How do you start in PR? This question eats up any entrepreneur if they don’t get the answer right. The first thing about PR is having a clear message that you want to send out to your clients. Josh Elledge, Founder of Savings Angel, helps you define yourself in one line so that the media puts focus on you at your first shot and goes all in. Another key to remember is that you need to be the authority in the subject that you are talking about, otherwise people will think you are not important or impactful. Serve people instead of selling to them is one of Josh’s key philosophy as business owner. He shares fantastic tactics on how he helps people set up for a huge publicity boost.
Serve Instead Of Sell: A Publicity Boost Tactic with Josh Elledge
We’ll be talking about getting free publicity from the guy who’s been on 1,500 TV appearances. He’s the consumer guy on three Florida TV stations, and he’s built a $6 million business saving people money with coupons. He’s the founder and chief executives of SavingsAngel.com, and is one of the nation’s leading experts on consumer savings and PR. Welcome, Josh Elledge, to the show.
Thank you so much.
I love what you’re doing for people and I want to hear all about it so we could help our clients and audience learn more about you, how to save money, and more importantly, how to get all that incredible PR that you’ve been able to get. Tell us how you got started in business.
I got started in business when I was in middle school, like a lot of other entrepreneurs. It was in my blood. My dad is a business owner; my grandma is a business owner. My great, great granddaddy, Amos Elledge, was a proprietor in an ice business, so it was in my blood. Like a lot of other entrepreneurs, we had some business failures, but struck it big about twelve years ago with our company, Savings Angel. Savings Angel is designed to help consumers save money, get hookups, upgrades, and discounts on every area of life. Over the past years, we’ve been able to do well financially by focusing on serving our members. How we grew that was not through paid ads; we grew it through serving audiences largely in traditional media and gained quite a lot of experience in that process and it turned out to work well for us.
You’ve only spent $500 in paid advertising to grow a business to that size. Is that true?
We’ve done about $6 million in revenue and we’ve spent less than $500 in advertising. Everything we do is PR.
Talk a little bit about the type of PR that you started out with and then later evolved into?
It’s helpful that I was a journalist in the United States Navy for five years. I was comfortable with being on the radio and comfortable with being on TV. Some people are a little skittish about that, but if you’re willing to do that, you can go where other people are not willing to go and you can get that exposure and serve those audiences. It was in Holland, Michigan. I started off with a local Christian broadcaster, and started by sharing the three best deals you can get in local stores, you can get free shampoo, free toothpaste. I went in once and I did a good job, and so they kept on inviting me back every week for a couple of years.
That led to me writing a column for the Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That led to me doing a syndicated newspaper column for all of M Live, which is a nine newspapers, 1.1 million readers. I’ve been doing that for the past eight plus years now. I do TV and 75 markets several times a week. In Orlando where we relocated to, I’ve been on air over 700 times. We’ve been in the media over 2,000 times over the past years.
What’s more important than the number of times that you’ve been in the media is that you have figured out how to use media to make money and to drive people directly into your business. There’s a big difference. I could be the weatherman and be on 1,500 TV appearances if you’re the weatherman every night, it’s not a big deal. But if you’re a guest on shows or if you’re a TV personality and driving people to a website or to a business, that’s huge. What do you do to make that happen?
First off, before anyone with any audience is going to take you seriously, they do need to recognize that you are an authority for your subject and that you’re going to be a good guest. There’s nothing more frustrating for a journalist than when you work with someone and they’re all about going into sales mode or they’re all about promoting themselves. That’s not why you serve audiences in the media.
Your job in the media is to serve audiences. Part of my core philosophy is that when I wake up in the morning, my first question I ask is not who can I sell to today, it is who can we serve? Because of that philosophy, it’s fun going to work every day. I love what I do because I focus on bringing value to people. The more I do that, our team, everybody on both companies, we feel the impact of what we do in being of service to our clients every day.
I could hear the enthusiasm that you bring to this topic and to the subject. You’re on television regularly and you’re a guest on weekly shows. How much TV appearances are you doing?
