Join me while I chat with Publicize Founder Conrad Egusa. A serial entrepreneur, Conrad also co-founded Espacio, a co-working space in Medellin, Colombia. He also served as a mentor at The Founder Institute, owns the English speaking news outlet Colombia Reports, and is a former Venture Beat writer. His newest start-up Publicize is looking to disrupt the PR industry.
Want to win a free press release from Conrad’s team at Publicize? Leave a comment below and retweet this post. All entrants must already have a start-up or small business looking for get press coverage.
Keypoint Takeaways: Disrupting the PR industry
Have you ever tried to use a PR firm to get press for your company? Then you’ll know the old-school world of PR firms typically charge clients $10,000 a month with a required 6-month retainer. Conrad knew start-ups and entrepreneurs couldn’t come up with that type of cash to get the PR exposure they needed. Publicize set-up a loose subscription model charging clients $499 for month-to-month service with the ability to cancel anytime.
The business model has proven successful. More than once a week, Publicize gets clients featured on TechCrunch, Venture Beat, Business Insider and other wide-reaching outlets. They also regularly see thought leaders like Steve Blank, Guy Kawanaski and Brad Feld write about their clients and the work they’re doing.
You don’t need connections. You need social proof.
Conrad insists you don’t need connections with an outlet or be best buddies with a journalist to drum up your own PR. It just takes reaching out in the right way to get a friendly response. Conrad advises leading with social proof about who you are and what you do. When he reached out to Growth Everywhere, he opened with his credentials as a former Venture Beat writer and the start-ups he’s founded over the years. Check-out Conrad’s email template in our resources below.
Growing at 20% every month
Publicize is rapidly growing at 20% every month. Conrad chalks it up to simply talking with entrepreneurs about the service and letting it sell itself. Clients grasp the concept right away and how affordable PR can dramatically impact their business without much risk. If they don’t like the results, they can simply cancel and are only out $499 instead of the $10,000 most PR firms charge.
The potential for low risk and high reward also helps Publicize converts 25 to 30% of their leads. In combination with their low commitment risk, Publicize offers an evaluation of their clients business. If they think their chances of getting you a feature in publications is less than 45%, they automatically offer a discount.
Conrad is also completely transparent with clients that there are no guarantees in PR. No one can promise coverage and press. But he has enough experience to figure out if there’s a 90% chance to land features and exposure on specific outlets.
Conrad is quick to point out bootstrapping entrepreneurs don’t need to work with anyone to get PR coverage. They can just do it themselves with the right resources.
It’s true Conrad has tons of press and outlet connections, but dismisses the assumption you need relationships with journalists to get the coverage you want. Instead, you just need to practice your pitches and stand-out with a few key traits. He’s tested his theory numerous times that he can get press using his own name, or emailing on behalf of his client from their email. When Conrad emails as if he is the client, he gets the same result as when he writes on his own behalf.
The lifecycle of PR announcements
When friends, colleagues and clients tell Conrad they need a story on Mashable, he asks what they’re planning to announce. Nothing? Conrad points out no one is going to write a story about it and helps clients figure out how to leverage upcoming events.
A growing business can announce a business launch of a mobile app, then follow-up 10 to 12 weeks later with a new product launch. Maybe 1o to 12 weeks after that, companies can announce they successfully raised venture capital and then hit a 10,000 a month customer goal. Conrad says there’s always a way to create an announcement around what’s going on at your company.
Stand-out from the crowd with an exclusive
Many start-ups rapidly send out press releases and announcements to 100 publications with no response. Ultimately no one covers their announcement and they decide PR doesn’t work. But news outlets are saturated with press releases and other requests and won’t even open them all. But offering an outlet the exclusive right to cover your launch can hook an editor.
Publicize spent 100 hours curating a tech contact list and is offering it up to Growth Everywhere readers. Conrad suggests using the list and personalizing your emails with the person’s name can improve your reach and open rate.
Struggling with rapid growth
Hiring the very best while growing so fast can be a challenge. Conrad learned to take on one highly-qualified and more expensive person over the two people who are less expensive but probably mediocre. At the start, he also tries not to take on new employees until they’re so overwhelmed they have no other choice.
