very, I like the multi page approach and how they tabulate the results and you ask like really compelling questions that are relevant today. Right now, we have supply chain issues. We have so many employment issues, you know, work is changing and hiring is changing. And so if you ask some relevant questions about that as well as there's some economic issues as well, like are we going to be heading into a recession or are we not? What’s your advertising spending looking like? Are you contracting? Are you spending more or are you just taking a wait and see approach? So if you ask a lot of cool questions right now and you can put additional questions in there as well. That's something that the media would be very receptive to and the great thing about it is if you do it today, you can do it again six months because the answers are gonna be different. And so you know that's a really cool thing. Some of my clients push back and go, well, I don't know who to send it to. And I'm like every industry has dozens, if not hundreds of independent and small trade associations. They do not get a lot of love, all the large trade associations do. And so I say, if you approach them and say, will you send this to your members and I'll include you in a press release, I'll be issuing over the wire, 80% of them will immediately say yes. Some of them might push back and want you to co brand the survey or stuff like that. But in most cases I've seen it work at least 90% of the time with the first trade association that you target and reach out to. And so that's a great way to get the results. They send a link out to their members through social media or email or even ideally both. And then you can get those results and put together a really great press release with the results that the survey determined and you know, you'll take what you thought were the most interesting responses. The big aha as like I was really surprised that 84% of people felt this way and you put a couple of quotes in there of why you feel it's skewed that way and you're the expert because you did the survey and it's a great way to stand out and get articles written about you in the media.

Jeff Bullas

00:29:13 - 00:30:22

Yeah, that is a really good approach. In other words, you're writing about the industry and you're getting cut through with what's basically proprietary information because that's the thing is trying to get that cut through, isn't it really? And also then on top of the cut through is, who can you collaborate with, in other words, who's talking to my customers? Which is fantastic. So, and the way we communicate, I came across Axios in the way they write emails and newsletters and their biggest approaches say the most interesting, something new, right off the bat. Don't leave it to the bottom, just do it right off the bat. And they get, I think up to 60-80% open rates on their emails. It's just phenomenal. So getting that cut through is really, really important. So what is the process you take with a client? So you've got this very effective, efficient approach to get cut through. So how do you engage with a client? What's the steps to getting a PR release done for a customer?

Mickie Kennedy

00:30:22 - 00:31:50

Right. So I would say the bulk of our customers come to us because they've written a press release already and they're looking to distribute it and they're trying to determine with all the noise that's out there. Should they be spending $19 for a syndication only of their press release? And why are we, you know, more than that? And the difference is the syndication is just duplicating the press release on a few websites. Usually they're not very important websites and what we look for with a wire and reaching journalist is to have a journalist take the press release, look at it and then turn it into an article and that can only happen when you put it in front of a journalist. So people come to us, we hold their hand, explain the process to them. We'll look at their release, sometimes give them some tips and resources to make it a little bit better. During the whole process we're talking to them about, but this is your first press release and a PR campaign. You really want to try more strategic types of releases subsequently and try to get the conversation going to doing more strategic types of press releases. We recognize that most people come to us and they already have an agenda. They've got a release written that they're wanting to get out there. And what we're trying to do is to try to get them to think longer term and more strategically so that they're doing releases that, you know, really are to a higher newsworthy standard.

Jeff Bullas

00:31:51 - 00:31:58

So you would write some of the releases sometimes that customers are trying is saying, here's what I want to put out.

Mickie Kennedy

00:31:58 - 00:32:09

Right. Yeah, we do write releases. But I would say 95% of the releases that we distribute come to us already written and it's someone looking for trying to find a home for him.

Jeff Bullas

00:32:09 - 00:32:19

Right, Okay. And do you like, will you make recommendations in terms of how that like the first sentence, for example, in other words, you're gonna get right off the bat?

Mickie Kennedy

00:32:19 - 00:32:55

So we do offer press release reviews, whether you use this or not, and we will look at them and make suggestions on headline and opening paragraph especially, because the most important part of the press releases is the headline, that's the hook that draws you in. And then also the opening of the press release, are you really giving them that, you know, like you were talking about access, are you giving them the meat? The most important thing right there front and center and, you know, sort of, they call it in journalism, the inverted pyramid. You put the most important stuff at the top and then you layer down to the least important information.

