Public Relations is a necessity for any growing business. When budgets are tight and there are other more urgent costs, hiring a glitzy PR firm can seem extravagant. The fact of the matter is most businesses probably already have all the tools they need internally to run their own PR strategy. This isn’t something I’m just making up. It’s the premise of a new book co-authored by Cameron Herold called Free PR. On this episode, I’ll be talking to Cameron about how he has helped thousands of businesses exploit free media opportunities and ditch expensive PR agencies. If you’re familiar with Cameron’s work, then you’ll understand that he knows what he’s talking about. By age 35, Cameron had created two $100 million companies. By age 42, he had taken 1-800-GOT-JUNK? from a $2 million company to $106 million company. You’ll also be learning a ton from Cameron in this episode about how to scale your own business. If you’ve always been curious about how the media works, wondered how you can get coverage and top tier publications and even how to land high-profile television appearances, all for free, this episode is going to deliver massive value to you and your organization.
Cameron, it’s great to have you on the show.
Stephan, thanks for having me.
We were together at the Genius Network. I’m really impressed with that network and mastermind, I don’t know if that’s the right word for it. I’m a junkie for masterminds and high-level programs. I was just impressed. That was my first meeting at their headquarters. How long have you been in that group and what’s been the biggest takeaway that you’ve gotten out of it?
I’m four years now in the group. I was just actually doing some journaling for my kids. My kids bought me a journal and they wanted to have the life lessons that I would leave for them so they’d have their questions answered after I die, which is hopefully 50 years from now. One of the questions was what was a big lesson I learned about investing? I said it was a lesson about investing in my network and it’s not where I put money into the market or real estate. It’s what relationships I put my money into because it’s really about who I know. I went to dinner several years ago with a guy named Eben Pagan who is a Genius Network member. Eben and I were having dinner together in LA and we were talking about investing. I was in these stocks and these options, and I asked him where he was investing, he said, “Groups and masterminds.” I didn’t know what they were. He explained to me that if he put $100,000 into the stock market, he might make 15% if it was a spectacular year, so he’d have $115,000. He said that if he put $100,000 into joining for masterminds for the year and attending those masterminds and building relationships with those people, he would easily turn that $100,000 into $300,000 to $500,000 in revenue. For me, Genius Network has quantified at about $700,000 in the first three years I’ve been a member. I can quantify exactly where that money has come through. For me, it’s just been really powerful. It’s not what I know anymore. It’s who I know.
I’ve had the same ROI from my investments and masterminds. I actually talked quite a lot about this with Roland Frasier when I had him on the show. We were talking quite a lot about masterminds and mentoring. Probably the highest value mastermind that I’ve been in so far, Genius Network may be right up there but it’s pretty early to tell. For me, the Tony Robbins’ Platinum Partnership just in revenue was a three to one or four to one ROI. It’s a very expensive mastermind, that’s six figures a year all in. The intangibles of being in that program for three years from 2010 to 2013 include meeting my amazing wife, Orion. That wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t part of his program. If I attended the event, I would have still gotten value. We met at Date with Destiny in 2012. It was a Platinum Partner friend, a mutual friend, who introduced the two of us at the end of the event. That wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t part of the Platinum group.
Roland has me coming to speak at his War Room event in April. Roland and I met a few years ago at the Genius Network. I would guess you’re probably around the same age as I am, maybe a little bit younger. When we were growing up, when you went to university or through high school, you had to memorize everything. You really did truly have to be the smartest person in the room to get good grades. I was never the smartest person. I was a solid C average, 62%. My girlfriend laughed at me and she said, “62% is a D.” I’m like, “Not the school I went to. They gave those as C’s.” 62% were normal grades for me and I struggled to be the smartest person in the room. Now that I realized by being involved in these masterminds, I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room at all. I just have to know them.
If I know all the smart people, I can reach out to them, I can ask them for advice. I can get mentoring. I can get coaching. I can pay them for advice or I can R&D, I can rip off and duplicate, and just look at the good stuff they’re doing and run with that. Several years ago, you truly had to be the master of everything to be successful. I think that even for marketers now, they probably feel like they have to know all of this information but if they can get themselves involved in groups and learning, that really fast forwards everything, their career, and their company.
In fact, there’s a book I came across. The premise is that the generalist is going to win over the specialist.
It’s funny I want to start talking to my kids a little bit about this as well. It really is about being the jack of all trades, master of none. I was talking to a friend about this. My kids who are now seventeen and fifteen, when they were born, I was talking to their mom like, “We should get them in the typing class when they’re four or five, teaching them to type. It’s all going to be about computers. They don’t need to handwrite.” Then they never learned how to go to typing class. They’ve been using a computer their entire lives and they typed in about 90 words a minute. They don’t know what keys are where on the keyboard like I had to learn. That’s the way they’re wired now. I wonder whether the lesson I want to teach kids is about collaborating and working together as a team and problem solving together and not having to memorize it all. The reality is that’s how they’re gaming right now. They collaborate. They work as a team. Maybe they’re already learning all these skills that Gen X and Gen Y have had to learn. Maybe it’s just being hardwired into this Gen Z.
I think that things are moving so quickly. By the time that ten years roll by, being a really good typist is going to be irrelevant anyways. You’re going to be talking to your computers more than you’re going to be typing, even in a few years’ time.
A friend of mine runs his entire company and he has no pen. He does all of it via phone. He runs his entire company with his office phone. It’s a $300 million business.
