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Season 02, Episode 15

How To Consistently Score Free PR For Your Business

With Co-author of the FREE PR Book, Startup Advisor & PR Expert, Adrian Salamunovic

About the Episode

In this episode, I chat with Adrian Salamunovic about the process of getting free PR for your business. What I loved about this episode is that Adrian packs so much value that you can actually stop listening and start acting to get your business free PR rather than using paid media, which a lot of companies rely on. So if you haven’t gotten much media, or you haven’t gotten much coverage, or you’re just not sure where to start and you’re too daunted by the prospect of reaching out to those top tier publications, Adrian will break it down for you and make it feel easy. 

Adrian is the co-author of the FREE PR Book and the former co-founder of CanvasPop, which he bootstrapped to 8-figure sales. Now he’s a public speaker, startup advisor, investor, and PR expert who’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs reach mainstream success using the power of earned media. His companies have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Today Show, The Doctors, Good Morning America, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, CNN, MSNBC, TechCrunch, Mashable, Fast Company, Forbes, The Verge, and WIRED. He is a global mentor for San Francisco based 500 Startups and is the #1 rated advisor on Clarity.fm.

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Full Transcript

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Adrian:

One of the first things that we do both in our PR Bootcamp and in the book is really asking people who’re your target market? Literally create a persona and if some of you have personas, some of you don’t. If you don’t, I highly recommend that’s where you start. It’s really understanding fundamentally who your client is, where he or she goes to read information, what influencers they follow, so on and so forth. The more you understand about your audience, the more you know where they go to get info and where they going to get info is where you want to be and so you work backward from the customer up.

Chris:

What’s up, everybody? I’m Chris Ronzio, CEO of Trainual and this is Process Makes Perfect as always, we’re talking with experts in process creation, automation and delegation. Basically the people that just know how to make business easier. You just heard Adrian Salamunovic and this episode was all about the process of getting free PR. So Adrian’s the co-author of the book FREE PR and the co-founder of canvas pop, which he bootstrapped from zero to eight figures sales. He’s now a public speaker, a startup advisor, investor, and a PR expert who’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs reach their mainstream success using that power of earned media. How powerful is that? He’s a global mentor for 500 Startups out of San Francisco and the number one rated advisor on clarity.fm, which Dan Martell started. You heard from him last season. What I loved about this episode is that Adrian packs so much value that you can actually stop listening and start acting to get your business free PR rather than using paid media, which a lot of companies rely on. So if you haven’t gotten much media, you haven’t gotten much coverage or you’re just not sure where to start or you’re too daunted by the prospect of reaching out to those top tier publications, Adrian, will break it down for you and make it feel easy. So hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Welcome to Process. Makes Perfect. I’m your host Chris, Ronzio. And as you heard in the intro today, we’re talking to Adrian Salamunovic. Adrian, what’s up? 

Adrian:

How’s it going man? 

Chris:

Welcome. Thanks for being here.

Adrian:

Well thanks for having me. Finally, we get to do this.

Chris:

I know. So I think it was a year or two ago that we met and I remember standing in line waiting for a signed copy of your book. And so it took us this long to get scheduled. But I can’t wait to dig into this ’cause it’s been super helpful for me.

Adrian:

Yeah, no, I’m glad to hear it. And I’m here to answer all your questions and let’s get into it.

Chris:

Okay, cool. So for anybody that doesn’t know who you are, let’s start with a quick background. I know you’ve founded a pretty big company, so how, tell us that story and how that all got started.

Adrian:

Yeah, like you, I’m a lifetime entrepreneur. I started a bunch of different companies. I think most recently the company that I’m known for is Canvas Pop, which was an online photo printing retailer, a direct to consumer play. Um, what’s interesting about that, companies were able to grow from zero in revenue to eight figures, uh, doing virtually no advertising. So we did it using a lot of what’s in the book using free PR, earned media and building the brand organically. And that’s really what I focus on today.

Chris:

Okay. So the zero to eight figures, I want everybody to absorb that because that’s not something that most people ever do or learn how to do. And so I want to focus on this process where you said you can get free or free PR earned media to really drive that business. Did you have a sales team? Did, were you doing paid ads or was it PR exclusively?

