Mike Harris: Sometimes people would go, “We're not sexy. We're not exciting. We're pest control.” You're not going to get big coverage. It doesn't matter what the industry is or what you do or how you do it, it's how creative can you be with the story.
Patrick Baldwin: Paul with the G, how's it going?
Paul Giannamore: Mr. Fat Pat, it’s going well over here.
Patrick Baldwin: You and Seth had an interview with Mike Harris about public relations. We're about to jump into that. A couple of things. It's been a minute since I've asked you what's going on in M&A. I don't know. What's happening as far as deals getting done?
Paul Giannamore: Patrick, we got a Rentokil transaction closed finally. It was delayed. We should have closed earlier. They successfully closed up in the Northeast. It's been a relatively busy week thus far, always the first of the month when everything closes. Q4 is relatively quiet compared to Q4 of ‘21. This Q4 is more like a normal fourth quarter as opposed to 2020. We had that tax scare and the general election. In 2021, of course, we had the speculative frenzy. Things have normalized a little bit.
I was talking to Mulrooney, he sent out a note on his Pest World reflections. I mentioned to him that, for the first time in my nineteen years in the space, more than 50% of our transactions will be to financial sponsors or otherwise known as private equity firms. It's a pretty interesting change here on the market. I suspect that that's probably going to run for another 3 to 6 months.
We're past probably peak PE interest in the space. It'll probably start to slow down here as we get into 2023. As you know, Powell came out in the Powell Presser this week after the FOMC meeting and rained on everyone's parade talking about rates potentially being higher than expected. Of course, we saw risk assets sell-off across the board. A phenomenally good week to be short at the market.
Patrick Baldwin: So I've heard.
Paul Giannamore: It was a good week to be short. Thank you, Jerome Powell.
Patrick Baldwin: There are another 75 basis points. I don't even know where we at.
Paul Giannamore: We're at 4%. The Fed Funds rate is at 4%, Patrick. We're likely to see maybe 50 to 75 basis points in December. We'll wait to see. The earnings season has been brutal thus far. You saw those tech sell-offs.
Patrick Baldwin: It week was bad.
Paul Giannamore: Amazon and Apple. Valuation multiples continue to decline across the board, especially in long-duration stocks like tech. On an interesting note though, Rollins reported decent earnings. It’s not great but they beat on the top and bottom line and the stock went on a tear. It's up about 20%. It is now trading at an all-time high. Last I looked, it was trading at about 41 spot 80. It has proved to be pretty resilient.
Stocks that meet or exceed consensus are popping to the upside. Of course, stocks that miss or guide down are cratering. That's where we are now in a highly volatile market. Overall, on the pest side, valuations have remained consistent over the last month or so. I haven't seen any downtick. The strategic has gotten a little slower. Private equity firms are still supporting the market. That's the good news.
Patrick Baldwin: Of the private equity, all the ones I can think of are new to the market this 2022, or maybe late last 2021. How many different private equity companies did you find yourself dealing with this year as far as them consummating the transaction?
Paul Giannamore: There are typically between 25 and 35 involved in the process. When we go to market with a company, usually 25 to 35 of these guys will take a look at the business. Let's think here. There are two official new entries in the market in ‘22. There was one in 2021 and Thompson Street got in. There are three additional ones that have transactions under LOIs. If those guys get in, there'll be a total of six private equity firms that have entered North American pest control since September 1st of ‘21.
In a little over a year and a quarter, we will have seen quite a bit of entry. It's a relatively small market. A lot of these guys are looking at this and saying, “I've got to pay to play now. I'm going to pay up for a platform. I'm going to get in the market.” A lot of these guys are crossing their fingers that once they get that platform, they know they're going to have to overpay for it. By the time we get into ’23, valuations will continue to head south.
Everyone looks at it and says, “Pest control is resilient.” That is true. What you have to keep in mind is that the earnings potential for pest control is only one part of the valuation equation. It is a multiple. You've got the ratio between price and earnings and then you have the actual earnings themselves. Earnings can remain constant and the multiple could go down or the multiple can go down and earnings can go down, which is a double whammy.
In the public equities market, we've seen multiple compression. We have not yet seen the earnings recession, which is starting as companies like Amazon, for example, are saying that guidance on Q4 is potentially going to be the worst quarter ever. We're at the front end of this. The Fed continues to tighten into a downturn so it's going to be rough. I don't know if you looked at the Nonfarm payrolls report that came out, which is why I didn't want to record this because it's Nonfarm payrolls day, which is a big day for me.
Patrick Baldwin: I'm shaking my head. No, I have not.
Paul Giannamore: Wages came in hot and so did job creation. It was a strong Nonfarm payrolls report. The stock shrugged it off in the morning hours but by the time noon rolled around, we saw a big sell-off here. I'm not sure where we are right now, Patrick. The markets are heading back up again. It’s volatile.
Patrick Baldwin: What did you call me?
Paul Giannamore: PB, let's get into this episode here. I got to go pack. I am on the international road for two weeks. I got to go to Europe and then I am off to Asia.
Patrick Baldwin: You and Seth got to chat with Mike Harris from Uproar PR. Mike's got a firm there in Orlando, Florida. I was in Tampa. I got to be on a call with Mike, a super sharp guy. I wanted you to hop in there. He’s a great guy. He knows his stuff about PR. What do you say we step into The Boardroom with Mike Harris?
Paul Giannamore: Let's do this, Fat Pat.
Seth Garber: I am so excited, Mike, to have you on. You and I have known each other for twenty years or maybe longer. You knew me since I was a little kid and I know you since you were a little kid too.
Mike Harris: A younger adult. I was an immature younger adult. Seth was too though. It’s okay. You got to grow into it.
Seth Garber: The first time I ever met you, I might have been thirteen at a wedding or something. Somebody might have slipped me some alcohol or something.
Mike Harris: It was your nephew's Bar Mitzvah or something.
Seth Garber: It very well could have been. We're super pumped to have you on. You've been in the PR space for a long time. You're a genius. Your companies have done amazing things. I want to say welcome.
Mike Harris: Thanks, I appreciate it. That's too kind of an introduction but I'll take it because I never get it.
Seth Garber: Mike, a lot of people in our industry might be a little unfamiliar with PR. Maybe we could kick off by talking a little bit about what PR is to help people understand what it is. It's something that a lot of large companies do. For growing companies, it's one of those things that they probably wish they knew more about. It's just not top of mind. Maybe let's start talking a little bit about what is PR so people can have a little better understanding from your perspective.
Mike Harris: We work with companies that are small startups with five employees and mega-corporations with 10,000 employees. It's pretty interesting. A lot of times, we'll do a kickoff meeting with a client and we're starting to talk to the CEO and the questions that they ask, I go, “You have a successful company.” They don't know the difference between advertising and PR.
I have to back up a little bit and go, “What you're used to is buying ads.” Ads are great and they serve a purpose. The difference is when you buy an ad, you're going to spend X amount of dollars and you're going to get X amount of ads. If you spend $10,000, your ads are going to run four times on this station and that's what you're going to get, nothing more and nothing less.