But Conrad was motivated to grow rapidly so it could help benefit Colombia Reports and help support his other ventures. He credits keeping it all going to working 6-days a week and working with amazing partners. He also embraces the philosophy, “You can’t connect the dots forward, you can only connect them backwards.”
Don’t forget to enter to win a free press release from Conrad’s team at Publicize. Leave a comment below and retweet this post. All entrants must already have a start-up or small business looking for get press coverage. Good luck!
Conrad’s email template resulting in TechCrunch Coverage:
“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” – Robert T. Kiyosaki
Eric: [Hello] everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of “Growth Everywhere” where we interview entrepreneurs and bring you business and personal growth tips. Today we have Conrad Egusa from Publicize. Conrad, how are you doing today?
Conrad: I’m doing great Thanks so much for having me.
Eric: Yeah, thanks for being on the show. Why don’t you tell us a little about your background and we’ll go from there.
Conrad: My background is I used to write for a tech publication called Venture Beat and today I founded a company called Publicize that’s trying to disrupt the PR industry and I own a news publication called Columbia Reports based in South America.
Eric: Got it. Cool! So, when you say you’re trying to disrupt the PR industry, I’m sure you get this question quite a bit, what are you guys doing exactly to disrupt it?
Conrad: Yeah. So, traditionally in the PR industry firms charge ten-thousand dollars a month with a six month retainer and the thought I had was would it be possible as opposed to a six-month retainer make it month to month, cancel any time and as opposed to ten-thousand dollars a month we charge $499. So, I think not just twenty percent better, but rather degrees better offering.
Eric: Got it. Cool! So, at $499 a month, I mean, huge price difference. Can you talk about some of the results that you’ve been able to bring for some companies?
Conrad: Yeah. I’d say more than once a week now we get startups featured on Tech Crunch, Business Insider, Venture Beat, we work with about a dozen Y Combinator companies and we’ve been lucky. We’ve had people like Steve Blank, Guy Kawasaki, Brad Feld write about what we’re doing.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. And how have you gotten guys like Steve Blank and Guy Kawasaki to write your st[ory], I mean these are heavy hitter names.
Conrad: Yeah. I think…it’s really funny. The way I approach thought leaders like Steve Blank or even when I reached out to you is, for one, understanding that a lot people even like Steve Blank or Brad Feld, if you approach them in the right way they will respond and be friendly. So, I think I look to position myself in emails as being a little different and I also led with social proof as well so I didn’t just say “I’m a bootstrap entrepreneur”, as an example, I said, “I’m a former Venture Beat writer.” so they would kind of identify with it.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. I guess we could talk about kind of the growth that you guys been having. We talked a little bit about growth before we started the interview. You mentioned that you guys are growing at twenty percent month over month right now. How are you guys making that happen exactly?
Conrad: Yeah. I think with Publicize the reason why we transitioned is it came to a point where we realized we hit product market fit where we would talk to an entrepreneur about it and they would say…they almost get it right away because traditionally people couldn’t afford PR firms and you always heard this argument like, “There wasn’t a positive ORR on that at work” So, I think that helped and that kind of culminating with a lot of referrals as well. The great thing about the start-up community is that in general start-ups they don’t have a ton of resources which makes it hard for the wanna-be clients, but at the same time the start-up community is very intertwined so if you add a ton of value and create something special I think word spreads pretty quickly.
Eric: Got it. Okay. You also mentioned something special. Can you talk about what your conversion rates are and…how are you getting such high conversion rates?
Conrad: We convert for every lead…it’s about twenty-five to thirty percent of phone calls. I think…we’re lucky in that one of the reasons…traditionally PR firms said you have to sign up for six months, so it’s this really large commitment and I think our whole approach we said a couple things; for one, if worse comes to worse you only have to pay for one month and cancel at any time. I think the other thing we did with Publicize was that when we talk to clients we’d say, “We’re going to evaluate your company. We’ll rank your chances of being featured on leading publications like Tech Crunch for example.
