Smart Leadership Decisions #1:
Free Publicity Interview with
With this podcast, I had my eyes opened to how I have been creating press releases all wrong!
Get ready to take notes!
Here’s the Transcript:
Hugh: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou. My special guest today is my dear friend and colleague, Shannon Gronich. We have known each other at least ten years. We met at a CEO Space event and have had casual conversations the last few years. Shannon has invited me to be a presenter at the Business Acceleration Summit in Melbourne, Florida. Whoa, has that been a power-packed event. I have learned more and more about Shannon’s multiple gifts. Today’s topic is how social entrepreneurs get publicity. We do great stuff, but nobody knows about it. Well, let’s tell people. Shannon, welcome.
Shannon: Thank you so much. How to get free publicity is what I am really excited about.
Hugh: Give us some background. I always want to know why this person is qualified to talk about this. I could read a bio or something, but it’s much more fun to hear it from the person themselves. Talk about yourself.
Shannon: I love events. I produce close to 400 events. Within the process of doing events, I learn how to really work with the media, what they are looking for in stories. I came up with a simple system. I have gotten over three million dollars in free publicity and have developed a simple system that anybody could do the same. You don’t have to be a copywriter; you don’t even have to be a good writer. It’s something that when you use this format, it is a great way to attract publicity.
Hugh: How many dollars? Three million dollars in free publicity?
Hugh: And you have produced 400 events? That’s mind-boggling. That’s impressive. People actually come and attend these events, I assume.
Shannon: We have had thousands of people attend some of the events I have done.
Hugh: That would tell me that this publicity thing works. Let’s get into your topic. I am a small business owner. I work by myself, I have done lots of good stuff, I have great social media, but I’m not sure I make it work really well. I also have a charity that does lots of good stuff. I’m not sure I get the publicity I deserve there. What are the problems you see with small business owners and social entrepreneurs?
Shannon: It’s exactly what you just shared. You have these two amazing projects that you are working on, and it’s actually getting media attention, but also getting what is already existing to amplify and attract more. A lot of times, businesses are spending so much time working on their business that they don’t take time on marketing.
I always tell people that if you are not getting the results you want, look at some of these key components, one being your press kit. Spending more time on your market. I know that with one of my first events, before we first cracked this code, we were getting 500 attendees. Once we cracked that code, the next time it went to 2,000 attendees. We had all the media in our area pick it up. The story was awesome. There were different variations. That type of impact took time, dealing with rejection because we had a number of people say no, they didn’t read it or no, I’m not the right department. You have to be okay with following up, but as you can hear, to go from 500 to 2,000, that was absolutely worth putting in that energy to get such a high return.
Hugh: Amazing. Usually I am told by marketers that you need to spend $100 per person to get people there. You are telling me this is another model.
Shannon: Yeah. There are a couple challenges I hear from people. They hire a publicist. I love them; I think there is a lot they can do. They hire a publicist and don’t get the results they want. I am big on empowering people to learn some of the tools, the language so that when they hire somebody or when they are sending out a piece, they know it will get the results. At the end of the day, it is all about the results you are going to get.
The second thing is also as you said, spending the money but spending the time. If you turn some of that into time, taking time to get on the phone or develop a story or have a conversation with the media to sell them, not giving them too much information, but putting this together, I have seen people spend a lot less on their marketing and many times get free press.
Hugh: I have a copy of your book on this. What is the title of that book?
Shannon: Media Magic: How to Attract Limitless Radio, TV, Print Publicity.
Hugh: That’s a pretty good book. It gives me some thoughts on things I had no clue about. How could people get Media Magic?
Shannon: They can go to shannongronich.com or on Amazon. If you send me a receipt from Amazon, I give everybody an interview with Jay Abraham’s ghost writer who is also a contributor in the book. If you don’t know who Jay Abraham is, he gets paid six figures a day to go into corporations and deal with their marketing strategies. His ghost writer, who has also been in all areas of publicity, is sharing copyrighting secrets and language for prosperity, and I give that away for free for anybody who reads the book.
Hugh: Jay Abraham is legendary. And a ghostwriter is someone who has to think within their brain and write for them. We will link to that underneath this video and in the podcast show notes. I will remind people to go to hughballou.com to find the different links for the different shows, and then the notes are there, too.