With PR, it's a little different. You say, “How many articles or how many kits am I going to get in the first month?” The downside to PR is nothing's guaranteed. Hopefully, you pick the right firm, the right consultant, and the right person to run your PR campaign. If they're not smart and they're not creative and they don't know what they're doing, you could get nothing. Whereas if you bought an ad, you would get whatever you bought.
The upside is if you find someone great or find someone who knows what they're doing, knows how to follow trends, and knows how to come up with creative ideas, that same money that you would have spent on four ads could turn into 500 stories this month. They pitch some station in your town, whatever town it is, and it runs on that local station and it's such a good story that the AP picks it up. All of a sudden, it runs in every local market in the country, sometimes on multiple stations in that market, and you've had a massive tidal wave of coverage.
We have a client who works in the AC and HVAC space and they came on. The same thing, they'd never done PR before. They didn't understand it. Their question was, “How are we going to get coverage?” They were giving away a home to one of their employees because they were doing this raffle. They were announcing it and they were going to give away the home the following year. We went out and pitched the story. It was on a Saturday. Saturdays are notoriously quiet for newsrooms and getting TV cameras to come out to cover a story. We had zero cameras coming out to this event.
My background before PR, over twenty-something years ago, was TV. Knowing how TV works is a huge upside for being in the PR space. What we did was we hired our own camera, we had them shoot the whole event, we put out a release, and we gave them the video. We did some interviews with the guys. There is one camera at a TV station on the weekend and the only thing they're waiting for is some major explosion or something. They're not coming out to your home giveaway at your HVAC company.
We've pitched the story and nothing happened for a day or so. They're like, “Where's our coverage?” We're like, “Don't worry, we're still pitching it. Relax. We finally get coverage. We're here in Orlando. One of our local TV stations covers it. The same thing happens. It's a great story. They're giving away a home. It's a great little kicker. AP gets a hold of it, they put it on the wire, and it goes on the newsfeed. All of a sudden, they had 400 pickups for this thing that they hired us for one month to do a project for. It was a few $1,000 that they paid. The retail value of the coverage that they got was in the millions. It was crazy. There's an upside if you do it right.
Seth Garber: Hearing you say that, I think all the way back years ago when I had my business. We didn't have a ton of money for advertising. What we did have the ability to do was get into some of the news. That's how we did it years ago. We did some stuff that other companies in the pest industry didn't do. We got picked up in the local media channels. We accelerated like crazy off of silly little things. It’s not nearly that type of result but it was powerful. That's interesting.
Mike Harris: You talk about the pest industry. Sometimes people would go, “We're not sexy. We're not exciting. We're pest control.” You're not going to get big coverage. I will tell you that it doesn't matter what the industry is, what you do, or how you do it, it's how creative can you be with the story. Can you come up with data? Can you come up with a trend, meaning Thanksgiving is coming up, Christmas is coming up, and summer is coming?
Maybe bugs are more prevalent at a certain time of year. That's when you go in and make your pitch and you bring data. On average, you're ten times more likely to have a termite attack in whatever month. Whatever data you can bring to the table is going to help you. We had a client who sold this green drywall. There's no more boring product than drywall. You put it on a wall, you cover it in paint, and you never think about it again.
When we talk to a client and we’d kick off with them, we say, “Be specific. What are your goals?” He was like, “My goal is to be on the cover of Forbes Magazine.” We’re like, You're going to be on the cover of Forbes magazine with your drywall.” He's like, “Yeah but it's energy-efficient drywall.” We're like, “What does that mean? What's non-energy-efficient drywall?” He was like, “Do you know what's crazy? The process and creating drywall makes crazy amounts of carbon emissions.”
We started doing some research and trying to figure out, how are we going to pitch this and make people care about it? We start doing the research and it turns out that Gypsum is what you use to create drywall. The creation of traditional drywall creates ten times more emissions than all the cars in the world. Carbon pollution is so much greater than anything else. It's crazy.
We put a pitch together using this data and this guy was on the cover of Forbes magazine. We got him on the cover sitting on a pile of drywall. This was during the Obama administration. Green was such a big part of Obama's push that we got Obama to come to one of his factory openings. They were opening a shuttered-down factory and creating green drywall. He mentioned him in his weekly news address. It was crazy. It's tying into the trends. The trend was that green is key right now and data. Any company, whether it's drywall or pest control, with creativity, can get big coverage and blow it out of the water.
Paul Giannamore: Let me ask you, Mike. f you're a local resi or commercial service business like that HVAC company, I could see the benefit of local coverage if you're a local firm. If you're not a national firm, does it help you to be in USA Today if you're a local firm? Could you use that as a marquee endorsement so to speak of your service?
Mike Harris: There are two things you want out of your PR campaign. You want to drive sales, for sure. If you're going to spend X amount of dollars a month on PR, I want X plus whatever to come out of that. We always tell our clients, “Ultimately, we have to drive sales for you. If we're not driving sales and you're spending money on us, then it's a waste.” It’s also for visibility and generating awareness for your company and credibility.
We have a restaurant here in Orlando called Cocina 214, a Mexican restaurant that nobody had ever heard of. It’s good food. We got local coverage for them. What crushed it for them was when we got them into a Southern Living magazine. We reached out to Southern Living. Sometimes your company is not necessarily going to get a feature story because you want to feature your company. You have to think a little broader sometimes. We were looking at how can we get one of these national publications or media outlets to cover this tiny one-outlet Mexican restaurant in Orlando?
We have this cool thing that we do in Cinco de Mayo called Running of the Chihuahuas. Everybody in town who has Chihuahuas, 200 of them, come to this event on Cinco de Mayo. They race them. Every time you win a heat, you move on to the next heat, and you win this thing. We videotaped it and we got global coverage. Germany and Australia covered it. They're in the city of Winter Park, Florida. There are a lot of cool restaurants with fun drinks and fun stuff to do that aren't like your Disney World or Universal Studios when you come to Orlando.
What we did was we took our client and then we went to two other companies in Winter Park and said, “We're going to pitch this national story. We want to be a part of it. We're going to bring you guys in with us so that we can make it like, ‘Come to Winter Park. Here are some cool things you can do when you're in Winter Park.’” The magazine loved it. The other companies loved it. Our client got into a story that they never would have gotten into if they had just gone at it alone. Sometimes you want to bring in other companies so that you can wrap it into a bigger package.
Your question was about getting national coverage, does it help a local? For sure, it helps because the credibility is that you're this local company in Tampa, Orlando, or wherever, and you're in USA Today, you're in Entrepreneur, Inc., or Forbes, you guys must be legit. The same thing for awards, one of the big ones is the Inc. 5000.
If your company has a three-year trajectory of growth, you can get on the Inc. 5000. You don't have to be some major corporation. You can just apply. As long as you have a percentage of growth, it doesn't have to be millions, it can go from $10,000 to $30,000 to $50,000 And you're going to get a good number. Again, credibility. You're now an Inc. 5000 company, maybe even Inc. 500 if you rank high enough, and it's something you can use for your marketing.
