Transcript of Cultivating Compelling Communications for Your Business
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John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Justin Brady. He’s a podcaster, writer, and communications leader. He’s also the founder of an emerging tech PR communications company called Cultivate Strategies. So, welcome to the show Justin.
Justin Brady: John, I’m happy to be here. This is exciting for me.
John Jantsch: Well, I enjoyed being on your show a few weeks ago, I think it was, as well.
Justin Brady: Yeah, we did a show trade. That was fun.
John Jantsch: Yeah. So, we were talking before I started here, I think I’m going to call this a smorgasbord show. We’re just going to talk about a number of PR-ish topics. And what’s funny, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and back in the days when I knew editors and I knew writers at publications and we pitched them stories, and in a lot of ways that was a lot of, for small business anyway, that was a lot of what PR was. It kind of changed. How would you describe sort of the quintessential PR practitioner today?
Justin Brady: The quintessential PR practitioner or the practice?
John Jantsch: Well, either way. I mean, how does the practitioner go about doing their practice effectively?
Justin Brady: Got it. I think the thing that’s most overlooked in that is, just, it’s pretty simple, match a great story to the perfect journalist. And really, I am not a traditional PR comms guy. I kind of fell into it accidentally. And what I noticed was, I mean, I have a lot of emerging tech clients. I started out in design, slowly moved over to PR and communications. But my journey into PR and comms was basically when I wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal kind of by accident. And I started to get to know the industry from that side and realized, people are doing this wrong. And because I started getting, when I wrote that article, as you know, you start getting thousands of pitches from journalists. And never in my life had I seen more tone deaf pitches and they would just blast 20 paragraphs of junk that wasn’t even relevant. So I think the most simple way to say this, the most quintessential PR pitching tool is know what your story is, and know where to pitch it, and know what time to pitch it and keep it short. It’s really not any more complex than that.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think a lot of people lose sight of that. People talk about getting mass pitches, and email and trying to look for clients, or even on LinkedIn and stuff. And I think that that’s how you have to kind of look at it. This is a one to one sales job kind of. And so, I got a pitch 10 minutes before I got on the call today from something completely irrelevant to my [crosstalk 00:03:31] … I don’t know what list you bought, but I shouldn’t have been on it.
Justin Brady: I can’t tell you how many more cannabis pitches I can take. I mean, anybody listening, please stop sending me cannabis pitches. That’s great and all, but I just, my email box is full of them. I can’t handle anymore.
John Jantsch: So, you kind of said it but I’m going to ask the question directly. You wrote an article for Wall Street Journal, but if I want to get covered in the Wall Street Journal, I’m an author, I have books come out, I’d love to have somebody review it at the Wall Street Journal, one of my books. How do I go about pitching the big boys?
Justin Brady: Yeah. It’s really relevance and timing. One of the biggest breakthroughs I had for a client was I was just kind of listening to their podcast. It’s actually Bloomberg, and I think they re-publish it as the Bloomberg P&L. But it’s Lisa Abramowicz and Paul Sweeney, and it used to be, oh boy, his name’s going to escape me. We’ll get back to it later. But, I wanted my client to be on their show really, really bad, and so all I did was just start listening to their show constantly, every little thing. And one time they made some off the hand comment, and I immediately emailed the show host and said, hey, I noticed you said this comment. Oh, it was about, what was it about? It was about the skilled trade workforce and no one’s figured that out yet, blah, blah, blah. Some comment to that. And I immediately emailed him, found his address was published online. Didn’t use a tool or anything to look that up. Just immediately emailed them and said, hey, regarding your comment today about, I want to introduce you to my client because here’s what they’re doing.
Justin Brady: It was maybe a one to two sentence pitch. And his immediate reply, and he’s like, great, let’s make this happen. That was it. So it really comes down to hyper-relevant perfect timing. And here’s the big thing everybody misses, the right person and making sure that you research them, you know who they are, it really comes down to be a human. Know the other human on the other side and pitch them what you think they would want. And if you’re sitting here thinking, well Justin, I don’t have what they want. Well then don’t pitch them. Do not under any circumstance pitch them if you have a story they don’t want to hear, because that’s never in a gajillion years going to work. So if you’ve written a book on brick-making and you can’t identify anyone in the entire world that wants to write a story on that, sorry. Your only option is to identify a journalist who will want to write on that story, and of course creating a compelling angle and a compelling story is part of that too.