You mentioned a funny alternative version of R&D, which I had heard before from Taki Moore. Do you know him?You don't have to be the smartest person in the room at all. You just have to know them. Click To Tweet
Yeah. I’ve been talking about it for years because my dad told me that and I used it on my TED Talk several years ago that I was told at sixteen years old I’d never be smart enough to figure it out on my own. My R&D had severed rip-off and duplicate. Taki and I are in another mastermind together called Mastermind Talks. We’ve gone to those for a few years together.
I’ve heard about that one. How does one rate in terms of all the different masterminds?
It was one of my favorites. It’s a solid group of global entrepreneurs. They’re heavily vetted. They cap every year at 150 attendees. It’s a once a year four-day event. They have really strong, good attendees. I went for five years in a row.
How about Summit? How’s that one?
It’s funny I was invited by the very first Summit Series by Elliott and Jordan and I said no to it because I didn’t know anybody who’s going to be there. I think only 40 people went to the first Summit Series. Every year after when I was invited, I was always pissed off at a chip on my shoulder that I never went the first year. I wanted them to pay me to speak and they wouldn’t do it. No, I’ve never been to Summit but I’ve heard that their Annual Summit is super strong. Unfortunately, it’s been run the same time as the Annual Genius Network event for the last few years. My plan is to go to the Annual Summit Series of 2019 if it doesn’t conflict.
I just joined Summit and we’ll be going to Summit LA19.
The other one that I go to and we can maybe jump off masterminds because we’re driving people crazy, is I go to the main TED Conference every year as well. That’s been really powerful to come to that for a couple of years in a row now. It’s a powerful group. It’s like attending Davos where the audience members are Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and Sergey Brin. I was sitting in a ball pit with Sergey Brin and I was having drinks with Steve Jurvetson. You’re sitting and talking to the biggest players in the world and in the entrepreneurial world, and then also some of the biggest thinkers too, which is cool.
Steve Jurvetson is a cool guy. I’ve met him before. Do you know what his favorite book is?
It’s The Diamond Age. It’s actually a novel but it is into the near future. Neal Stephenson wrote The Diamond Age. I love that book. That book is amazing and it gets you thinking about the coming age of molecular nanotechnology where the nano-machines are self-replicating. That’s the biggest game changer. AI is huge and will be a massive game changer and nanotechnology. When we go to molecular nanotechnology, it’s going to be just as big. He also wrote Snow Crash, which is another one of my favorite books. I’m not really into novels or fiction but this is amazing stuff. Let’s switch topics here. Let’s talk about the second-in-command because you have a whole alliance, the COO Alliance that you’ve created on this premise that there isn’t enough resources and networks and so forth targeting the second-in-command. There are tons for the first in command for the CEO or the entrepreneur including Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Vistage. There are so many different organizations. Are you the only organization for the second-in-command or are there others?
There are others that are very different. I think we’re the only one of its kind in the world. I’ve been going to these entrepreneur events forever. I’ve been involved in EO and YPO and Vistage. I’ve spoken to EO and YPO now in 28 countries around the world. I’d always been going to these entrepreneurial conferences. When I was there as a second-in-command, I always felt a little bit like an odd duck. I wanted to talk about operations, execution, culture, and meetings and get deep into a topic, and the entrepreneurial stage is very surface, very high level and was all over the place. It’s very similar to Genius Network actually. It’s all over the map, which is amazing. When you’re an ops person or when you’re really that second-in-command, you want to get deeper into the details, which drives most entrepreneurs crazy. I wanted to start a network that was exclusive for the second-in-command where the entrepreneur was not allowed.
There were groups for marketers, engineers, and lawyers but there was nowhere for that COO. Harvard wrote an article years ago called The Misunderstood Role of the Chief Operating Officer. They talked about seven distinct types of chief operating officers. Some are very marketing and sales-focused. In fact, some COOs are really the CMO as well. Others are the CFO, others are the CTO. It’s who is the second-in-command if the entrepreneur was sick for six months. That’s what determines who is allowed to join the COO Alliance. We’re going to be giving a place to learn together, learn from each other, share with each other and get deeper into the issues.Rip off and duplicate. Look out for what's already working and use that in your business. Click To Tweet
What is it about that article and those seven types that are the most important thing for our audience to understand?
What I’ve identified is it’s critical to find a true second-in-command who is your yin and yang. If you are the entrepreneur or CEO, it’s how do you find that perfect balance. It’s very similar to a husband and wife or partners in a relationship where you really want someone who compliments you. You don’t want someone exactly the same as you because you have the same weaknesses. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the other person could counter that? That’s how it is in the CEO-COO relationship as well or that second-in-command role. If the CEO loves marketing and sales, you don’t need a COO or a second-in-command who loves marketing and sales. You might need one who’s more engineering or ops focus.
It’s finding that true counterbalance and also getting pure implicit trust where you could literally give each other your bank account information and passcodes to everything. There’s such huge trust between the two of you. I think there is really open and honest, frank communication much like a marriage where you just can’t hold anything back and wait two years later to say something that bothered you. It needs to come out right away. Because the trust is strong, because that team is so strong, that’s what supercharges you. In fact, when I when I built 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I was the second-in-command. Brian is my best friend, he was the best man at my wedding. We were that true yin and yang for six and a half years that I was there.
Where was it when you entered the company and where did you leave it?
When I joined, there were fourteen employees at the head office. When I left, we had 3,100 employees system-wide. We went from $2 million to $106 million and from twelve franchises to 330 during the time that I was COO. We gave up no equity and we had no debt. We were profitable every single year for six years.
Were you one of the founders or were you an equity holder?