Seth Garber: Mike, as I hear you talk through this, to the point you originally made, there's a big difference between advertising and PR. What you described is a deep thought. There’s a ton of creativity that make these things happen. As your team or, for that matter, a person internally is going to think about how to do some of these things on their own even, what does that process look like? Everyone's so used to traditional advertising where it's like, “Come up with a good tagline. Come up with a good call to action in our industry. Click a button and a get lead.” What does the process look like from your perspective to get to these amazing campaigns that you guys do?
Mike Harris: To your point, you don't have to have a PR agency. If you've got creative people and you're willing to do the work, you can do it on your own. It's a little harder. I could do pest control on my own too but I've got to go to someone who's a pro and I need to understand it. I can't just spray some stuff from Home Depot and expect that my house is going to be bug-free. The process starts with a creative idea and just have fun.
When you're doing this ideation process and having a kickoff meeting, there are no stupid ideas. They may end up being stupid in the end but you got to throw them all into the pot first. When we came up with the Running of the Chihuahuas idea, it was like, “That's a stupid thing.” When you see it, people love it and it's awesome. If I had a pest control company, maybe you've got an event where you run the cockroaches or whatever it is. You could create something that's cool and that people want to see it. It’s like, “I got to see this.”
It's coming up with either a creative idea or looking at the holidays. You're doing more cooking around the holidays than you do any other time of the year. That's got to be a breeding ground for bugs. Can you give me five tips on how to keep the bugs out while you're putting all the sweets in the house? I could see local TV covering that. It's an angle, it's different, and it matters to people. What's the benefit to the viewer? What's the benefit to the reader?
If you think backward and go, “I don't care what industry I'm in. Don't tell me that pest control can't get coverage, it can get coverage.” As long as you think backward. What's the benefit to the viewer? The benefit to the viewer is, “I don't want bugs in my house in the holidays.” How do we get there? What's the problem? The problem is you're putting all these sweets out and leaving cookies on the counter for a month and bugs love that. What's the solution? You pitch the solution.
Sometimes it's a major campaign and we need to go find data but sometimes it's as simple as bugs getting in people's houses. There was a hurricane. All the water comes up. I'm sure there's got to be bugs that you've never seen before coming out of the woodwork because all this water is coming out. If I have a pest control client, what bugs are gonna come out? How do I prevent that? I don't want bugs in my house. I don't care but my wife does. I don't want to deal with it. I don’t want to deal with her going, “Get these bugs out. Call the exterminator.” You look at what's the benefit to the person and work backward from there.
Paul Giannamore: I remember when bedbugs were a thing. We still have bedbugs. Back in 2005, 2006, and 2007, there were bedbugs everywhere and they were somewhat of a novelty for most people. There were a lot of pest control guys on TV, like, “Here's what you need to do to get rid of them. Here's how you get them in the first place.”
I don't remember who it was but somebody from our industry was on national TV talking about, “When you travel, here's where you need to put your suitcase so that the bedbugs don't get into it. You need to store it in the bathtub.” Mike, I get your point. I'm not a pest control guy myself. Let’s say it’s Spring out and there are certain weather patterns going on.
I, as a pest control operator, would say, “Here in the XYZ valley in the spring, we have these conditions. Here are the types of bugs we're going to see. Here's how you can protect your home. Here are five tips for keeping XYZ bug-free. Here's how to deal with mosquitoes or what have you.” Fat Pat is not with us so we can't use Fat Pat’s Pest Control.
Let's pretend Patrick was with us. He would have Fat Pat’s Pest Control. How would Fat Pat pitch that to track down the journalist or the local news lady who talks about that sort of stuff and says, “I've got five great tips that everyone in our area needs to hear. Here's who we are. Here's what we do. We've been around 29 years,” and so on and so forth.
Mike Harris: The way we would do it is we have this handy service that is a database that we pay for and I can pull it up in three seconds. If you were to do it at home, what you would need to know is that at local TV stations, they have a few different people who go to what they call the morning meeting. In the morning meeting, everybody goes.
The assignment editors are the people who sit at a desk and they get phone calls from different people all day saying, “I have a story I need you to cover. Here it is.” They write it down or they send in a press release and they have a stack of press releases 100 deep that they can pull from for that day. Getting yours to be noticed is the key.
Also, there are producers. Each producer has their own show. If you see a 5:00 AM newscast, 6:00 AM newscast, or a 7:00 AM newscast and they all seem to run into each other, there's a different producer for each one of those. There's then an executive producer. The executive producer manages all the producers. All of those people go to that morning meeting. When I have a story, I want it to be creative so that in the stack of 100 press releases, mine is the one that they think is interesting.
If I get a no from the assignment editor, I go to the 5:00 AM producer, I go to the 6:00 am producer, I go to the 7:00 AM producer, and I go to the executive producer. If I'm still getting a no, I find someone else. I find a writer. All you need is that one person to go, “That's an interesting story. I'll take it. Let me go.” Hopefully, they go to that morning meeting and the news director or whoever else says, “That's a good story. Let's put this reporter on it. Let's go cover it.” You've got probably five local stations in town that you can do that with. You've got newspapers, bloggers, and influencers. It's a new world. It's not like it was 15 or 20 years ago where it's just media that you want to cover your stuff.
Pest control, you could find an influencer who has a strong following and has real bug problems. There are influencer platforms. You don't even have to pay. You can find all the influencers you want. There are pest control influencers. There are mommy influencers. You're not going to sell your product to another pest control person. The people you're selling to are the moms, probably that's it.
I'd find some mommy influencers who have a strong following in the cities that you work in. I’d go to them and say, “I don't have money to spend on your influencership but I do have a product. I'll come in and I'll do your whole house. After I do it, if your house is great, clean, and no bugs anymore, I want you to write something to all your followers that say, ‘You guys should go to Seth's pest control and use these guys.’” There are so many different ways that you can do it and you can do it on your own. You have to spend the time to do it.
Paul Giannamore: Where's a good place do you think to start? I've never done any PR. If I want to get my toes wet, I don't have a budget to hire a superduper PR dude like you, and I want to experiment, do I go to the newspaper? I’d probably don't go to the local TV station first or maybe I do, I don't know. What do you think?
Mike Harris: Depending on what you have to say, first, you sit down with your team and you think about all the customers you've served. Somebody probably has a crazy story. There was a nineteen-foot snake in somebody's house or there was a family of tarantulas living behind the shower or the craziest thing you can think of for the last 2 or 3 months. That's great. If you've got something like that, that's awesome.
Now you go to those people and you say, “We're doing a little press push. Would you be willing to talk to the press?” “Yeah, that'd be great.” I would probably start by doing something like that or I would sit down with my team and come up with the top five things you can do to prevent pests around the holidays or whatever. I would come up with that and put that whole pitch together. If you've never done PR before and you need a press release, look at what your competition is doing.