I am on national TV through Gray Television. That’s 75 markets. I do that two to four times every single week. I produce a 90-second segment that airs, and it’s all about consumer savings. With Savings Angel, I created this Savings Angel persona. I can get you deals, hookups, or upgrades on anything in life, and people love that. Locally in TV, I was doing a grocery saving segment for many years and I got to the point where I’m too busy running two companies. I go in when I can, which is about two to three times a month. As much as I love doing it and as valuable as it is for Savings Angel, about 90%of my time is focused on being of service to business owners and helping them to repeat the formula that I followed.
We know that you did it for yourself and it’s certainly possible for others to do it too, but I love the fact that you’re taking responsibility to teach entrepreneurs and grow entrepreneurs’ businesses. How do you do that?
It was a number of years ago that I started doing pro bono work. When you achieve success or even before you achieve success, we focus on helping one another as business owners. Everyone deserves to get paid for their work, but I also believe that if we all serve and help one another, then everybody rises, and we can create this community of support that we could all grow together in. I was doing that a lot by teaching other startups in our local community how they could grow their PR presence. I wasn’t thinking about it from a business perspective, but they started implementing what I was teaching, and I was saying, “Save your money. Maybe you don’t buy PR firm services now, but instead, why don’t you go ahead and do this and this yourself and follow my advice?”
They did it, and they started making money with it. They started getting into media and they started getting a lot of presence. Invariably, the question then was, “This worked, can we pay you for more help?” I thought, “I suppose you could.” I started doing consulting and realized that what I had to offer was extremely valuable and needed to get out to the masses, so we started creating a lot of video content on social media and on our website. We’ve made the decision that we believe in the go-giver philosophy of doing business. What that means is that you give and invite people into your tribe. We evolved from being an agency to creating a platform where we can work with other agencies where together, we can democratize PR and we can empower everybody with the ability to rise.
I’m a very big believer in helping others and helping other entrepreneurs. We do the same thing. My first company, Timeslips Corporation, started it entirely on PR. I had $10,000 as a budget. I spend $6,000 on two ads, but they generated almost nothing. All I was left with was how do I get to promote this business for free. PR was what I thought of is the only way to do it. I started doing it, and I started dialing and smiling and researching who my best people are and who wants to tell my story and why it would benefit them to do so. Let’s take an example of a client and let’s walk them through the process of what they would do if they were interested in building a PR presence for themselves and for their company. Where do we start?
The first thing is that you get clarity on your message. Let’s say that you are a dog groomer. There are a lot of dog groomers out there. If you’re an internet marketer, there are a lot of internet marketers out there. I can’t sell that very well to the media and neither can you. If you’re a generalist, what the media are looking for is they want to be able to define you in one line. You might not like that, but that’s how we brand ourselves and that’s how we pitch ourselves. What I said with Savings Angel, I’m the guy who can get you deals, upgrades, and hookups on anything you spend your money on. They understand exactly who I am and what I do. With upendPR, I turn digital entrepreneurs into media celebrities. That’s exactly what I do. You need that one line that says what you do, and it needs to be specific instead of like I help people realize their soul.
Get specific about the value that you bring to people. That’s going to make it a lot easier to sell. It’s also very important that you identify who you are and condense it down to one line. The next step is help people get the guts to own their authority. My job is to help remove the fear factor that you might have, the imposter syndrome. I’ve worked with hundreds of members and if I can help them create success with their authority, I can help you too. It’s not that difficult. I’m sure you’ve heard the statistics. If you read five books on this subject, assuming it’s not brain surgery or rocket science, you generally can become an expert quickly in a lot of topics. Go ahead and own it and start branding yourself as such. The next step is to start working on what I call your authority indicators because it can make all the difference in the world when you’re reaching out.
You talked about coming up with what you call the one liner as to who you are. I have a system that I teach people that does almost exactly that, and it helps them focus entirely on their highest value. It’s seven words, “You know how, what we do is.”You know how people are struggling to get publicity for their little business and sometimes they go for months without getting a single article or a single appearance on television. What we do is position them in the highest possible way so that people who are in the business of sharing the news will start seeking them out and getting them on stage, in press, and on TV.
