Today’s guest is Josh Elledge, who is an expert in public relation and pitching yourself to get on television and get media exposure. Investors love to see start-ups that have some publicity because it shows some traction and some social proof. He said, “You need to be more transparent and authentic when you pitch yourself and bring value as a way to build trust.” If you want to get an investor to trust you, bring value. If you want to get a TV producer to trust you, bring value to them. He said the big framework is, “Who can I serve versus who can I sell.” That big distinction along with don’t be a “ME” monster is really just the tip of the iceberg of great things that you’re going to hear.
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Bring Value To Build Trust with Josh Elledge
Today’s guest is Josh Elledge, who is on a mission to help entrepreneurs attract the perfect audiences. He’s the founder and chief executive of SavingsAngel.com, and has literally emerged as one of the nation’s leading experts on consumer savings. SavingsAngel.com has become a major operation, employing up to 50 employees and grossing more than five million in sales over the past eight years with less than 500 spent in advertising. Hint: it’s all public relations, which he’s an expert in.
He shares his successful couponing and saving expertise with millions of families, both online, a speaker, daily syndicates. Columnist for nine newspapers. He’s appeared on television and radio over 1,500 times. He also has his own podcast, the SavingsAngel Show, which is the number one consuming shopping and savings lifestyle podcast on the planet. He shares life hacks and deals and who doesn’t want that?
He’s consulted hundreds of successful entrepreneurs in creating that same sort of success which led to the creation of upendPR.com, which I’m proud to say I am a client that I fully endorse this because he has done amazing help for me. It’s a Software as a Service membership-based website which provides a step by step video coaching live training access to a million plus media content. Let me tell you, startups, you need to get PR. That’s what investors want to see as social proof that your idea is going to get traction. Josh, welcome to the show.
John, thank you so much. That was quite an introduction. I’m all flustered almost.
I mean every word of it. The passion behind it is authentic, as you know. Let’s talk about, you are a multi-hat entrepreneur, which I think is going to be really interesting to the listeners to learn how you took your five years in the US Navy with Desert Storm. Obviously, that taught you some lessons. Then you went right into starting your business and your podcast, and now this upendPR. I’m sure it all dovetails together, doesn’t it?
It does. It’s really amazing because I have all these individual experiences. For example, I went to school to become a Family Therapist. I got to the end of that and I started doing a lot of work in internet development and I thought, “Did I just waste three years of my life in studying Family Therapy?” It comes to find out that my experience there has been extremely valuable. Because in my work now in helping so many other businesses get PR, one belief that I have is that PR is all about relationships. I take a family science approach and a relationship-psychology approach to public relations. I think that’s part of the success not only are we having with our other clients, but with my own public relation success for SavingsAngel.
We’re going to do a deep dive into that because, as I constantly tell all my listeners on The Successful Pitch, it’s all about the relationship that you build with the investor before they give you money, that they want to invest in people they trust and like and know. The same is true whether you are talking to an investor or talking to a journalist to cover you in the press or have you on their television show, right?
Yes. I think more than ever, everybody craves authenticity. Investors crave that. Audiences crave that. When you’re wanting to work with influencers and journalists, they crave that. The more you can give that and the less that you can just take off the sales and marketing hat. Yes, we have sales and marketing objectives that we need to hit but I’m telling you that based on my experience, the best way to achieve those goals is you’ve got to be real. This old day of Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman or just these fast talking pitch people. That’s great and they’re fine, they’re successful. But I think that audiences more than ever, they just want to know what the real you is like. They don’t mind the warts. They don’t mind the ugly, as long as you are willing to be transparent with them. I find that the more transparent you can be, the more audiences seem to like that.
The investors tell me all the time, “Please have your clients be more human when they pitch and not become robotic.” The same is true when you’re in front of the camera, right?
Yes. John, I’m sure you have seen some incredibly stilted, robotic, inauthentic pitches and you’re probably like, “Okay.” I’m not making fun of anybody because we all have the tendency to do that. Again, as a potential investor myself, I would look at somebody, and if they will just have a conversation with me and just say, “We really got our nose bloodied on this and we learned this.” I would love that. I would feel like I’m just having a conversation with somebody who’s very excited, very passionate about what they do. But yet they don’t have to give me this glossy, veneer feel to their company. Because again, that’s going to cause me to put my guard up.
