Leveraging media exposure is certainly a huge factor in attaining success, allowing a business to reach a bigger audience, gain credibility, and build a strong brand. But getting the support of even one media outlet can be a bit challenging. William Morales sits down with the Founder of Appleseed Communications, Ashley Crouch, to share her secrets on forging media connections and starting an effective marketing platform, even using the simplest strategies. Ashley talks about writing the most engaging headlines, tapping the audience's emotions to find a selling point, and how media attention can transcend the social media scene.
Ashley, thank you for being on the show. How are you?
Thanks for having me. I'm doing well.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Were you always entrepreneurial? Is this something that you were born with?
[bctt tweet=”There is no ceiling in what you can create and build. The buck stops with you.” via=”no”]
I was born into it because my parents both grew up in poverty and my dad determined to build a better financial future for his life and his future family. He realized that when you're an entrepreneur, there is no ceiling. You can create and build as much as you want and as much as you can, and the buck stops with you. He loved that ability to control his financial future. I was born into a family where he was building an insurance company, and he would take me to the office with him. I would sit at my own desk and I would take while you're out messages. Little did I know, he was grooming me into that mindset of you can do anything you put your mind to.
I believe that when you do put your mind to it, be consistent and persistent, as I would say at the end of every show, “Keep your momentum going, good things will happen.” That's what you did. Seeing your dad and following in his footsteps. How did you get into the visibility side of a business? What was it about that drew your attention?
I fell into that by accident. My first company was on the founding team of a fashion magazine in New York City. We were a team of five women working around the clock, nights and weekends, going nowhere fast. After a few years, we realized we needed a change. We needed other people to know and hear about us, and believe in us. I raised my hand. I had no background in PR or in media. I did not know a soul but I said, “I would love to run the rollout for this launch.” I didn't know what works and how to get in touch with anybody. For anybody reading this, you probably feel like you're at ground zero. That was me.
I only knew what would get results or I got fired. I had that hunger motivation. You don't want to get fired in New York City. I started reaching out to people and long story short, we got 180 media features in eight months. We went viral around the world. We built the readership to over a million within a year. At that point, I realized that the media was an accelerator. For anybody reading this, a lot of times we've been groomed to believe that if you can hustle harder, the red carpet will roll out for you eventually. That is an utter myth. I am here to tell you that it does not have to be that hard. It is about doing the right actions and not more action. Media is that accelerating agent that gets you in front of the right people faster so that you can build your business quicker than ever before.
I never saw it from that point of view. My next question is, what are some of the benefits of getting media attention? You have answered it, but for someone starting new that might be camera shy, hate their voice or might not like their appearance, what are some of the benefits of media attention? If you can give 2 or 3 examples besides what you did.
There are three primary reasons to get media attention. If you're a real estate agent trying to get the word out, build a portfolio, or book a business, this is for you. The three things you want to get media attention are number one, exposure to a new body of clients and customers. The media will be a platform for you. If you don't have a platform of your own, you have to leverage another platform to propel your business. Not all of us were born with 100,000 followers on social media. Media is the platform for exposure. The second thing is credibility. That is key in an industry like real estate where people still remember the 2008 crisis and know that there are millions of realtors. How are they supposed to know who to trust? Media sets you apart as a differentiator for credibility as an expert.
[bctt tweet=”Aim to do the right actions instead of doing more actions.” via=”no”]
The third thing, which is important and not talked about a lot is positioning. You need to position yourself as an expert in the market that has a different approach, more awards, or key features in the outlets that your clients respect and trust. When you're showing up there, you're automatically elevating yourself above the masses of vendors who do the same thing as you. These three things, exposure, credibility, and positioning is the important cocktail of the branding that will set you apart so that you can leverage these features in your funnels in your Facebook ads, and be “omnipresent.” You're showing up everywhere and become the obvious choice for your customers.
It’s exposure, credibility and positioning. Exposure, you’ve got to be out there whether it's social media or regular media. Credibility, “This guy is an expert.” Ashley is an expert on visibility strategist. She can get you from A to B. Positioning, Ashley has been in this position for a long time. She knows what she's doing. I’ve got friends that could use Ashley's help. That's the formula until we get to that level like yourself. Is there such a thing as a social influencer? I never met one on the real estate side. Maybe I haven't looked hard enough but I want to add that question before I go to the next one about being an influencer like the Kardashians and all that. Please elaborate on that.
Surprisingly, I feel that the real estate market has a lot of white space where there are experts such as yourself and others who are doing great work, but they have not yet put themselves forward to be the go-to expert at the front of the industry. Anybody needs to be thinking of their brand like a media platform where you have something to say, and you do things in a different way than everyone else. One thing that you can do is when you're a realtor, most people think you do the same thing as everyone else. You sell houses, find deals, develop lots, and whatever it is. You probably have a unique backstory, a career pivot, or something that happened to you that differentiates you, or a reason why you do this, and how you give back in a certain way.