Adrian:

Well. So initially we had no team. It was myself and my former co-founder. So just the two of us. And more interestingly, we didn’t have any venture capital. We didn’t have any startup funding. And so it forced us to be creative and we had to teach ourselves PR. And so sometimes not having a lot of capital forces you to be more creative and create more cost-effective ways to acquire customers. So it was almost by accident that I started learning how to get PR. Um, and so it was, it was through some experimentation actually ended up hiring a publicist at first, wasted the money, spent a few thousand dollars, got zero results, and suddenly, Oh, how hard can this be? Let me do some research, let me teach myself. And that’s how it started. And one of the first major media outlets that we got into, um, generated tens of thousands of dollars in sales and one in one publication.

And so we started thinking, we got in Wired magazine very early on with one of the companies we started DNA 11, which was a spin off of Canvas Pop. So before we started canvas, while there’s a company called DNA 11 that made artwork from people’s DNA, it’s a crazy concept, but I got that into wired magazine and generated $40 or $50,000 in sales from one single article. And that’s when I first realized that, Hey, if you can get your story in front of the media in front of the right audience, you can generate a lot of revenue with little to no cost.

Chris:

What do you think holds people back from even trying to get that earned media? Like why don’t more companies do this?

Adrian:

Yeah, I think it’s a combination factor. I mean you don’t know what you don’t know. Right. And so one of the things that I do in the book that Cameron and I and my co-author do in the book [demystifies] the whole process. It really isn’t rocket science. It’s a pretty simple, straightforward process. And if you learn that process and how to break it down into a series of actions, I believe almost any company can get a lot of free PR. And so I think the biggest myth is that you have to be some sort of insider or you have to have contacts at the New York times to get into the New York times. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. All you have to do is follow the process. Okay.

Chris:

Okay. So I love that you’re talking about process and I don’t want to ruin it for everyone. I want everyone to go get the book and read it like I have. But can we talk through a few of these elements, a few parts of the process? Like how do you pick the right publication?

Adrian:

Yeah, I mean really, it’s simple. It’s as simple as understanding your audience. So one of the first things that we do, both in our PR boot camp and in the book is really ask people who’s your target market? Like literally create a persona. And some of you have personas, some of you don’t. If you don’t, I highly recommend, that’s where you start is really understanding fundamentally who your client is wet, where he or she goes to read information, what influencers they follow, so on and so forth. The more you understand about your audience, the more you know where they go to get info and where they go to get info is where you want to be. And so you work backwards from the customer up.

Chris:

Okay. And so once you land that first thing, like, like what was, how did you pitch Wired, you know, did you, you knew that that was your persona. You had this DNA thing. Did you just cold email a bunch of people or how do you get your foot in the door the first time?

Adrian:

Yeah. Again, it sounds complicated, but it isn’t. The first thing we did is first we figured out that because we were selling these crazy portraits made from people’s DNA, we knew that was going to be something that only innovators or people who are early adopters would be interested in. And so we knew Wired was the mecca, Wired.com would be the Mecca for that. And so I started looking at articles from SIM, from journalists that were writing about similar companies, right? And so what you want to do, and this is I’m glad you brought this up, one of the first things you want to do is understand who your look-a-like company is, right? Who’s training look-a-like. Who’s Canvas Pops look alike. Uh, what do I mean by look like? It’s a company that’s a lot like you but isn’t a direct competitor.

So if you look at Trainual, you might look at a company like teachable, they do online learning systems. It’s really not a competitor to, to Trainual. But then you want to go look and who’s been writing about that specific company who is looking at that space? And chances are if that journalist is covering companies that are similar to yours, they’re going to be interested in you. And that’s how you build your media list. Now, to get the actual journalists, it’s as simple as clicking on the journalist’s name. Usually that’s going to link to their Twitter and then gonna link to their profile page. A lot of journalists actually put their email address in their Twitter profile and sometimes the publication itself says, Hey, if you have story tips, email me here. And so it, it really is that simple is work backwards.

Understand your customer, where they go to read publications, go to those publications and find out which journalists at those publications are writing about your look-a-likes or your competitors. And then pitch those journalists at their email address. And if you can tell your, you tell your pitch in a compelling way, you’re going to get them to respond because you have to remember you have an interesting product, you have something of value to give to their audience. And those journalists’ job is to come up with story ideas and discover great products and services and if you have that, they want to talk to. So you’ve got to think of it as you’re doing them a favor in a way by bringing them story ideas about what you’re doing.

Chris:

And so as you start to build this list and you’ve got a couple story ideas, are you pitching everyone on the same story idea or do you tailor it and you’re customizing until someone picks one up and then that idea is no longer available? How do you approach the messaging of the pitch?