The investors tell me all the time, “We actually like people who’ve bloodied their knees a little bit and tried other things that haven’t work because that show us resilience and perseverance, and all the skills that are necessary.” That they can’t just say that I’m this kind of person. They tell a story that shows that and the vulnerability, now we’re connecting.
Let’s go back to your Family Therapy expertise. Long time ago, I was actually in a car accident and had to wear a neck brace for a short time. Nothing serious like a metal thing, but like a thing where you don’t turn your neck. I was going to go see a friend of mine I hadn’t seen for years perform. I took that off in the car, because I didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to myself and I didn’t want to seem like I’m this weak injured person. I went and saw her perform and talked to her and then left. Somebody said to me, “Why would you ever do that? That needs to be perfect. You could damage your neck and you were in pain.” As opposed to saying, “I was in a car accident, I hurt my neck.” It was my big a-ha moment, that when we’re vulnerable, that’s how people connect to us.
If you look at social media celebrities, I think that some of the most successful celebrities and bloggers and podcasters are the ones who are not afraid to be vulnerable and share very personal things. Now, you may or may not be comfortable or willing to share the very personal things in your life, and that’s fine. But just know that audiences like that. We started figuring this out with the advent of reality TV shows, and of course we know that that is not real reality, but it’s manufactured authenticity. The fact is we still like to see the daily lives of individuals. We love Shark Tank. We love seeing those failures and those frustrations. We learn from that. I love seeing where other people fail. I love sharing my own failures and hoping that somebody else is going to learn and not make the same mistakes that I did.
Since you opened that door a little bit and talked about the value of vulnerability, let’s hear about one of your failures. Because it looks like everything you touch turns to gold.
If you only knew. I think that any successful entrepreneur will tell you the exact same thing, “You don’t know the backstory.” It’s the backstory that is always the one where people change their answer from, “I wish I could have what they have.” No, you probably don’t because you wouldn’t be willing to make the sacrifice. In my case, I lost not one home, but two homes. One a little bit more graceful than the other. I also had ended up declaring personal bankruptcy long ago, in trying to grow a business that wasn’t necessarily a very good business model. I experienced that. Again, this was a long time ago. But that experience toughened me up. I’m so grateful that I had those experiences of failure.
When I owned a small town newspaper for a couple of years, one of my biggest problems and one of the biggest reasons I failed is because I was afraid to “sell.” The reason why, John, is that I felt so inauthentic when I would go and offer this to potential advertisers for the newspaper. Even though I had a great product, yes, we had evidence that our product worked for the businesses that we worked with. But for some reasons my idea of what selling was, was that it was just trying to convince somebody to do something.
In fact, my definition today has nothing to do with that. It is finding ways that you can bring value to other people. If there’s a fit, great, if there’s not, that’s fine. Find other ways. You bringing value to somebody doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to buy your product or service today. You are going to find a way to bring value to them, give them some kind of insight, give them some great advice, give them some tips and lead them to a competitor. What’s going to happen is they’re going to trust you. Even if it’s not a perfect fit today, in the future, they’re going to say, “That John Livesay guy, he really stirred me right. I want to do business with him because he gave me some good advice, and he had nothing to gain from that.”
I just want to pause there for a second because I want everybody to really digest what you said. Everyone says, “I need to build trust. That’s a given. But how the heck do I do it?” You just gave us the secret. Build value by giving away some advice, some content, whatever it is, that may or may not result in an immediate sale, but it builds trust.
That’s why I’m such a fan of using publicity. Of the millions of dollars that we’ve earned for SavingsAngel, we’ve done no advertising or marketing, next to none. Everything we do and how I’ve just trained myself is just to give, give, give all your best stuff away for free, and people will appreciate that. They’ll get to know you. Their guard is going to be down because you are just focused on serving them. They’re going to get to like you because they’re spending time together with you. Eventually, that time together is going to lead to trust.