John Jantsch: You made a comment that I want to reiterate, that because you had researched this person, because you had listened, and let’s face it, anything worth a mention on that show is worth putting some time in to get it.
Justin Brady: Heck yeah.
John Jantsch: And I think that’s true of everything. But because it was so relevant and because you listened, did your research, you were capable of writing a very short pitch. And I think that that’s another thing that people underestimate too. They think they want to tell the entire story because they haven’t done the research, they don’t know that that person just needs to know, hey, here’s something you’re looking for and I know it.
Justin Brady: Yeah. Yeah. I think there’s another aspect to that too though. I work with a lot of emerging tech companies, and so they have a lot of incredible things they’re up to. And for me it’s just a natural ability. I can see this great concept, I know how to pitch it and get people to listen. But when I talk to entrepreneurs who maybe can’t afford to work with me or they just have some questions, usually I give the metaphor the example, I should say, about pitching an apple. If you’re going to pitch this apple to a journalist, don’t tell them everything about the apple in a single email. Don’t say it’s red, and it has flesh inside, it has seeds. If you cut it this way and that it tastes really great. You can cut it into wedges. You can cook apple dumplings with it, you can reduce it and put it in a marinade. Don’t go on and on and on. First pitch the color of the skin, then pitch the flesh flavor, then pitch the shape, then pitch the fact that there are seeds in it, then pitch one cooking recipe. It’s like deconstructing this puzzle. Don’t pitch the puzzle, pitch the pieces.
John Jantsch: So, you told me a little bit about something that you pulled off, and you called it a major marketing event that you paid nothing for. You want to kind of unpack that for us?
Justin Brady: Oh, are you talking about the creativity summit? A creativity event?
John Jantsch: Yeah.
Justin Brady: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I live in Iowa, and at the time I was doing a design company, graphic design. I ended up being really slow at it. The only reason that I was any good for my clients is because I knew it was bad. And so I could just eventually hammer something, get it in the right shape and send it off to them. But one of the things I wanted to do was, well, I mean, who doesn’t want this? I wanted this massive event that I could put my name on, pitch myself to the entire region and do it for free. Who doesn’t want to do that? So I just [crosstalk 00:09:14] … Say again?
John Jantsch: I said, sounds good so far.
Justin Brady: Yeah, it sounds. So, I just put this harebrained idea together. I’m going to bring a speaker in, I’m going to call it the Iowa Creativity Summit. At the time, Iowa was very risk averse, insurance focus, Ag, banking, and I just didn’t see a lot of stuff like this. Iowan’s are pretty smart, they’re extremely intuitive. We’re used to having presidential candidates come to our state for crying out loud. But I wanted an event that would bring together creative ideas. So I invented, I mean, it’s the dumbest name ever, but the Iowa Creativity Summit. And I just thought previous podcast guest, Matthew May, this is before the podcast, but I thought, Matt will be a really good fit. So I asked Matt if he’d be willing to do it. He said, sure. And then I pitched the idea and the date to Drake University, a local university. If you watch the Democrat presidential debates, one of them was at Drake University.
Justin Brady: And they ended up saying, oh, we like this idea. Sure, we’ll partner with it, and we’ll give you use of our space for free and we’ll give you a reduced cost on catering, something like that I think. And once I had them, a respectable name, I started pitching it to … There were three of them. So some of these sponsors are going to blend in. There were sponsors some years that weren’t on other years. But, once I started pitching this idea, Wells Fargo, Principal Financial, Century Link, a bunch of others ended up saying, sure, what the heck. And they ended up throwing in the money. And so I had this event, I went and got a bunch of earned media for it in this state, got all over the place and I was the lead sponsor. And when it was all said and done, I think I actually did lose a little money on it. I think I lost $1, something like that.
Justin Brady: But I was the lead sponsor and my company name was alongside all these giant fortune 500 companies. And I brought in Matt, and people had a great time and I did not pay a single dime for it. But I got all that free earned media and got a lot of connections out of it. So, I didn’t keep great records from back then, that was a long time ago, but I think it was somewhere around 30 to $50,000 event that I didn’t pay a dime for.