In Orlando, Massey is a big pest control company. They own an ad agency too that also does a little bit of PR. Pull one of theirs. Don't steal it but look at how they do it. Look at how a press release is formatted. Look at how they write a headline. Look at how they do the quotes and then go, “I can do that.” You write your own, don't steal, learn, and then do your own.
Find the right people, the producer, the assignment editor, and the executive producer. You can have an intern do it. You can have your junior-level person who sits in the office and plays solitaire on the computer all day and you're sick of it. Give them this project to do. Have them work on PR. If that works and you go, “That was a lot of work.” You go, “I want to use an agency.”
A lot of times, people think, “An agency is going to be a fortune.” I always tell our potential clients that we're talking to that hiring us is the same cost as hiring one employee except you don't have this long commitment to that employee. You don't have benefits to pay for that employee. If we don't work out, you can send us down the road.
Instead of one employee, you're getting a team of four people. You're getting our database. You're getting our experience. You're bringing someone in who can come in and, in two weeks, have an entire press kit ready to go for you and start pitching everybody and have results within a month. There is something to it and it's not crazy expensive. If it works, your revenue is going to go up. If it doesn't, you go, “I wasted two months but I have an off-ramp.”
Seth Garber: Do you know what’s interesting, Mike? I'm listening to you say this and I think back to ‘08 and ’09. You'd given me some of these thoughts. Exactly what you described is exactly what we did. We call these news stations, we call the local papers, we call the business journals, and we put a lot of effort in.
We ran it like a sales playbook. We had 30 or 40 contacts and we would call them like crazy. We would talk about all kinds of stuff. For us, our whole focus was environmental sustainability stuff. The next thing, in our firm, we were winning awards and getting all this publicity. People thought we were this gigantic company. At the time, we had 2 or 3 employees. It's exactly the playbook that you laid out, which is interesting. It sounds like it still works the same way as it did way back then.
Mike Harris: There are new tools that you can use like these influencers. The key is if you are small and you're trying to do it on your own, that's okay. Do the work and be sharp. Awards are a big deal. Clients hire us to manage the award process for us. There are a lot of awards out there that don't cost anything to apply for and you can apply for the best places to work.
You don't just use PR to bring on clients. It was hard to find people to work. How great is it when they're researching your company and they see that you won Best Place to Work in your city five years in a row or they see that you won Best Employer or Coolest Office? We put a lot into our office. We put foosball tables and skee-balls. We have a kitchen that's loaded with snacks on the wall. We did a lot to make it a welcoming place for our team.
If you're doing that, why not promote it? Why not push all of that and use PR for everything you can whether it's awards or speaking at trade shows? These trade shows are going on. They need experts. You likely have an expert in your company. Fill out the speaking application. If it's the pest control industry, maybe a pest control tradeshow is not where you want to speak because it's just your competition that you're talking to.
Look at who your customer is and figure out how to go to trade shows for moms. We talked about moms making those decisions in the house. Go do that and speak to what their fears are like having roaches in their kids’ rooms. I went into my daughter's room and, after Halloween, I found a cup full of chocolate and candy corn sitting next to my kids’ bed. I'm thinking, “That's got to be a tip. This is disgusting. How long has it been here? How many bugs are we waiting to be in her bed?” That's a Halloween story.
You're going to get all this candy and your kid is going to try and take it to their room. They're probably going to shove it under their bed too. When they're half done with a candy bar, they shove it under their bed. Anything you can do that you're probably going, “My kid would do that.” Everybody's kid would do that. That's how you sell it to the masses.
Paul Giannamore: You’re talking about some of the craziest client stories that you have. There’s one thing Fat Pat and I have talked about on The Buzz before but it's the anti-PR story. There's a pest control company out there that has a technician who went in and serviced a multimillion-dollar lake home. Of course, the owners were not home, they were in their main residence. He decided it was a great idea to strip down naked and insert a pool cue up his tailpipe. Of course, that was on video. The pest control company had to buy it from that poor family for $50,000. Otherwise, they were going to hand it over to the news.
Mike Harris: The pool cue or the video or both?
Paul Giannamore: It was a package deal. That stuff does happen in this industry and others. That would be an example of a bad PR for a company. Do you guys ever deal with bad PR?
Mike Harris: Yeah. Not that, thank God. No pool cues up their keister.
Paul Giannamore: There are some other things, I’m sure.
Mike Harris: That one is bad. At that point, they probably did the right thing in spending whatever they needed to spend to make sure that didn’t get out there.
Paul Giannamore: There was no option there. They had to get shaken down, for sure.
Mike Harris: Hopefully, getting rid of that guy. That seems like a future liability as well.
Paul Giannamore: You think?
Mike Harris: We do a lot of crisis PR. A lot of it does, unfortunately, get out, something you've done or a mistake you've made. It's hard because I want to give you 3 or 4 examples but if I say too much, I will get sued because it never got out. We had one that, luckily, we did a good job and it never got out. There was a chocolate company. Through no fault of their own, there's a company that comes in with a tanker truck and they connect to their tanks. They’re like gas trucks. They pump 600 gallons of liquid chocolate into this factory. They pumped it all in. These guys do white labels for some of the most expensive chocolate companies around.
There was E. coli in the chocolate that they got. It’s not their fault. It came from the tanker truck. They put it all together. They had a shipment going out. They were doing these tests on the chocolate that went out and they called us and said, “We found out that there's E. coli in this.” we jumped in. We started writing releases. We started writing comments. We started writing statements from the CEO and apologies. Thank God, by the time we were ready to put everything out, the test came back and it was negative. There was no E. coli.
Step number one when you have a crisis is to always apologize and be contrite. You'll hear this all the time and it's true with PR and media, they're the first ones that want to rip you down when you have success. When you're down and you're beaten and you've done something that's bad, apologize. Say you're sorry. People are willing to forgive you if you own what you've done and you apologize.
If I'm that guy who had the pool cue and they were going to put it out no matter what and you couldn't buy your way out of it, it’s like, “He made a horrible mistake. We're sorry. We're going to do X, Y, and Z to remedy the situation for these people. We were 100% in the wrong.” Fall on the sword and people will forgive you. You didn't kill anyone, you just defiled their pool cue. At the end of the day, if you can laugh about it with them rather than laugh at them, you can almost always get away with an apology and not do it again.
Seth Garber: I sit here and think about all the crazy scenarios that happened over the years in this industry. I don't know if there's anything worse than a pool cue story. If I'm a CEO and I get that message and I send it over to you guys, Mike, how does that apology even look? Let's be honest, it's crazy.
Mike Harris: Do you know what’s funny? This is different than a pool cue. I don't know if you guys saw this. My friend, Raymond, is the PR guy for the Golden State Warriors. They had an incident where one of their guys clocked a guy in practice. He was sorry for it. He got overheated. Things happen in practices and you make a mistake. You're playing basketball with another guy and, for whatever reason, they get you too riled up and you throw a punch.
He could have gone 1 of 2 ways. He could have said, “Screw this.” He came out right away and said, “I was out of character. I'm so sorry for what I did. I feel horrible. It will never happen again.” If you try to hide it and you try to justify it, you will never win. If you own it, apologize for it, and don't let it happen again, you will be just fine almost every time, as long as you didn't hurt or kill somebody. Even if it's just a pool cue.
