I contacted Mickie because I hoped I could learn a few things about gaining the attention of the media through press releases. I’ve written several releases myself and hired out even more and I’ve never seen the results I was hoping for. My releases have gotten backlinks to my sites, but never been picked up by the media in the way I was hoping.
So I had a few questions on what it takes to write a release that can generate real interest. With all the testimonials on eReleases.com it was obvious they know the secrets to getting this type of interest. So I was thrilled Mickie agreed to answer a few questions for me.
And the interview ended up exceeding my hopes. At over 50 minutes long, it’s packed full of tips and pointers as to why my past releases fell flat and what I can do about that in the future.
Here’s just a little of what Mickie covers in the interview:
- The differences between an online wire and a real news wire.
- What types of stories are most likely to get picked up by journalists and magazine writers.
- How to use top 10 lists, data, and your status as an industry expert to gain media attention.
- Tips for crafting the two most important components of a press release; the headline and quote.
There’s a lot more in the interview so I highly suggest either listening in or reading the transcript below.
I really appreciated the time and strategies Mickie was willing to share in our conversation. I got a lot out of it and know you will as well.
Mickie Kennedy Interview
Lisa: Hi everybody, this is Lisa Parmley, founder of BusinessBolts.com where we help small business owners start and grow their online businesses. Today I am excited to have Mickie Kennedy on the line. Mickie is the founder of eReleases.com, which is a full service press release company that he started about 14 years ago, is that right Mickie?
Mickie: That’s correct, 14 years ago in October.
Lisa: Great. He and his staff can write and submit your press release and really help you gain publicity. They have a lot of cool things to offer you. I was incredibly blown away with the testimonials that you have on your site. Some of the people who have gotten their releases were people who had them picked up by main media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. You had some testimonials where people were getting 100 or more radio interviews just from one release and just crazy stuff like that.
You guys definitely know what you are doing. I know, for me as a small business owner, I have always had trouble getting press releases to work as well as I’d like and I think it is the lure of putting out one sheet of paper and thinking that I will get all of this traffic and crazy stuff happening, but not really paying as much attention to what goes on that one sheet of paper. I was hoping that you would be able to shed some light on that for myself and for everyone listening in today.
Also, just before we get started I want to make sure that I thank you for doing this interview with me. I know I really appreciate it and I know I will learn a lot and I am sure my listeners will as well. We are all looking forward to learning some really valuable strategies on using press releases from you. I will go ahead and get started with the first question if that is all right with you.
Mickie: Sure, and you are very welcome and thank you for having me.
Lisa: Yeah, thank you. I know on your site I read that you started eReleases because you felt that other PR firms weren’t meeting the needs of small businesses. When it comes to publicity, what do you feel are the top needs of the small business owner?
Mickie: I think that the biggest top need is to work on an a la carte basis. I was working in public relations a little more than 14 years ago and we would occasionally get phone calls from people who wanted to have a press release written and distributed. While we said that was one of the things we did at the firm, we do a lot more. I think at the time our entry level engagement was around a $25,000 retainer.
I remember that one person was so defeated. He had won an industry award in the HVAC, heating and air conditioning field, which was very important to him and he wanted to send a press release out about it. He said I can’t write or pull together a press release myself and I am looking for someone to do that. Some trade publications had said to put together a press release and send it to us and we will develop a story for you, or use it as filler or something like that. He needed a press release. I remember telling him to go back to the yellow pages and look for some public relations counselors who maybe didn’t have large ads, maybe they were solo practices, or things like that. He said that he had tried every PR firm in the Washington, DC yellow pages and they had all pretty much said the same thing, we require a six month commitment and we don’t work on just a single press release basis.
That was when a light bulb went off for me and I realized that there was a need for these types of services. It also happened at that time I was assigned with programming a broadcast fax with hundreds of numbers so that we could send out press releases. I would remember that we would do these broadcast faxes and I would get phone calls saying, hey I received your fax could you email it to me because I am just going to basically cut and paste and run most of the release. I was thinking to myself, hey email that is a much better solution than faxing.
Both of those events coalesced into what eReleases is today, and that is to have something for the average person to enable them to have a press release written and distributed and actually go to media. That is the most compelling part. There are a lot of services online for press releases, but many of them are focused on the web only press release that doesn’t put media back into the equation. Could technically a journalist or reporter find a release that is on a web page that is on one of these web only type services? It is possible. Is it likely, absolutely not. Journalists check stories on the news wire and if you are not on a true news wire you are losing a lot of exposure to journalists nationwide.
