Get more reach, visibility, credibility, trust, and SEO with digital PR - a way to build relationships with content writers and journalists to get them to mention you and your business.
Today, I’m talking to Lexi Mills, a digital PR expert and Influence professional.
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Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! Welcome to another episode everyonehatesmarketers.com, the marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host Louis Grenier.
As I told you in the last episode, a lot of you don’t seem to be aware that we do have a website where you can check all the conversations I have with guests, where you can find out about the resources we mention during the episode, and all the details. It’s obviously free to access, you don’t have to enter your e-mail address or anything. You can just go to everyonehatesmarketers.com and you will have access to all previous episodes.
I have to admit that the subject we’re going to talk about today is pretty foreign to me. I’m quite a big noob at this particular subject and this is why I’ve invited somebody who knows a thing or two about it. What we’re going to dive into today will really help you to get more reach, to get more visibility, to get more credibility and trust, and even better SEO. It’s really something that you could apply in your business tomorrow that will really help you in all of those things.
We’re going to talk about Digital PR which is basically a way to build relationships with content writers and journalists to get mention in return by them. My guest is Lexi Mills. I’ve discovered her at a conference in Dublin called Learn Inbound. Lexi, thank you so much for your time, thanks for being here.
Lexi: It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.
Louis: No problem at all. You are regarded as one of the experts in digital PR. You spoke at many, many, many marketing events, Marketing and SEO events in particular, including Learn Inbound as I mentioned. I was really impressed by your expertise and I really can’t wait to hear you dive into it. Let’s nail in the problems straight away before we start. What would be your own definition of Digital PR and how far away was I trying to define it a few seconds ago?
Lexi: It’s an ongoing debate, especially if you’re speaking to PRs, or content marketers, or even business owners. Everyone defines it slightly differently because if you consider it like a tool, it’s what do you using the tool for? For example, I’ve used a fork when traveling to comb my hair. It doesn’t mean that was it was designed for. I’ve used fork as ornaments to keep doors open and digital PR is very similar.
You can use digital PR to build very natural link profiles. You can use digital PR to build referral networks, or to shape the nature of the brand, or to make a kickstarter campaign successful, but not for the purpose of getting money, although it can do that, but perhaps so that you can get an audience that you can really use to draw feedback for your product. That’s one of those biggest shifts in how kickstarter was initially use to how it’s being used now and PR is very critical to that.
Ultimately, I don’t really see myself as a PR. I think I die a little bit inside when I’m called a PR and when I’m called an SEO. I don’t feel like either. Influence professional maybe, if that doesn’t sound too much of a silly term.
Louis: No, it doesn’t sound like it.
Lexi: People tell me their business goal. It can do it, it depends what audience or what room you’re in. I know about journalist, I know how media works, I understand how the internet works, and by no means a phenomenal technical SEO. But I understand enough of it and I like to put different fields together. I don’t like wasted energy at all. Any wasted energy breaks my heart so I’m always looking at marketing campaigns and strategies and thinking, “Oh, where’s their duplication of effort?” “Where is the skills that could be use even better?” and looking for opportunities. Maybe I’m more of an opportunist but that also probably doesn’t have some great connotations.
Ultimately, I use my skills largely, to get coverage for very different reasons. Some of my clients will come to me and say, “We get all our business from this one article on The Wall Street Journal that was published five years ago. We don’t want the volume of coverage, we want more articles just like this.” My job will be not just to do that but to ask them the question about, “Do you want one just like this? Do you want one better? What do you think made it work? What do you think would make it work even better than that?” Sometimes my job is to push people to be more aspirational or interrogate what they want.
Sometimes, people come to me and say, “We want 30 pieces of coverage a month.” And I say, “How would you like $3 million a month?” They’ll give you a funny look. I’m like, “Well, I can get you 30 pieces of coverage a month but see this referral you’re getting over here? If you’ve got 30 more of those, things are looking very different next Christmas.”
A lot of what I do is asking the right questions and those questions get us to the right goals but they also help me find out what is genuinely interesting within the business. I think that’s really important because there’s a difference between faking it and making it. Making it in PR is about finding a real story and presenting it well at the right time to the right people.