Paul Giannamore: I'm surprised you guys didn't ask, “Was it the narrow or the wide end of the cue?” I do not know. When I told that story here on The Buzz before, that was the question. A lot of our readers wanted to know which end. Unfortunately, I don't know, thank God. Mike, let me ask you this. Let's say that I want to do this for real and I want to engage a PR firm. I come to you and I say, “Mike, let's do this.” What does that look like?
Mike Harris: I would tell you to first know what your goals are. Know what you want to accomplish, whether it's, “I want more customers. I want people to know my company. I want to get employees.” Whatever that goal is, know the goal. You go to a hairstylist and you tell them what you want. You tell them, “I want to look like Rachel on Friends.” You don't tell them, “Cut here. Cut there.” Know what you want but hire an expert because they're an expert and let them do what they do.
The process looks like, “Yes, I want to talk to a few firms.” Because I do the same thing, they'll tell you success stories from similar customers. They're going to tell you, “I got them X, Y, and Z. They were so happy. It drove this much sales.” That's great. If they're good and their customers love them, “Can I talk to your customers?” Maybe not necessarily the ones they handpicked. Maybe they've given you a few case studies that you're seeing could be their best work and it ended horribly and they keep using that case study. Hopefully, you ask the questions. You want to find somebody who is good.
We have customers who have moved on for whatever reason but I'll still use them as a reference because I know our work was good. Usually, the head of marketing is the person that hires a PR agency and maybe that PR agency or the marketing had changed so they brought in their own agency. We have a customer called Hyperice, they make that massaging therapy gun. It’s super popular and every athlete has it. It's on the sideline of every sporting event. We started working with them.
When they were a Kickstarter, they had no money at all. We were a young company and we took them on and said, “We think this could be something good.” We worked with them until they were about a billion dollar company. A new head of marketing and a new person moves in. We're still super close with the CEO, the founder, and the head of sales. I still send customers to go talk to them because I know we did a great job. Make sure they do a great job. Make sure they're somebody who you can trust.
What the process looks like is you come in and you have a kickoff meeting. If the agency is good, they are going to download everything they could possibly know about your company, how it started, what you do, what markets you work in, and who your target customers are. If you're a pest control company, you're not going to pitch to the pest control industry. You're going to pitch to moms. I want to know who buys your product. I'm going to go back and I also want to know stories from your customers or whoever. What do I have to work with? I put all that in a pot.
I take my team and we go back and we start writing pitches. We look at who those customers are and then we build press lists for each of those different pieces. You might have a great business story. We have a client who’s starting a consumer packaged goods company, a food product company. Previously, he started a company out of his garage that became a multi-million dollar company and people know this company everywhere. He's got a great business story.
We're working on this new brand. I want to pitch Forbes, Fortune, Inc., and Entrepreneur, “This is this guy who started this company, and now he's starting this company.” I build out my press list for business media. I also go, “That's the business story but there's a consumer story here.” The consumer story for whatever company, I build a consumer press list.
Maybe they sell to whatever different markets. We have a merchant services client who does credit card swipes but we don't pitch to the merchant services industry, we pitch to restaurants, and we pitch to everyone who uses their product. You build out the presses, you have the pitches, and you build out press releases.
You put a 3 to 6-month timeline on what you have to announce over the next six months. In between that, you can fill in with things that come up. You've got a calendar for the next six months of things that you want to announce, whether it's a funding announcement, a new product announcement, or I've got a special for Valentine's Day that is cool and different and it's a story or whatever. You build all of that out. You do all the groundwork. Within a couple of weeks, you're ready to start pitching, go out there, and get the coverage for them. That's what it looks like.
Hopefully, the client is patient enough to go, “I paid a bill and I haven't seen any coverage yet.” It takes a little time. You've got to do that foundational work before you see the fruit. It could be 2 or 3 months of work before you see it but you'll see it. That's what the beginning looks like. Hopefully, you've gone from a 2-person operation to a 100-person operation within however many months or years. I was listening to one of your podcasts and they said it was a 10X growth over seven years. I'm like, “That's pretty good.” That's the goal. That's what you want. You want to have that 10X growth. You need marketing, PR, and advertising. It all works together.
Paul Giannamore: Let's say that I own a pest control company in suburban Orlando, for example. Let's say I'm a decent-sized one. Maybe I got 25 technicians working for me and have been around for a while. Is it possible for me to get enough press where I wouldn't need to do advertising or does PR augment advertising?
Mike Harris: It depends on the industry but it's got to work in conjunction with you doing PPC. You got to have pay-per-click. You've got to have people coming to your website. You've got to be doing social media. Because you get coverage in November of 2022, it doesn't mean that coverage should be like, “It was published,” and then that's it, it dies.
You should be using that in all your digital marketing. You should be using that on your website. Your website should have your PR. You should have a press section on the website. On your Instagram or your social channels, you should be continuously republishing this stuff and using it as content. They always say content is king. The coverage that you get is the content that's created and it's what ultimately lends credibility.
The ads that you put out on Google or the ad that you put into an outlet, you might need that. It may be part of your strategy. It's certainly apparent to your customer, that when you do an ad, there's no validation to it. It's what you say about yourself. The difference is PR is what other people say about you. You want that to be positive because people know the difference between an ad and validation and that is the validation you want.
Paul Giannamore: For example, Mike, I was quoted in Forbes, the Financial Times, and The New Yorker but I don't use that for anything. You're saying that I should be using that for something?
Mike Harris: Absolutely. You should be reposting it on your social channels. You should maybe put it on your signature on your emails. You should have it on your website with quotes. Let it live. It’s documentation that it's not just you saying that you do something great, it's other people saying that you do something great. There's a huge difference.
Paul Giannamore: They didn't say I did anything great. They just asked my opinion on something so I answered them and they published it.
Mike Harris: That’s okay. You're an expert. By using you in a national media outlet, they're saying, “This guy's an expert. Listen to what he says.” Yes, you should be using it. The value of somebody else saying something great about you is so much more valuable than you saying something great about yourself.
Paul Giannamore: That's usually what I say. I'm always like, “I'm so great.” Maybe I shouldn't do that anymore and use the New Yorker.
Mike Harris: I'm going to take the beginning of this thing and take Seth saying how great I am.
Paul Giannamore: Exactly. There you go.
Seth Garber: Mike, I wanted to shift gears for a second because there's another critical part of PR that is applicable and it's stuff that our company gets hit with all the time. I would say it's the crisis component, the crisis management. In the last couple of months, we probably have dealt with 6 to 7 scenarios that could have greatly adverse one of our clients. We had a call from some of the national associations about helping some people out.
I wanted to talk a little bit about crisis. In this industry, we have issues with chemicals, we have issues with environmental people, we have issues with animal people, and all these different things. How much should a company be prepared as it relates to crisis? How do they go about doing that at a small, medium, or larger company?