We’re always moving the “know, like and trust” factor by just being in service. Again, I know a lot of us are like, “We’ve got to earn money. We’ve got to increase profits.” A lot of the stress that I think a lot of us have as entrepreneurs and startups is that we need to make sure that money is coming in and we’re growing financially. That generally leads us to, who am I going to sell to today? I would just ask you to consider reframing that first question when you start thinking about work, to instead be, who can I serve today? If you do this, it may take a little bit longer. It’ll feel like it’s taking a little bit longer at first because again, you’re focused on just serving, becoming a thought leader, becoming a subject matter expert and being respected in your industry. But here’s what happens. After maybe it’s a year, maybe it’s two years, what are you in such a big hurry for, really, honestly, when most of us are going to be on this earth for at least 70-80 years. I don’t want to say that you’ve got plenty of time, but you’ve got time if you set this up for yourself right.
Instead of focusing on selling, selling, selling, just spend a lot of time just networking. Go do pro bono stuff. Find incubator and accelerator groups that you can volunteer with as opposed to just being a student. Find groups, meet-ups, organize groups, or you just say, “I’m going to do a free workshop on this online, nothing for sale. If you know someone who could use my services, great, but that’s not why I’m doing this. My goal is just to become more well-known in this industry.” It feels so good to be a proprietor in a business where that is your question for the day.
Josh, I want to share with the audience one of the amazing tips that you gave me. Since you’re all about, “Who can you serve?” let’s give them something really smart and tactical that you shared with me, since I’m one of your clients. I want to give this to the listeners because we’re in that same mindset of who can we serve.
You were watching me on a television show and I was saying that a pitch should be clear, concise and compelling. You said, “Those are great three words but you’re saying them too fast for the listeners to really grasp that.” The same would be true when you’re pitching an investor. What is your technique that really works now? The next time I was on television I used it and it was fantastic, much better. I want everyone to really have at least one amazing tactic that they can see just how great you are in helping people get better.
If you rifle through those three words so quickly, John, those are your words and those are not the words of the viewer. If, however, you say, “You need to be clear,” and then you pause, what’s happening now is the listener is now internalizing that word because you’ve paused. Now, as opposed to just taking your word for it that you have a definition of what clear is, it forces me to think about, what does clear mean to me? Now, I’ve internalized that definition.
If you say, “To have a great pitch, you need to be clear, concise, and compelling.” You’ve got those pauses, those pregnant pauses in between there. We need those verbal pauses. I don’t know who said this but, “The most beautiful music is the silence between the notes.” I don’t know where that came from or if that’s a real, legit quote or not. It really caused me to think about that, especially as speakers, as a broadcaster. I’ve done a lot of radio. I was a broadcast journalist for the United States Navy. When I was in school, you we’re always just petrified of dead air, of not filling up the silence with noise. It’s the silence where your investor that you’re pitching to gets the moment to just think to themselves about what you just said, what it means to them.
It really exudes confidence because only people who are confident can take that pause. If you’re nervous and your adrenaline’s going 240, there’s no way you can pause. That is the importance of confidence with practice.
You are so right. I really didn’t think about it that way. Another thing, I used to volunteer to teach high schoolers. One thing that I just hated was you would ask a question and then they wouldn’t answer. Everyone just gives you black stares. That used to make me so uncomfortable. Instead, I read it or learned it. I was reading about becoming a better teacher. Learn to enjoy that uncomfortable silence because that is what is pushing those students to come up with an answer. Because it’s uncomfortable for you. It’s even more uncomfortable for your audience. But this is good because we want to force them to share an answer.
One thing we do, and in sales we can do this too, is we ruin it. We ask a closing question but the person that we’re chatting with, they don’t answer right away. It could because they’re formulating the best way to answer that and we mess it all up by saying, “Oh, blah blah blah,” because we don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. No. We need them to feel just a little bit uncomfortable so that they engage with us. It’s not a bad thing if people are staring at each other for a few seconds while somebody decides that they’re going to open up their mouth and talk.