So if you have above a seventy percent chance if you’re ever between a forty, fifty-five, sixty-five percent chance we give you a fifty dollar a month discount. If you’re below a forty percent chance we’ll give you a seventy-five dollar discount a month. So, the idea being that it’s like very entrepreneurial friendly, but we also want to be really transparent because I think the challenging thing about PR is that we really can’t make these with guarantees, but we do have enough experience to say, “Hey, I think you guys have a ninety percent chance of being on these sites.”
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. I think that’s reassuring and why you have such a high conversion rate. When it comes to…I mean a lot of PR…when a lot of start-ups are starting out initially they don’t have the budget even for $499 bucks a month or whatever it is. They just can’t pay someone else to do PR. So do you have any tips or tricks that you can share with the audience?
Conrad: Absolutely. Two things I really want to stress is that I think an entrepreneur doesn’t need to work with anyone to get the type of PR coverage they want. And the second thing is that there’s this assumption that people need to have these relationships with journalists which isn’t true. So, I’m sure you have a lot of friends who say, “I want to be on Tech Crunch, but I’m not best friends with the journalists.”
But there are a lot of clients I’ve worked with where I’ve tested this over and over again, where I would email on behalf of myself so maybe the Tech Crunch or Venture Beat knows who I am and they’ll be more likely to. But I’ll also email on behalf of a client. So, let’s say, and I’ll talk to them about this, like a sixty-five year old insurance executive from Chicago who knows no-one. At the next Venture Beat he’s ’featured on there and a lot of people they’d say, “Conrad, of course they were. Everybody at Venture Beat knows you.” But I would say, “Well, I actually emailed as the founder and the results were the same.” So, if you follow the right process you’re going to get the results you’re looking for.
Eric: Got it. Cool. Can you give us a skeleton overview of what that process looks like?
Conrad: Definitely. The first thing is that when you’re looking to get…Let’s say I’m to be featured on Mashable, you need to have an announcement. So, when I was on Venture Beat my friends would come to me and they would say, “Conrad, can you write about my company?” I would say, “I really want to. What are you going to announce.” They’d say, “Well we don’t have anything to announce.” and I would say, “Well, if you don’t have anything to announce I can’t write a story about it.” So, typical announcements in a start-up life cycle, let’s say you decide to announce a mobile app.
On day one the announcement is the day of the launch of the company. Let’s say ten to twelve weeks later you might launch a new product. Maybe it’s an android mobile app etc.; a different product. Ten to twelve weeks later you might raise $50,000 or $100,000 Angel round. Ten to twelve weeks later you might reach ten-thousand users. That’s a milestone. So, your goal with PR is to kind of look ahead and say, “Okay, well each of these milestones we want to, for the launch get on Tech Crunch, ten to twelve weeks later we want to get on Venture Beat and twenty other publications” to kind of optimize your PR for each of these announcements
Eric: Got it. Okay. And is there a certain conversion rate for actually getting something published? Do you have anything like that?
Conrad: It really depends on the company. What I recommend a company do is actually use something called an exclusive. So, what most people do is they say, “Okay, we’re going to launch next Wednesday and we’re going to email like a hundred publications and ideally at Wednesday at 12:00 everyone’s going to, a few of them are going to cover it; etc.” What often happens is that they email a hundred publications, but no-one responds in the launch goes by and they decide to move on like, “Hey, PR doesn’t work.” right?
But the challenge is if you email Tech Crunch, let’s say, that writer gets a thousand emails every day and it’s really hard to stand out. But one way you can stand out is to use an exclusive and that means that the journalist has first right to cover the story. So, let’s say you email Sarah Perez at Tech Crunch tomorrow and you said, “Hey, I’m about to launch; my announcement is I’m launching my company. Would you like the exclusive on covering that for next Wednesday?”
And ideally you’d be very surprised about the responses. She might say, “Hey, Eric I’m going to have to pass, but thanks so much.” or she could say, “Hey, Eric this sounds great. I’m going to cover it next Wednesday.” and ideally what’s going to happen is Wednesday comes along and Tech Crunch writes about the article and within the next, I’d say twenty-four to forty-eight hours, you’re going to further coverage this as much as possible, not only to Git Gnome and Next Web, but other medium sites, Tech Cocktail, B2B. I can actually send you a link. My company spent a hundred hours creating a free tech reporter contact list so we have all the emails that people can use to contact.