Mike Harris: If you are dealing with a crisis in real-time and that's the first time you're dealing with it, something happens and you go, “Time to react,” then you've already failed. We bring on clients for crisis communications long before anything ever happens. What you do is you put a crisis plan in place. Usually, for most firms, it's a set fee. You put this plan together and it's your game plan. If you’re the Buccaneers and you're going to go out and play a game, you're not going to go out there and just wing it. They probably have. You're not going to go out and just wing it, you have a game plan. You need to have a game plan for a crisis no matter what company or industry you work in.
What it does is as soon as a crisis happens, you call your PR agency and say, “That game plan, we need to put it into place.” You go through it with all of your employees before anything ever happens. You have a crisis meeting. They know, God forbid, some kid gets sick or something worse because some chemical was left in somebody's house by a pest control company and the media wants a sound bite.
They show up to your company and they're going to find somebody. They find some technician who walks out of the back of the company and they grab him and say, “I want to get a quick sound bite from you.” He doesn't know any better so he talks to them and they go, “What is polyethylene?” He goes, “That stuff is bad. I hope nobody ever left that around because that could kill you.” That's your soundbite.
With your crisis plan, your whole team is going to know, “This is who is allowed to speak to the media for the company, this person, this person, or this person. Everybody else, if a camera comes, you say, ‘Go talk to them.’” God forbid, the wrong person says the wrong thing. It doesn't matter who they are. Once they've made a statement, that's it, they've spoken for your company.
As soon as there's a crisis, everybody in your company can open that crisis plan. It's a physical document and there are lines. They go, “This happened. Here’s who you call.” You call that person and they come in, it's usually your PR firm, your CEO, your head of marketing, or whoever. They're going to come in and they're going to lay out that crisis plan. We don't say anything. We have a statement. Sometimes you have statements that are pre-written but you have to be far ahead of it before it ever happens or somebody will do or say something live in the moment that will destroy you.
Seth Garber: I'll give you a scenario. We had this sent over to us from one of the national associations. It was super unusual. The scenario was an animal caught in a trap. In the area where this was the case, the rule was that the animal had to be taken out of that trap within 24 hours. The company complied and the company did the right thing. The fact behind the story is that the animal was removed within 24 hours.
However, a picture was taken of this animal ahead of time. By the time that picture was posted, this customer had 540 one-star reviews put onto their Google reviews. It was horrible. This company was a nine-technician company. They did roughly $2 million. We got the phone call. Our company gets a phone call. We don't know who else to call. They call us. Honestly, we didn't know what to do. We had no idea. It's not our wheelhouse.
By the time they reacted, which was in twelve hours roughly, they had 500-some-odd one-star reviews. The company was getting their phones ringing off like crazy. It was all the animal rights companies. It's like, “What does this guy do?” He's a $2 million company. How do these guys even solve that? That's a crazy scenario, right?
Mike Harris: Yeah, it is. I wonder how long that went on before they started dealing with it.
Seth Garber: Twelve hours.
Mike Harris: You have to jump on it immediately. You have to get to the person who has the problem with whatever you're doing and try to mitigate it from the source. You can always go back later and try to have things removed. The likelihood is those 500 people were probably not customers of the company. There are things you can do retroactively. That’s a lot of work, retroactively, that you probably don't want to do. To let something go for twelve hours and hope for the best is a recipe for disaster.
Seth Garber: You made the right point. The failure happened is that they wanted to address the reviews. They're addressing the reviews one after another by the time we had seen it. The reality is they probably could have went right to the source and tried to address this from the beginning.
Mike Harris: When you're playing Whack-A-Mole with reviews, they're going to keep popping up. I would try to, within moments of them finding out and knowing that something was going on, jump straight in and handle it. Hopefully, in hindsight, if this company has a crisis plan in place, they follow that. Bring in your PR team. Even if that person who took the picture was an adamant PETA animal rights activist, there's a likelihood that you could have mitigated that much sooner and gotten them to pull back much sooner than once that twelve hours is gone. Time is of the essence.
Paul Giannamore: Seth, you raised a good point. It makes me think about a few years ago, we have a client in Europe who experienced a similar situation. As you well know, cities like Paris protest killing rats because they're mammals and they have feelings and all sorts of stuff. This company, I don't know if it was an animal rights person or what have you, they made a big stink about the way that this business was killing rats. It ended up on Google and Facebook. It’s a total social media shitstorm.
This company had a pretty good plan in place because they immediately went to the source and had no luck with the source. They immediately though simultaneously went to the actual media itself, the news stations, the TVs, and said, “Here are the reviews that we're getting but this is a real issue and it has to do with the regulatory regime in this country. Let's start this dialogue.” They involve the animal rights people and all sorts of stuff and it turned into a big dialogue.
The bottom line is this company was able to not only demonstrate that it was following protocol, regulations, and the way it was doing everything but it brought a lot of attention to the issue. This is a company that had a PR firm. This is a company that was ready to go. As soon as this happened, they went right to the new stations.
Mike Harris: It’s a good idea. It's smart. You take it head-on. In this case, they had done everything right. Let's say they didn't do everything right. Had they not done everything right, maybe they violated the rules. It goes back to, “We're not perfect. We screwed up.” The worst thing you could do is to continue to defend your position when you're wrong.
You saw that in the news with Kyrie Irving. He had posted something about a movie that turned out to be anti-semitic. I don't even necessarily think he knew that it had something anti-semitic in it. Once they questioned him on it, he got defensive and started defending himself. It was a bad move. ESPN crushed him on it.
The next day, he gave $500,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, apologized, and said, “I'm going to work with people to make sure that nobody is marginalized. I didn't know that and I made a mistake.” It was over but bot before getting crushed the day before. Had he just walked out there and said, “I made a mistake. I didn't realize what was in this and I promoted it. I made a mistake.”
People will forgive you. It doesn't feel like it at the time. “We've done this for years. This is how we've done it. This has always been fine.” If you know it's a mistake, look inside yourself. If it's a mistake, own it like you want your kids to do. You can do something wrong. You can make a mistake but you apologize and you own it. The same thing with a company. If you do that, anyone will forgive you.
Paul Giannamore: Mike, you’ve been at this for a long time. I know things like this take time. You hire a PR firm and you figure out what the stories are. Some companies probably are super boring. It's got to be a nightmare trying to figure out the edge. Have you seen companies in your career that have made good-faith efforts to try to get some press and have never been able to do it?
Mike Harris: It happens, for sure. We've had stories with clients who we thought, “this is a layup. This is amazing. We're going to crush this to the moon.” It’s crickets. Like, There's never a reason that a story can't be told but it doesn't mean that you're telling it the right way. There are going to be times when you put a pitch together and you want to tell your story and it doesn't resonate. When you do that, it's like hitting a brick wall.
You can do one of two things. You can keep hitting that brick wall. You try again and try again and you're going to keep hitting that wall. The wall is not going to come down. What you have to do is back the car up and go around the wall. You got to figure out, “What was wrong with that pitch? Why aren't they buying into this pitch?” Adjust and go around it.