Every business has something interesting going on even if they don’t think they do. In fact the most interesting businesses on the outside are usually really boring on the inside. The businesses that sell toe fungal cream or something really random, a particular piece of cable that keeps the whole of the world’s economy trading networks that I really love because that’s kind of cool, that’s exciting to tell someone that there’s something in their reality that they didn’t know was holding the glue of their environment together. Their stories become exciting and you learn something at the same time.
There’s an element of genuine enthusiasm that I think you have to have to be a good PR or digital marketer. A lot of that is about hacking yourself, not hacking the subject matter or even the client. It’s working out how you can bring that out of yourself. Once you’ve done that, everything else is almost logic and effort; and those two factors thereafter, and you will solve every problem in front of you.
Louis: Right. I think we’ve nailed the introduction pretty well and people know what they’re going to get from this particular episode. I’m curious to dive into its step by step methodology that people can really implement in their business or in the start of potentially, in their new job next week. From your experience, I know it’s a tough question so perhaps we have to select a specific problem to solve with digital PR, but in your experience, what is the most common way to use digital PR in a business?
Lexi: It’s probably easier to answer what is the most common way to misuse it, but digital PR, I think probably has more benefit for internal communications than it does for anything else. When you get a great piece of coverage, yes, it might have a link in; yes, it might build your brand; yes, it might drive traffic, but what it really does is make a lot of people, especially, in start-up businesses, go home and be excited about their job.
When people are excited they perform a lot higher. As much as clients might get excited with us when we get them great coverage, what I get the real thrill from is watching everyone in the office work more productively, smarter, faster, harder, and more independent, more integrated passion as a consequence of being excited and proud because they’re firm on what they’re working towards is being recognized which I know that isn’t traditionally what most PRs would say but overarchingly, I think that it’s probably the greatest benefit.
Louis: That’s a very good point. It actually also empowers people inside to see them inside the company to really be happy to be there and get another kick in the ass or another way to be excited about their job.
Let’s dive in into a step by step. Let’s imagine a scenario where we have a company that is somewhat established. Maybe 30-40 people in there and they’re launching something new. Whether it’s a new project, or a new product, or a new service and what they’re looking to do is to get mention in the press because they feel that might have them, in terms of credibility, in terms of reach, which is primarily what they are looking for. Let’s assume all of that.
Finally, to add a little bit of difficulty to this question, let’s assume that they have no relationships, whatsoever, with journalists yet or content writers. How would you go about maybe landing five key mentions in the press or digitally? How would you go about it step by step?
Lexi: Firstly, I’d be very keen to ask the question of why is it interesting? What is it about your product that’s good? And you have to be really honest with yourself because if there isn’t anything good, you need to ask yourself to why that the business build it or why they’re releasing something that isn’t very good?
Once you’ve gone through these questions, you’ve gone to the bottom because quite often we will launch a product when it’s not ready, before it can be test to market, it can be preemptively to eye not some bugs and there’s a lot of reasons. It might be that the business is considering growing in that area but isn’t sure so it’s going to hack together quick prototype throw it out there and see what happens.
There’s a lot of reasons but if you find the real reason, that’s the beginning of your story. Because if you’re trying to fake it, telling a journalist that the piece of software is awesome and bug less, isn’t going to rock, it’s not going to fly, and it’s not going to get you coverage. But the real reason will be of interest.
That’s the first thing to identify and you might need to drink a bit of alcohol, go for a long walk, have a couple of arguments before you get to the bottom of it because it can be hard to accept that what you’re launching isn’t great. But that’s more often not the case. Then I would write down all the build-up points, why you’re doing it? How could it be better? How is it already great? What are you planning to do as a priority? What was the incentive behind it? Those factors, one or two of those, will be super strong.
The next thing you do is I would acquire resource within the office, who do you think would be interested in the media? Because often, we think, “I have to build a big list of media title.” No. You probably, already, reading the press from the right journalist at the right publications related to your business and if you’re not, somebody in the businesses. Asking those questions can really get you a lot further void a lot quicker and with regards to building your media lists.
Louis: Let me catch you right there because you said a lot of interesting stuff. Obviously, you said you know your stuff very well and it seems almost normal to mention all of that but you mentioned so many interesting things. Let’s break it down.