In sales, they would say the first person to speak loses, which I think is a horrible way of saying that. The first person who generally speaks is going to be the one who makes some concession. They’re going to move forward in a direction that perhaps they weren’t thinking about before. It’s not against their will, it’s just they’re going to say, “Okay, I guess we are going to dance.” They are going to take a step in dancing together that maybe they were just nervous about at first.
That was one of the big secrets that I talked about in my first book, The Seven Most Powerful Selling Secrets. The most powerful selling secret is getting comfortable with the silence in the room. The way that I have learned to do that is to become comfortable with the silence in your head first. Then you become comfortable with the silence in the room. Because many people have all these negative self-talk going on. That’s what causes them their own anxiety to fill the silence.
I tell people, “Just say, ‘I’m patient and calm’ three times after you’ve asked somebody if they want to invest or want to buy, whatever it is.” That gives the person some time to say yes or no or ask a question without feeling this whole old school way of selling that you referred to of whoever speaks first loses. People can feel that energy. As opposed to, “I’m patient and calm,” while you decide whether you want to say yes or no. That has really been a big tip for my clients to sell more, get investors to engage with them more. You open the door and now we continue the dance and say, “Here’s what not to do and here’s the best way to become comfortable with the silence, is to get comfortable with the silence in your head.”
I am telling you that this conversation right here, this is like a million dollar gold right here that you’re getting if you put this into practice. Take it from two people that have done relatively well in business, and it works.
It does. Josh, what do you think makes a good pitch? When you’re pitching, it’s all the same. You’re selling yourself. Whether you are selling yourself to a print journalist, a television producer, an investor to fund your startup, somebody to join your team, the list just goes on and on. It’s so important that we learn how to pitch ourselves in a way that seems authentic. What are some of your best tips on that?
Authenticity is extremely important. I know one thing that you talk frequently about is the fact that a lot of times, and I have this from time to time, when you interview somebody and you say, “Do you have any questions?” If the first word out of their mouth is they start asking about their salary, their benefits or that kind of stuff. It’s like, “Wrong answer.” It felt like, “Okay, I get it.” You have concerns, you’re interested in yourself. I totally get that, but it’s not very impressive. What I’m looking for, if I’m interviewing somebody, is if I can see that they are passionate about the industry that I’m looking to hire them in. Or if they are passionate, I’ve shared with them my mission and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I love that.”
If they can understand why I do what I do and I can tell that they’ve enrolled themselves into my enthusiasm, then I’m going to feel a real connection with this person. I’d love to bring them aboard my team. I feel like skills are easy. Anybody can learn skills. But if the passion, the drive and the love is not there, then it’s just not very attractive. Similarly, if someone is pitching their product or service, if they know a little bit about me as an investor and they know the kind of things that I’m really passionate about and they tailor that pitch to the things that they know that I’m really into, I’m going to resonate with that. Because they may find out some of the causes that I really care about. It’s not that difficult to find that out from potential investors. Just do a little bit of due diligence and you can find that out. You might want to target your message.
When you talk about pitching your product or service, you might be talking in terms of all the things you need and want, but really you should be thinking about, what does the investor want? What do they really want out of it? Yes, they want to make money out of it, but there are some emotional intangible things that money can’t buy. I wonder, and John, I suspect that you have some great information on this, what are those intangible things? How can we make that a part of our pitch?
Everything you’ve said I’m completely in sync with. Doing the due diligence on an investor before you go pitch them, looking them up on LinkedIn, see what other charities they might be involved in; if they are a foodie, if they like travel. Find some point of connection outside of the business that allows you to establish rapport with them. I did this with a television host I was going to be on, AM Northwest. I watched a couple of segments that they had on their website to see what she was like, the host of the show. One of the people she had on her show the day before she had me on was a therapist talking about your hot buttons and how do you get rid of them and where do they come from. She said, “My hot button is I don’t feel good enough.” This is someone who’s had a talk show for 22 years in Portland.