Jeff Bullas

00:32:55 - 00:33:12

Right. Yeah. It's fascinating. And also the tech now is evolving so that you can tell if someone's read it from top to bottom. So do you use any tech to do that, in other words, to see who's read the entire release. In other words, they just read the first sentence.

Mickie Kennedy

00:33:12 - 00:36:02

We don't have a lot of tracking when it comes because unfortunately most of our releases are going over the wire and the wire is a little antiquated. So it doesn't have a lot of the technology and tracking that we would like to see. I would love for the urls that go on the wire to be tracked. But unfortunately, the way they're distributed by the Newswire to lots of different media, the tracking is not there. So it is a little backwards and it's not front technology facing. So it is something that, you know, every marketer is aware of the shortcomings with PR and press releases from a tracking standpoint, which is one of the reasons they hate PR, you know, how do you know that a PR campaign is successful and you know, it's it's hard to tell sometimes if you had media pick up in a month and you were doing the same marketing as usual, then you could say, well, was there an uptick this month or in overall sales or leads that came in and you can maybe determine some information there, but it's really not easy and straightforward. What percentage of sales can we attribute to that? What percentage of leads do you think we got from it? So it does make it a little bit more difficult to track. But that being said, I had one client early in the pandemic, do a release. They got 150 articles including the Wall Street Journal, Baron’s, New York Times, Washington Post generated over $11 million in revenue. And the reason they know that it generated, that's the only thing they did. They did nothing else but sent out one press release that got 150 articles and they got over $11 million in revenue. So you know that is an extreme example because it was a press release that was about all the restaurants that were closed during the pandemic and ways in which you could give money to your favorite local restaurants, you know backed by sort of a dining bond type gift certificate type approach and the money would go directly to the restaurant if the restaurant said yeah we're good with this being part of this program. And so it was a positive thing in a time when there was a lot of negative news and uncertainty. And I think that's why it did so well. But it just shows the ability of leverage with PR, one press release can really go very far and for a little bit of money. I mean they would have spent $300 on that press release. We did it at no cost as a favor to a small PR firm. But you know for $300, $11 million returns pretty good. And I can't imagine any marketer that can, you know, brag about that.

Jeff Bullas

00:36:03 - 00:36:05

Yeah, that’s phenomenal. So do you do any AB split testing at all?

Mickie Kennedy

00:36:06 - 00:38:55

I personally do, my business is all about AB split testing. I do AB split testing of offline processes for example, I used to send a shock and awe package to all new customers. That was a little bizarre and quirky because you know I wear the quirky glasses. I'm a quirky guy and I filled it with lots of great stuff and fun stuff. We had bags of crab chips, potato chips because we're from Baltimore and we're known for crabs and we just put it chock full of fun, quirky stuff. And I had one customer come to me and say I like you but I don't know how I feel about using you in the future because that box was really unprofessional. And so I could have just said she doesn't know what she's talking about. I'm just gonna continue to send out the box. So I spent six months every time a new customer came in, one of them got a book with a letter welcoming them and the other one got the crazy package. And then after six months we started measuring the lifetime value of those customers and we measured it over two years. And at the two year mark, the people who just got the book and the letter, their lifetime value was 2.4 times what the people who got the big package. So that customer came to me and I could have easily brushed off what she said. But I really took it to heart and said, you know, I'm quirky and fun and I'm a poet, but maybe small business owners and entrepreneurs and startups and people like that aren't really wanting to do business with someone who they consider a clown and they're looking for someone who's more professional. And that person saved me a lot of money because I immediately stopped sending out those, you know, crazy packages which cost me about $40 or $50 per package. And I just sent a $6 book and paid $8 for express shipping. And so I saved a lot of money on that point. But it also increased the lifetime value of these customers considerably. So I do a split test of my sales pages for pay per click, I even split test just regular pages on my website. Like if I have an idea for a different pricing page, I'll just split test it so that half the visitors the pricing page C1 version and the other half see a different version with one change and just look at it over time and determine if there's statistical differences. That being said when it comes to press releases themselves, I would love to split test press releases and see is this headline way gonna perform better than this one. But again, we're dealing with the Newswire and you know, working with them and they're not set up for that.