The first step is actually the why. I love it because it’s about the bullshit filter. It’s like, stop trying to sell something that is shit, that you don’t like, that you know is not good or not good enough at least. I think it’s the first rule of good marketing. Good Marketing start with a good product and a good service. A product that people would actually enjoy using. A product that people will actually tell others about. I very much like the fact that you mentioned that as step one and that makes a lot of sense. Then you mention a lot of questions that you need to ask yourself. Perhaps, you could repeat them as a step two.
Lexi: Okay, I’ll try to remember them. A lot of this comes so naturally when you’ve done it for a long time but I have been trying to get them into list.
Ask yourself why you did it because the why is often more interesting than the what. In this world most things have already been invented in some way, shape, or form. If you look at IP Law, you’ll learn that very quickly. The why you’re doing it and the why you’re launching it is probably more likely to be a good hook for the media.
Louis: Can you give us an example?
Lexi: There’s Artificial Intelligence Remote Assistant Service and I met with them a little while ago and I thought, “Wow, they’re calling this AI. Why are they doing that? This isn’t AI.” Perhaps, I think my time tracking app has got more artificial intelligence than their service. But they spoke to me about where they’re going, where the market is going, and what are their aspirations are, and how they built the base of their technology so that it can self-grow and that was really cool. What it did was it started a discussion or the theme of how do you build a company, or tool, or product that’s ready to grow with artificial intelligence? And that’s really interesting. That little assistant service, not super interesting but how they’re thinking about it is.
Louis: Right.that’s a very good example and sorry I just got you while you were going through...
Lexi: No, go ahead. I’m a PR at heart and I will talk and talk enthusiastically about lots of things. If you don’t interrupt me, we would never get very far. I’m always happy to be interrupted and I think when it comes to the creative process, it’s important to be comfortable to interrupting other people as well. It’s one of my key tips for brainstorms is that it’s okay to be rude and interrupt each other when you get an idea because if you don’t say it straight away, it goes away.
Louis: Good point, indeed. The why is the first step and if you don’t have the why, then the rest doesn’t follow but how do you get the why? Because I assume it’s quite difficult to do that. How would you encourage people to do it?
Lexi: You speak to the founders. You’ve got to go back to who briefed who. You’re just following a train of command until you get to the head hunter and you say, “Why did you launch your company?” And they’ll have their immediate answer that as somebody who’s trying to do good PR, you don’t want their immediate answer. You‘re not looking to give that answers straight to a journalist. You’re looking for their real answer.
The one thing that I always find is a lot of entrepreneurs started their business because to some degree they felt they were unemployable. Not unsmart, not without attitude, or value but somewhat unemployable for some reason or another. That always makes me giggle. But then you start to speak to them about their skills and they’ll say, “I have this skill, and this skill in this content.” You say, “Ah, why did you think that was an opportunity?” What made you stop doing what you’re doing and put time into here?
You’re usually looking for the founder but sometimes it’s also the tech guys, or girls, let’s not be gender biased there, but the tech people can often drive the nature of the product. Because somebody will have one idea and they’ll say, “Actually, there’s this really cool piece of code that allows us to do something extraordinary that’s never been done before or not being used in these field.”
Just speak to everyone. In Britain, we do a lot of tea drinking, take everyone a cup of tea, spend some time with them and you’ll find out why every individual person thinks they’re doing it and then you’ll be able to get a consistent answer because there’ll be a thread that goes through everything.
Louis: Great. That’s a fantastic first step and first exercise to go through. As I said before, you mentioned a few questions that were really interesting. Do you remember which ones?
Lexi: Specific questions about what you’re asking journalists?
Louis: No. You came up with a few follow up questions after you said why is the company here? And then you need to think about this one, and this one, and this one.
Lexi: Its why is the company here? Why is it here now? And why you’re launching now?
Lexi: Because the now is the key point. Because in journalism if it doesn’t need to be done now it’ll get put to the bottom of the file and it may get done tomorrow but it’s got less of a chance. Urgency is pretty important to coverage. It’s always is important to coverage as having something that’s clickbait-y which is destroying the nature of clickbait and press but everyone has to make a living.
You’re asking yourself these questions about why journalists want it now and then you go and you say, who would be interested? Who do you already know? What publications do they write for? And then you look at what are they writing now? What do they written recently? One of the best steps I can give you is to look at the comments.