People, generally, want credibility and respect. A lot of times, what we'll do is we will go to them and say, “I understand that you didn't want to cover the story. I get it. Can I ask you why? Why didn't you want to cover the story? If you didn't want to cover it, is there something else that you would have wanted to cover? What could I have done to make the story better?” They'll sit down with you, usually, a good one. They'll tell you, “The story is great but it doesn't touch the reader or the viewer.”
We had this great story and we have this ultimate fighting group that is doing a show in Orlando. I called a super-friendly reporter who covers all the time and he's like, “Yeah, man.” I was like, “We have a show coming up on Monday. Anytime this week, can we do it?” He's like, “Sorry. They've got me fully on Halloween this week. If it's not a Halloween story, I ain't covering it.”
We went back and said, “How do we fit Halloween into the story that we want him to cover?” We could keep going back and go, “What if we did this?” No. I asked him, “What are you covering this week?” “I'm only covering Halloween this week.” “How about an ultimate fighting Halloween?” I'd go back to him and say, “What else could I do? If I dress our fighters up and brought them out, what could I do?” They'll usually tell you and help you. They want you to lay it out for them on a silver platter. If you can do that, you can always get coverage.
Paul Giannamore: You're talking about coverage. A bunch of different things are going through my mind. When you talk about local TV, what's the chance of a camera coming out? Earlier on in our discussion, you talked about how you guys filmed something because the reporter wasn't going to come out. It was a Saturday or whatever and you were like, “Let's film this. Let's do it up and send it.” If you're looking for some TV coverage, are you better off trying to film something or do you want the news channel to deal with all that?
Mike Harris: Ideally, you pitch the story and they say, “I have a camera crew and they're going to come out there and they're going to cover it for you.” It's all about money and resources. The money and resources are less and less every year. They may have a day side and a night side. The day side is the early morning people who come in and cover stuff for the 5:00 and 6:00 news. The night side people are people who are coming in the afternoon and cover stuff for the 11:00 news. There are less and less of those people every year because they want to spend less money.
If they say no, that's fine. Let them say no. Don't have them come out. That doesn't mean that your story, your event, or your cockroach race is not super awesome and a great kicker, which means it's the funny story at the end of the news and that it couldn't be that. If you can't cover it, shoot it yourself. You don't have to be a professional photographer. I've shot stuff on my iPhone that we get covered by the news.
My kid, Rose, won a national championship in New Jersey in 2021. There were no cameras out there. All I had was this camera that I shot on my phone of her crossing the finish line. I took that video. I sent it from my phone to the producer. The producer ran it on their sportscast, “Good news, a local kid from Winter Park High won a national championship today.” It was a video from my phone. We're in an era where you have a professional video recording device right in front of you, use it. It's UGC, user-generated content. They want that stuff. You've got a TV studio in your hand, use it, and send it in. They're looking for content.
Media outlets like publications also still have less and less writers too. They need stories to fill their pages. They'll take what's called a contributed article. That means you put together 100 words on an article you want to write, maybe it's about pest control or maybe it's about building an awesome company.
You don't have to write the whole article, you just write the abstract, which is 100 words, and you say, “I want to write an article. I started a pest control business from zero and it's now 300 people. We're doing $10 million a year in revenue. Here's what's unique about my story.” You give it to Forbes and they go, “I'll take it. Give me 500 words and I'll take a contributed story on it.” You write the story and it ends up getting published in Forbes. It's as good as had they written it themselves. It's in Forbes but it's contributed content. A lot of times, you can get to the finish line by doing it yourself rather than hoping somebody is going to cover it for you.
Seth Garber: I see Paul's wheels ticking going, “We've got some great new ideas coming for our stuff.”
Paul Giannamore: In the pest control industry, there are probably a lot of missed opportunities. You hear a lot of similar stories that I hear from all the different people we talk to in this industry. At least a couple of times a week, I hear a new story, something that shouldn't be on the news but it's talked about amongst us. There’s some great press these people can get.
There are all these great stories and then what are pest control companies doing? They're putting out a press release, like, “We've got a new website. We painted our office. We opened a new office.” It's like, “Really? Do we want to read this? No, we don't know.” It’s like, “You guys saved this 2-year-old who was hanging from a tree.” There are all sorts of crazy stuff that's newsworthy.
Mike Harris: Shoot it with your phone.
Seth Garber: It's interesting that you brought that up, Paul. I read all these articles. In our industry, the stuff that gets published in our media channels is the same stuff. I saw an article that was interesting where a technician found a tombstone at the bottom of a basement. The technician took the effort to go find where that tombstone belonged.
Paul Giannamore: I saw that.
Seth Garber: It was an unbelievable article. To your point, these stories are taking place everywhere and people don't understand that it's incredibly newsworthy and interesting.
Mike Harris: You have to spot it and use it. You talk about it amongst yourselves and you don't realize there's an angle. You've got a news angle there, take it. You do that regularly and people start to go, “I've heard about these guys.” They have to hear about you 3, 4, or 5 times. They start to go, “I do know these guys.” The same thing with ads too. There's a clever pest control company there in Orlando called Best Pest. They've got this little dancing cockroach who thinks that got away with it and the woman comes in and goes, “I'm calling Best Pest.” She sings this little song about Best Pest. I know the name, Best Pest. I know it because I hear it constantly. It’s the same thing with PR, they need to hear about you regularly. It's great that you got this coverage once, now do it again and again, another one.
Seth Garber: It’s pretty awesome.
Paul Giannamore: Mike, this has been an outstanding session. I appreciate you joining us. I learned a lot. I don't know much about the whole world of PR. I had fun.
Mike Harris: Me, too. Sometimes you start talking and you go, “I know a few things.” I didn't even realize that I don't talk about it that much. Thanks for pulling it out of me.
Seth Garber: This is great, Mike. I'm looking forward to seeing you down in Tampa. I appreciate you all doing this. We'll be smoking some cigars with you.
Mike Harris: Awesome. It'll be great. I can't wait.
Patrick Baldwin: Have you been published in Forbes? Did I miss that?
Paul Giannamore: Patrick, I've never been published in Forbes, I've been quoted. I didn't write anything in Forbes. I've been quoted in Forbes.
Patrick Baldwin: It's good enough to put on your email signature if you asked me, put Forbes.
Paul Giannamore: I was quoted in Forbes and then I was quoted in the Financial Times. I was quoted in The New Yorker. Did you see that New Yorker article? That was one where it was largely focused on door-to-door. It was one of those articles where some reporter from the New Yorker calls me out on my cell phone and it said, “The New Yorker.” I'm like, “I wonder what this is. They’re trying to sell me a subscription.”
I picked up the phone and the guy says, “Everyone I've talked to said that you're the guy that I need to talk to about this. I'm writing an article on the pest control industry. Can I ask you some questions?” I said, “Sure.” We got to talking. I didn't know it was even door-to-door at first and then we got into it. I'm like, “What's your angle on the space?” He's like, “I'm looking at door-to-door.”