Eric: Oh, that’d be huge. Let me write that down really quick.
Eric: Cool! So, it sounds like one of the tips you increase your conversion rates dramatically is to add an exclusive. Do you do anything with the subject lines specifically?
Conrad: In the subject line I would always mention the person’s name. That really personalizes it because even today I still get emails from back in the days of Venture Beat and most of the time it’s like capitalized letters, like “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE!” That’s all it says. When I see that, even if it’s this special announcement I’m not going to cover it because it’s not very personalized. As opposed to if you said, say an individual said “Hi John, this is Tom. I wanted to see if you’d be interested in doing an exclusive.” Because it’s personalized I’m going to be much more likely to at least open that email.
Eric: Right. Okay. So you put the name in there and you also are you going to put the name and exclusive in brackets or something? I’m just trying to picture this in my head.
Conrad: Yeah if you want I’m happy to send the exact email I use to get one of my own companies on Tech Crunch so you can see…It would probably say something like, “Hi this is Conrad Egusa, former Venture Beat writer in regards to an exclusive.” It would say something like that.
Eric: Cool. We have a tech reporter list coming, we have templates coming, and we have a little mini e-book that you and I are going to work on. We’ve got three big things coming up already from this interview.
Eric: Cool man! How long has Publicize been around for?
Conrad: Publicize? I would say about nine to ten months is when we really pivoted to this.
Conrad: Earlier was actually, we only moved to the URL, I would, say ten to twelve weeks ago.
Conrad: So before what happened it was a…I was running marketing for a few different companies, so the name was Brownstein & Egusa, my mother’s maiden name and father’s last name and then, I would say, a little less than three months ago we said, “Okay let’s completely move to Publicize.” Because basically while I was running marketing for these other companies I started on the side helping with PR and that kind of took off so we moved to that model.
Eric: Cool. So that name Publicize, I mean it sounds like a domain that might have been taken back. Is there a story about acquiring that domain?
Conrad: I was very lucky that Publisize.co wasn’t taken.
Conrad: [crosstalk] So I was very lucky. Yeah.
Eric: Got it. Cool. So, what are some struggles you faced while growing the business?
Conrad: I would say the two largest struggles I’ve seen have been just hiring the very best and one of the things I learned pretty quickly on was that I would much rather take on one person who’s just excellent at what they do as opposed to two people who lets say are less expensive, but probably more mediocre at what they do. I would say the second thing is just kind of managing cash flow with growth. That has been a chall[enge]. I think it’s a challenge that all companies face.
Eric: Okay. Cool. And do you have any tips on handling that?
Conrad: I would say the biggest thing is, like we’d only take on new employees until we’re really, really, hurting. When I say hurting I mean like we’re just so overwhelmed that we know we have no other choice but to really scale the team.
Eric: Got it. That’s really helpful. You mentioned before the interview that you’re hiring, you’re almost adding a new person every two weeks now. Where are you finding these people exactly, especially in the PR industry?
Conrad: Well, I’m really lucky in that…I think the most talented people tend to be probably in major tech centers, so whether it’s like Los Angeles or New York, or Silicon Valley, I’m lucky so I spend a lot of time in South America for a few ventures, but because I’ve created, for example, this center in Medellin most serious entrepreneurs I know just through my own network.
So, even right now I have a list of five to ten people who I know work hard, I know are people I’d want to work with that basically as the company grows, like a few weeks before each time I sit down with them and have a coffee. It’s actually, even today at three o’clock I’m going to be sitting down with someone and basically not saying, “Hey here’s a job offer.” but more like, “You’re someone I know I want to join the team.” and in a couple weeks; almost like gouging interest and starting there.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. There’s one thing you mentioned, I did see a quote from you in the past. You said, “PR is the secret weapon to SEO.” My background’s in SEO. Can you kind of explain that?
Conrad: I don’t think people realize with PR, but if you get on a site like Tech Crunch, there’s a Patron Gate or Venture Beat, [not sure 0:13:42.7]. In one announcement you make for a launch, let’s say, you could get a let’s say on twenty to twenty-five different sites all linking to you. I think it’s a huge help. Yes, and I look at most people when they think of PR don’t think of those benefits so that’s kind of why I mentioned it.