This is something I learned from a gentleman named Barney Zwick many, many years ago from Jay Abraham’s stage. I’ve shared it with hundreds and hundreds of people and I’m sharing it with you. It is a simple formula that helps you prioritize what your highest value is and the greatest problem that you solve for your clients. Let’s go to the next step. You said you were going to take us yet one step further in this process. Tell us about that.
If you and I were to spend time together, I would be able to understand who you are in seconds. That would take us a lot longer if I were reading an article that you wrote. That’s the challenge of the internet. The internet is fabulous; social media is fabulous; blogs are fabulous; podcasts are fabulous in reaching large numbers of people, but we know that when we have an in-person connection, it’s much deeper and much faster. Our job is to convey our spirit. It’s to convey our authority as quickly and clearly as possible. Any time you reach out to a new client, a prospective client, whether it is an influencer on social media, whether it’s an influencer or a journalist in traditional media, you are going to be fiercely judged within a few seconds. This sounds superficial, but it’s what we all do, and the reason we have to do it is because we’re all protective of our time. If you get an email from someone and the requests seems otherwise fine, but I don’t know who this person is necessarily, you are going to look for indicators of authority.
We’ll start by looking at how the email looks and how it’s structured. If there’s spelling errors, that’s not good. You won’t get too far if that’s the case. Maybe it’s your email signature I’ll look for, I’ll click through your email signature and the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to look at your website. If you’re only spending a couple hundred dollars on your website and you haven’t updated it in four or five years, you’re only going to attract the level of business that you put into your business. If you want to attract high authority big business, then you need to make yourself look like that’s who you normally work with and that’s the quality, the level that you play on. You’re going to have to invest some effort into making sure your design and branding looks fantastic. I would add that from my perspective, if you’re trying to impress an influencer or the media. You would have one very critical thing on your website and that is a press kit, which is a little bit different than a media kit. Press kit is an executive summary for the media on how easy it is to work with you and evidence that you normally work with the media and you’re used to working with the media and you do a good job of it.
I love the idea of calling these things indicators of authority because what that means is that when you create them, you have a purpose. When you create your email signature and if you have the brands of famous television stations or networks, the brands of famous magazines like Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine on your signature line that links to your websites, that reinforces your authority, and that shows that you have the endorsements from famous people.
These are the right types of indicators of authority. The thing I don’t have on my website, which I am going to absolutely do because you said so and because you’re an expert, is I don’t have a press kit. Where on the website does the press kit go?
You would link that in your footer on your webpage. In some cases, you might put it in your header, but you don’t necessarily need it to be pushed in front of all of your guests or potential clients, but it absolutely needs to be accessible. I guarantee as a member of the media, when I get your website and you pitch me on something, then I’m going to look immediately for a link that says, ”Press kit media” and I’m going to find everything. I need so that. It is super easy to work with. I got his bio here. I’ve got information and executive summary about his products, who he’s worked with, your clippings, and where else you’d been in the media.
That communicates to me that you’ve got the authority and experience, that you’re going to be a good guest or you’re going to give me a great quote. Maybe you also have things like how to sound like you’ve read my book, or here are twelve or fifteen questions you can ask me and I’m going to make you look good as a journalist. Journalists have very difficult jobs. They’re very busy, they’re overworked, they’re underpaid generally, and so it’s our job as guest experts and subject matter experts and authority figures to make their job as easy as possible. They will reciprocate by promoting us. Influencers do have the ability to wave their magic wand and create amazing things for our business. We just have to abide by the rules. There are a couple of other indicators I’d love to share.
Number two is going to be Google search results. If we do a search for Mitch Russo, you’re going to find a lot, and the reason is because you have done a lot of amazing stuff in your life. You have given a lot. You’ve served a lot. You’ve been recognized a lot for the work that you’ve been doing, the amazing partnerships that you’ve been able to build. The world believes, and Google agrees that you are an authority in your space, and that’s evidenced by what Google has to say. If you do a Google search for my name, Josh Elledge, you’re going to see quite a bit of good stuff. It’s mainly because I have made serving audiences a priority.