If you know one or two journalists that you think would be interested in your product or story, look at the comments on the bottom of their articles because it will tell you what questions weren’t answered in their article and what things are contentious. That’s often the starting point of how you put your product with, maybe, those questions and then go back to that journalist. The great thing is they’re already invested in that story because it was their article that got that comment on.
Louis: Right. Once again, you’re delivering so much value in a few seconds. I feel I have to really dig into all of that. You know the why, you know the why now in particular. Why should people care right now and not tomorrow, and then you mention some things before which is ask around in your business the publications that your team reads. Right?
Lexi: Yes. This is specifically true for small businesses. Bigger businesses, this tactic is slightly less helpful but any business up to sort of 75 people, I would argue that this tactic is very effective.
Louis: Okay. For the sake of explaining here, if listeners are part of a companies that are bigger, what is the alternative way of doing it once your business is bigger?
Lexi: Then you’re probably looking to have a specific PR person in house and it’s their job to know these things. They will go about researching them and you’ll have news alerts for your own business, for competitor’s businesses, and competitor’s products. Overtime, whether the PR is brand new to PR or has been in it in a while they’ll know very quickly what publications, what journalists to cover, and what all they should do.
It’s a little bit harder when you’re a start up business and you can’t justify full time PR or you can’t justify hiring an agency because you don’t feel like you’re going to be able to pay them enough to get the right value out of them. Knowing which publications your staff are reading and the journalist they know is probably more important.
People don’t work in the start-ups because of its phenomenal pay. People work in start-ups because there’s a family feel, because it’s something they believe in, they want to build. In that sense, they’re actively interested in the field, or more likely to be.
Louis: Right. That’s very interesting. You make a lists of those publications and how many should you have? I mean I know it’s a how long is a piece of string type of question but roughly when you are a younger business or a smaller business how many publications should you start looking at?
Lexi: I really think it’s not about volume but some people really like volume. I have some clients who would just be happy to have 60 pieces of coverage on domain authority of 30-60 than 10 pieces of coverage on domain authority of 90 or above.
Louis: Can you please define the Domain Authority for us briefly?
Lexi: Domain Authority is a mass metric used to indicate the strength of a website. In national news sites like The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC, would be a domain authority of 90 or above. Smaller websites that are still influential such as Entrepreneur Handbook will probably have a domain authority of around 70 and then as some things becomes less well known and less established they’ll have a lower domain authority. It just means the strength of the website but it’s often an indicator of influence. Not all the time but quite a lot of the time.
Louis: Okay, thanks for clarifying.
Lexi: That’s okay. I struggle with what is the right length. I think, that’s why I’m asking yourself which publications are going to do what for you. If I was helping [inaudible 00:21:58] series A or series B I know that I have to be on tech grunge and gadget probably wide, Forbes would be helpful. I honestly don’t see that much referral traffic coming through from Forbes across my client base over the last two years but it makes investors happy. If I was looking for investment, I’d be making sure that we’re featured there.
The Wall Street Journal has great brand equity but if you’re in the Blockchain’s base which is obviously a big topic this week, with Bitcoin rising so much in value, you’ll realize that CoinMarketCap is significantly more influential than The Wall Street Journal. If you’re looking to create influence you should go to CoinMarketCap. If you’re looking for the sense of brand integrity, you’d go to The Wall Street Journal.
This is one of the biggest differences with building a media list in modern day is that in by gone times, your national news outlets were the most influential place you could be, now they’re not. We’re having to use a variety of metrics to work out actually what will drive behavioral change? What will drive the actual influence? What will drive traffic? As opposed to what is just a big cool brand that makes you excited and proud. A lot of the national struggle in these news market is to have the same level of influence and it’s different if you’re consumer facing.
If you’ve got a gadget that is for mass consumers then you’re nationals certainly going to have a lot of its way but yes, if you’re launching a new Bitcoin company you might owe a launching company, you might find that a lot of the really big influential publication do not do nearly as much for you as a couple of websites that probably look a bit dodgy but have a huge following. When I’m building a media lists these are all the kind of things that are all sort of filter to your head.