Part of my problem in publicizing is people want to know who I am and what I do. Part of what I help people think through for themselves that I can’t do for myself is as a leader, we are people of influence. Defining ourselves is an important paradigm, is it?
Shannon: That is actually the first step. Hugh, I think you’re really fortunate. The first step when I’m working with someone is to develop what I call an expert power bio. We have our bios and our resumes. But an expert power bio is what makes you stand out and sizzle and have the media pay attention. And Hugh, with you being in Forbes Magazine, your years of success, some of your clients, you have a lot of the key components to stand out as an expert. I know that when you are coming to town, any time I say that he has been featured in Forbes, that adds instant credibility. Some people that might be listening to this say, “I don’t have that success.” What is great about this expert power bio system is that you can actually… I have had 20-year-olds or people coming out of a job and creating a new business… There is a way to add sizzle to your bio or even use association with someone that you learned from or trained with to help you stand out. That is one of the first things people look at.
Hugh, you are in a unique position because you are teaching leadership. People, especially with nonprofits or businesses, you are in an industry where I think at least with your press releases, the first thing is developing a tagline that sizzles. What is the benefit of leadership? We have to look at that end in mind. What is the story we are going to tell?
There are all kinds of things with media. You can look at negative news and talk about politics. But there are three things I focus on with the media that everyone loves. They love human interest. You have been a musical conductor, Hugh. That story you tell. Maybe somewhere where you have overcome adversity.
They also love community giveback. If you are involved in the community, and I know your listeners have nonprofits, that is easy for them. They have human interest and community giveback.
And the third thing is education.
Those are the three things that I focus on with individuals that I find it’s really easy when you have crafted a story to get the media to print. That is what they look for.
Hugh: Wow. Do you have a checklist about that somewhere?
Shannon: I do. My book is actually a workbook. You can write or scribble in it. I wanted people to get in the action. Anything I do, I think we should get into action. Kind of like you, Hugh. You do the same thing.
Hugh: What I heard you say is we need to focus on results. When I did my first speaker one sheet and I sent it to this advertising company that specializes in one-sheets, I had a call with the chairman. He says, “This is all about you.” I went, Uh oh. I don’t like the tone of this. He said that it needs to be about them. Yes, I work on leadership, but that word gets people stuck in a rut, so I try to communicate what happens. They don’t buy leadership; they buy results. But it is through leadership that we make a difference. So how to present that. You are so right. People want to know what they are going to get out of this. Bob Circosta, a friend who sold six billion dollars on home TV, said, “What’s so good about that? We have to define the benefits of it.”
Shannongronich.com or Amazon to get Media Magic. I need to pull that out and reread it. You are reminding me of things that I know but I am not using.
Let’s go back to other tips. By the way, if you are in Florida or if you want to go to Florida in the winter, in January, that would be a good excuse to go to the Business Acceleration Summit. Businessaccelerationsummit.com is the website. I will be there with other thought leaders. It is a life-changing couple of days. It doesn’t take you a long time, but there is a lot of power packed into it. It’s where Shannon and I connect with people and share useful information.
What are other tips? How do we do a power bio?
Shannon: I would love to offer that for free. If they go to shannongronich.com, I used to only give this to my clients, but it’s one of the most difficult things that people have to do: how to write about themselves. It’s a challenge to write about yourself. It’s a challenge. So I decided to give it away for free. I have a twelve-step program, which should really be a thirteen-step program because there is a thirteenth step. The thirteenth step that is not there, but I do share in a follow-up email, is a list of clients.
One time, I had a woman that I was working with, and she was struggling with doubling her prices. She had a lot of clients. She was in this place where she was working herself overtime and needed to get to the next level. So we worked on her power bio, and when I started looking at her work, first off, she was amazing. She came from a job, and in that job, her exclusive account was Delta for three or four years. I asked her, “Can we list Delta as one of your clients?” Sure enough she could. Adding Delta as one of her accounts for her bio made it easier for her to double her prices with new clients. It was really great. Power bio is essential. I think it’s one of those things that people should really spend time on.
The free press system I use is just a one-page tagline that sizzles, again talking about the results for the individuals. I will share a secret with you that you can use the next time you go shopping. Oftentimes, when people send me press releases, it’s an announcement. I just haven’t found that to work. The most successful press release that I had about an event, the tagline was, “85 Ways to Improve Your Health in Six Hours or Less.” We had 85 booths, and it was a six-hour event. That is how we came up with that tagline.