Every single time I've been quoted in an article, it's interesting because you don't even know what the article is about. The journalists don't talk. They're asking you questions and they'll give you some basic context. The article is different than what I thought it was. For me, it was fine. I don't even remember what my quote was. I was quoted in New Yorker twice. I can see how it works. You always hear people say, “I was taken out of context,” or, “I was misquoted.” You're like, “Come on, how are you misquoted?” I can see how that would happen.
Patrick Baldwin: I understand as you were saying that, how things get taken out of context or how you've been misquoted. Dylan and I have witnessed how your wife has run circles around you and misquoted you. Just saying.
Paul Giannamore: 100%. You guys have watched that and she takes little tiny slivers of what I've said and misapplied some. Yes, that's her area of expertise. But back to the topic at hand. We got to have an interesting chat with Mike. I felt like he was full of energy. He's an interesting character. I don't know much about PR. I don't even know much about PR and I live here.
When it comes to public relations, it was interesting to me to think about some of the things that people can do for their businesses in order to get some local press. I don't know what the direct results of that are. You're a pest control company and let's say you get on the local news or you get in the local newspaper. I should have asked Jim McHale because he's been on I Good Morning America a couple of times. He's been on some major news shows. He's in New York Metro.
If you're either in LA or New York, they've got the large syndicated production studios there. He has been on some major news channels talking about ten things you can do to stop pests or whatever. I don't know how much that helped his business there, I should have asked him that. I do think there are some interesting things that people can do on the PR side as an adjunct to sell some marketing.
Patrick Baldwin: This was new to me. When I think about PR, part of that is crisis management and part of it is the marketing or advertising side. Whenever the news station would call us and ask us to do a video clip, a sound bite, or something, we'd say yes and then we would go and figure it out. Back in 2010, when I was new to joining forces with Bob down there, there was a honey walnut caterpillar outbreak. The news station called us and we said, “We know all about honey walnut caterpillars.”
Paul Giannamore: It’s because you googled them.
Patrick Baldwin: I got a tree gun, of all things. A new technician, me, and Bobby are out there. Bobby's like, “You're going to be in front of the camera. You're going to tell them all about honey walnut caterpillars.” I’m like, “Phil, you're going to shoot this thing at this tree and we're going to pretend like we're shooting honey walnut caterpillars. A tree gun that would shoot pressurized water 30 feet in the air, overkill. We killed those honey walnut caterpillars.
Paul Giannamore: You got local press from this.
Patrick Baldwin: We got local press there. It wasn't even us putting stuff out. Whenever the opportunity came up, we would just say yes. West Nile Virus was one that we got in the news. We got in the news for the homeless hackberry nipple gall maker. I don't know if you're familiar with the homeless hackberry nibble gall maker.
Paul Giannamore: What is it?
Patrick Baldwin: I'm glad you asked. When they said, “There's a lot of homeless hackberry nipple gall makers.” We're like, “Exactly. Come on, we'll tell you all about it.” It's a tiny little bug that gets in the window screens and overwinters. They're the tiniest little things.
Paul Giannamore: Did you call it homeless?
Patrick Baldwin: They don't have a home. They like hackberry trees. They make little galls or balls on the branches. It’s interesting, isn't it? Not at all.
Paul Giannamore: Did you guys get any business from all of these shenanigans?
Patrick Baldwin: I just like talking about homeless hackberry nipple gall makers. It was good to get out there and be in front of the news and make good relationships with the news stations. I think about it from ROI.
Paul Giannamore: You guys are down in Waco. Aren't the news stations looking for anything to get attention off the past? It's like, “Give us a story that doesn't involve ammunition.”
Patrick Baldwin: I loved it from an ROI standpoint and hearing Mike about this. There's crisis management but there's also the advertising function. A lot of times, you think of PR like a ride-off. It is what it is. It's a wash. You’re throwing money out the door. It's part of branding. Holding an outsourced agency responsible for delivering results and ROI, I like that idea.
Paul Giannamore: One thing about the pest control business versus a business that's extremely scalable, think about if you own a software firm that has this super nifty software that's applicable to general consumers and you could sell worldwide. If you can get broad national and international coverage, it gets the word out about your product. When you're a pest control business, you’re a local operation. You're in Waco. You might not even be in Dallas. I don't know how scalable PR is per se for your business. I have zero ideas.
I'm interested if any of our friends out there in the industry have done any PR and got interesting responses. I would love to hear from somebody who's done something interesting and would like for us to talk about it on The Buzz because I'm curious. It doesn't have to be pest control. We've got a lot of readers in HVAC, the green industry, and lake management. There are dozens of these guys that listen to this. If any of you guys out there who've done interesting PR, let us know about it and we'll talk about it. If you've got some cool stuff and you want to hop into The Boardroom here and tell us about it, I'm certainly interested to chat.
Patrick Baldwin: Prepare to be judged because if it's not newsworthy, Paul will make fun of you. We participated in the Fourth of July parade.
Paul Giannamore: Do you?
Patrick Baldwin: No. I'm talking about some of the press releases I've seen.
Paul Giannamore: Make sure it's good but we do want to hear about it. Overall, I thought it was an interesting interview for me because it's something I don't know much about at all.
Patrick Baldwin: At Bugs, we did have a PR consultant on retainer. In case something happened, we had to plan ahead of time. We had a close connection with the public relations professor at Baylor. Every semester, for at least 4 if not 5 years, we would have a senior come in and spend the semester with us. They do press releases. they did social media and advertising planning. It was more than PR. That was helpful for us. Sometimes it was free. It was relatively inexpensive to have an intern there spend teen hours a week.
Paul Giannamore: That's interesting. As far as some crisis management plan, all of us can find ourselves in a situation whereby any team member does something voluntarily or involuntarily serious. It's good to have. At a bare minimum, you should at least know who is authorized to represent the business in front of the press, something crazy happens, and pressure is up your office. Who's allowed to do the talking? I didn't think about that. That's a good one. I don't think you need a PR person to put that plan into place.
Patrick Baldwin: You tell your whole company that if something arises that they come to you, the owner. That was very clear at Bugs. Speaking of this, especially as you're traveling, do you worry about the Mexican when he's not in direct sight if something happens?
Paul Giannamore: You know what they say, Patrick, out of sight, out of mind. For sure, for me, out of sight, out of mind. No, I do not.
Patrick Baldwin: You're going to miss that little booger. I appreciate Mike coming on. I learned a lot about PR.
Paul Giannamore: I appreciate you having him on. It was a great chat. PB, I'm going to try to tie in from the road from abroad to see if I can get on. Otherwise, you and Seth will have to get recovered while I'm out.
Patrick Baldwin: Cool. Safe travels, and thanks again.
Paul Giannamore: Sounds good, PB.
Dylan Seals: I want to remind you to go ahead and subscribe to The Boardroom Buzz. We have got some incredible episodes coming up that you're not going to want to miss. Also, if you've enjoyed the podcast, please go to the Apple Podcast app and leave us a short review. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks so much again for reading and we'll see you next episode.
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