Brian and I had been in a mastermind together. We were in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization for four years. I was building a private currency company, similar to what Bitcoin was doing but we were doing it several years ago. We had Starwood Hotels and Avis Rent-A-Car, Budget Rent A Car using our currency instead of the US dollar. Also, I built a chain of autobody collision repair shops that was called Gerber Auto Collision in the US and Auto Body in Canada. Brian had seen me doing those and wanted me to help coach him on growing 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. I started coaching him a little bit and then he asked if I would work for him. I joined as the second-in-command.
You mentioned there are those three areas to get value out of in terms of that COO or that second-in-command, the counterbalance, different personalities, different strengths, different skills, the trust, and the open communication. Let’s talk about that counterbalance because there are so many different ways to try and fit somebody to counter, to be the yin to your yang. You could for example base it on Kolbe test or on Predictive Index or DISC, one of these personality-type tests or something like StrengthsFinder. You focus on what their top strengths are and what are yours, and how compatible and collaborative you could be with those. You could focus on skill sets. If you’re big into marketing and they’re big into operations, that could be a good fit. How do you find that perfect match?
To everything you said, yes. I believe that you should be using a lot of those tools and processes to hire every employee. I think a lot of people hire based on, “I like this person, I’ll train them.” That doesn’t work. In the old days, the whole hire for attitude, train for skill, worked quite well. Now you need to hire both for that culture fit and the proven skill set that they need to do the job that they’re coming in to do. Where I start is I use a book called Who which used to be Topgrading by Randy and Geoff Smart. I take the best systems from Topgrading and I come up with what I call a scorecard for the role. What are the top five things that this person needs to get done in their first twelve months with the company? If they got those five things done, I would be thrilled with my decision to hire them. You start with that, “What are the five big things they need to achieve in their role?”
Then secondly, “What are the five core behavioral traits they need to have as a leader?” Then third, “What are the core values of the organization?” What I do is in the interview, first I read a job posting that really reflects that and turns away or repels about 50% of the people that read it. I want a lot of people who read the job posting be like, “No way. I don’t want to work there.” I wanted to attract others like a complete magnet so that when they read it they go, “This sounds exactly like me.” They have to read the job posting and understand that if they don’t have the skills to do those five things, don’t bother applying. I’m not looking for someone who knows how to do it. I’m looking for someone who has done it before.
I give an analogy of a swimmer. Let’s say that you’re looking for a top swimmer to join your organization. Would you rather have someone who knows how to swim all four strokes, knows how to break world records and knows how to win in the Olympics? Would you rather have someone who has won races in all four strokes, someone who has broken world records and someone who has won at the Olympics? Those are very different. Most companies hire people who know how to do it. I know how to do the front crawl and I know how to do the butterfly, but I would drown doing butterfly. I have a metal plate on my left shoulder so I know how to do the front crawl but I go in circles because my arm doesn’t really work that well. Versus hiring somebody who has won Olympic Gold, you get a very different result. That’s where I start.
Secondly is the behavioral traits. I think this is where a lot of people compromise. In fact, I know a lot of companies compromise because they tend to hire a person who looks amazing on paper and has all the right skills or maybe has done everything you’re looking for, “He’s not quite what we’re looking for but we’ll make it work.” No, you won’t. All of those things that you don’t think are going to work are going to magnify themselves over time. You truly have to like the way the person acts and behaves and lives. They have to already live your core values. You don’t want someone who aspires to live them but they already live those in the day-to-day. The only way to find out that is to do what’s called TORC, which is the Threat of Reference Check or to do actual reference checks.People are devouring the content so they need you. If you don't call them, they're not going to know about you. Click To Tweet
The Threat of Reference Check is during the interview process. I get the names of up to ten people that person has worked with, worked for, people they’ve led, people they’ve solved problems with, people they didn’t like working with at work, people they loved working with at work. I identify the names of ten people and after the first or second interview, I’ll say to them, “You gave me the names of ten people. Here they are.” I hand them a piece of paper and then I say, “On Monday, I need you to come back to me with the phone numbers and email addresses for at least eight of those ten.” The general response is, “I already gave you my references.” I’m like, “I’m not calling those people. I need eight or ten of these people, I need their emails and phone numbers.” I just look them a matter of factly as if like, “You didn’t understand me when I first asked?”
The A players will come back to you with ten out of ten. The B players will come back to you with at least eight out of ten. The C players will run away and hide. You’ll probably never hear from them. Then the next interview that I do is I sit down with a list of all those people with their names and phone numbers. I said, “If I called Bob and I ask him about how you did at doing this job in the past, what would he tell me? If I called Bob and asked him about job number two, what would he say? If I called and asked him about job number three, what would he say? If I called Bob and asked him about how you’ve broken this core value?” I’ll probably spend fifteen minutes on just what Bob would say about the traits, core values and the five core things they need to get done. Then I’m going to ask, “What Sally might say?” Then I’m going to ask, “What Jeff would say?” I’ll spend up to two hours on the Threat of Reference Check. The A players eat this up. The B players are starting to cower under the desk and C players didn’t show up for the interview in the first place. Then you can go and do the actual reference checks and that’s when you cross-reference against A) What the candidate said and B) What your gut is telling you. I have CEOs all the time. I know I’ve got A players working in my company. I don’t say it but I’m like, “I know at best you’ve got Bs because you don’t have a process to get the right people in and to prevent the wrong people from coming in.” That’s how you do it.
That’s powerful. You are a ninja at this.