Louis: You were making a point about the difference between those big, big publication like The New York Times and more niche websites.
Lexi: Yes. I think it’s important to separate those into two different lists. I would probably, initially, put about 10 on each and tear them according to the ones that you think are going to be the most important to your business first and then you start calling them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a quick chat and you can have that chat briefly through Twitter or get through email.
There are lots of ways to have an initial chat. Especially if you’re a founder doing your own PR or very small team, my experience is that journalists are quite open to that and even quite like it because they don’t have this interface of a PR to fight through. Once you start speaking to them you’ll say, “Hey, we’ve got something coming up and I just want to fill out story with you or have a quick chat with you. It looks to me like something that would really suit your nature of writing well.”
Lexi: Then the journalist would tell you yes or no.
Louis: Sorry to cut you because you said so many interesting things before and I want you to make this point. The step one, we say understanding the why. The step two would be to really ask around and then identify the type of publications you want to go for but the important thing that you said and I think we need to make a strong point about it, most of the time it’s probably better and easier as well to try to get niche-r website that have a certain influence over your ideal kind of target market.
You mention the Blockchain community, if you do launch to start a ground Blockchain, it makes a lot of sense to follow and to reach out to those Blockchain type of communities instead of just trying to reach those big, big, big publications like The New York Times. Right?
Lexi: Yes. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t reach out to The New York Times but it’s important to remember that big brand influence in publishing is not the same as niche influence especially in emerging markets.
Louis: Right. You said something else as well which is quite interesting. You identify your publication, you identify the journalist that speaks about your subject, and then you look at the comments in the comment section. Can you dive in a little bit more into this and how to find the right angles based on the type of comments that people post under each article?
Lexi: Some of them can be really funny and will be really obvious. If we’re going to take a really naughty example, what about the example of putting artificial intelligence inside sex dolls? There’s a lot of articles out there written on that and if you read the comments you will see what the biggest arguments are that people have around the subject matter. If you’re an AI company or perhaps a sex toy company you would be able to preempt the argument, the adversity, but also what people are looking for in a product just by reading them. They would just jump out.
There was another company that I’ve worked with recently that I’ll have to let be anonymous. They were a fashion brand and they’ve got some coverage on a national news website and they rang and said, “Hey, Lexi, can you get us some more?” I don’t like trying to get more coverage after something’s been live for a while. That can be more challenging than just getting all your ducks in a row ahead of time which we can talk about what that looks like in a moment. But I look at it and I read through the comments, and there are a lot of comments.
This article was about the role of men and women play on dates. What the men notice versus don’t notice. It was a little bit of a social experiment that they’ve created. What I saw in the comments is, men were talking about what does it mean to be a man? And what point are you being the ideal type of man? What point are you always being not strong enough and historically dominant, the way the breadwinner type of persona, where is the balance? And how attentively are you supposed to be and how attentive do you be before you get creepy? And I just saw, “Oh, this is really interesting.” What we’re seeing here is that there’s actually an issue around what it means to be male in modern day and what it means to be female or feminine. That was what I went with for the next story.
Often, it was really very obvious. If they’re contentious, you will see it. There’ll be a pattern and you can just look at them and see, “Oh! Look, 50% of them were about this.” Then you do a little Google and see if anyone else is actually looking at that subject. The chances are they’re not if they’re fresh articles.
Louis: I love this. I’ve literally never heard this before, ever. This is the type of tips and tactics, and things that are really based on humans as well; really based on people, really based on what people think, and you use that as a way to find an angle. Would you call that an angle, a subject?
Lexi: Yes. I’ve wrote a little note down before we started chatting. What people always ask me is what the journalist want and how do they want it deliver to them. But the real thing is journalists serve other humans. If you focus on people, you naturally get halfway to what the journalist want at least. That’s really important.
The angle is not what journalists want, the angle is what do people want and the journalist will find something that people don’t even know they want. To me that is what is beautiful about journalism. Its minds trained to see what people want, see what they haven’t seen, or haven’t seen they want and then put the two together, and present it well. That’s largely what’s a lot of journalism is. You’re looking for the angle. You’re looking for the thing that makes your product relevant to someone in that audience right now.