Jeff Bullas

00:38:56 - 00:39:28

Yeah, that's the reality. You've got no control over that sort of funnel, do you? So, and that makes it difficult for measuring clients, but your AB split testing your own business all the time. So one of the other things you then, in other words, and one thing you mentioned, it's really important is that you AB split test with one change only. So, you know whether that change whether it's a headline or works against that headline, but everything else is the same in the end. What are some of the other things you split tests with?

Mickie Kennedy

00:39:29 - 00:43:45

So, other things that we have split tested as processes in the business like whether giving someone two or three calls 30 days after their press release to have certain discussions with them, like looking at their reports because the reports continue to live for 30 days after the release goes out. And we split tested what the results were with them and whether that leads to more engagement. We kind of found that it didn't, but I still do it because I believe that having good communication with the customer after the process, I think they're going to appreciate it. And as long as you're not approaching it from a sales standpoint, you're not trying to up sell them, you're really trying to get them to better understand the reports and the opportunity and so I think that you know it's gonna work but statistically it hasn't proven to work so far since we've been doing it. Other things that, you know, that I've done in the businesses, I didn't really split test it but I got out of the way of my business. I used to have huge turnover. The average employee stayed about a year and I belonged to a mastermind and I would complain every time I was there about I was having terrible turnover. And finally Nancy Slesinger who was an HR consultant in the UK, she goes Mickie, I don't work with small businesses but I'm just tired of you spending all your money being part of this mastermind and wasting it talking about these labor issues. She goes I want to interview all your employees and I'll get to the bottom of why you're employees aren't staying very long and how you can maybe get the right employees into your company that will stay long. And so she interviewed everybody and interviewed me and she looked at all my job ads and the way that I hire and she came back and said Mickie you are 100% the problem, you micromanage them and they don't feel that they're doing anything well. Every time they had a conversation, I'd go over and stand behind them and say hey next time you talk to them, don't say no, is there a way you could have said yes and given them you're still letting them down but you said it through yes. And you know all these little, you know, tips and tricks that I learned as a marketer. I'm trying to just squeeze them down and it's just driving them nuts because it's like nothing I do is good enough. Everything that I do is wrong. And so in April of 2015, I just told the staff I'm going home, I'm going to focus on marketing and you guys, I put up one of the editors in charge as the managing editor and I said, you know, you guys are just gonna work under her and we'll see how it goes. All but one employee from 2015 is still there and before they stay a year and now I've got people that have been there 7-8 years and longer and it was because I got out of the way and sometimes as an entrepreneur and a business owner is you want everything to be perfect, you want everything to be like as good as it can be. And the fact of the matter is as my HR consultant friend said, Mickie, another thing we always surveyed the customers and they said your customers above everything else. The thing that they feel he releases does better than anything else is customer service. And she goes, so these people aren't doing a bad job, they're doing a phenomenal job. And you may not, you may feel like there's room for improvement but you have to trust that they're doing a good enough job and you know and move on from there. And so I just backed away and the business has continued to grow, I could focus on growing the revenue and bringing in new customers and not worry about the customer service side of things because it may not be the way I would do it, but it's being done well and people have numbers and things that they can show how they're contributing. So it's measurable but they're still doing a good enough job.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:46 - 00:43:52

So you went from disempowering through your micromanaging to empowering your employees?

Mickie Kennedy

00:43:52 - 00:44:09

Absolutely. And we started going doing retreats every year at the beach where we all go and stay at one beach house and for a week and you know, it's a different thing because they used to saw me as the enemy and now they see me as the fun guy who's like their cheerleader.

