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Jabez LeBret on Digital PR, Journalism, and Media Coverage

Jabez LeBret and Bill Hartzer

On this episode of the Digital Marketing with Bill Hartzer Podcast, I spoke with Jabez Lebret about digital PR, writing as a journalist, and getting media coverage for your company or your brand. We also discussed submitting articles and content ideas to media and publications.

Here is the transcription of this episode:

Bill Hartzer (00:00):
Or, Oh, this is Bill Hartzer, and this is the digital marketing podcast with Bill Hartzer for February 4th, 2021. And I have the unique pleasure of having Jabez LeBret here with me this afternoon, we’re talking about digital PR and you know, and, and, and the digital marketing industry in particular. And let me get a little bit, you know, talk a little bit about getting media, it’s getting media intention to kind of the, and not only just get mini attention, but maybe even writing and getting some content doing now CA content and the difference between content for as a journalist piece and being a journalist or versus just writing content for, for your readers on. So it’s a company blog. So welcome. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your, your background, how you got in the industry and, and all that.

Jabez LeBret (01:01):
Well, Bill, it’s great to see you. Thank you for having me. I believe we met at Pubcon years and years ago.

Bill Hartzer (01:08):
Well, over 10 years, probably. Yeah.

Jabez LeBret (01:10):
So I you still own an agency. We’d primarily focused in the legal space. So we did everything from creating websites, content SEO, paid advertising, PVC the whole bit sold that agency a few years ago to open up a boarding school for underserved youth. And then moved into the education technology space here recently. And then also been a journalist. So I’ve been sure, real friend BC for a long time for years and years. And then now I write for Forbes primarily and loved talking about media.

Bill Hartzer (01:46):
So a little bit you know, tell me a little bit about the difference, I guess, between writing as a journalist and writing, you know, content just for, as a blogger or writing, you know, how a lot of co you know, maybe a small business might have a, it’s interesting because I’ve get questions from small businesses that say, well, Hey, I’ve gotten my website, I’ve got all my services out there. Do I really need a blog? And what are, you know, what are, what are the benefits?

Jabez LeBret (02:18):
Yeah, it there’s a lot of ways to write. I think that journalistic approach involves curating an article that is primarily informational based to help inform in, add value to the reader. What that means is generally you don’t use first person language. I, I, this I, that me you avoid comments like we you might get external people to give a comment to the piece. So, you know, if you pick your topic and then you do a little research or, you know, someone who knows about that topic, you may reach out and for comment and say, Hey, could you add something? Like, here’s a question I’m trying to answer, and that can be via email or phone or, or whatever. You know, and then when you craft the piece, you be thinking about it less than an opinion piece and more of a content piece, like just sharing the facts. There’s nothing but the facts ma’am because you do some of this, like you, you you’ve helped with clients on, on organizing and in your own content as well, too. Sure.

Bill Hartzer (03:20):
So my content, you know, in particular, I mean, I have just, I years ago I decided to have my own blog and make it a little bit more journalistic and, you know, and get some traffic by actually doing some research and, you know, doing kind of some investigative reporting, if you will, to try and uncover some things here and there that, you know, that will that people are interested in and whether it, you know, whether it has to do with domain names that have been stolen, or, you know, weird things going on with website traffic, or, you know, whatever it is. And you know, that, that certainly is, you know, kind of related to the industry that I, that I’m in. So in that way, I’ve gotten a lot of traffic and, and so forth and, and just natural links as we talked about, you know, digital PR, you know, and, and kind of doing that and writing, you know, writing content journalistically about your industry and, or, you know, uncovering something new in a research report or re recharge research study, or a case study, or, you know, doing some kind of research in your industry and report and using wherever you’re publishing it, what, you know, you publish it on your blog and then potentially pitching it also, or separately pitching it to a publication in your industry.

Bill Hartzer (04:54):
So there’s a lot of different options versus just writing a blog and, and talking about, you know, winter’s coming and you know, how to you know, add in, add more installation to your house. And, and that would be appropriate for a home inspector or some kind of, you know, home services type of industry. You have that evergreen content, but does we’re actually in the case, what more journalistic where, you know, it is a lot different.