I’ll tell you where it came from. I was with an organization called College Pro Painters. It is the world’s largest residential house painting company. When I was there back in the ‘90s and ‘80s, every year we had to hire 800 franchisees from university and college. Kimbal Musk, Elon’s brother, was a franchisee for me. I hired him in 1993 and so was his cousin, Peter Rive who built SolarCity. I trained them both how to run companies. Every year, we had to go out and get 800 of those university kids, train them how to run a business and then they would go out and hire and train 8,000 painters. They would do that in a month. Between May 1st and August 31, we would paint $64 million in houses, and then September 1st, 8,800 kids would quit and go back to school. The head office where I worked, I was in the top 30 people in the company, we’d all get drunk and we’d wake up in the morning and go, “We have to do this again.” Every year, we had to build a 9,000-person company from scratch. When you have to hire 800 people and they have to hire 8,000, you became operationally world class at interviewing, selection, recruiting and onboarding.
You actually trained Kimbal Musk, Elon’s brother?
Yeah. He reported to me for a full year and then he reported to my sister the year after that. I recruited Kimbal in third year University of Commerce at Queens, and his cousin, Peter Rive, was at Queens as well. They worked for me for the full year. They were franchisees. I was a reference for Elon and Kimbal on their very first round of funding for their very first company. They had one employee at the time. The company was called Zip2. Kimbal called me up and asked if I’d be a reference for them. It’s pretty funny, he had to explain the internet because it was January of ‘95. I didn’t know what the internet was and they were running an internet company.
First, he explained the internet and then they were doing a mapping business which now would be like MapQuest or Google Maps. Back then it was called Zip2. He had to explain mapping and I was still trying to wrap my head around the internet, let alone a map on a computer, which didn’t make any sense because we had perfectly good paper maps. Then it was going to be used in a newspaper where you would click on an ad in a newspaper and it would give you directions from your house. Now it makes common sense but in 1995, it was like, “What are you smoking? You guys are so high.” They wanted to raise $600,000. College Pro Painters is mentioned in Elon’s book because of this. I did a reference with their VC, it was called a merchant bank at the time, and had to explain College Pro Painters experience because Elon was unbackable and they backed Kimbal based on his College Pro Painters experience. Elon could sell the vision but they didn’t believe he could execute because he’d never done anything. Kimbal had at least twelve employees for a couple of years and run a house painting business.
SolarCity was a client of my previous company, my agency that I sold Netconcepts a long time ago but I had never heard of SolarCity when we landed them. Looking back, it’s a different world we’re in. People probably haven’t heard of Kimbal Musk, but when you think of Elon Musk, you think of SpaceX. You think of Tesla but it’s PayPal that put him on the map.
It was actually Zip2. If you look at Zip2, it is the largest cost acquisition of any company in the world. He sold it for $315 million in 1997. That was where he leveraged all of his money from Zip2 into PayPal with Peter Thiel. If you go to the domain, X.com, it goes to PayPal labs. His first company sold for $315 million cash to Compaq in 1997 and then PayPal is where he leveraged that up. People don’t know that he did PayPal and that’s where Kimbal leveraged. His stake was about $30 million when he walked out with Zip2. He now runs a $100 million kitchen empire called The Kitchen, a big restaurant space. He leveraged that and went off to be a chef.
Let’s talk about one of your books. Let’s first of all talk about Free PR, which is your book. My understanding of the Free PR book that just came out is that there is a hole in the marketplace in terms of addressing the type of PR in the book. Can you elaborate?
Most companies think that there’s something called investigative journalism. There’s a reporter from a magazine, a newspaper or a TV show that’s out looking for stories. They might think that bloggers and podcasters are out looking for stories, which is partially true. The days of investigative journalism have been gone pretty much since the ‘50s. In that next era, there were PR firms that would be reaching out on behalf of companies to get them positioned in the media. What we learned back at College Pro Painters and then leverage when we built 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was every morning, every single journalist wakes up and thinks to themselves, “What am I going to write about now?”
Every journalist in North America sat down at their desk and the first thing they did after getting their coffee and checking email was thought, “What am I going to write about?” What we do is we avoid where everyone else goes. I’ve been using the same tool for several years, it’s gotten easier now. We pick up the phone and we phone the journalist. We phone the blogger, we phone the podcast, we phone the writer for Forbes Magazine or whoever. We say, “Do you have two minutes? I think I have a good story for you.” They virtually always say one of two things either, “Yes,” and then we pitch them and ask some questions or they say, “No, I’m busy.” We say, “Can I call you tomorrow or Thursday?” The reason that we actually manage our PR efforts under a sales team because they’re more like salespeople. Their product is a story. We don’t manage PR under marketing because most marketing people and communications or journalists are more the amiable analytical or quieter types.A good angle is all you need. You need to understand the media outlet that you're pitching to. Click To Tweet
We need someone who doesn’t take no for an answer. If you hear a no on the phone that means you’ve got the right number, you know where to call the person back. More marketing and communications people would probably not phone again. We wrote the book and co-authored this one with one of my former clients, a CEO of a company called DNA 11 and CanvasPop, I taught them free PR, became good at it as well and leveraged a lot in the digital space. We decided to co-author this book together. It’s all of my secrets on how to land free PR. We landed 5,200 stories about 1-800-GOT-JUNK? in six years. We didn’t even have the ability to leverage that using social media because Facebook started the year I was leaving. We’re leveraging all of Adrian’s experience on the digital side as well to truly take PR to the next level.
What would be the biggest trophy that you’ve gotten to show you’ve got this placement?