If you are looking for SEO only, sure the web only type press releases might be appropriate. An argument that could be made in this post-panda, post-penguin world of Google that there are probably more compelling ways of focusing on SEO and leaving press releases for what they were intended, and that is to engage and work with the media.
Lisa: Yeah, that is a good point. I don’t think a lot of the press release submission companies are real forward about where exactly your release is going. A lot of people might not realize that it is just going to go online and that nobody is really ever going to pick it up.
Mickie: We hear from people every day who say their name ends in wire or their name ends in newswire and is that technically a wire and I am like absolutely not. A wire has satellite and broadcast feeds and connections into newsrooms across the country. They are going to tell you that we are an online wire, we have a web presence, and we have RSS feeds. Again, those are not connections that technically go into every newsroom. That is a huge distinction and there are a lot of opportunities for education in the marketplace concerning those types of things.
I have to acknowledge that SEO plays a part with press releases, but it is not where my focus comes from and it is not where the real value of the service like mine, that is not the real value there. With us the real value is reaching a traditional newswire, like a PR newswire, or a market wire, or business wire, but those tend to be the three big newswires of press releases. They are different than newswires like the Associated Press or United Press International, or Reuters. Reuters, United Press International also known as UPI, and AP, everything that runs on them to their member newspapers is written by them. While they may accept a press release, they are going to change it, alter it, and massage it so that the copyright then goes to them. That is why all of those newswires employee writers because they are writing the end product and they are working on the articles.
Again, they may look at a release, but you are not going to see a release that is just taken and distributed over those platforms, the UPIs and the Associated Presses. Your PR newswires, your business wires, and market wires are your newswires of press releases and those are where people pay a fee to have their releases issued pretty much to the same journalists and types of journalists that receive the other type, but there are different expectations there.
That is another thing that if you are in the industry you know that distinction, but if you are not it is one of the things that we get asked about by people who say, will this release move over the Associated Press, will this release move over UPI and Reuters. It will be made available to them and in some cases it may appear on a feed on their site, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to move over their true newswire network to their member newspapers and things like that. Hopefully they might pick up the story and it end up there, but it is not a mechanism that moves press releases.
Lisa: That is great to distinguish that because I know most small business owners, myself included, have no idea. We just follow what the website we are submitting through says and then probably wonder why we didn’t get anything picked up. I know I have done that myself. That is good to know and probably one reason why you get so many good testimonials, because you are really submitting to the places where the news is actually getting sources from. That’s great.
I know I have always heard getting a story together is the best way to get the release picked up by the news. I know for a lot of my SEO clients and myself, figuring out what makes a good story has been the hardest thing to do. Since we know the people who make or break the press release are the reporters, what kind of story does it take to appeal to them and might get them interested in your press release?
Mickie: Generally if you have something that is very newsworthy or controversial, that helps. We had a company called Allerca and I would have better luck telling you where it did not appear. I remember being at the newsstand at one point and looking and they were on 12 magazine covers where they were mentioned, the controversy of creating a cloned hypoallergenic pet. Not all of the press was positive. A lot of it is, should we be doing this, the ethical questions, God versus science is the way it was positioned on Time Magazine’s cover.
When you have something of a really high newsworthy or controversial subject matter like cloning, especially cloning pets, you are going to get coverage even if it is a poorly written press release. I think they would have been okay if their press release was not even a great press release. I think the subject matter would have carried it through. For the average person a human interest story can play very well.
I deal with a lot of mom and pop people who are working fulltime jobs and they are starting an ecommerce site or starting something on the side, a side business, and they are trying to get exposure for themselves. Many of the things that they want to do is to appear like a big corporation and they don’t want to tell their story. They don’t want to reveal that they are operating and building these little devices on their kitchen counter every night, and yet those are the types of stories that a lot of magazines and publications love. Fast Company and Inc. Magazine pick up stories like that all the time where you are talking about the founders and the startup phase and how they are making this work. Those are stories that a lot of readers of publications react to and identify with.
If you are not willing to tell that story you are missing out because how does a mom and pop business owner compete when they are trying to appear to be like the Microsoft of this ecommerce platform that they have introduced?
Lisa: Right, that is a good point, they can’t.