Jeff Bullas

00:44:09 - 00:44:46

Right. Yeah. It's interesting that caught up in the entrepreneur's job is is to make, remove the friction so you can empower your employees to do. They will look after the customers and obviously yours were looking after your customers. Your job is to look after them, wasn't it? Yeah. It's fascinating. That's part of the fun of being an entrepreneur I think is being willing to learn whether it's learning from your customers and you split test on the quirky box versus just a boring book, what was that? 200% increase, was it?

Mickie Kennedy

00:44:46 - 00:45:03

Yes, it was over at two years. And we looked at it now. It's been over four years and it's like, I don't want to tell you what it's like. It's like five times the revenue what the other population. All the money that I left on the table by sending those boxes.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:03 - 00:45:05

Well, it's part of the journey, isn't really?

Mickie Kennedy

00:45:05 - 00:45:07

Right. Absolutely.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:07 - 00:45:09

So I'm curious what book do you send them?

Mickie Kennedy

00:45:09 - 00:45:51

I used to send them a Beginner's Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases, which is the first book I wrote about writing the best, most perfect press release. And then I've come around and realize that the writing of the release isn't the most important part. I told you AP style doesn't matter much anymore. And so now I send them the PR Strategy Manifesto and these are strategic ideas that you could be doing with press releases that will get media pick up and it doesn't matter how well they're written. And so um, I've transitioned to this book, but previously I sent the other book and just a letter introducing us and welcoming them as part of the eRelease’s family.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:52 - 00:46:01

That's very cool. It's also a gift, isn't it? So it always makes it memorable too. And also physical book is always sitting around, isn't it?

Mickie Kennedy

00:46:01 - 00:46:02

Right. Absolutely.

Jeff Bullas

00:46:02 - 00:46:07

Yeah. It has that sort of way to a third factor I've heard talked about as well.

Mickie Kennedy

00:46:07 - 00:46:16

Well I've noticed on Amazon there's like many dozens of used copies of my books because I give them to all the new customers so that some people are trying to get rid of them.

Jeff Bullas

00:46:17 - 00:46:36

Well, obviously they want to pay for themselves. Exactly. Right. So, in terms of, you got out of the way, right. So that's what's really good and that's a lesson. What are some of the other lessons you learned as an entrepreneur apart from the book versus the quirky box?

Mickie Kennedy

00:46:36 - 00:48:26

Don't trust your gut. I went into, I didn't know anything about, I'm an English writing guy and a poet. I didn't know anything about numbers and statistics. And so I was dangerous because I had a Google account for advertising and I was spending money and I would create a new ad and then if I got 3 conversions, I would say this ad is winning and then I'd cut all my other ads off and I found Perry Marshall and I told him what I was doing and he's like Mickie, that's not statistically relevant. You really have to get 30 or 40 conversions on the losing ad. So you might have 80 on the winning ad and 30 or 40 in the losing ad, but you have to have at least that number for it to be statistically relevant. And I was just, you know, sort of like a gut reaction. Oh, I feel like this is working. It's a new thing. And I was just wild and crazy. So I stayed with Perry Marshall for a long time. The master mind that I was in for many years was with him

and I really became a marketer and learned the proper way to measure results and the types of tools that they use because it seems like there's always something that's coming along.

Right now, I'm looking into TikTok and you know, I'm not really a TikTok video person with my phone, but I'm gonna try to become one just because I realized that really young people aren't using search engines anymore for trying to find stuff. They're using like, you know, Instagram and TikTok to find what things that interest them. So I'm gonna give that a try and I just, you know, as an entrepreneur, be open to new things and new ways of doing things and listen to other marketers and what they're doing that’s working.

Jeff Bullas

00:48:27 - 00:48:39

So what's working best for you in 2022 in terms of your advertising and marketing, in terms of customer acquisition leads and then sales, can you think about that?