[caption id="attachment_2855" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Media Exposure: If you are showing up in the list, you're automatically elevating yourself above the masses of vendors who do the same thing as you.[/caption]
You need to do three things and this becomes part of your signature system that you talk about in the media. You need to drill down into the essence of who you are, your brand, and how you're different. Number two, how your business is different. What are the 3 or 5 things you always do that give back? Maybe it's a welcome gift, or you're known for fast closes, or you're known for some specific type of market. You’ve got to trademark that stuff and bring it out for people to know that you're different about you and your business. The third thing, what do your customers want to hear from you? Those are the three things.
People may or may not want a house sold or a land deal. They have unique hopes, fears, and dreams. This pertains to the media as well. You want to lead with empathy first. Get into the mindset of what your target customer wants to hear from you. It's more than just getting their house sold, a land deal, a loan, or an investment opportunity. They want to hear some sold. They want to hear logic about why you're the obvious choice. Those are three areas you need to drill into your personal brand. From there, figure out how to craft that into a headline. I grew up on a farm in Arkansas with 100 chickens. We couldn't even see our neighbors out the back door.
When I was in Manhattan trying to pitch to the New York Times, people were telling me, “You need to tell your story.” For anybody reading this and you're feeling the same way, I didn't know what a good story was from the bad one. Media is busy, how am I supposed to stand out? What I learned in my signature system is I teach people how to craft the headline that perfectly matches with who you are, what you do, and what your target customer wants from you. Put it in one headline. It could be something like, “This man is a first-generation immigrant on a mission to help ensure that everyone can have the American dream.” That might not be you but for someone reading this, it's an example of, “This is how to craft it into a headline.” Once you have the headline, you share that with a media platform that you're pitching, and it will exponentially increase your chances of getting noticed and getting a yes.
[bctt tweet=”Lead with empathy and get into the mindset of your target customers.” via=”no”]
I love the telling of story. If we're investors talking to a seller and they motivate it, always built rapport and tell a story. I always heard that, but having it from your point of view like, who am I? What makes me different? What is it that I can help the customer with? It’s having empathy and listening to them. Some sellers that I dealt with tell me a story for 15, 20 minutes without me saying anything. I say, “That's great. That's amazing.” It’s building rapport. In the business that you've been through for the last few years, what are some of the few have you seen from entrepreneurs that hold them back?
In my company, we have the ability to guarantee reach and up to fifteen TV placements within 60 days. Our last client reached 10.5 million people in about three weeks. That is the equivalent of ten times as many people in all of Manhattan. When you have the power to reach that many people, you have to be truly sold on yourself, the product that you have, and the value that you offer. What I have seen is that a lot of people say no. They don't want to get media attention because they're afraid that their system isn't ready. They don't know what they're going to say. Maybe it won't work. Perhaps they're not the one who needs to be the face of this.
A lot of what I call the internal glass ceiling, where we feel that we are a certain kind of person. That mindset limitation holds us back from delivering the volume of contribution, service, and business growth that we could achieve. One of our clients was scared. He had never been on TV before. You would never think this guy would be afraid to get media attention because he had degrees from Harvard and Cornell. He was award-winning and every letter after his name pretty much. When we put him on TV, he became like any one of us, a nervous schoolboy. We said, “Is this scarier than what you do in your life-saving job?” Their lives rely on him for his work. He said, “This is by far scarier.” What I learned from him and what I value so much is that we were able to put him in front of 10.5 million people because he was willing to show up, to be trained, and he was coachable. When you have that attitude of service and being a student to trust the experts who have done what you want to do, it's lights out.
I understand clearly. Most of us started off with a show, it was just audio and then people say, “You’ve got to do video.” I'm like, “I'm not doing video. Are you crazy?” I just did that. I see people do it, let me do it. It's having that courage to take that first step and especially having someone like you on their side, that's a bonus. What are the best platforms that you consider that an investor or someone new will be best? Are we talking more social media first, then working our way to the media giants like CNBC, Fast Company, or Today’s Show? What would you consider the first step for someone like me or someone brand new in any type of business to get into?
What I would recommend is a blend. My system is different from most publicists on the market because most people will tell you to start small. As a realtor or an investor, if you don't have a large team, that means you are the large team. You are wearing 5 to 10 hats. Why spend the same amount of your precious time on small outlets that won't move the needle. Instead, you could spend the same volume of time for a larger brand name outlet that will get all the other small outlets in line to feature you. It's twice the impact in half the time, which I love. What I would recommend are two parts. For the exposure, you want to do podcasting like you're doing well. This is great. You're building a community.
You want to do podcasting where you can talk about a topic or an issue for a long enough amount of time where your listener builds trust. They know that you know your stuff and what you're talking about because they're going to invest a lot of time and effort with you. That's the first thing. The second piece for the credibility and the positioning, you want to do the brand-named outlets like the national outlets. We put people on TV. That's one option. You can do fifteen outlets in a bunch of different markets or wherever you as a real estate professional are based. You may have a local or regional market that is your primary customer base. You can drill into that and the trade publications to build the credibility and the positioning there.