Numbers are really essential. Those stand out above everyone else. When you go shopping next time, look at Oprah and Cosmo. They have spent billions of dollars in seeing what taglines will get people to buy magazines and read their articles. They are all short and sweet, and many times they have numbers. Take those and fill in what you can put in. It could be “Six Secrets to,” “Seven Steps to.”
This doesn’t just apply to your press release. I found that if you are doing a workshop title or an email that you want to get opened, all of these principles can be universal in marketing. I had an event that I purchased a number of years ago. They had been doing meditation, and they had been at the event for a number of years. It was like a yoga meditation. They had a hard time getting people to come to the event. We changed the title to “How to Attain Inner Peace in Ten Minutes or Less,” and the classroom filled up.
Hugh: That’s worth this whole call right there. We are guilty of making announcements. I am thinking this principal would be a good power bio for your bio page on your website. Where else would they use the power bio?
Shannon: What I was just sharing with the tagline is for the press release. The power bio, I use it with my proposals. I use it anywhere that I want people to pay attention and I don’t want to be talking about myself. Does that make sense? Any time I am sending out a proposal or anything like that has really doubled my conversion. I know you can use it with grants. They want to know who your team is. If I am going to an event, if people have hired me to do event consulting, if it is a first-year event, oftentimes people question if they can pull this off. When you have someone on your team who has produced 400 events, really your whole team in your nonprofit should develop a power bio.
Hugh: When you send out a press release, I assume there is something about me in the press release.
Hugh: Oh. Blow up that assumption.
Shannon: There are many ways; there is not a right or wrong here. In the Associated Press, a lot of times people do put something about themselves. I have found that if you want free publicity, it cannot look like advertising. I may attach a bio as a separate thing, but when I send a press release, it is strictly about the story.
How I position myself or you, Hugh, as an expert in the power bio is there is a certain place. I share this in the book, too. We quote you as an expert. You do the quote, and then you say, “Hugh Ballou, leadership expert.” Then we finish it. It’s a neat formula of how that works. For you, I would not say “founder of SynerVision.” I would do Forbes because Forbes is a big name. For me, I just say, “author, event producer,” really basic titles. The idea with this is you want the press to interview you. You want them to be telling the story about you. If you are marketing you, then they are like, “This person just wants free advertising.”
Hugh: Wow. That has blown up an old paradigm I’ve had in my head, but it makes so much sense. So it’s okay to add another sheet as the bio.
Shannon: I would keep them separate. I would not attach it to the press release. I would keep it as two separate attachments, or just a small thing in the body of the email. This can also be used to get speaking gigs. When you send in that information, you can send your power bio. You can use this material for lots of things.
Hugh: That’s awesome. We are talking about the press release, which is a whole different format. You go over that in your book. You are also doing another biannual event soon.
Shannon: It’s the Media Magic Sales and Marketing Intensive. We are actually working on your power bio, which you leave there with, as well as your press release. I have brought in some experts. I have a woman who is a regular contributor for the Huffington Post and Yahoo News. I have someone else who has been on The Today Show. I bring in other experts. This is an intensive where we work on your media kit. We have a website expert who comes in and helps you figure out how to convert through that.
Hugh: I know that website expert. He is very good. He does both marketing and websites. The websites aren’t just a pretty picture, but they actually convert. That’s the whole message I am getting here. We tend to send out messages that don’t convert. We want to know how many people are going to come and buy our products or join our charity or come to our events. I’m thinking there are a lot of things I see churches and charities do wrong. They send an announcement. There is no compelling reason to want to go. They don’t get it because they know the reason, but they didn’t share it with anybody. It reminds me of the TED Talk with Simon Sinek, “Begin with why.” You are coming from that perspective of, “Here is what you are going to get.” You hit them in the face and interrupt their thinking because people are expecting the boring announcement. Instead, they get, “Hmm, pay attention.”
The power bio could be a separate piece. In your press release, could you link to that? They could choose to find out more that way. That About Me page is usually done poorly as an afterthought when really that is the lead piece. This is establishing your position of influence in my world.
There is also a segue with social media. I see lots of bad things in the form of an announcement, and people are selling you before you even know who they are. I’m thinking this whole concept could be a power concept for social media. You want to address that separately?