I had about 30 seconds to talk her before we went live on camera. I mentioned to her that I watched that episode and I said, “I was so surprised to see that was one of your issues. A lot of people have, “I’m not good enough” as an issue.” I said, “Do you think that’s what motivates you so much?” She’s like, “I’m not sure. That’s an interesting question.” She said, “I grew up poor. When I was ten years old, my mom took me to the grocery store and they were giving out free samples of cookies. I just said, ‘Do they have nuts in them?’” and the woman looked me up and down and said, ‘Beggars can’t be choosers.’” The entire set gasped. No one had ever heard her tell that story and they’ve known her for years. I just touched her arm and I said, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” “And three, two, one. You’re live. Hello and welcome.” But we had that moment of bonding and she couldn’t have been nicer to me on camera. It’s one of my favorite interviews, because of that due diligence.
Wow. It’s one of those simple things that if you’re thinking only about yourself and what you want, you might not take that extra step to learn. If I’m working with an investor, and obviously this is something that we’re going to be attached at the hip on, they’re going to be nervous. They’re going to want to make sure that this is a smart investment for them. What value can I bring them? It’s those sorts of things that make all the difference.
Now, speaking of bringing value, the audience of The Successful Pitch is a lot of founders looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. Investors hear about 2500 pitches in a year and only fund 25. How are they going to get that 25? Having publicity is one great way to do it, yet they can’t afford a $5,000 a month publicist. Tell them what they can do with upendPR?
That’s who we work with, and honestly, that’s why I started upendPR. SavingsAngels has done fine. We’ve had a great run now. We’ve been in business for about ten years. We just never did regular advertising because at the beginning, especially, I didn’t have the money to do it. I really just leveraged my experience of working with the media. Along the way though, I tried hiring PR firms. At one point, I blew over $25,000 trying to hire it out myself. Unfortunately, the returns just weren’t there because what most PR firms like to do is charge you a lot of billable hours for a lot of work. They like to manage stuff, which if you’ve got a big, big, big budget, it’s a fine way to go. But if you’re really nervous about how you’re spending your money, just know that someone is going to have to just put in the time.
PR is one of those things that you cannot outsource completely until you’re rolling in the cash because it gets real expensive. Nobody, John, and I know you’ll agree with this, nobody can represent your brand, your company, as well as you can or the founder can. When you try and outsource that, if the pure message was solid black and you’re trying to outsource the selling of your brand and the pitching of your brand, it’s just going to be a light shade of grey. No one can explain it. No one is going to have the passion like you are.
What we designed upendPR to do would be to be very friendly to any brand who’s looking for a solution that’s about $2,000 or under. That’s the first thing. Knowing that and knowing that our target audience just doesn’t have a huge budget to do that, but yet they want results, what can we do? Instead of outsourcing everything to us, we work in conjunction with the founder, with the owner. Sometimes they are really busy, so we have to be very careful about giving them too much stuff to do. But what we want to focus on is say, “Look, if you want media exposure, it’s not that hard. We’re going to help make introductions, we’ve got access to all the software just like any other PR firm. We’re going to help design and write pitches with you so we can send to the media. We’re going to identify exactly who you should be communicating with. We’re going to make sure that your press kit and everything about your website communicates authority because that is going to improve our success rate. But at the final leg where you are actually going to start interacting with the journalist or the producer or the writer, whoever it is the influencer, we need to make sure that that communication comes from you,” because that’s the most authentic way of doing it.
A lot of journalists, and I worked as a journalist myself, see public relations people as a necessary evil. In most cases, PR people are just trying to sell you stuff. Our guard as a journalist, your guard is just up. You’re like, “Okay, someone is paying you to sell the blah blah blah.” I shut down a little bit when I get an email, unless it’s from a really, really big company that I know and love already. If it’s from a company I’ve never heard of, why would I interface with them? However, if I get an email from the founder of a startup and they’re like, “Hey, Josh. I’ve been following you on SavingsAngel for quite some time. I read your column. I’ve seen your TV segment, blah blah blah. I really love the emphasis that you put on helping consumers save money. You may or may not be interested, but we developed this service. I’m not sure if it would be a fit for your audience but it would be my dream to be able to, in some way, provide service or value to your audience, just because you’ve done so much for me.”