Adrian:

Yeah, I think it’s important to personalize each individual pitch. The best success I’ve seen is typically you’re going to have almost a boilerplate for your pitch. And in the book we actually give you a template. And in the course we have templates as well. But the first sentence is the most important one. And that’s where you really want to make the journalists feel like, “Hey, I read your article recently on X, right? And because you wrote about X, I thought that you and your audience would love what we’re doing. And then the roots of it is kind of a boilerplate. Here’s what we do, here’s why we’re better and here’s why we should, you know, let’s schedule a time to talk or let me know if you want more info. That’s essentially the pitch, right? But the line where you hit on this, where you personalize the pitch to make them feel like you’ve taken the time to research them and most importantly understand their audience. And that first sentence is going to be the most critical part of that email pitch.

Chris:

I remember when I heard you speak the first time, another hack you gave was to set Google alerts for all those competitors that you can constantly be on the news. That was a great tip and we’ve done that. So thanks for sharing that.

Adrian:

Yeah, that’s, no, it’s all about timing. Sometimes you want to get them right as they wrote about a competitor or better yet a look-alike, or sometimes you want to ride off of something that’s already trending in the news. So, you know, without giving away today’s date, what’s hot right now in the media is Coronavirus. It’s everywhere. We had a client approach us that does remote work solutions. Uh, we took advantage of this sort of what we call newsjacking, where its Coronavirus is being written about everywhere, and we just got them in the New York Times this morning. So riding that trend wave. Sometimes it’s about timing.

Chris:

So like having your new hires do their orientation at home instead of coming to the office and you just train you all. That would be like a great pitch. Right?

Adrian:

100%. All jokes aside should be pimping on this whole remote. I mean if you aren’t already, we’ll, we’ll talk to Becky about that. But um, obviously the Coronavirus is a huge trending thing and entrepreneurs are looking for things that will help their workers work remotely. Training was a great story angle right there.

Chris:

Yeah. Okay, great tips. So in the book you talk a lot about when to hire someone in-house versus to invest in an agency. I know when we started Trainual, I want the agency route hired a PR firm that seemed to do this thing and it was months and months and months of investing in that. So when is the right time to have someone in-house versus an agency or what’s your take on that?

Adrian:

Yeah, I mean the early stages, it’s a matter of budget, right? Sometimes you have to do some of this stuff for yourself. And so a lot of the early, early stage companies, I tell the founders, look, no one can tell your story with more passion and bigger than you can. You understand the product. Journalists love to hear from CEO and founders, especially the early stages when you’re trying to get into those really big publications, whether it’s a New York Times or a Techcrunch or whatnot, it’s nice for you to learn the process. And so just by buying the book, you can learn that high-level process. But obviously, as you scale and you know this, you know you’re a big believer in systems and scaling. You can’t be doing everything yourself. So once market fit’s been established and you’ve gotten a few of those few keystone articles, you’ve gotten a little bit of momentum, then it’s time to consider hiring somebody.

Adrian:

And by the way, you don’t have to do it full time. You can do a part-time but dedicated hire and you can do a salary plus bonus structure. That’s what I like to do. So you’d pay a base salary and they say, look, if you get tier one articles, I’ll give you a $1,000 bonus. If you get tier two articles, I’ll give you a $500 bonus. And it’s almost like a sales role that way. And once they start getting the media and they want to influence, if you want to invest more into them, then you can bring them in full time. But keep that bonus structure gone.

Chris:

I love that PR is definitely like an outbound sales type position, right? Because you’re trying to land these things and convince them with messaging and very aligned. So once you get these hits, these good, you know, keystone publications to present or to, to, to write something about you, how do you leverage that in the rest of the organization? Cause that’s something I’ve seen. We’ve gotten great podcasts or we get an article and we posted it on our Slack channel. But then how do you continue to utilize that throughout the company?

Adrian:

Yeah, it’s really important to keep that momentum going. And there’s, there’s a couple of ways. Obviously the first thing that happens internally, everybody celebrates on Slack, right? You gotta, I know you guys got in Crunchbase for example, everybody celebrates. How do you keep the momentum going? So for one, you want to definitely put those logos on your homepage as seen in preferably above the fold because what it does, it immediately creates credibility. If your company was featured on CNN or featured in Tech Crunch or PC mag or whatever it is, you want to make sure that people know that right away. It creates instant credibility. The second thing you want to do is create a blog post that will live on your site, that you can take your own traffic and steer to that blog post so that even if the article gets pulled down one day or whatever, it lives forever on your actual site and you want to take those logos on your homepage and instead of linking them out to the New York Times, you want to link it to the blog post about how you got the article in the New York Times.