Mickie Kennedy

00:48:39 - 00:49:46

Remarketing is the thing that works best for us. And that is you take someone who's been to eReleases and then you continue to show them ads and we have lots of different ads that we show them. We show them testimonials from customers and their experience. The strategies that I talked about that I have the video training, the master class, I send them to that. I send them to blog post. I just send them to eReleases again and again. And what happens is the more you educate them and the more that they see potential benefits and opportunities, then they're more likely to convert. And you know, I could take someone who stumbles across my website and take them on an eight month journey of coming to my website 567 times. And at the end of the end of that, they become a customer and you know, a couple of years, they've done $2500 worth of press releases with us. And so that's, that's been the biggest game changer. It's just, it's all about education and buying into the long journey.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:47 - 00:50:21

So basically building credibility and trust through constant visibility of your brand. I think I read some about 7 or 8 years ago. I read that if people see you once or twice, the trust factor is like 5%. If they see you five or six times, it goes up to 50% plus. So it's about getting that visibility and that's what you do with PR obviously. How do you find content, in other words, they go to your website? Have you got a content heavy website?

Mickie Kennedy

00:50:21 - 00:51:26

I do. I actually have a blog that I've been doing for 17, 18 years and I actually removed about 1000 articles from it because when I first began blogging, I'd write 200-300 word blog posts. And over time, Google quit sending traffic to those because Google wants longer copy. So I was just like, well Google doesn't like these smaller ones. So I just started not deleting them but just removing them from the blog. And so now I write closer to 2000 word blog posts. And so I do a lot of that and it's a lot of long tail searches that people do and stuff across us when they're researching press releases. And a lot of people are just in the journey of like what is the press release and then they'll stumble across the blog and learn a little bit more and after engaging with us a few times and maybe calling once or twice, they're ready to move forward and you know, buy into that whole strategy of doing press releases.

Jeff Bullas

00:51:27 - 00:51:41

And that raises an interesting question about search engines then. Do you do keyword research in terms of the types of phrases that potential clients would be typing into Google to try and find a company that does press releases like yourself?

Mickie Kennedy

00:51:41 - 00:53:03

We do. It makes it very difficult to determine what are the ones that, you know, give you money because Google analytics doesn't really show you that anymore. For a long time ago they did. Sofrom me, I just tried to take all of the key words that seem like they would be a natural fit and try to improve our score and the content that we have. So if I have a page, I put together a page on what is a press release last year and slowly Google will put us in the top 10 for a little while and test us and then they'll move us back to the page four, but they keep doing it, which tells me they're interested in it and I think that the more resources I provide on that page and the more that I answer their questions and include a video from YouTube as well that talks about what is a press release and stuff like that, I'm making the page more valuable so I think that over time this content will become more sticky and give users a better experience because what we're not looking for is to get the user but to get the user and educate them and give them a better experience, make it so that they look at more stuff on our website which tells Google they found what they were looking for on eReleases.

Jeff Bullas

00:53:03 - 00:54:33

Yeah, it is fascinating. And you live or die by their algorithms of search, right? There was a big update at the end of July and I've got back into writing a lot more regularly on the blast. I actually outsourced a lot of the writing and still do but I got back to writing a post a week. And coincidentally what happened was that Google changed its algorithm for review articles. And in just the last two weeks, our Google traffic, we get great traffic from Google, has doubled because of an algorithm change. And it's because Google's algorithm has changed to a review. That is a weighty review. Not a light fluffy SEO driven written light review. So guess what? We've got a lot of, you know, here's the top 10 pieces of software, here's the top ways to grow your Twitter account and a lot of it is review so you live and die by search sometimes. So, one thing that fascinated me, I noticed too, Mickie, just maybe one before we wind it up. Do you do press releases for influencers? Because influencers didn't basically exist as they didn't exist basically. Well, a social media influencer or influencer online didn't really exist 10 years ago. Do you do work with influencers at all?