Mickie: Exactly. Of course they can’t afford the big agencies that are going to pitch one on one to journalists, meet them after work and share a few drinks and a few stories, well if that pitch didn’t work what do you think if we try this angle. You don’t get those opportunities and you really have to try and find something that readers are going to identify with. If you are having a promotion or a sale, is that something that the readers are going to find interesting, not really. That is something that is probably better suited for advertising. You have to make sure to say, is my message that people will want to read rather than something that would be better suited for advertising.
If you have a message that can be incorporated into an ad, it is not going to work with a press release. If you discounted your iPhone app to $0.99 that used to be $25 or something like that, or you are taking 75% off all costumes in the month of October, those are the things that a journalist is not going to incorporate that into a story and you are not going to get any major press about that. However, taking the costume one, if you have a list of the top 20 sales of costumes for Halloween, according to your sales or some other metrics, top 10, top 20, or something like that, and you release a press release about it in early October there are a lot of places that will run with that. They will source your website, hopefully, in the mention of the top 10. That is something that works very well with top 10 lists. Journalists like numbers, they like top 10 lists, they play very well as a small chart or bar graph or something like that, or even just a list, albeit whether it is online or in print. Those are the types of things that work really well.
Lisa: That is interesting that they even go for top 10 lists and things like that, which isn’t really a story about the person starting the business. I guess maybe you already wrote a release on your story of launching your site or something like that, then trying to fit into something that would interest people, is that what you are getting at?
Mickie: Look at a newspaper or magazine and look at what gets covered. USA today is all about money polls or the interesting polls or the top 10s or things like that. Those are things that are easy takeaways and they do tell a story. The top 10 costumes tell a story of what is trending right now.
Lisa: That is a good point, it does.
Mickie: In addition to providing data of what is trending right now, that is valuable information. There is a website that we work with that is all about baby names and they are all routinely publishing what are the top ten baby names that are being searched for on their site. Admittedly these are not the top ten lists that are being registered with Social Security; these give a different perspective of what people are searching for, maybe this month or this week or this season. You are going to get a lot more interesting results from them than you are from Social Security, which is usually publishing stuff 12 months in arrears that is usually over the entire nation and it is dated. Babynames.com is that site that takes advantage of those types of trends.
They may find that a name has catapulted in the top 10 that they have not seen before and that is a press release. It is like, look for Ezra, it is a top according to our website that people are searching for. There is a story there; you can include some quotes and things like that, in Dancing with the Stars or someplace a celebrity with the same name has gotten a lot of visibility, therefore you are seeing this name appear. You try to provide some background information of possible reasons why that name is trending and why another name may be falling out of favor. When Martha Stewart goes to jail maybe Martha starts trending down or something like that.
Lisa: How funny, yeah, it could be. I guess what I am hearing then is that there are writers and editors for magazines and newspapers and they need these story lines dangled in front of them so that they might write a bigger story or pick up just your news item and include a little bit in their story, just put out a press release more like that?
Mickie: Also, if you can do some of creating those theories, as well, for them it makes it a lot easier for them to run with it. In the instance where Martha is trending downward at the same time that she is being sent to jail, if you can incorporate that in the press release as a possible theory the media are going to love that. Especially if you include an interesting quote that is in the press release that says “with Martha heading to the slammer, now is not a good time to name your newborn Martha”, and the results on our website have made that apparent as well. What I am doing here is trying to take things and turn them into stories. In a lot of cases, you are the expert in your industry.
You may not know the exact reasons why a name is trending up or down, but you are the expert and you can look at that name and try to create what is going on in the world that involves this name, either favorably or negatively. Those are valid theories to put out there, and any time you can do that it helps. One of the things that I see with people when there is a merger within an industry that you are an expert in, commenting on that merger either positively or negatively is a great way to get your name out there as well. You often read stories about these mergers and they include quotes from industry experts and so-called analysts and things like that. There is no reason why you can’t be your own industry expert; it is just a matter of putting yourself out there and being comfortable putting quotes out there and making yourself available to be quoted by the media.
Lisa: Yeah, that is a great way to get publicity as long as you are willing to put yourself out there, which hopefully most small business owners are because otherwise nobody every finds you. That is a good tip, I like that idea of just commenting on statistics that you might find coming up with reasons for why. That is great. I know at first you started talking about how a small business owner launches a site from their kitchen in their spare time, are some of these story lines maybe a little overused, or how could you make that a little more interesting?