Adrian:

On your own site so that people aren’t leaving your site, if that makes sense.

Chris:

So smart. I like that. Hey, you know, one thing we, we’ve gotten hit up a couple of times by the legal counsel at these publications that they want to charge for you to put the logo on the site. Do you think it’s worth it as an authority builder?

Adrian:

Well, look, I’ve, uh, to be really transparent with you, we’ve done this hundreds of times. We haven’t gotten those letters yet, but if they do come, you want to obviously cease and desist, I don’t think you should pay to say I’ve seen the New York Times. I don’t think they can. I mean you were seen in [the] New York Times, I think that’s debatable as to what the legalities of that are. But putting that aside, um, look if going to come after you pull down the logo, but whatever press you did get, put it on your homepage because it does create instant credibility.

Chris:

Yeah, I love that. Okay, so let’s, let’s turn to this book a little bit more. Um, like I said, I got it a couple of years ago. Cameron was on the podcast or was it last year? It came out. It feels like it’s been awhile.

Adrian:

No, but a year over, literally over a year ago.

Chris:

So Cameron was on season one. How did you intersect with him? Because he tells the story of you were, you know, giving him these PR tips forever. So was it just this book you guys had talked about writing for a while or how did it happen?

Adrian:

Yeah, well Cameron was actually one of my first coaches, almost 10 years. So we ended up hiring Cameron in the early days and when the company was doing around a million in revenue, we didn’t, didn’t know how to scale it. And he came on board and was instrumental in helping us take the company to the next level. As you know, he helped using a lot of the techniques in the book. He helped take, got marketing from around 4 million in revenue to nearly 200 million in revenue. And so we wanted to leverage that knowledge from his brain, our brains. And it worked. We ended up doubling our revenue every year after that once we hired him as a coach. So I have tremendous respect for Cameron. What happened is, I was at a, a baby bathwater event in Utah and I was one of the speakers at the event and in the crowd was Zach who’s one of the co-founders of scribe books was, uh, who’s our publisher.

Adrian:

And he said, listen, do you know this guy named Cameron? He’s writing this book called free PR. Uh, I think he could use you. You guys could collaborate. And I said, well, funny you say that. My name was on the back cover of the book at that time. Like a, like a quote from me, you know, but I would never become an author. So it was through that interaction that we reconnected, we decided to be a great idea to partner up. We took the book, we completely reworked it together. It’s a lot of work writing a book, a lot of work. Uh, and about a year after that, we ended up publishing the book and it became a Best Seller. We’re extremely happy with the way the book turned up.

Chris:

Well, it’s an easy read and it’s packed with value. So definitely if you’re listening to this, go check it out. Uh, is there a website they can get it?

Adrian:

Yeah, just go to free PRbook.com there. You can find it. You can sign up for a free checklist. Uh, you can get in contact with Cameron and I, uh, and you can even sign up for our PR Bootcamp, our training course that, uh, I know you guys are members of us as well.

Chris:

Yeah. Yeah. So tell us, uh, kind of as we wrap up here, the Bootcamp you rolled out at about the same time as the book, but before we jumped on the call, I asked you and you said that you kind of tested things a little bit as you were writing the book or, so a lot of people want to do this where they put out some, some knowledge, some books, some course, and want to create a residual income or a business based on it. So how did you do? How did you test the concepts and work through the kinks?

Adrian:

Yeah, the really important thing with developing any course material is to first find clients and pre-sell it before you. This is the one thing that a lot of people learn the hard way is build the course as a one-pager, describing what’s in it and a table of contents, and go out and sell that to people in your network that you think need this knowledge. In my case, I just went out and got five or six clients, and got them to pay for the course in advance. And that did a couple of things once it validated my concept and helped me get all the kinks out before spending three months developing a course, imagine spending three months developing a course only to find out that nobody wants to buy it. So one, it validated it, it gave me a little bit of revenue and nothing is a better validator than actual exchange of money for value. And thirdly, if now I was committed, I took, I took a bunch of money, I had to finish the course. So that was a really huge step for anyone thinking of developing a courses, build the outline, sell it, then build the course, don’t even think about doing it the other way.

Chris:

And it’s very much the same with a Saas business. A lot of people try to skip the process of getting those first few customers and validating the idea by doing services or whatever, and then they try to scale before they’ve actually proven anything. So I love that you gave that tip. Okay. So, as we wrap this up, we’re trying something new for this season. I don’t know what it’s called yet. It’s like double-tapping or double-clicking on you to just ask you a couple quick questions. So just say whatever the first thing comes to mind. Um, so here we go. What’s a brand that you think has perfected its process that you admire?