Louis: That’s a fantastic point to make and this is the point of the podcast overall about good marketing, focusing on people and building strong relationships. We’re not here to try to hack PR or try to get in front of journalist at any cost. We’re here to try to build relationships.
Lexi: My best journalist contacts are now my best friends. They weren’t initially, but I didn’t actively go out for lots of coffees and pitch journalists that I had nothing in common with, that covered things that I wasn’t interested in. I naturally meandered my career towards things that I’m naturally interested in which meant that my job was to chat to really smart people about stuff that I was excited about. It’s not a bad job to have. We all have to do what we call learning out strides along the way where you might be promoting something that you’re not super into.
But I always went back to that stage of how do I find this interesting? What is of value here? And then I’d ring a journalist up and say, “Hey, this isn’t a blow it out the war to change the world product. But it’s got value and this is the value I see.” Because I’ve always been as honest as I possibly could be because it’s hard to be honest with yourself, let alone with others sometimes, but I’ve always tried to be honest so the relationships I’ve built have a lot of integrity behind them.
When it comes to building media relationships the most important thing is honesty with yourself and honesty with the journalist. They move around, they might ring you up and say, “Oh, goodness. I got paid a lot to move to this really boring publication.” You’ll be like, “Don’t worry, I’ve got something that will make it interesting for you.” And you package something up and sent it over. But in the same way, we have to create products we don’t like, sometimes they end up a publications they don’t like, but it is about being honest. By looking for a real angle, a real story, real value, you give them that and they will be a friend for life.
When you’re doing kickstarter PR, your contacts become really important because a lot of kickstarters get delayed. The first article often sets the tone for a wave of coverage or at least the first three articles do. You want to make sure that the first three articles coming out are as close to what you want presented for the rest of the world as possible. That’s where a good contact cane come in because you can bring them up and say, “Hey, the delivery of our product is going to be late, but this is why.”
You explain and maybe that’s of interest, maybe there’s something going on in the economy, maybe there’s something going on in the international shipping. But you can get some honest feedback on how that’s going to be spun and prepare for it. I’m a massive believer in be fully honest with every journalist that you can, that doesn’t mean you tell them everything, but it does mean you don’t spin things that aren’t true.
Louis: That’s a great point. I love that. Once we’ve identified those journalists and once we have identified our angle, you mentioned Twitter as one of the first step.
Lexi: Yes. I have to be honest. I think other PRs are far more successful at connecting journalist over Twitter than I am and founders are. When I’ve been in house, I found Twitter a lot more helpful but I’ve seen it happen across my team, my team of brilliant edit.
I’m a little bit more old school. I like to get on the phone. I actually had a launch party in New York and I didn’t think that I had quite as many journalists coming as I wanted so I just went and stood outside at The New York Times. I printed up some invites. It didn’t feel fabulous being like the creepy person outside the gates to The New York Times asking people if they’re journalist and then inviting them to my party but it got four, five more people there and I was happy doing that. That felt more like me.
I like to meet people in person and I like them to see the whites of my eyes and know that I’m honestly inviting them to something that I think is great. That’s how I work. Twitter sometimes makes me a bit nervous but I have followed journalists, I’ve retweeted journalists, and I find that there are journalists I speak to, they’re be like, “Yeah, you always retweet my stuff.” I’m like, “That’s because your stuff is cool. We should go for a coffee.” And they’re be like, “Okay.”
There are many ways to get in touch through Twitter but you’ll often find again, we’re talking about going internally and saying what publications, what journalists should we contact. You’ll often find that in a company of 35, you will have 35 media contacts, without doubt. Because at some point, retweeted a journalist or even contested something a journalist have said and ended up in conversation. If you put all of those in a list, you’ll be amazed of what you have.
This was a tactic I was taught actually for new business when you’re trying to drum up new sales leads and you know what clients you want to go after, you just ask everyone in the office who has a contact to any of those companies. More often than not, you get four or five contacts. I applied the same thing to journalism and PR, and you can ask one journalist to introduce you to another if you’re close enough. That’s not a terrible tactic either because then you know your emails are getting through, that’s an email introduction.
Often, the worst thing with email outreach, especially when it’s cold outreach, you don’t even know if someone got your email and if they did, if they opened it; and you can use some software to track that but using social media can be a lot more effective.