Mickie: I think that you have to make it specific to you and what is going on in your life. I think that a lot of people have stories of developing or building out startups from a garage or a kitchen table, but is there something that you are doing that is a little unique or interesting? Is there an anecdote where you brought in your extended family, you were supposed to be meeting for a reunion dinner, and by the end of the evening you had everybody wrapping these gifts and packaging them. Things like that making it, well I haven’t heard that story, or here is a little twist on that story, or here is something that is unique about them that is not just we are operating out of my garage or we are filling orders on our kitchen table.
If there is anything really specific that you can bring with, that makes it unique. We have all heard stories that you would tell a friend, you are not going to believe what we did, we packaged 47 things to be shipped on Monday and we couldn’t find my cellphone and when we were calling the cellphone all of sudden the packages were ringing and it was in one of the packages.
Lisa: Just stuff like that? You really need to dig deep like that and this might actually get picked up by a reporter?
Mickie: Reporters that are interested. Unique is one of those words that I hate, but yet it describes something that is unlike everything else. It makes it yours. You own that story. The cell phone being wrapped up in one of the packages that are going out to be shipped to customers is something that makes it very unique and makes that story unlike other types of stories. Many years ago we worked with an online gift shop where the really unique thing was not what was being sold but the giftwrapping and these elaborate bows. Sometimes an hour to two hours was spent just on the giftwrapping.
In working with this client it was very difficult to find what would be unique because you are describing these unique bows and you could, of course, have links to photos and stuff like that. I felt like there had to be something more compelling and she goes, you know this is just frustrating, my boss really feels like this is going to be a great business for me and she really wants me to be successful. Then she mentions that her boss is Cher, and I said, oh she has the same name as the musician and she says, no it is the musician. She has helped found this online gift shop. The next thing I said is, would she be comfortable being mentioned in the press releases and she said, yes this is more her baby than mine, she really wants this to succeed. I was like, there is your story.
She got named Business of the Year by Minorities Business Magazine and she was also picked up by other major business publications about starting this basically giftwrapping business. That is the real unique thing that she was doing, these elaborate giftwrapping. You could even send her your gifts or order them through other services and have them delivered to her rather than your house and she would then wrap them.
Lisa: Must be some gift wrapping. That is cool.
Mickie: Friends would send their gifts over to Cher’s house for her to wrap them. They were supposedly very amazing. I know, from what I understand, she now does this full time and does not even do it through an ecommerce website any longer because she had such a large following in the Los Angeles area. That is a business that just took off and exploded, but it relied on one person and one person’s skill and talent. It is not like you could just roll this out in every city. I guess technically you could if she started teaching how to do this. It was a story where we spent a long time on the phone and going back through emails and it was only at the very end where she just let it slip that her boss was Cher and that Cher was really the mastermind behind her online business and prodding her to do this and go out there on her own.
Sometimes people are sitting on the most interesting anecdotes or stories or things like that. Not everybody has a celebrity in their back pocket. Everybody has something that makes them unique, makes their story unique, and that is what is going to differentiate you in the marketplace. When you look at press releases you see a lot of things that are very, I would say boring and nothing stands out, and you are like I can do this. What you are looking at is the average press release and the average press release does not get picked up or turned into a magazine. You need to look at the magazines and how could I write something that would be more like the story that is in a magazine, how could I write something that would be in a magazine.
Everybody likes being under the spotlight, but not everybody knows how to craft something that will be picked up and put into a spotlight. The magazine that tells these funny little stories and anecdotes about a company, they didn’t say, you look like a great company, let’s talk on the phone and maybe some anecdotes will come out. You have to have those anecdotes and those funny little stories in the press release so that they can be developed into the story. I think a lot of people don’t realize that. I think they feel a journalist is going to pick up the phone after seeing a press release and say, you have something going on that is interesting and I would like to interview you. That just doesn’t happen. The fodder or the material for the article really needs to be in the press release.
Journalists, most of them, are English majors or journalism majors and they are by nature a little shy. They don’t like picking up the phone unless they have to clarify a fact or they are just not satisfied with something or they need to speak to an expert and get a quote for a breaking news story. Most press releases and people who write about press releases do not live in the world of breaking news. They don’t like to pick up the phone and they don’t like to email you unless they already have you in the story and they just need a little something more.