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John Jantsch: Let’s switch to social media. In the last, I don’t know, let’s say 8 to 10 years, it’s really changed the landscape. You mentioned earned media. It’s really changed the earned media landscape, I think. All of the publications now are doing podcasting or on all the social platforms. What role do you think that plays for somebody trying to get their name in front of people that cover their business, their industry, their town?
Justin Brady: Gosh, that’s a good question. Especially right now, I’m kind of wondering what the future of social media even is, because it’s just this, I mean, it’s this bizarre … To me. I’ve been on Twitter, and Facebook and LinkedIn forever, but it’s just this bizarre amorphous thing that kind of does what it wants when it wants. I see certain accounts grow completely overnight, other accounts that I follow that have amazing information they post all the time don’t seem to get anywhere. So it’s partially confusing. But I think the most standard use for this, or the most standard, I don’t know what the right word is here, John, but the most consistent thing is if you’re able to connect on a deep emotional level with people out there and you’re able to really find that niche, you seem to do quite well.
Justin Brady: And I think a lot of people are super scared to put their true self out there, because they think deep down inside I have these unique ideas and I don’t think there’s anybody like me anywhere. I think I’m kind of this lone crazy person. And so they don’t put those ideas out there in fear that they won’t be received. But in my opinion, the people who really do put the crazy ideas out there, the extreme ideas, those are the ones who really gather a following quickly. Because when it really comes down to it, your ideas probably aren’t as crazy as you think they are. It’s just that no one is repeating that out loud and people are waiting for someone else to say it first. So it seems like the people that are able to do that and be really, really bold, those are the ones that seem to drive followings. I was telling some young writers, it was a couple of weeks ago, if you post stuff, when you’re posting stuff, whether it be an article or something on social, if you’re not a little bit nervous posting that, something’s wrong.
John Jantsch: All right. I mentioned at the outset that I was on your podcast. Tell me what role the podcast plays in your business? And I think you’re like me, you’re a fan of podcasts. There’s lots of uses for it. I’d love to kind of get your take on what it’s meant for your business.
Justin Brady: For my business, it’s put me in touch with people, like yourself, John, that are absolutely incredible movers and shakers. And when I can tell people, well I know John Jantsch, I mean, come on, I look like a superstar, but it’s just for knowing you. But that is a big thing. Honestly, the podcast kind of started just for fun. I didn’t really have a strategy or purpose outside of, I had been writing frequently for the Washington Post, and I interviewed some absolute … John, because you’ve written all over the place too. When you call, say I’m writing an article for Ink, or I’m writing for Forbes, or I’m writing for the Wall Street Journal, or I’m writing for the Washington Post, people tend to respond to calls a little bit more quickly.
Justin Brady: And so, I ended up interviewing just some fantastic people. And as you also know, John, when you write these articles, they have to go through editors and editors snip things they don’t like, or that don’t work, or that are maybe a little off topic. And so, after that happened a few times I was like, gosh darn it. These were really good interviews, and the editor was right, they didn’t entirely fit what I was writing, but it’s a shame that that interview and that knowledge was just simply lost forever. So I reached back out to a bunch of these people and said, hey, I’m starting a podcast. You said some fantastic things and it’s a shame those didn’t get permanently documented. Do you mind coming back and saying that on my recording, on this podcast? That’s basically how it started. And, in that way I was able to capture all this data and capture all this information that normally I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture.
Justin Brady: It’s opened up connections. Fast forward to today, I’ve interviewed, Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, I’ve interviewed Blake Irving, the former CEO of GoDaddy. So it’s opened up connections, but it’s also opened up a never ending bottomless content stream that, I mean, people are hitting my website constantly and I’m getting inquiries all the time from people that there’s just no way without that kind of content strategy and without that kind of … Obviously later I leveraged it for marketing for my own brand. But without that, there is no way I’d be getting the clients and the inquiries I’m getting today. There’s just no way.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I was kind of the same way. I tell people all the time that I didn’t start my podcast so I’d have some big listenership, or sponsors, or anything like that. I really did it because it gave me a chance to talk to people I wanted to talk to. And as you said, even if they hadn’t heard of Duct Tape Marketing, and there’s something … I send all my emails out, and the subject line, interview request. And there’s just something about the call to be interviewed.