Louis: We do start to contact them, we do find ways to contact them, I’m interested in what do you typically send them? And I know you’re probably going to say, knowing you a bit now, knowing what you believe in, you’re probably going to say just build a relationship, just start a conversation. But typically what are the key information you start to give to those people to get where you want to go?
Lexi: I’ll just give you a bullet point list. I’d say, “Hi,” whoever the person’s name is. I never put dear or to, it sounds a little formal. I want them to know that they can start a conversation with me. “Hi, whoever you are, I hope this finds you well.” Don’t ask them if they’re well. You don’t actually care, you don’t know who they are, and you ask people how they are with a question mark.
Later on, journalists are really into grammar, they really are into punctuation, you’ve got to get that a bit right. I always say, “I hope this finds you well. I know you’ve been writing on this, our company is doing this. These are the key facts I thought you would find interesting. I also thought these are a couple of angles you could take. Just thought I’d throw it out there, we’re not ready to announce officially yet, but I thought it’d be good for us to open the conversation ahead of time. Any chance you fancy a coffee and a slice of cake? If you’re too busy, I’m happy to come bring it to you.”
The trick there is to say something really specific. If you ask someone out for coffee, boring. If you ask someone out for lemon drizzle cake, you’ll probably end up going for coffee. But there’s something about being very specific about what you’re asking them to come meet you for that I just found immensely effective. I’ve even asked people to come meet me for fish and chips which I know is terribly British but everyone gets asked out for a coffee. Just by nature of the fact that you’re specifying something different, you’ll find you get a response.
Louis: I think there is a bit of the same thing when you talk about time and when you ask, “Can we meet at 4:00PM?” Instead you say, “Can we meet at 4:20PM or 4:25PM?” That leads to more answers. I think it’s linked to what you said. The visualization of things, it’s like when you mention the piece of lemon cake, people start to visualize that in their head and I think that makes their mind work. It doesn’t turn it off, it actually turns it on.
Lexi: I think it’s about the journalist telling that you’re not another cardboard cut-out as well. I’ve invited people to cat cafés. They might not be interested in my story, my company, or me, but they might be interested in a cat café. I’m willing to throw whatever I’ve got to get a story out there and I know if I’ve done my research correctly, that journalist will be interested. Maybe I’ve used the wrong language to explain the story or maybe I pitched it to them on the wrong day but you’ve got to give on an incentive to give you the most precious commodity they have and that’s their time.
Louis: What I like about what you said is the fact the you need to plan things in advance. Don’t hope to get somebody to agree to write something about you tomorrow if you’ve never been into a relationship with them before and in the way you reach out to them, you actually mention “Listen, it’s not for now, but I’m just starting to build a relationship with you.”
Lexi: Yeah. There’s something about not being desperate. It works really well in dating and it works really well in media relations. The moment you’re desperate, nothing will work. I do a lot of PR and SEO training and I do a lot of similes to what it’s like in dating. Because dating, you’re trying to attract a person [inaudible 00:16:27]. If you put urgency on [inaudible 00:16:33], people smell your urgency. They’ll react to it and maybe they’re pressured.
Your urgency makes them stressed but you’re urgency can make you seem needy. You don’t want to seem needy, you want to seem cool, calm, and in control. That is far more enigmatic as a PR or somebody trying to get a date. By becoming a good PR you probably get quite good at dating, I would imagine.
Louis: That might work pretty well for a lot of people. That’s been a really, really insightful talk about digital PR in particular. Thank you so much for playing the game and getting into the step by step scenario. Let’s move on to marketing in general. What do you think marketers should learn today that will really help them in the next 10 years, 20 years, or even 50 years?
Lexi: This answer might not be what you would expect. I think we should learn about wellness. What does it mean to be well? What does it mean to be unwell? If you know what it’s like to be stressed then you might be able to communicate better with a journalist who is stressed or an audience that’s stressed. But once we understand what it means to be well, I think we can make ourselves well and if you can make yourself well, you can make others well. I also think we should perhaps aspire to learn far less about actual marketing and far more about people which comes back to the wellness thing.
At the end of the day, we’re trying to sell to people. We can use tactic tools, technical knowledge to get better at finding the right people to sell to. But at the end of the day we need to know what it means to be human and what it means to be human is changing because its influenced by the technology and the world around us and technology and connectivity is advancing in an unprecedented rate.