We were on Oprah back in 2003. We only had about 30 franchisees and we had about a six-minute episode on the Oprah show. I have it on video. I’ve personally been covered in the print edition of Forbes, the print edition of Fortune, the print edition of Inc., the print edition of Entrepreneur and the print edition of Success. The print edition of The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Dallas Morning News, I’ve been in those. Back in the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? days I’m thinking back we put together a hit list of the top twenty media outlets that covered TV, magazine, radio, and print. We wanted to be in all twenty by the end of a twelve-month period. We landed nineteen of the twenty. The only one we didn’t get was The Letterman Show. We actually almost had an episode. We were going to have one of our guys go ride in a truck with Bud Melman. Bud got sick and they canceled the filming. We ended up never getting on it but we’ve been on Dr. Phil seventeen times and every episode of Hoarders for a few years. Oprah was probably the big one, CNBC Squawk Box. Name it, we’ve been there.
You cold called or did use connections that you had?
We cold called. We actually used the PR firm the year that I got there. They were using a PR firm paying $5,000 a month. I got the company to fire them and we got seven times more PR the next month on our own than they were getting paying somebody. We did no press releases, no newswires. Every media outlet is looking for a story. The only way the media makes money is to sell advertising and the only way they get advertising dollars is to have good content. People are devouring the content so they need you. If you don’t call them, they’re not going to know about you.
If you call them with a lousy story, they’re not going to ever want to talk to you again.
In the book, Free PR, we teach you how to come up with a good angle. We teach you to also understand the media outlets. As an example, let’s say you have a business story, let’s say I wanted to have a story about the COO Alliance is the only network of its kind in the world for second-in-commands. If I was going to pitch that business story to The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or The CNN Money Show, which I’d been covered on, the Dallas Morning News Business section, Fortune, Forbes, Inc. or Success, every media outlet is very different. Forbes Magazine is very different from Entrepreneur Magazine. It’s very different from the CNN or the USA Today money section of the newspaper.
They’re all business outlets but they have very different readers. You have to come up with a good angle or two, we say to come up with five core angles for your company. Come up with five supporting bullet points for each angle. That’s all you need. You need to understand the media outlet that you’re pitching so that you don’t show up at the Wall Street Journal being all cutesy, talking about some entrepreneur’s story and you don’t pitch some big corporate rollout to Entrepreneur Magazine. You have to understand. We understood Oprah. Oprah’s entire angle if I was to summarize it or the entire types of stories she has on her show is heart wrenching, emotional, the hero’s journey. That’s her show, whereas somebody else is if it bleeds, it leads.
If you can’t pitch the story angle to Oprah whereas the emotional tear-jerking hero’s journey, you can’t pitch CNBC’s Squawk Box. That doesn’t fly with them. CNBC’s Squawk Box wanted the consolidation play, the role up strategy, the emerging brand. They were all numbers. Oprah was like, “It’s great. You helped this lady clean up her house. People are wonderful and you send stuff to the landfill.” You have to understand and then we pick up the phone, where every journalist is getting bombarded this morning with emails, newswires, and press releases. They probably get 300 emails a day. Why would I want my email to be in the middle of their 300? I can’t write an email that good. Joe can’t write an email, nobody can write an email to cut through the 300 others on a consistent basis. How often does your phone ring? How often does the journalist’s phone ring? Almost never. If their phone rings, it’s probably their mom calling to say, “Hi.”
How do you get their phone number though?
You either use a couple of the databases, which is $1,500 for a year, Cision or media outlets from PR Newswire or you can Google it. Look at the person’s name and write PH, it will pop up. We use a couple of databases, Media House and PR Newswire. Think about a photographer. If you look at every magazine and newspaper that comes out, every photo that it is in there has the photographer’s name beside the photo. Pick up the phone and call the magazine. I don’t care whether it’s People Magazine, USA Today or Forbes Magazine, call them without even having the person’s direct number. Call the main phone number for Forbes magazine and say, “It’s Cameron Herold calling. Is Bill Scott the photographer there please?”
Say it as if you’re calling him to go golfing. Nobody ever calls Bill Scott, the photographer. They put you through. Bill Scott answers the phone because nobody’s ever phone Bill Scott, “Bill, Cameron Herold’s calling you. You don’t know me but I think I have a great photo op for you. Do you have two minutes?” What Bill Scott’s going to say is, “Give me the photo op.” They want good photo ops and then they go to the editor and they say, “I got a good photo op.” The editor goes, “Go do it. I’m too busy saying no to these 400 press releases that came in overnight.” Business for me is like a bobsled. You follow the track and you take the path of least resistance and it’s already been developed. I don’t need to be the smartest guy on the planet when the smart people have already figured this out for me.Business is like a bobsled. You follow the track and take the path of least resistance. Click To Tweet
Have you been on the cover of a magazine because of this technique?
I’ve been on the cover of some lower ones like some national HR magazines and stuff. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? for sure has. We’ve been on the front page of multiple business sections. I had full page article on the physical print edition of Forbes Magazine in January 2017 written by the publisher, Rich Karlgaard. It’s not hard to get this stuff.
It’s a huge deal when you’re on the cover of a magazine. I’ve been on the cover of two different magazines but they weren’t huge. They’re not national. They were more local or regional.
We were on the cover of BCBusiness when we ranked as the number two company in Canada to work for them. They’re big.