Jabez LeBret (05:32):
Yeah. And, and it, it kind of changes and elevates the content. It, in a sense makes it almost more shareable in the moment. And I don’t, I don’t think it’s an either or like you don’t ever produce evergreen content. That’s no nobody’s saying that we’re saying create more journalistic content. Cause you’re probably not creating enough of that. You’re probably creating plenty of the evergreen content thinking about where are the, to say you know, w w can I do a little bit of research on something? Is there something changing? And, and sometimes you forget what might be common to you. Isn’t common place to everyone else. And so if it’s common knowledge and I learned something neat and interesting, maybe everybody else doesn’t know it because they’re not steeped in that every day in and day out. You know, maybe there’s a new type of insulation that’s coming out on the market, and maybe you write a post about that installation and how it’s different, and maybe you interview somebody who’s used it, or you interview a contractor or you interview somebody else. There’s so many angles for that. You know, like if you’re a home inspector and maybe you interview a real estate agent, maybe you interview a, get a comment from a a contractor, right. And those are two now referral sources for you. So now you’re building relationships too. So there’s a lot of layers to this that are beyond just simply producing a written piece of content.

Bill Hartzer (06:58):
Sure, definitely. And so there’s kind of a couple of different options. There’s a couple, you know, there are certainly, you can reach out to your industry magazine and our industry publication and say, Hey, we don’t like to ride, you know, our, our C level executive or our CEO would like to write an article about such and such topic. And you know, you pitch to them and, you know, and, and you work with them to get the, you know, to get that content produced. You can do it directly on a, essentially an article or on a blog on your site. And I guess the third option which I’ve seen successfully done is which is a more of a long-term play, which is yes, completely separately. You buy a domain name and put up a separate news website for your industry. And then, you know, that in theory, that that particular website would have, you know, as a news website, and ideally we’re talking about, you know, enough content that, and enough journalistic type of content, that it would be accepted into Google news and, and so forth. And then obviously it would good to provide free ad space for our free ads to the, yeah. To the company that, that owns it. Yeah, I’ve seen one successful implementation of that. And whereas, you know, the news website has been going on for years and they’re competitive. The competitors submit their press releases to it. They don’t really know that it’s a necessarily owned by, you know, or it was owned by a competitor. But still, I mean, it’s legitimate and it’s, you know, it’s the way is another option

Jabez LeBret (08:51):
And, and people out there are dying to contribute content. So sure. You know, it doesn’t mean if you start a news publication of your own or type of industry type of thing that, that you’re going to have to be writing all the content by any stretch. You know, there’s plenty of companies out there that are willing to give up content in exchange for the, you know, having that out on the internet which is great, so that, you know, lightens the load a little bit on a project like that. Yep. And I always tell people, don’t be afraid to try to write for actual media outlets yourself. I’m a terrible writer. I mean, I’m not like I I’m, I, as I mentioned before, I can write a good story, but like I can tell a good story, the actual grammar and spelling, not my strong suit.

Jabez LeBret (09:34):
I don’t have a degree in journalism. You don’t need a degree in journalism to do this. You know, you have to understand how to write like a journalist like you were talking about earlier. You have to understand how to approach media outlets. I always recommend people start with their local ABC NBC affiliate, wherever you live and go say, Hey, this is my trade. This is what I do. These are the people that I know that I would like to interview. These are the topics I would like to cover, and this is why your audience would care, right? This is why the readers will want this content because the media outlet wants content that readers will share and click just like we do. And so it, it creates an opportunity there for you to begin to maybe kind of take your writing into another, another space that you may not have explored before.

Bill Hartzer (10:23):
Yeah. Keep in mind though, that type of content really is more factual based and not necessarily promotional based. And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s there’s, you can be more successful as a writer if you will where you don’t necessarily mention your company and you don’t in the, in the piece itself. And so I’ve ha I’ve had situations where I have the clients said, Hey, we wrote this great article and, you know, but it tends to read more promotional. And that’s one of the things that we just have to get past is that, you know, we, we don’t necessarily, we can’t really necessarily in journalist Dick pieces, we can’t necessarily promote our, you know, promote our, our ourselves or promote our company or anything like that. It needs to be more factual based and more, you know, news type of content where you will get assigned, will you get, you know, you will get in a bio or you get a, you know, a link or a mentioned and, you know that way versus actually just thinking about, okay, well, I’m going to write a piece and just insert that.