You really have to make sure that you have your most compelling, unique, they say selling propositions in the marketing world or USP, unique selling propositions. Basically what your unique elements are about you, your interesting anecdotes, and they don’t have to be funny, but they have to be unique. One of the types of press releases that you see all the time are, company X names this person a new hire as executive vice president or some title.
Lisa: Yes, I have seen several of those.
Mickie: Almost nothing happens with them. A trade publication might just mention it in two or three sentences. It is because there is nothing really interesting here. If that person is important and known in the industry, he will definitely get the two or three sentences in the trade publication, but he is unlikely to get anything else. I gave an example where someone had issued a press release and they said basically when we were interviewing this person we were on the fence about him, but then when his phone rang and this embarrassing ringtone, and then insert a Motley Crue song or something like that, when we heard that we all laughed and we knew that this was going to be our next vice president of marketing or something like that.
Lisa: That would be more likely to be picked up than just the boring generic, so and so got hired?
Mickie: That makes it much more likely that the trade publications will include it, as well as potential other places like local newspapers or things like that. It is one of the tactics that you can use to make it interesting. Not everybody is going to be comfortable with something like that. What you might want to do is focus on very specifics of that person’s background and what made them a compelling hire. A lot of these types of press releases don’t even go into the specifics. They might say that he has worked 13 years at company X and seven years at company Y and then his title. That doesn’t really say what he did or why you felt he was great to be hired. At his last hire, company Y, he was instrumental in taking the sales team and migrating them to mobile platforms and incorporating technology, like the iPad and the iPhone in everyday sales, and things like that.
Those are the types of things that can really ground and make a story more interesting. Those are things that are attainable for basically all types of releases that you see that are out there. I do believe that everybody has a story and that there are lots of stories that go on within a business or within a particular company, but it is hard. You have to do some work. You have to talk with people. You have to put some homework into it. It is very easy to just look at another press release by another company and just come up with a safe mediocre press release.
No one has ever been fired for coming up with a safe press release, but it is also unlikely that you are going to be picked up by the media. A lot of press releases come out of big bureaucracies that are just not compelling or interesting. If you look at the press releases that Microsoft and the large companies issue, there are not a lot of things that are very interesting in them. Because of their size and because of the fact that the products they release impact a large segment of the world and the US specifically, they are going to get picked up because of that. That is just something they enjoy, but if you are not a Microsoft, or an Apple, or a company like that you can’t just put together a safe mediocre press release and put it out there and cross your fingers and hope that it results in a story. It can, but it is unlikely.
If you really want to increase your odds of pickup, you have to do the homework and you have to break away from impulse and write about things and incorporate anecdotes and things that are very specific, very feature driven, and let that tell the story. If you are releasing something about a new product then you probably aren’t going to have funny anecdotes or things like that, but you can bring out the features and the details of what that product is and how it solves something in the marketplace. Then you can include anecdotes of situations in which it can be used and then possibly some quotes from beta users or people who have used the product; hey this new feature really saves me a lot of time because it incorporates inventory management and we can now rely on this both for managing our customer relations and sales orders, as well as inventory management, and it basically frees up 14 hours a week.
Those are the types of things that make a press release a lot better. I wouldn’t say that you are going to reach an A+ for every press release, but I think every press release can certainly be improved upon.
Lisa: Those are great tips. I know I have had a few light bulb moments just listening to you and I think I have a better appreciation of the types of reasons why some of my press releases have not done as well as I wanted. I am sure there are a lot of people listening who feel the same. If you don’t mind, I know we talked about not making it promotional, but we also have to incorporate our business name or website in there, do you recommend maybe putting it in the body once? I have seen some releases where after they write the press release then they have a couple of sentences at the end about the company behind it. Is there any way that is better?
Mickie: I recommend incorporating the company; make sure it is in the first paragraph. Any time you have a quote it is written in third person where you are going to have a quote and then, says person’s name and then the company. You want to make sure that the company name appears there. At the very end, what you are talking about is what we call the boiler plate, where you usually have an about the company section that talks a little specifically and in general about the company. All of those are appropriate places to include the company. Including the company name where it seems logical and natural isn’t really seen as a negative thing. You want to include it as many times as seems appropriate and natural.