I actually had the opportunity to get on the cover of Psychology Today. That would have been cool, except the premise of it was not the most ideal for me. I did an episode on my other show on the Get Yourself Optimized podcast that was formerly the Optimized Geek podcast. I had a guest on and we went deep into the topic of imposter syndrome. There’s a related syndrome called comparative success syndrome that was like, “I have that. I don’t even know that that exists.” I always feel, “I could have crushed it and been a billionaire if I’d done things differently or whatever.” I’m comparing myself to who I could have been, which is a form of imposter syndrome. “I actually think I have imposter syndrome too,” and we’re talking about it.
I read an article based on that episode and publish it on the Huffington Post. The writer of a story about imposter syndrome contacts me saying, “I’m writing for Psychology Today all about imposter syndrome. I found your fantastic article on the Huffington Post about imposter syndrome and I’d like to interview you, quote you and stuff.” After that, the writer says, “Our editor and I discussed this and we actually want you on the cover.” I tentatively said yes and then I told my wife about it. She’s like, “Are you crazy?”
You should’ve taken it. I had an article in The Wall Street Journal in 2000 about being one of four supernovas whose careers went high and I found out I was stressed, I had a nervous breakdown in 2000. It could have been seen as negative PR but I was able to leverage that and show about the highs and lows of CEOs. Why most CEOs are clinically bipolar and how do you ride through the highs and lows without burning out. I don’t think you get bad press unless you’ve done something wrong. Bipolar disorder isn’t a disorder; it’s what makes entrepreneurs successful. Our mania is why people follow us. The stress of depression is simply us course correcting.
I’ve heard that ADD, which is a label that a lot of us entrepreneurs and business owners get, is not a disorder. It’s survival of the fittest because it’s not just the hunters and gatherers that existed back in the caveman days. There were also the spotters. The spotters were the ones that kept the tribe alive because they would notice first that the herd is on the move. The food is drying out and we need to relocate or there are predators that are going to come and eat us off if we aren’t on high alert. Those high alert diffused awareness people were the ones that kept the tribe alive and they’re labeled ADD and ADHD, that’s not helpful.
If you bring it forward, most successful entrepreneurs are actually ADHD and bipolar. Attention Deficit Disorder is powerful because you can see everything that’s happening around you. You can see what’s happening through customer, the economy, your market, the suppliers and the pulse of the energy inside the business. You notice the little things like a font that’s off or an email signature that’s not working. You notice a data that jumps off a spreadsheet to you. You don’t get too bogged down with the details because the details drive us crazy so you delegate them. Those are those are powerful traits. If you don’t see everything, you’re missing stuff as an entrepreneur. If you’re so hyper-focused you almost become the absent-minded professor. You don’t hear of a lot of the absent-minded professors that are successful as CEOs.
We’re not supposed to be like teachers and doctors. Entrepreneurs are not supposed to be like the medical community. I talked about this in my TED Talk. It’s on the main TED.com website about raising kids as entrepreneurs. I talked about how the school system has so heavily biased against entrepreneurial children because we’re not like teachers and we’re not like the school system but we’re not supposed to be. Only 3% of the population have signs of ADD and bipolar and big newsflash only 3% of the population are entrepreneurs. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be. If I was a teacher, no one would ever follow me. If every rule had to be memorized, if everything was in the back of a textbook, I’d be an engineer.
I want our audience to be able to go down that rabbit hole and others that we’ve discussed. I nearly became the poster child for imposter syndrome. I’ve got another cool interesting announcement that relates to this. You can tell me how valuable or not this is but I’ve been doing a lot of contributing to different places, which is a different thing than getting somebody to write about you. Getting a feature story is a huge deal that makes you notable and Wikipedia worthy and all that. If you contribute to a high-profile publication that also gives you some credibility and social proof but it’s different. I landed my first Harvard Business Review article.
That’s not Huffington Post. That’s not Forbes magazine or Amex Open Forum. HBR is the real deal.
It took a lot to get in there and a lot of back and forth with the editor to get something. They are the most particular outlet I’ve ever dealt with. What are your thoughts about getting columns or occasional contributorships on different online magazines or in print magazines and so forth?
We were covered by Harvard back in 2003 or 2004. We’ve since have been covered by every single MBA student at Harvard who reads a case study about 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. We actually put it up on the wall as one of the things we wanted to achieve. We had what we call our, “Can you imagine?” wall. We had been on Oprah and I put up big featured by Harvard Business. The first business book I ever read was what they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. I always thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Harvard Business School study 1-800-GOT-JUNK?” Since 2004, we’ve been a case study there. I was covered in Harvard Business Magazine and HBR on the highs and lows of CEOs. They covered the whole bipolar nature of CEO.
Being a columnist or being a contributing writer is great. It is again that third-party credibility, you can actually take those links and share them. They drive SEO back to your website. You can amplify it by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and emails with your customers and potential employees. It’s powerful. It’s that third party social proof that is more powerful than your own blog. Pushing in the door and being recognized as an author or a contributing writer is powerful. In the old days, it was like having a column in the magazine or having a column in a newspaper. The next level was having a syndicated column. If you could be like Jay Abraham and have a syndicated newspaper column in hundreds of magazines every day, that’s powerful.
With yours, the opportunity is for you to now leverage that HBR article because that’s big credibility. That’s one of the premier business outlets for sure.
What would you recommend for leveraging something like that besides putting or featuring that on my website? What’s something counterintuitive?