As a point of reference, I’ve had more friends in media that have anxiety, depression, signs of work issues due to mental health in the last two and half years than I have in my entire career put together. Understanding that a lot of that came from the digital overload that’s happened to them were super interesting to me. They thought, “We’re not coping with the way technology is influencing us.”
If we can watch that, we can get it ahead of time, that helps us isolate the technologies that are getting to it, that we haven’t become number two, that we haven’t deleted off our phone for wellness because I think that’s going to be an increasing issue but it also means that we know what people are looking for needing. I know that’s not traditionally what you would hear someone should learn about, but learn about people.
There’s a lovely book I recently read called The Happiness Advantage. It’s a scientist, he was working at Harvard and he did a lot of research into happiness and he came to the conclusion with a lot of data behind it that happy people are successful. Successful people aren’t necessarily happy, which means whether you want to be a good marketer, a good parent, a good human; if you make yourself happy you’re going to be more likely to be successful at it.
Louis: That’s really powerful, start to end. A lot of guests would mention focusing on people but not a lot would mention focusing on wellness. Thank you so much for mentioning this and mental health is also absolutely critical to people’s behavior, especially in this day and age where the digital and the tech thing are everywhere. People are drowning in data, people are drowning in the amount of stuff, in the amount of screens, and everything that they receive every day. Thanks for making this mention. What are the top three resources you would recommend to marketers in particular? And you just mentioned one actually, the happiness book. Do you have any other that you would recommend?
Lexi: Yeah. I don’t know how I got this in my head a couple of weeks ago but I decided to research the history of different marketing channels. I went back in time and found what is believed to be the first advert. I read all about people’s reactions to the first advert and then I went back, and I thought, “I wonder how people reacted to the television when it was first launched.”
I looked at the mobile phone and I would say it’s not maybe a specific book on this but just think of something that we have in our world today that wasn’t there 30 years, 40 years, 50 years, or 100 years ago and just spend a couple of hours in the internet reading the reactions to it because some of the letters to the newspapers and things were published. People talking about the televisions never going to take off, how ridiculous is this.
Another really good one is a book called the Chocolate Wars which is all about the history of chocolate marketing. Firstly, I know chocolate sells because I’ve done a lot of PR stands related to chocolate, but the history of chocolate marketing is fantastic because chocolate actually was a product that never existed as a mass consumer item, initially. In some ways, it’s the precursor of what gave us the president for emerging technology marketing. The Chocolate Wars’ an old school book but you’ll learn an awful lot.
We spend a lot of time trying to learn in our own industry but taking knowledge from another industry that’s more advanced and more established, good marketing is relatively young as an industry but taking that knowledge and applying it to our own, that’s where you really get gold dust. I always encourage my team to go off and go study psychology, go to a random lecture, and go learn a bit about how many planets are in the universe.
I went to a lecture a couple of weeks ago about what we’re going to learn from the future of telescopes about our universe. I have no idea how that’s going to be helpful to me but I’m sure it will in a PR stand at some point, one day. Step outside of your industry is the most important thing I could probably advise anyone to do.
Louis: That’s fantastic advice. You really did a ring of some proper value in a short amount of time. I want to thank you for sticking with me through this conversation. Thank you for sticking around. Thank you for keeping being professional throughout, that’s really appreciated. How can listeners connect with you and learn more from you?
Lexi: There’s a sign up to my mailing list on my website. My website is still in [00:23:33] but I would love to have you sign up. I’m pretty good at replying to tweets. If you just tweet me and I follow you, we can have a DM conversation. My personal email address is actually in my Twitter profile.
If you want to drop me an email, I’m really interested in the challenges that different people have because you only know the challenges you’re facing and it might be that I have a box solution I can hand to you and if I don’t then I’m going to be really interested in your challenge because it’ll be something that I want to try and fix. Please do get in contact.
Louis: What’s your website address?
Lexi: It’s leximills.net.
Louis: What’s your Twitter handle?
Louis: Alright, perfect. Lexi, once again you’ve been an absolute pleasure to deal with. Thank you.
Lexi: It’s a pleasure. Have a lovely evening. Bye.