Eric: Cool! Do you have anything, perhaps another e-book that helps start-up founders to understand PR helps with that because I think that’s something that’s missing out there and it could be helpful?
Conrad: Yeah, I know, I mean, definitely it’s something I’d really be interested in writing about. I haven’t done anything yet right now.
Eric: Well, that’s a fourth resource. Cool! Yeah. And I totally agree with you if someone writes about you, you’re going to get twenty-five people, twenty-five other people linking to you and links are still the currency of SEO. That’s what Google been built on, right? In addition to that if, let’s say, you’re publication from Tech Crunch gets a thousand links going to it, you still benefit from that because it goes to Tech Crunch and comes back to you. So, that’s something to think about as well. I totally agree with you. Was there a point in time where the company was on the brink of failure?
Conrad: I think I always knew Publicize was going to do very well. I think, let me see. A little while back on the publication I own we recently raised some funding for it which really helped with that, but at one point it was like I needed Publicize to grow faster so it could help support the publication I own as well. So it’s never that Publicize was on the brink of failure, rather it was like, “I need this thing to grow really fast to help support the others.”
Eric: Got it. So, walk me through how it feels to…you have that publication going on, right? You’re swapping between New York City and Medellin. How do you handle that?
Conrad: Let me see. Its six days a week of work and just amazing partners. So I have a partner on Publicize who’s been fantastic and same with Columbia Reports, the news publication, that’s really the key to everything. I would say one thing I focus a lot more on now is that, you know,
I’m sure you’ve seen, it’s not really the amount of hours you work, but rather the amount of attention when you get things done. So, one of the things I…there’s certain times of the day when I can get a ton of stuff done, just for whatever reason. So, for me I work really well at night. I can just really focus. So, back in the day I would try to kind of fit my work schedule into what other people usually do and now I just say, “Hey, whenever I’m most on I want to work whatever that time is.” And when I’m not feeling on, even if it’s when most people would be working, I try to go to the gym or do something. Because I know I’m not going to get work done anyway.
Eric: You have Publicize and there’s the other publication that you have, I’ll just call it the Columbia publication, what is it called exactly and why did you decide to start it?
Conrad: Yeah, so Columbia Reports. Columbia Reports, it’s the largest English news publication in South America. It’s basically Columbia’s news outlet in English. It was founded actually by my partner about six years ago and I came on as a co-owner about, I’d say, a year, year and a half ago. I just thought he, I knew he was someone I wanted to work with; just high integrity, hard-working, and it was actually kind of similar to when I joined, when I was writing for Venture Beat at the time. I knew I wasn’t going to make a lot of money from it, but I just, for whatever reason I knew something that was going to be really rewarding down the road. So, it’s been really hard, but I wouldn’t take it back for the world.
Eric: Do you have one key take away you’ve learned from helping start a publication business?
Conrad: One key take away? Yeah, I think just…Oh, I actually do have one key takeaway. So, one of the things I found early on with publications, why they were so challenging, you have these fixed expenses, so for Columbia Reports we have a team of about twelve people, about seven people being paid and then we have different interns coming in. So, with these fixed expenses like rent, employee salary, etc., but you don’t have fixed income, so most of the income for advertising, let’s say someone says, “Hey, I want to pay two-thousand dollars this month.” Which is great, but they’re not going to pay two-thousand dollars every single month.
So, one of the things I did pretty early on was I changed the advertising model to be more of almost a sauce. Most of these companies paying more upfront I’d say, “Hey, sign on” almost as a subscription model so you can put your in credit card and pay, even if it’s a hundred dollars a month, but at least we can essentially monitor that…we know that’s almost like a percentage of those sales are going to be kind of… you can measure that growth better. You plan better for it.
Eric: Okay. Cool. You move to more like a subscription model like software service model so that way you can predict your cash flows better.
Conrad: Exactly. Exactly.
Eric: Got it. And what’s one piece of advice you’d give to your twenty-five year old self?