Adrian:

I know it’s not Delta Air Lines, I’ll tell you that much. 

Chris:

But you just gave them some PR nonetheless. So yeah.

Adrian:

Yeah. All press is good press. Um, you know, I’m going to go with a really low-hanging fruit here and say Amazon. I mean I fruit, but no, that’s great. Uh, you know, one-click shopping, they’ve taken something that’s a very painful process and almost automated it. And so, I mean, if you want to go for the low-hanging fruit, I think no company has perfected its process better than Amazon.

Chris:

Love it. Who’s someone that has coached or mentored you?

Adrian:

Well, it’s going to come down to Cameron Herold again. I hate to plug him twice. He doesn’t plug me nearly enough, but no, Cameron has been an excellent mentor friend, uh, and partner in this and this and I, I would be, uh, you know, if you asked me who’s my number one mentor, I’d say Cameron was, had a lot of, a lot of influence in me. The other person that I consider a friend and someone I go to for advice frequently in long hikes. Is Harley from a COO, a COO of Shopify. Uh, Harley Finkelstein has been a tremendous sort of sounding board for me. Even those younger than me, I, uh, I get a lot of value from, from our hikes.

Chris:

Oh, that’s great. Okay. A favorite book or podcast other than this one.

Adrian:

You know, I’m, again, when I want to shut my brain off essentially and just enjoy great content, again, I’m going to go with the lowest of the lowest hanging fruit because it’s the most popular podcast on earth and that’s a Joe Rogan. I really just enjoy sometimes. I mean I, I do, uh, I do a ton of B2B stuff. I also like 20 minute VC. Uh, even though I’m like, you know, I’m not raising any venture capital at the moment or anything. I love to hear the founder stories from the perspective of a venture capitalist. And so if you get a chance, 20 minute VC is one of the best short form podcasts out there and if you want to shut your brain off and just enjoy some great content, Joe Rogan.

Chris:

Okay, cool. Two more. Uh, who is the most entertaining person you follow online?

Adrian:

H three which is, um, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of these guys, but, uh, it’s a, it’s a podcast. I don’t even know how to describe it. Really. It’s, if I just want to have some entertaining, you know what’s happening in pop culture right now. There’s a podcast called H three H three with Nathan Klein and his and his wife. And it’s, it’s pure entertainment, but it’s not, you’re not going to get an intellectual stimulation for,

Chris:

no value. Just entertainment. Okay. And, and, and back to value. What’s one app you can’t live without?

Adrian:

I think I can live without any apps in a perfect world, but, um, that’s okay. That could be an answer. I think. I think that, uh, uh, Santa a Santa just because it, it’s basically the operating system for your life as far as business wise. All your tasks, manage ability to delegate. Most important is learning to click the delegate button on those, on those tasks. And then there’s almost like an operating system for, for your business along with training of course. Um, whether nobody had checks in the mail. There you go. But I want to plug his fellow fellow.app. I, I, I’m an advisor to them. Uh, but fellow and I’ve connected you with, uh, with the CEO there and I want you guys to connect. His fellow fellow.app allows you to manage your one on one meetings like never before. So really systemizing those meetings and it’s an incredibly powerful tool if you have a team under you to hold any meeting using fellow not app. So those are the three.

Chris:

Nice. So anyone listening, you can hear through Adrian’s answers that he cares about the systems and the delegation and that was woven through this because the process is so much of a part of what’s behind getting PR and being as successful as he’s been. So Adrian, to summarize, is there a biggest lesson or takeaway that you want people to leave this episode with that we’ve talked about?

Adrian:

Yeah, as always, think big. I mean go big. If you want to get New York Times, you want to get in tech crunch, you want to get into wired, you can do it. I’ve done it. If I can do it, you can do it. And your PR company doesn’t have to be revolutionary. It’s about how you tell the story and so think big and you’ll get big results. And that’s the number one thing I like to tell people.

Chris:

All right, so wherever you are listening to this, put down your phone, turn off the car, go think big, set your sights high and uh, and, and do like Adrian’s done. Get some PR. So thank you so much for being here. It was really fun talking with you.

Adrian:

Yeah, I enjoyed it too man. Thanks a lot Chris. 

Chris:

All right, talk to you soon. 

Adrian:

Cheers.

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