The quote is a great place to insure that your company gets mentioned if a story gets turned into an article or something like that. One of the nasty little secrets that they probably don’t tell you is that it is not unusual to have a press release that might be talking about a trend or something that is interesting or that is happening in your industry; you release it and it gets turned into a story and your company and you are not mentioned at all. Generally what happens there is that the reporter or journalist writes the story, they most of the time include the company in the story, and what happens is the managing editor looks at it and says, who is this little company that I have never heard of, scratch it out and don’t include it. They don’t realize that this whole story wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for you.
A great way to insure that you get included in a story is to have a very compelling quote. The one thing you can’t do is that you can’t just cut out that quote if it is compelling and if that managing editor goes, I have never heard of this little company but that is a really good quote so I am not going to touch it. A quote has to be attributed and it is going to have a person’s name and 90 some percent of the time they are going to say where that person is, what their title is and what company he is at. That is a great way to insure that you don’t get cut out of the story.
Lisa: Yeah, that is a great tip. Thank you. Do something like, “Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases said”, and they use your quote, and then they can’t disconnect you from coming up with that idea for their article.
Mickie: As long as the quote is compelling and cannot be easily paraphrased. You want to spend probably as much time on the quote as you will the title or the headline of your press release. I see these every day where the quotes aren’t really interesting or compelling. You want to put on your poets hat or say something that is either controversial, because if it is controversial they are not going to want to paraphrase that because it makes it look like the newspaper believes that controversial thing. If you say something controversial it is pretty safe that you will be included, but in other ways just say something that is not necessarily over the top poetic, but it is said in such a way that it is succinct and to paraphrase it some magic would be lost. That is where having a really great writer of press releases or someone who is really skilled at developing quotes is useful.
I also think the average person who writes a press release, if they spend a lot of time working on the quote as an assignment and think of interesting and compelling ways of summing up something that is going on. I think most anyone can do it if they are willing to put the homework into it.
Lisa: Great. Just another quick question, do the businesses behind the successful releases that you submit, do they do anything once they submit it through your package? Do they go out and promote it or does your service generate enough buzz for it all to happen without them having to do anything else?
Mickie: Most of my clients don’t do anything other than send it out to the media. However, some of them will send a press release out to their customers. We suggest that you send it out to your customers, your vendors, anybody that it makes sense to. If you have something that is newsworthy you want to share it with as many people as you have.
Over time a lot of our clients develop relationships with the media where a journalist might reach out to them and say, I am working on a story in your industry and we have seen your releases or we have done a story about you before, would you be willing to comment on this and get a quote. If you have anybody like that in your own personal rolodex it is quite appropriate to send the press release directly to them, because it is a personal relationship and you are more likely to get some reciprocity there where the person has called on you a few times in the past so I will certainly consider this press release.
I recommend that you take the press release and if you have a social media following announce it there. If it makes sense to share it with your customers as part of a newsletter so that it is not the focus of just you sending an entire press release to your customers, sometimes it works. If you are a small business and you have a human interest type press release it is completely appropriate to send to your customers. If it is basically a very technical press release and it might be about a consumer electronic, it may not warrant sending the entire press release to your customer base. Maybe if you have a customer newsletter that has a few things about what is going on in your industry then that is one of the things that you incorporate there. It is one of many things that you are sending to the customer base.
We had a self-published author that was picked up by USA Today and we found out a few weeks later that he didn’t do anything about that. I am like, hey you need to reach out to your media, your local radio, your local TV stations, and newspapers and say, hey, how would you like the opportunity to interview or talk with a local author who has some nationwide attention. He was included in USA Today recently.
That is where a little bit of homework would help you quite a bit. It is not going to help you with anybody else not nationwide. If you get picked up in the New York Times, you don’t want to tell that to the Wall Street Journal because it is like we don’t want the New York Times’ leftovers. If something was picked up nationally and you are reaching out to local media it is quite appropriate to say, we recently received some nationwide attention. The local media generally responds to that because they feel like, ooh this is really cool, we can put a spotlight on somebody locally that is getting a little attention and buzz nationwide.
Those are all assignments that you could be working on, but it is not necessary for you to do that. I think it is again how well you want PR to succeed for you. I think you should really do all of these things if you can and it makes sense.
Lisa: Right. If you have the resources, if you have a list of people you might as well, but if not you can try your service and you hopefully will start to build it and then next time maybe you could submit through your service plus the resources that you have.