I would have it on your bio for sure. I would probably have it as a PS on your email, “PS, Have you seen my HBR article?” I’ll send it out on Facebook five times this year, send it on LinkedIn five times this year and send it on Twitter five times this year. Possibly email it to your entire list once and say, “I’m not sure if you saw this but here’s my HBR article.” That’s like a nine-word email, those things. We learned that back in 2001 when we were covered by Bloomberg. We were like, “We’re in the Bloomberg wire. No one’s going to see it.” We were so random and we were so small. The fact that we’re on Bloomberg, nobody’s going to see it unless we call people.
We phoned 150 news outlets and we said, “We’re not sure if you saw the Bloomberg wire.” Of course, they said, “No, we didn’t see it.” We said, “Can we email it to you?” We emailed the link out to 150 news outlets and we end up getting covered 43 times. You could actually contact a lot of the business outlets in the marketing space. You could contact strategy magazine, marketing magazine, advertising age, ad age whatever they are and say, “I’m not sure if you saw this article yet.” They’re going to say, “No, I didn’t see it.” You say, “Can I send it to you or why don’t I send it to you?” See if you can get some amplification or rerun that way. This is all learned stuff. Seth Gordon talks about the Purple Cow. You need the highway beside the purple cow. You can’t have a purple cow standing in a field. Nobody’s going to see it if there’s no highway going by.
No one saw us on Oprah. The phones rang for a day or two but after that, we’ve been talking about being on Oprah for several years now. That’s where the real amplification came from was that it’s in my bio. It’s talked about in my books. It’s mentioned in my speaking events. That’s where the real power of being on Oprah has been that I don’t have to shut up about it for several years. Where most people think is, “We got that article. How can people don’t know about me?” We have so much media out there. The good thing is you got some big press, to have an article that you’ve written in HBR is huge credibility.
It’s right up there with having a thousand-page book published by O’Reilly.
Get it out to the speakers’ bureaus. Send it to any anybody that you want to represent you as a speaker.
By the way, have you met anybody before or anyone in your network who has a thicker book than me?If you don't see everything, you're missing stuff as an entrepreneur. Click To Tweet
No, it was awesome. What’s amazing was when you brought that book, I was dumbfounded. I had sent Joe a text before you went on and I was like, “The guy who went on should have not been allowed to speak. There was no value. We deserve better than this. We need good content.” Then you came on and it was like drinking from a firehose of all these examples of what was missing. You had some great content. I actually made a note to contact you. I would love to get clear. You offered to everybody to how you look at our sites. You know what you’re looking at. The only time I’ve seen anything like that was I was at YPO Event in Barcelona, Spain and there was a guy named Ankit Fadia who had hacked into the al-Qaeda computer system.
He’s like, “Who here thinks they’re secure?” We all stand up. There were a thousand CEOs from around the world standing up going, “I’m secure.” He goes, “Bob, you texted your wife that you want to go for dinner at Sally’s house on Saturday, stand up.” Bob stands up, “How do you know that? I texted her twelve seconds ago.” He goes, “Kevin, you sent this. Mark, you sent that.” He had about 50 people over the course of five minutes that he called out on something they had emailed or texted within the last five minutes while he was standing on stage. He was remote hacking all these devices while he’s onstage. I’m like, “That is sick.” “Who do you want as a client?” “All of them.” “How many you’re going to get?” “All of them.”
For some context for our audience, I spoke at the last Genius Network Meeting. I did a ten-minute talk. I used examples from the audience of serious SEO website issues and nobody knew that these were issues. It was very powerful and hit close to home. It was quite funny. I became a meme for the rest of that event. The Tom Brady shirtless thing where I found that was one of the top keywords that drove traffic to capital objects. I wanted to at least touch on your book, Meetings Suck. What is it about meetings that are so awful? I hate meetings. I love the Despair.com demotivational poster that says, “Meetings, the only thing dumber than none of us is all of us.” I also love the expression that, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” I hate meetings when I had my big agency, Netconcepts, meeting after meeting. I would never be in any of them. I hated them.
We need meetings. When you run highly successful fast-growing companies, you need meetings. I got tired of people saying meetings suck. One of my clients who raised $255 million from Warburg Pincus, I coached them for four and a half years, consisting of 60 employees up to 800. They had this huge raise and the CEO is complaining about meetings. I went, “Meetings don’t suck. How many of your leadership team have ever been trained on how to run meetings?” He goes, “I don’t think any of us.” I said, “How about your managers? How many of them have ever been trained on how to run meetings?” He goes, “Probably none.” I said, “How many of your employees have ever been trained on how to show up, participate and attend the meeting?” He goes, “For sure none.” I said, “The meetings don’t suck, you suck at running meetings.”
All of a sudden it dawned on him that I was right. I said, “You would never send a kid off to play Little League Baseball without teaching the kid how to hold the bat, how to swing the bat, how to hold the glove, how to catch a ball. You’d give the kid the basics otherwise that kid would come home from Little League saying baseball sucks. Baseball doesn’t suck, he sucks playing baseball.” I decided to codify and Meetings Suck is written in three parts. Part one is how to run highly successful meetings. Part two is how to show up, attend and participate at a meeting. Part three is the types of meetings you need to run a successful high growth rate culture company. It’s written so that every employee at every company will stop complaining about meetings. It’s literally a $15 investment. If you’re not going to invest $15 in your employee to read that book, you probably shouldn’t have the employee in the first place.