Mickie Kennedy

00:54:34 - 00:56:38

So I personally have targeted podcasters because I was presenting at Podfest. I think it was last year and they wanted to know about can press releases work for promoting, you know, podcasts. If you have a podcast, you know, how does that work? So I did several different press releases for podcasters and I also looked at published press releases that other podcasters had done to try to determine, you know, what works and is it successful? Unfortunately, I found that it really worked when you name dropped. So there was the podcaster who was Donald Trump's personal attorney and he was doing an interview of Stormy Daniels and that one just, you know, that was like another couple 100 articles about that, everybody wrote about that. But you know, surprisingly the podcasts that did okay, we're the ones that were more education minded, there was some on history and specifically historical stuff in the south and NPR and other places picked those up and did well, but I found that without a lot of context, I think it's hard for journalists to determine is this influencer worth sharing with my audience because the journalist as a gatekeeper and he's trying to determine is this story entertaining enough or intriguing enough that my audience would want to know about it. And I think what happens with a lot of times with influencers is they're unsure about it, you know, whether it meets that qualification. Now, if they're mentioning Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump, you know, that's a slam dunk that, you know, there's probably gonna be people who is interested in it. But for, I think a lot of stuff, it's harder to say. And I think that's why the educational ones were, the focus of the podcast is more about the content rather than the personality tended to do better.

Jeff Bullas

00:56:38 - 00:57:24

Yeah, that's fascinating. And the trouble is that a lot of the data is in the black box of Apple and it's very hard to get that sort of like download, you know, how long they read to the end of, we do it for example on YouTube because we put this on YouTube as well. You've got a lot more data out of that than we can get out of Apples, just don't basically get nothing we got clips into measure, but it's fascinating, but podcasting is still relatively new in a way, in the sense of the world's history. Now, one thing I'm curious about is in today, are you running an office or is it a hybrid? Or is it totally remote?

Mickie Kennedy

00:57:24 - 00:58:19

So it is a hybrid. I don't go into the office, but the editors did until the pandemic and I think most of them come in two or three days a week now, usually Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Most people are working home on Thursday and Friday, but I decided that I have good staff, let them do what they wanna do. And surprisingly, they still want to come in two or three days a week because there's a social aspect to work. But you know, it is also nice that if you're getting a lot of packages from Amazon or something or you've got the, I don't know, the phone company coming by to to look at your line or something like that, being able to work from home is really nice and I feel like why penalize people for trying to do what they want to do and you know, I'm working from home, so who am I to say that you can't.

Jeff Bullas

00:58:19 - 00:58:51

Yeah, and the other thing too is one of the biggest benefits I've been working from the home office. I experiment a little bit with, you know, a shared office space, you know, but you waste so much time just commuting and not around the corner. And so it's fascinating to see, but everyone's taking different approaches to it, but I think the journey is certainly out of the bottle. I think we now have a hybrid working environment and I don't think we're gonna be able to put the court back, frankly.

Mickie Kennedy

00:58:51 - 00:58:52

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:58:53 - 01:00:21

So just to wrap it up, Mickie, what you've mentioned, I asked you what you wanted, some of your top tips for as an entrepreneur, one was don't trust your gut. The other one was don't micromanage, trust your team and they will constantly surprise you. That's what I found. So what else are there any other tips that you recommend just as a wrap up here?

Mickie Kennedy

01:00:21 - 01:00:31

I think test as much as you can, you know, AB split test as much as you can in your business. And don't assume it just applies to online. Like I did it with offline stuff and I've done it with several offline things in the past. I've done marketing campaigns where I sent half of the customers a postcard and the other half got a letter and then try to measure the results of the offer and stuff like that. So just, you know, open yourself up to opportunities. Because what you can find is even when it's only like an incremental change, like the postcards did 14% better. Well, that tells you that next year you can do two postcards and you know that you're going to get, you know, an improvement over what you did previously. But you've also got the opportunity to change the postcard and make the message a little bit different whether it's an image or the offer or something like that. And just be open to trying lots of different things because I think if you're not innovating and experimenting, you're going to stagnate.

Jeff Bullas

01:00:31 - 01:01:02

Yeah. And the fun about experimenting is basically curiosity sort of gene structure going, I wonder if this will work or that will work. There's fun in that journey, isn't there?

Yeah. Thanks, Mickie. It's been an absolute pleasure, mate. Or as I say, an American buddy, we say, mate in Australia. But thanks, buddy, for actually getting on the call and revealing some of your secrets. And I've learned a lot today, just by listening to you. And that's what I love about the podcast is that I learned more than they do. And so thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and experience. It has been an absolute pleasure.