Justin Brady: Oh my goodness, you’re totally hitting on it. Can I interject something really quick to what you just said? So this is a dirty little tactic, and well, it’s not dirty, it’s honest, but this is a little tactic. I’ll give it to all your listeners for free. I don’t talk about this because I don’t want too many people replicating it and doing it all over the place, and I don’t want my competitive edge with a few of my clients lost. But I know the quality of person you are, John, therefore I know the quality of people that listen to this. One of the little tactics I’ve been doing for a few of my clients is, because one of them has a tighter budget, and so I was like, I want to generate a lot of really relevant content for these folks, but I have limited time, they have limited time. What we’ve been doing, and this lines up with what you just said, is they go to conferences all the time. That’s one of their sales strategies.
Justin Brady: So what I do as a freelancer, is I reach out to that conference or to a speaker at that conference and I say, hey, I’m a freelancer and I’m writing for this company. I just want to interview you and ask you a few questions. Is that okay? I would say about 20% of the time they respond favorably. So that’s why I ask three or four people at each conference. And when they respond favorably, I do a Q and A with them and I run it as a Q and A, so therefore all these movers and shakers in the industry that have massive social influence end up writing my content for me, or for my client rather, and then we just publish that out there and then they share it because it was an interview. It’s incredible what you just said. Interviews open doors.
John Jantsch: So, you had also mentioned that a part of this, I mean, content and SEO are pretty much codependent. So, what you just mentioned, how does that play into kind of figuring out the best way to write content if you’re going to hopefully land in the search engines?
Justin Brady: So, we went through this awkward phase of, and it’s a sad, awkward phase, where Google was figuring out how to do this right. And they’re still trying to figure it out. But we went through the sad phase where content was king, and when I mean content was king, I just mean lots of content was king. And so we just had garbage articles everywhere. If you’ve ever done a Google search for how to toast or something, it’s something that’s should be really simple. It should be like two sentences long, and you get to one of these posts that’s like, toast was invented in 1875. And you’re like, what the heck is all this crap? I just wanted to toast. So, this is why they do it though, because they need to hit these thresholds, and they need to hit a certain word count and they need to basically make the Google gods happy. And then you’ll see the same repeated words over and over again. And you’re like, was this guy an idiot or drunk when he was writing this?
Justin Brady: And so this is like, we went through this dark phase of just more crappy content actually did kind of help you, at least get in the search rankings. Those days are over. Google’s smart enough now where content is no longer king. It’s quality content is king. So, great. And that they’re looking at original images because they have that, if you’ve ever answered the Google survey, is this an image of a cinnamon roll or a dog? Google has intelligent systems now that can identify these photos. So any original photos, if you’re getting original quotes, original information, and Google can’t find this anywhere on the internet, it’s totally original, and if you’re writing a nut graph really well, if you’re teasing people enough to get them to read down the page, if you’re providing great content, if they’re sharing that content, all of these things now are starting to be rewarded.
Justin Brady: And I firmly believe, I can’t prove it, I don’t have any insider access, but I firmly believe that Google will start to reward shorter content in some capacity. Because you see some blogs that are ultra short, but the writer is a genius so they’re able to compact 2000 words into 200. So I firmly, I guess I should say I firmly hope, that extremely short content will also get rewarded. But I just tell my clients, my content strategy summed up is I’m going to turn you into a world-class magazine, and we’re going to write content that you would normally see in a world class magazine. And one client quit because I was actually telling their leadership team to go out and interview people in their space, and go out and find that content, do the research, and they just thought we’d be generating content effortlessly. I was like, no, you guys got to put the time in. They didn’t want to hear that.
John Jantsch: All right, Justin, speaking of time, we’ve come to the end of ours. Tell us where people can find out more about you and your work.
Justin Brady: Well, if my voice hasn’t turned you off or irritated you yet, please everybody go to justinkbrady.com/podcast. You’ll see Mr. John Jantsch there. I have an interview with you, like you said, about a month ago, something like that. Or you can just Google me. But yeah, I would love everybody to subscribe to the Justin Brady show. It’s on every single podcast platform on your phone right now.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Justin, thanks for stopping by and spending some time with us, and hopefully we’ll run into you soon out there on the road.
Justin Brady: John, thank you so much. This was a lot of fun.