Mickie: People that we deal with are small businesses and they wear a lot of hats. They just can’t do a whole lot of this. Everything you just suggested sounds great. I could barely do X, Y, and Z and I recognize that everybody has limitations and we have a best case scenario, but don’t feel that you have to do all of these things for a press release to be successful. Basically getting a press release out there and engaging with the media is the most important thing. Using a service like ours to write and/or distribute the release is really the most important thing. Anything beyond that I think this has the ability to improve your odds and get more mileage out of PR and press releases.
Lisa: I am sure you have had people who just send it out through you and they actually do get a new story out of it and they didn’t do anything else.
Mickie: Yes, most of the people’s experiences are because of what we did in sending out the press release. They didn’t really do much of anything else except in the cases of radio interviews. They had to be interviewed on the radio and in some cases they have to be available for many interviews. If there are any questions with the media then the media is going to reach out to them directly and that takes a little bit of time.
It is unusual, as I said, for the media to reach out to you unless they have questions or they need more clarification or maybe everything they needed for the story was in the press release except for one thing and that is when they would reach out to you. By and large the media will run stories and never contact you. That is generally, like I said, dealing with these shy English majors who really are thankful when they get a press release that has everything they need to develop an article or story.
Lisa: That makes it easier for us as a small business owner if we don’t have to do anything else too. That is perfect. I know you have a lot of different services. I think you have three main submission plans. What actually happens when they submit a release through one of your least expensive packages and then if you just want to get into a little about the difference between that and your more expensive package just so that people know?
Mickie: Basically in all of our services we have three types of distribution. You can add writing to any of them. They are based on the level of targeting and the amount of words. Our $299 buzz builder package is going to go out nationwide and it is going to include newswire distribution over a major newswire, true newswire press releases. It is going to get two levels of editorial review here at eReleases before it goes onto the newswire and also gets a level of review at the newswire as well. It will get sent to industry targets and that is where the real magic happens. Different levels of service is just the number of words and the number of industry targeting that you can have. If you have a product that is very specific for golfers you would probably be fine doing our buzz builder for $299.
If you have something that does really well with golfers, as well as men who read fitness publications, you might want to choose men’s fitness and men’s interest as additional categories, in which case the other packages give you more options in choosing more industries or trade publications. That is how you want press releases, not necessarily who your customers are, but who the readers of publications are. That is a little bit of a disconnect with some people. Your audience members might be Fortune 500 bankers, but if you have a golf product you don’t want to send it to the banking trade publications.
I have had that happen when people make an argument to me, no Mickie the people that buy my golf product are bankers. I never, ever, ever have seen a golf product profiled in Banking News Today or banking trade publications. They are very, very specific to the banking audience. You want to target to men’s interest, golfing, and there are some other options for you. You really want to tailor the industry targeting to the actual types of publications and there is a little bit of learning process there.
Basically what happens is that you would place the order. If you have a press release already written you would send it over to us and our people will review it. They will put it in AP style format. We don’t expect you to have to do that. If there is anything missing we will contact you and let you know either by email and/or phone. Then we will get it scheduled with the newswire and after it goes out send you a report showing your press release on as many as 200 to 300 media websites.
Lisa: That is great.
Mickie: The best is a newswire that has relationships with a lot of online media databases and things like that. A lot of people are happy with that. They have all these links, all of this traffic coming into them and it looks beautiful having these reports and seeing the press release on these websites. From my standpoint that is not that important. For me is what happens to it at that point. Have journalists looked at it and found it compelling enough to write a story about it in the local paper or national paper, or in the cases of radio stations, have they mentioned it on air or requested an interview with someone? That is the real benefit of taking it to the next level of engagement with the media.
Lisa: I do notice that you have the writing service that you just mentioned, too. If somebody wants the release written by you guys then is there a benefit to using you? Will somebody actually contact you and try to dig these really cool stories out the business owner.
Mickie: The way our writing works is that we recognize that in our business most of our customers are wearing a lot of hats and they are really busy. We don’t have one form that you fill out to have a press release written. We do have a form but you don’t have to fill it out. You can just say check out my website or check out this product on the website and develop a press release about it. We also suggest or make available to have our writer call the customer. A lot of people are even too busy to put anything down in words or on paper or email and they just want to talk on the phone. We don’t jump through any hoops; we work basically how the client wants to work.