Bill Hartzer (11:40):
And that’s sort of link essentially. So that goes, you know, for whether it’s a local publication or even a, you know, even a national, but when th when think local, I think that that’s where it’s great to start, because I know so many small businesses have been mentioned in locally on, you know, a waffle affiliate and that actually within a day or two, all of a sudden becomes a national story or there can be, you know, Ark, or there can be, you know, products that that suddenly become, you know, by because of the internet and because of, you know, because of you know, viral, whatever what’s what, what, let’s look at an example with the bird Bernie Sanders buttons, somebody actually made those mittens a local business and in Vermont. And so, and he mentioned somewhere the name of the business.

Bill Hartzer (12:45):
So the person who wrote those or created them. And so there’s some kind of special, you know, special mittens. And I’m sure just overnight, literally that all of a sudden, you know, those are very popular. And so it is possible to be a small business. That’s probably, this is an extreme example. And, but it really just something here, someone who has a small business, who, who had, you know, hand makes mittens and sells them. And all of a sudden, now they’re such a, probably a worldwide demand for those, for those bitten. So with the mittens, because you know, Bernie Sanders award them in a, you know, in a piece that is now viral. So yeah, absolutely. You know, so that’s not necessarily journalistic, but it, but I have seen other, you know, other examples of that I’ve seen even in our own industry there is a fellow who does, who, who helps businesses get rid of negative reviews, negative reviews on Google. And that started as a local story and an NBC affiliate how to Los Angeles and was picked up and, and two or three days later, he was literally on the today show on NBC in the, in NBC studios talking about awesome reviews. So it is possible. And so

Jabez LeBret (14:18):
Believe it’s an accident, right? To what you’re, to what you’re talking about there, don’t, don’t, don’t just hope it’s going to happen. Take some proactive steps to put yourself in a position to make that a reality.

Bill Hartzer (14:30):
Yes. You know, and I certainly keep in mind that there are people in organizations that are better at better writers, better at being, you know, that, that interview better than others. And so, you know, most, most organizations, you know, some people don’t want to be on camera but are some people who are, you know, different different employees at companies that do better being interviewed. And some that are really great writers that they may do one job. They may be they may just answer the phones, but they’re a great writer. So they’re, you know, so in your own, on your own organization, that’s, it’s great to be able to find, you know, those type of people with those skills.

Jabez LeBret (15:21):
Yeah. And, and leverage those skills, you know, and help them you know, coauthor pieces. If you’ve got somebody who’s a really strong writer, you’re not quite as strong, but you’re the CEO or the face of it. And so it’s okay to coauthor and give a byline to your employee done that many times, especially with industry publications. That’s, that’s really useful. You know, and I think about like, I’ve been covered on the media a ton because I am a journalist and that, you know, I end up in rooms where I’m talking to other journalists, I’m in, you know, meetings I’m in, you know, online communities and Facebook groups and at conferences. And so just in getting to know more media people, you will find yourself in more media opportunities. You know, and so that there’s a lot to be had, plus even just the people you interview.

Jabez LeBret (16:09):
So, you know, if you want to write about your industry, and then you just go interview all of your prospects for, if you write for NBC Dallas, NBC, Atlanta, NBC, wherever they all have. There’s an affiliate everywhere. And NBC San Diego, and you’re, you know, a plumber or an agency owner or whatever it is, just go interview, all the people that you want to have as your clients, then they’re giving you the content there. The interview is the content you don’t even need to come up with the idea. You just interview them, take what they said, put it into an article, publish the article. And now you’ve built a relationship with that person. You now have a connection, or you were able to get into that door where before you, you probably wouldn’t have been able to get in. And I remember seven years ago, eight years ago, eight years ago, I think it was well maybe longer.