A lot of people, a tactic that they’ll use is, “I’m going to do my offsite SEO, and I want those links back so I’m going to try and push to be a guest blogger and do guest posting on other blogs.” You send out all these emails and you get them, I get them and they’re annoying. It’s rather audacious when you get that email that says, “I would like to be a guest.” Thankfully I’m seeing this die off, but it’s these emails that say, “I want to guest post on your blog and here’s the content I’m going to create.”They start listing off all these demands. “I want you to link to my website with a follow link. I want this and that.” It’s like, “Who do you think you are approaching an influencer and telling them what they’re going to do for you? You’re reaching out to them.”
My recommendation is if you want to be quoted and seen all over the web, take an approach of, “It would be my honor to serve your audience. I’ve been reading your blog for several months. I love the content that you’re doing. I read your book. I left a review for you. I promoted you on Twitter.” You show them that you’re truly a fan. People don’t throw away fan mail, but then you say, “It’d be my honor to contribute content in some way. I don’t know if you ever work with people that way, but I would love to do this as a way of saying thank you.”The magic phrase is, “I don’t need any links back. I don’t need promotion. I honestly would love to somehow return the favor that you have done for me.”
If I get an email like that, I’m going to find a way to work with them if I can realistically fit them into the work that I’m already doing. Even though you might say, “I’m not going to get anything in return.” What a professional is going to end up doing, if they have a source that provides them content, is that they’re going to promote them anyway. You cannot ask for it. If you want an influencer to promote you, give them the space to do it and don’t ask for it. What’s amazing is that they’re going to promote you bigger than anything. Had you asked for it, they’re going to promote you bigger than that. Just play the long game on this and focus on building the relationship, because that’s the most valuable thing you want anyway.
Do you have any other tactics that you can help people get set up for an enormous publicity boost?
One last area and that is social media. In our experience in terms of working with influencers, particularly influencers within the media, there are two social media platforms that you need to invest some thought and effort into. Number one is going to be LinkedIn. I don’t believe that you can over-invest in your LinkedIn profile. You’re welcome to take a look at mine to give you an example of what we recommend generally. John Nemo, a smart guy in the field of LinkedIn marketing, we believe in communicating the value that you can bring to the visitor who’s taking a look at your LinkedIn profile.
What do you get when you and I collaborate? What’s the value that I bring you? You should speak in first person, which is fairly unique. Social media profiles, you should always speak in first person. Press kits, you should always speak in third person, which is a rule. It’s weird when you speak in third person on your personal social media platforms, but LinkedIn is important. I’m speaking specifically about your profile, because you’re going to be judged based on how seriously you take your personal branding. If you’ve got a good profile, that’s a green checkbox that you just earned yourself.
The final one is Twitter. A lot of people don’t understand Twitter or understand the value of Twitter. Twitter is absolutely amazing for an initial connection with anybody on the planet. It doesn’t take much to build up rapport with somebody on twitter and then make an offer where you can be a value to them. Follow some influencers that you like. If you go for mid-level influencers, those are going to be a little easier to work with than let’s say a Tim Ferriss or a Tony Robbins. Work with someone who is a little bit more accessible and find a way to like some of their tweets, maybe reply to some of their tweets, maybe retweet something. Engage with them, and then do that for a couple of weeks. Eventually, you might make an offer where you say, “I loved the insight, and I blogged about something similar to that.” You want to make an offer to be helpful. Don’t be salesy, don’t be creepy. If you do that, it will save you thousands of dollars of what you used to have to spend to a PR firm in order to make these connections. We embrace and facilitate social media with our members because it works so much better. It’s so much more authentic and organic and it works.
You are absolutely the king of social media and understanding how this works. I always viewed LinkedIn as a place to post a resume to die and I didn’t see it as being very valuable, until my eyes were opened one day by a person who is literally generating all of their income from LinkedIn leads. I followed what they did and I restructured my entire profile. Type in Mitch Russo at the LinkedIn search bar and take a look at my profile, take a look at Joshua’s profile, and see what we do to become noticed to become searched for connected with. Just the last months, I’ve added 4,000 connections. I’m already over 6,000 connections and growing it about 600 a month, all because I pay attention to the people I connect with, and I’m sure you do the same.