Conrad: Let me see. I would say…Yeah, this quote I love from Steve Jobs which is, “You can’t connect the dots forward. You can only connect them backwards.” I remember, it was the end of last year where I got to meet the president of Columbia and I was thinking like, “Wow! Two years ago I didn’t even speak Spanish. I was in New York.” and almost if you find something that you’re passionate about and you know you can dedicate to it just almost like go for it and just know that things will kind of align. If you know you’re adding value to it, you’re willing to work hard for it.
Eric: Cool! Love it. What’s one productivity hack you can share with the audience?
Conrad: I would say the best thing that’s helped me is really identifying those times of the day when I’m most productive and I think every person is very different. I’m sure with all of your friends, some are most productive at 5 o’clock in the morning when they wake up. I’m like the exact reverse. That’s been most helpful for me.
Eric: So you wake up later in the day I’m assuming.
Conrad: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Eric: Okay. Cool. Final question from my side. What’s one must read book you’d recommend to the audience?
Conrad: The one that got me on this entrepreneurial path, there’s so many great books, but was “Rich Dad; Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. I thought it was fantastic. But there’s so many, one called “Givers and Takers” is fantastic as well.
Eric: And who’s “Givers and Takers” by?
Conrad: It’s by Adam Grant.
Conrad: It reminded me so much of Silicon Valley about how the most successful people actually give a lot more than they receive? So, it’s kind of this paradox, but it’s a fantastic book.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Actually I lied. What if someone in the tech world wants to start getting involved in the PR industry? How would they go about starting? Besides going to work for you?
Conrad: Yeah, I would say, to me the most successful companies focus on one specific thing and being the very best in the world at it. So what happens a lot with publicize is we will get companies, but they’ll be in a different vertical and like we usually tell them upfront we consider ourselves the best in the world for tech start-ups, but we’re not for these other areas. I think a lot of companies starting, out they kind of do it for everyone and at least in the beginning that can kind of hurt the company’s attention. So, I would say, focus on one thing you’re really passionate about and be the very best at it.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. So, Conrad, thanks so much for being on the show. Everyone, Conrad Egusa from Publicize. Definitely we’re going to have a ton of resources, I think the most resources we’ve ever had for one interview, but Conrad, we’ll talk about doing the e-book off-line. Thanks
Conrad: Sounds perfect. Thanks so much for having me.
Eric: Alright. Cool! So, I’ll follow-up with you on the e-book. I want to get that designed and I guess you know, we’ll hash it out through email. I want to send you a t-shirt. What size do you wear?
Conrad: I would be a medium.
Eric: Medium. So, I’ll email you and then get your address as well.
Conrad: Sounds great. Yeah. And I’ll make sure I follow-up with all the things we mentioned, the resources, and I’ll also, if there’s like a specific company you have, let’s say one of your…ideally it would help if it was more of a start-up and I’m happy to drop the press release right away.
Eric: Okay. Sounds good. So, free press release for one start-up.
Conrad: Yeah. Yeah.
Eric: Okay. Yeah. And I think I’m going to refer, like we have a lot of startups that come in and they look for PR and you have the perfect model. Chris Barrett no longer does jos pay for performance model anymore, so I think yours makes a lot of sense. So, free press release for startups. So I have; a tech reporter list, the templates, “How PR Helps SEO”, and if you want, I think we can help design the “How PR helps SEO” and the other one you were talking about. What’s the other resource we were talking about?
Conrad: It was the hundred ours for free tech reporter contact list, it was the press release for you or whatever company you want, it was the PR for SEO, oh, I’m going to send you the email template that I use to get on Tech Crunch, that was it.
Eric: Okay. Can we also do five things to do to get shared on…
Eric: I have this all written down here.
Conrad: Okay. Perfect.
Eric: I’ll send you an email and we’ll go from there. It was great having you on the show, I think this will be real helpful.
Conrad: And definitely let me know if you make a trip down to Columbia and I mean it’s such a small world we’re going to cross paths. If you ever need anything please let me know.
Eric: Cool! Take care.
Conrad: Awesome man! Take care. Cheers.Ep41: How A PR Agency Converts 30% Of Their Leads by Eric