Jabez LeBret (16:59):
I was at South by Southwest and Tony Shay was there in the audience, hanging out his number two was giving a presentation on the panel. Nobody was talking to Tony. I don’t even think I have to. People even knew who he was. I walked up and I was like, Hey, your, his book had just come out. I was like, love your book, love what you’re doing at Zappos. Super awesome. I write for NBC, would you be open to an interview? And he was like, sure. He’s like, but you have to come to Vegas and meet me there where he lives. And I’ll, I’ll do the interview there in person. I said, okay, cool. So Tony put me up in a place I flew down, spent the whole day with him. Like, it was incredible. Like it was such a fun experience that I was like, not if I hadn’t been a journalist, I would have never even been able to approach that conversation.

Bill Hartzer (17:44):
Sure, definitely. So other another point that I’d like to actually is the, is internet time that, you know, there’s, when I think about internet, you know, everything happens very quickly. Someone tweets something and within minutes within, let’s say within half an hour, it can be trending on Twitter. And, and so whether whatever industry it’s in. So one of the benefits of thinking about internet time is being able to be in a position where you can create that caught the create content very quickly or react or post quickly. So one of the things that I like to say that I’m pretty good at is if there is something that comes up, that is a potential story that I want to write about, or is a topic, I know that the first person to really publish about that, or if you can get something out there quickly as a journalist then you’re going to have a lot it’s going to do better than necessarily waiting a day and then re and then covering it.

Bill Hartzer (19:13):
And there, so if you’re angry, if you aren’t able to kind of take that breaking news, if you will, and to cover that fairly quickly and get that out there. Yeah, well, years ago back in, let’s say early two thousands before 2010, it was, that was something I was doing a lot of, and I could get stories and, and articles and blog posts index a lot quicker. Now, obviously you know, Google will index things within seconds. So we are it’s is a little bit more difficult to deal with. But if it’s a, let’s say you’re in a B2B industry and you, you tend to have most of your posts go to, you know, be written and go into an editor and then go to somebody else to write it. And then it’s scheduled as a post and it takes a week or two or two or three, sometimes even two, I’ve seen two or three weeks to get a blog post approved internally. Then you’re probably not going to be in a position to take advantage of, you know, more of the breaking news of your industry. And so that, you know, that happens that’s you know, you can definitely, yeah. So you should be able to have that option and be in a position where I take the, you know, where the approach is, essentially that you write it, you get it, you publish it. And then as you have more information about the subject, you go back and you add, you add more content to that post

Jabez LeBret (21:06):
See updated, right. So you just see, like, you can get the piece out immediately, and then you didn’t say updated February, you know, whatever at this time. So like, you can just add more to it. So get the 400, 500 words of it out immediately, and then go in and add the rest of the meat to it. You know, if more stuff comes out or get some more comments you know,

Bill Hartzer (21:31):
The Mo more social shares, you know, and, and so forth. And people like to be, you know, the first one to share something that they heard about. And so then, you know, so if you’re going to reach out and then you’ll get the majority of the social shares

Jabez LeBret (21:48):
And, and, and reach out to somebody who has a ton of followers who gets a ton of traction and ask them for a comment and then send them the article, a guarantee, they’ll send it out because that doesn’t love to see themselves in print. You know, and so that’s a fantastic strategy. You know, if particularly if you’re a strong writer you know, definitely something worth carving out some time for, and being flexible with hello.

Bill Hartzer (22:14):
Sure. So we’re just about out of time for this half hour. So why don’t you give me some details about how to get in touch with you and some of the services that you provide. But how, how can we connect with you

Jabez LeBret (22:30):
That was super fast. So LinkedIn, great. I love connecting folks on LinkedIn. So it’s just your bezel, Brett, J a B E Z probably the only Jemez that you will be listening to this week on podcasts. And then, you know, I, I, if anybody wants, I have an email that I send to friends who say, I want to write for a journalist, a publication, like an NBC or Forbes. Yup. I’m happy to send that email out to folks. So connect me on LinkedIn and say, Hey, I heard you on bill show. I want to, could you send me the information about how to write for publications? And I’ll just forward it onto you and say, Hey, here’s the strategy. Here’s, here’s how to approach and who to approach in order to make that happen.

Bill Hartzer (23:11):
That sounds great. So connect on Linked. Thank you for, thank you for sharing all this time, and I know your time is valuable. So thanks again for sharing this half hour with me, and we’ll be in touch. We’ll see you online.

Jabez LeBret (23:27):
Thank you for having me. Thanks.

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