Having an amazing profile is step one. You can have a team that can help you with this. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed if you’re a principal with your company. You can have a team that can help you with this as long as they can authentically speak in your voice or identify that they’re not you, but they’re part of your team and it would be a great honor to connect you with, that’s what I do. When there is a great potential connection, like an opportunity for the audience and I to collaborate in some way, you better believe my team is going to make sure that they flag that for me and they say, “Make sure you reach out to this person personally. They seem great. They’ve got a great mission.” Those are the people that I love to connect with.
These are ideal and essential tips to creating a social persona and creating authority. Let’s get a little bit more strategic. Let’s talk about the process of where we start in the first 30 days. What happens by the next 30 days, and where do things look 60 to 90 days later?
I do this when I speak. I say, “For the next five minutes, I want you to go do PR stuff.” I don’t make them wait five minutes, but I let them sweat a little bit for like fifteen or 30 seconds and say, “What were you going to do for the next five minutes?”Most people say, “I was going to start spamming journalists.” I say, ”That’s what you don’t want to do.” You want to make sure that you focus your time on building your authority. I would continue to build your Twitter presence because your Twitter follower count is a vanity metric that matters a lot. I would not buy followers, but I absolutely would use systems and tools that can help you increase your engagement with people.
You can’t fully automate Twitter, and I do get my VA to help out a lot and you can do that as well. I’m reaching out and I’m making connections. Your Twitter account is a vanity metric that matters a lot to anyone in the media. Even if you don’t like or use Twitter very often, it’s an incredible communications platform. It’s a huge authority indicator, your follower account. I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy followers because they’re all going to be fake and it’s easy to figure that out quick. I wouldn’t do that, but I absolutely would invest in tools that will help you in publishing content on a regular basis. Maybe there’s some tools you might consider in terms of helping you identify people that you can engage with, and have your VA do some things personally. I think it’s really important to do that, and that’s going to continue to build your authority while you’re also building your tribe.
It’s also imperative that you’re producing great thought and you’re producing great content. One book I would really recommend on this subject would be KNOWN by Mark Schaefer. People ask me for book recommendations on PR all the time, and I don’t think there are any good ones, but I would say Mark Schaefer’s book is probably the closest thing to “PR”. It’s about building your influence. He focuses on building your content side of it, and that’s critical. We’ve focused more on the tactical tools that you would use, but it’s about getting your content and making invitations to serve fellow influencers.
The approach that you want to take is what I call being a professional fan. Influencers don’t throw away fan mail, but at the same time you don’t want to make yourself look like a pipsqueak. You want to let them know that you have value to bring, and if you set that right tone, then you can show where you provide value. You also express to them your appreciation for the work that they are doing, and you invite the opportunity to collaborate together in some way. This may sound scary what I’m talking about, but if you have the right tone, more importantly you have the right objective in your heart and it’s not to spam, it’s not all about you, but it’s about the value you can bring other people. You’re going to be amazed. If you have a servant’s heart, PR is going to be about the easiest thing you’ve ever done.
The thing about social media is related to two things, content and time. The content that I use for my social media are my blogs and my podcasts. I try to take every single podcast that is aired, and I remove extracts from it and I drop them into social media all week long. I’m trying to share your knowledge and your wisdom with my Twitter followers and with people who are showing up and reading my feed. The other thing is that I do use some social automation tools to do it, and I recommend that other people do too, whether it’s Meet Edgar or E-Clincher. The most important thing is use one.
Find one you’re comfortable with, put together a schedule of posts, and work on following other people. Those who follow you, make sure to follow up and follow them, too. That’s how I’ve been building my Twitter metric over the course of the last several months. We got to the point where we have tactically handled a lot of the details related to the actions required to start building your authority platform. Let’s talk strategy. When we look at the big picture and we’re looking out now three months to six months, what does the strategy at a higher-level look like when it comes to building authority and getting into the press?