That pitch right there, your success rate just went from 10% to 20% up to 70% to 80% easily. Because you approached that influence or that producer, that journalist, as a fan. Their guard is down. Everyone wants to feel appreciated for their work. If you begin with appreciation and then you’re authentic about what your ask is, you start there, and then you also share, “The reason I thought of this is because I’ve gained so much from you. I’d really love just the opportunity to reciprocate in some way or be able to serve your audience in some way.” This is the most important thing, in terms of pitching, you have to remember, there is going to be an ask. Let’s say you’re pitching a blogger, now my recommendation, if you’re pitching a large prominent blogger or a social media person, you should not ask for anything in return. You just want to provide content.
As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say these words, “I don’t need any links back. I don’t need any promotion. I don’t need any kind of traffic or anything. That’s not why I am doing this. I just love what I do and it would be a huge honor to be able to serve your audience.” Now, here’s what’s going to happen. Professionals will reciprocate. But you have to give them the space to reciprocate. I get emails all the time. You know why they’re doing it. They’re doing it just so they can have the incoming link juice. All influencers know exactly what you’re doing when you want to guest blog or whatever. If you just approach them and say, “Look, I’ve followed your blog. I really love it. I’ve learned so much. I specialize in this one very specific thing and it would be an honor for me to be able to serve your audience in some way.” You tell them, “I don’t need any links back.” You have given them the space to reward you back.
It’s almost like another way of silence, isn’t it? It’s the same space, the three to five seconds after you’ve asked someone if they want to buy. You’re giving someone space to decide if they want to have a link back or not.
Yes. Again, you know what a professional is going to do? They’re absolutely going to hook you up. Sometimes amateur bloggers will forget, but all the professional ones I know, they’re not going to use your content and not source you. You just have to let them do that. It’s like if you’re at a social function and you’re networking, we’ve all been there, right? Where this one motor mouth, he’s a “ME” monster. You start talking with them saying, “Where are you from?” Then all of a sudden he just goes into robo pitch mode. It’s like you want to wave your hand in front of his face and go, “Is there anyone in there? Is there a human being?” Let’s have a conversation first and if it comes up naturally and organically about your product and service, that’s cool. But otherwise, just ease off on the selling machine there.
You said something earlier. Before I let you go Josh, I just want to really get into it just a tad, which is you’re complimenting someone about how great their blog is. I just want to encourage everybody to literally really prove that you’re being authentic by being specific. “I’m a big fan of your blog and one specific blog you wrote where you said X, Y and Z really resonated with me because I went through something similar or it helped me get over the death of my grandparent,” whatever it is. If you get that specific and personal, that means so much more than just saying, “I’m a fan.”
Josh, how can people follow you on social media? How can they learn more about upendPR.com? Any posts you want to recommend?
If you don’t mind, I actually prepared a gift for everybody too. I do a lot of work on Twitter and I love connecting with people on Twitter. I find it just such an efficient way of communicating and networking. I get so much business through Twitter. You can follow me @JoshElledge. If you Google me, Josh Elledge, you’ll find all kind of stuff about me. The gift I was going to give is I actually have a Twitter Publicity Mastery Course that I normally sell for $100. For those who are listening, please don’t post this on social media. This is only for people who have listened to this entire program. If you go to upendPR.com/pitch, it should fill in a coupon code for you. If it doesn’t, then just type in the word PITCH in the coupon box. That will give you that course for free.
Wow, that’s just generous. Thank you.
Yes, because I have just been so richly blessed by the connections that I have been able to make on Twitter. I think Twitter is confusing for a lot of people in that they just don’t really understand how to use it. They understand how to follow a hashtag during a presidential debate or a sports game or something like that. But wow is it powerful. That is probably one of the most important tools you can use to increase your own PR.
Thanks again, Josh. You’ve been a fantastic guest, as I knew you would be. I am honored that you decided to come on The Successful Pitch.
Thank you so much, John. The honor is mine.
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