Shannon: I think that with everything we do, we want to be mindful of the language we are using. Another expert we are bringing to the upcoming intensive, he is a sales expert in time shares and hotels, and he has a heart of gold. He has been able to crack the code based upon different personalities. One of the things is: Out of the 17 different personalities, there are the top two dividers of head and heart. In marketing, I love that he uses the Aflac example, how Aflac brings in the heart and saves time and money, which is the head. When we look at marketing, if you can at least hit those two touch points, then you can hit more of the masses. For me, I speak about community and human interest, which are heart stuff. I may lose people because I won’t talk about how to save money and how to increase revenue and more of the head things. You really need to combine the two in any of the marketing we are doing.
Hugh: Absolutely. I am thinking of the Aflac duck. You got that thing that comes to your mind, and it’s really top-of-mind marketing. People really think about it. We also don’t spend time explaining who you are and building relationships with people. Then we really hammer them with promoting our event. Why should they do that? We don’t have a relationship with people. There is a different conversation around that.
We are coming close to our time here. This is extremely valuable information, and I want to make sure we don’t send people down a foxhole. Let’s give them some clear directions. The Media Magic one-day intensive, where can they find more information about that?
Shannon: They can find that at shannongronich.com under Events. I want to make sure I say one more thing before we go. Everything can be found on shannongronich.com or even businessaccelerationsummit.com.
The real magic formula that I think of is yes, the language and what we say, but it really is the relationships and talking to people. How I have been able to get millions of dollars in free press is talking to the media. I don’t just send it out and expect them to pick it up. It involves emails and phone calls and expecting them to say no but having the vision of following it up.
With my biggest success, I was rejected over ten times. No, we didn’t get it. No, we didn’t read it. No, it’s not a fit. I tweaked it a little bit, and at the very end, I don’t usually give up until the magazine goes to print and I know it’s done. I know that each time I just have to keep working at it and building that relationship with them. The editor ended up calling me and saying that they had a remnant space, and they gave me an entire page in the magazine.
It’s really key to pick up the phone and not say too much. Use that tagline that sizzles. Say that you have a story that you think they would be interested in. You have a piece that might be great for their readers. You are coming to them first. Make it about their readers. Have them ask questions. If you fire-hose them, that is too much. That is why the tagline that sizzles, maybe a couple of stats about the challenge or problem you are solving, and get them engaged in asking questions.
Hugh: Awesome. You may not remember, but I owned a camera store in St. Petersburg, Florida. I built out a very substantial footprint in providing film and chemistry to photo labs in industry: police departments, newspapers, the whole city of St. Pete, etc. I built that by relationship, exactly what you talked about. I got to know people. I visited them. I had something novel to talk about. They would say, “Oh, by the way, do you sell this? We need some of that.” So it’s really about connecting with people. You have helped us set a new paradigm. I am bad as a businessperson in understanding that. I teach people to think that way, but this is a good reminder for me. In my charity and the charities that I work with, we think that because we have a worthy cause, people should print it. When really, they don’t have a lack of people sending them stuff. We want to stand out from the crowd and create a compelling reason.
People can find out about all of this at shannongronich.com. It’s not really a commercial. You are giving away free stuff and information on how to get free publicity. I am doing an event the next time you are doing your media intensive in Florida, and that’s a good reason to go to Florida this time of year. The Business Acceleration Summit, there are many good reasons to check out that information. Like I do, you give away a lot of free stuff.
Shannon: I want to help so many people.
Hugh: You do. This is a helpful interview. I am grateful to have you as a colleague and friend and that we collaborate on a lot of events together.
As we come to a wrap here, I want you to think about a tip that you would like to leave people with. How do you get the world to pay attention to the important things you are doing? What is a parting thought that you have for people?
Shannon: It is that every single one of us has a story. I have found that every business and individual has at least 50 stories that someone wants to hear and know about that is either inspiring, educational, or uplifting. There is not a lack of inspiration in each cause or individual. It takes time and energy and effort. It’s not much. You can do this in a short period of time of sharing that with the world and standing up and letting people know. Even adversity can be turned into a way of moving people to take action.
Hugh: Great advice. Shannon, thank you for sharing your wisdom with people today, especially with me.
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