“Why are we doing this?” This is an important question to ask. A lot of us want to have a much bigger impact in the world, but it’s critical that you ask yourself, ”Why?”Are you doing it because you want significance? Are you doing it because you want to truly make a change in the world? Are you doing it because you want to make money? If you want to make money, there’s a reason behind that, and that you’re very authentic and honest about what you want to do. What I’ve explained, while it may sound simple, it’s work. It’s absolutely work. Growing a business does not happen on its own. It’s the same thing if you were to say, “I want to lose twenty pounds.” You can do it, and it’s going to take a lot of effort. You might get five pounds into it and then you plateau for a while and you’re like, “This is a lot harder than I thought.” Remembering your ‘why’ and having that in front of you is going to keep you motivated because there’s a lot of other things to get distracted.
Most of us in business are business operators, we’re not business owners. If you’re a Michael Gerber fan, you know that that’s something you want to avoid. Your number one job as a business owner is to be growing your business because if you’re not, who is? Nobody. You’re the owner, you need to do that job. When I get media opportunities, I will drop nearly about anything that I’m working on. I will drop about anything that I’m actively working on if I get an email from a journalist that says, “I could use a quote, can you help me out?” I want them to know that I value our relationship, and I want them to know that I’m a reliable source, that they can count on. One thing they know about me is, “That guy delivers.”If I’m under a tight deadline, I can send him an email and chances are good that he’s to get me a quote back.
The reality is if they want a quote about consumer savings, sometimes I write them, but most of the time I don’t. I have a team of people on my content team, they know my voice, and I say, “I got a request for a quote from Money Magazine.” I send that over to them on Slack, and then they turn it around within twenty minutes. I email back, and I get credit for that. Savings Angel continues to grow from that. That’s how we work. Here’s the end game, and this is what we do with our members. You want to put yourself in a position where you are surrounded by say twenty to 30 influencers who all value your thoughts and your subject matter expertise and they go to you on a regular basis. When that happens, that’s how we were able to generate about $6 million in revenue with less than $500 in advertising. That’s all we did. We made a lot of friends, and these are all friends who have big audiences. We offer to be helpful on a regular basis and we let them know that they can count on us. When they ask for our help, we deliver. It’s nice to show up and all you do for marketing is help people.
This has been a master class on building authority and getting your PR engine revved up. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch, or an intense conversation with?
Could you imagine how incredible it would be to have a one-hour conversation and be with Abraham Lincoln for an hour? I look at the challenges that I have in life. When we have adversity or when we have critics, it can derail the best of us. We may be so mission-focused and we may recognize our contribution to the world, but it takes a very emotionally and spiritually mature person to be bulletproof. This man had critics like you wouldn’t believe, and yet he did the most amazing things that he knew in his soul were the right thing to do. I would love to learn what kept him happy. A quote that’s right in front of me on my wall, “A person is just about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” That’s what I aspire to live by. I would want to hear it directly from the man himself.
Here’s the next question, it’s the grand finale question. It’s the ‘change the world’ question. What is it that you doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
My fundamental belief is that everyone has a message that can positively impact the world. If I think of what I’ve been blessed with or the experiences that I’ve had, this is why it’s so critical to niche yourself and I ask yourself the question, “What can I do that almost nobody else can do?” Because of my experiences, because of my background, because of my results, there aren’t many people on the planet that can truly take somebody who has that message and help them develop their authority and develop their influence and help them bring that message to the world. I believe that if all of those voices with those great intentions and those messages do get to the world, we are making the world a better place.
How can they find out more about you?
You could find a lot about me if you Google me, but here’s a gift. I know you’re a very special person who is focused on growth. I believe in investing in people with that level of energy and inspiration where they feel called to do what they’re doing. I have a $1,200 video course that I would be willing to give away for free, and here’s how you do it. If you go to up UpMyInfluence.com/Mitch and you enter in that URL, what’ll happen is that it will zero out the $1,200 and you can have my $1,200 video course absolutely free. There’s no sales, nothing on the back end. I believe in investing in other people.
Thank you so much. On behalf of my audience, thank you for everything that you shared with us. It was delightful spending time with you.
Thank you so much.
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