It’s funny Elon Musk came public telling his employees, “If you’re in a crappy meeting, stand up and walk out.” I sent him a text, “That does not solve the root cause. The root cause of the bad meeting that they were in the first place is nobody knows how to run them and nobody knows how to show up at them.” I said, “Get your employees to start understanding how to run meetings, how to attend meetings and they won’t have to leave the meetings in the first place.” It’s basic for me. I look at all of us in business like a fly trying to get out the window. You’ve seen that fly and they’re banging your head against the window, trying harder to get out the window. They’re not going to get out that window but there’s a door, if they turn 90 degrees and go out the door to the right, they could easily get out the door. I see business the same way that meetings don’t suck. Most people suck at running them. I run highly successful meetings but I know how to run them.
You want to always have an agenda for the meeting.
No agenda, no attenda.
What’s one less than an obvious tip from the book that our audience will benefit from? All of our audience, I’m sure, have meetings that they have to attend.
What I do is I stop every meeting five minutes early. That allows you to walk down the hall, talk to your assistant, get a cup of coffee and start the next meeting, next phone call or next webinar exactly on time. My belief is that if you don’t finish everything in five minutes early, you’ll never be on time. I also teach every employee, I also teach all my customers and suppliers this as well, when you walk in saying, “Sorry I’m late.” What you’re saying is, “FU, I’m disrespectful, I’m selfish, my time is more valuable than yours.” You would never show up to an Olympic race, you would never show up to a funeral, you’d never show up to a wedding five minutes late. You would never show up to an Olympic race as the guns going off going, “Sorry I’m late.”
It is disrespectful and it sets the stage for the entire team, so you’re disrespectful from that point forward.
If the gun’s going off, if you’re there for a [9:00] swim race and you come running out onto the swim deck, you already see the other swimmers have been there for ten minutes warming up. I also like coming into every meeting and checking my cell phone at the door so that everyone puts their cell phone down. If you’re too busy to check your cell phone for the half hour, hour meeting that means you have other higher priority things to do. Go do those things but everyone in the meeting is for the purpose and the agenda that we’re saying we’re covering, we’re going to stop five minutes early. We’re going to get it all done.
This has been fabulous and I enjoyed our chat. Your approach to PR is refreshing. People talk about PR and they don’t even think about what PR stands for, it stands for Public Relations. In order to have relations, you have to be relatable and create relatedness. Nobody puts those two things together and you do that. You have a real gift.
Thank you. I appreciate it. I don’t know anything else other than to tell the story. I grew up that way. I was telling my kids that I went to six schools by the time I was in grade nine. I had to get very good at telling my story because I was always going to a new school. I didn’t know how to get the kids to know who I was except by telling my story.
That’s a great example of how the challenges and the traumatic things from our childhood actually come back to benefit us later in our lives. They end up being a huge gift. As my wife, Orion, says, “It’s a gift but the bow is on the bottom.” You may not notice that it’s a gift for a while but it is. If somebody is potentially a fit or has a person they want to recommend for the COO Alliance, where do they go? For other things, maybe coaching with you if that’s a fit for them and working with you or even picking up your books, where should we send all our audience to?
All of my books are available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. If they go to Amazon and look up my name, they’ll find all five of the books there, Double Double, The Miracle Morning For Entrepreneurs, Meetings Suck, Vivid Vision and Free PR. Then if they go to the main website, COOAlliance.com, that’s the easiest way to track me down.
Thank you, Cameron. Thank you, audience.
- Cameron Herold
- Free PR
- Genius Network
- Roland Frasier – Previous episode
- Platinum Partnership
- Date with Destiny
- War Room – Mastermind
- Mastermind Talks
- Summit Series
- The Diamond Age
- Snow Crash
- COO Alliance
- The Misunderstood Role of the Chief Operating Officer – Harvard Business Review article
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- College Pro Painters
- The Kitchen
- Media House
- PR Newswire
- Get Yourself Optimized podcast
- TED Talk – Cameron Herold
- Jay Abraham – Previous episode
- Ultimate Entrepreneur Podcast
- Purple Cow
- Meetings Suck
- Amazon – Cameron Herold
- Double Double
- The Miracle Morning For Entrepreneurs
- Vivid Vision
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
☑ Build good relationships with people who are smarter than me so that I can learn something from them whenever I need inspiration or advice.
☑ Invest in masterminds and conferences that can refine the quality of my peer groups. This is not only an excellent avenue for improving my skills but also an effective area for networking.
☑ Identify a trusted second-in-command who is the yin to my yang. This is how to find a perfect balance and an open and honest relationship in the business.
☑ Hire people who have a proven skill set and can fit my workspace’s culture. The whole hire-for-attitude and train-for-skill will not suffice anymore in this day and age.
☑ Master the act of R&D also known as rip-off and duplicate. This is not a wrong tactic in business because I am only following the formula, using it as a mold to create my own content.
☑ Find a good angle in my personal story. Ask myself what I can share to make people feel connected to my brand and me. Determine what tone of message I want to present that will get the best response from others.
☑ Cold-call media outlets so that they’ll know about me. They are always looking for content. All I have to do is convince them that my story is worth sharing.
☑ Always try to see the bigger picture by refraining from micro-managing and letting my key people do their respective jobs. I will miss a lot of stuff as an entrepreneur if I’m so hyper-focused on one thing.
☑ Run meetings efficiently. Always follow an agenda so that it doesn’t disrupt the team’s productivity and end it five minutes early so that I have time to prepare for my other engagements.
☑ Read Cameron Herold’s book about public relations, publicity, and PR strategy called Free PR, so I can understand the media outlets and come up with a good angle. Also, visit his website, COOAlliance.com, to find out more about his work.
About Cameron Herold
Cameron is the founder of the COO Alliance, an author with his 5th book releasing in January, and has spoken on 6 continents.