I find it the most compelling and the best stuff comes out of people who are willing to have a phone conversation with the writer and talk a little bit with the writer, as well as looking at their website. Press release writing is the area that many small businesses skimp on because it is expensive to write a press release. Unfortunately, it is also the most needed. Like I said, it is pretty easy for someone to come up with what looks like a safe standard press release.
Many releases are being issued over the newswire that being safe and being ordinary isn’t really enough to rise to the top in getting anyone’s attention. If it is very newsworthy, like the Allerca example, you can get by with having a press release that is mediocre as far as how it is written and how the headline is and how the quotes are. They get picked up just because of the newsworthiness of the story itself. If you are just like 95% of our customers where you have a new product or a new service or you have launched a new company or published a new book, or something like that, it is really worth it to invest in the writing. A writer can really put that headline together and have the hook there for the journalist and write it to be as engaging as possible for a journalist who is skimming hundreds if not thousands of headlines each day.
Your headline is the most important because of the skimming aspect of the newswire and in most cases they are skimmed by the headline and then the journalist will drill down from the headline. That is where I think having someone professionally write your press release is important, or at the very least have someone review your headline and offer suggestions. We offer headline rewriting for no charge through our headline service. If you go to headlinetuneup.com it will redirect to a page on our website where we offer, as our editors are available we will look at your press release or look at your existing headline for your press release and make some suggestions of how to tweak it and make it better. That is something we provide to no charge to people to show the value of a well-written headline, as well as to start a conversation or engagement.
Lisa: Great. I think somebody just starting out could go for the writing plus even your cheapest submission plan and see where that takes them, which could actually be pretty exciting for a new business or a new website.
Mickie: We see stories every day. The testimonials on our website are unsolicited. These are people who have shared their stories with us. One of the things that we do is to try to match the testimonial with the press release. It gives people an idea of what type of press release it was that resulted in the media attention. In many cases it is not really a groundbreaking, pet cloning, press release that results in pickup, it is a business just like the one that you are coming from and in and you can look at that release. Every release can be improved upon and how can you write something that is similar and how can you make it better paying careful attention to the quotes and the headline.
Lisa: Well you have already given me a lot of great information and helped me see some things that I can do in the future for my releases. I don’t want to keep you on the line too much longer because I know you are busy. I think there is a lot that people can apply to help generate publicity here already. Thank you. If people want to learn more about your service they should stop by eReleases.com and just take a look at what you have. It is great. Thank you, Mickie, I really appreciate it. Thanks again and I hope to talk to you again soon.
Mickie: Oh yes, I love to talk about press releases; it is my passion, and sharing my customers stories and interesting anecdotes. I think PR is one of the places where any business, especially a small business, can really compete and gain a huge amount of exposure that really you can’t get any other place. It is basically the old school viral where you can really take a great idea or a great business or something like that and go viral and get a lot of attention for just a few hundred dollars. The most disappointing thing I see is a business that tries it once with only a web only player and then thinks that PR doesn’t work.
The real lesson that I would tell people is to make sure that you are going over a true newswire with true newswire press releases and to view a single press release as just part of an ongoing PR campaign. You really should try a few approaches over a period of time to see if PR can work for your business. I personally believe that PR can work for any business if applied appropriately and you are doing the homework and putting your best unique selling points out there and having a great writer lead with those.
Lisa: It sounds great. I know I am actually pretty excited to try your release. I think I am going to give the writing and the cheaper submission, if not the middle one a try. I am excited to see what it does. I’ve been involved in online business for a long time and have tried several press releases. I haven’t gotten the results that I wanted, but I can see that I have approached it the wrong way. I think you have great tips here for people if they want to try to write it themselves or at least use your service, because obviously there is a difference between services like yours and your competitors. I am excited and I hope the people listening to this are too. I think you have definitely put us on the right path to press releases.
I want to also thank everyone who is listening. I hope you enjoyed the interview with Mickie Kennedy, the founder of eReleases.com. I definitely urge you to check it out. They have really competitively priced packages there and they can help you gain more exposure for sure. I’ve gotten a lot of tips out of this. I know Mickie is a true expert in press releases and their distribution. I have actually heard nothing but good things about him and his service.
I would also like to make sure that you never miss an interview like this one. Make sure to sign up at BusinessBolts.com for the free newsletter there and when you do I will send you a short email letting you know about new interviews like this one. Until next time, I will be wishing you all the best. Thanks.