[bctt tweet=”You have to be truly sold on yourself, your products, and your values before entering the media spotlight.” via=”no”]
The trade publications, are we talking about online magazines? Here in New York, the biggest real estate magazine is called The Real Deal. Are we talking about things like that where they also do online newsletters? Is that what we mean by trade magazines?
Yeah. It can be Realtor.com, Inman, The Real Deal. You can be featured as a guest expert and give an expert quote where you can then take that logo, screenshot the feature, and run Facebook ads to it. When people opt in to book a call with you, you put it on your thank you page, “Thanks for booking a call. My team will be in touch shortly. Please enjoy this recent feature in this magazine. I’m excited to be called one of the top experts in my state.” What we have found is that the placing of a media feature in your social media funnel reduces your cost of ads by 121%. You might be investing to get the media feature but you're buying an asset because then you're going to put that feature in your marketing funnel, which is going to save you money. That's making you money, which you can market to more people. It's a win all the way around.
How do you build great relationships with top brass media profession? What is it that we have to provide for them? Is that a legitimate point of view where, do we provide something for them that they're like, “Let's go back to Ashley or let's go back to Will?” How do we do that?
I didn't know anybody when I got started. Many of the people that I've trained are in the same boat. We want to think of the media, first of all, as a friend. A lot of people who get started feel like the media is doing them a favor, “Dear God, please pay attention to me. I have to get noticed.” Instead, we want to think of ourselves like we are doing them a favor. The media is a business. The business runs on advertising dollars. The way they get money is by putting eyeballs on a page to feed the business with advertising. They put eyeballs on a page from good stories. When you go through the signature system, figure out who you are or how your business is, and what your customer wants, crafting that into a headline is handing everything to them on a silver platter.
You're doing them a favor because you make their life easy and you're giving them value in the form of juicy stories. The first thing is shifting your mindset around that. The second thing is you want to find clever ways to give value to them first. One is through the story angles. Two, you're in New York, so you could say as you do in real estate, “I'm going to be in your area. I would love to stop by for five minutes and bring you your favorite coffee.” You can show up with a real face, bring them their coffee, talk to them about how you're different, and how you're creating change. I can't tell you how many times I got to the New York Times, E! News, Huffington Post, and all the top ones just from doing that.
If you're in a smaller town, another way to provide value would be to go to an event where they're speaking or an online virtual summit. A lot of media speaks. They speak on panels, they’re moderators, and they're doing Facebook Live. Show up where they are and then send them a direct message or tweet them. It's never been easier to get in touch with media because of social media. Use all the platforms available to you. You can get in touch with them for free and then begin the conversation. You can send them other experts or other tips. It doesn't just have to be you at first. Eventually, they're going to see you as a trusted resource and have you top of mind.
Give them referrals like, “I have Ashley. Ashley is a wonderful person. She's a media giant. What do you think about talking to her?” Definitely do referrals. Am I correct in that?
Yeah and be generous. Seek to serve before you make the ask.
Talk about your program and how to join or learn more about it if somebody wanted to.
I came out with a book called Unknown to Unforgettable. I'm happy to offer a copy to anyone for free. It gives an overview and a deeper dive into some of the things we've started to talk about here, so you can figure out how to start crafting these messages that work for you. In addition to the book, I have a signature program and a team where we come around you, and we can build this for you custom. We can walk you through the process of how to do it with ongoing support and accountability to make sure that you get those results. People have told me they have gotten results in as little as 24 hours using these exact things I've talked about.
If anybody wanted to get started doing this, it's a white space. I am shocked by how there are not many leading real estate professionals face forward right now because we're heading into an economic climate where people are scrambling. They need experts telling them whether they should sell, buy a rental property, or develop in up and coming regions. People need experts and it is your time. If anybody wants to learn more, they can go to UnknownToUnforgettable.com and reach out to me or someone on my team and we would love to support you.
Ashley, thank you for giving us tons of golden nuggets. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk here on the show. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Will.
Ashley Crouch is the founder of Appleseed Communications. Every client served helps support a woman business owner in 23 resource-poor nations, such as the Philippines, Kenya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Cambodia.
In 2011, Ashley was on the founding team for the "first no Photoshop fashion magazine for women," Verily, which currently sees 1 million views per month.
Ashley's writing appears in Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, The New York Times, Business Insider, Fast Company, TIME.com, Huffington Post, Refinery29, Bust, and more. She has trained over 2000 people worldwide on visibility and publicity strategy.
She is an international speaker on leadership, publicity strategy, and entrepreneurship. She has presented to audiences at Princeton University, University of Texas at Austin, Altitude Summit, WeWork, DocuSign, SheWorx, United Healthcare, Author Advantage Live, StartupGrind, BossTalks, and Lady Project National Summit.
Ashley and her businesses have been featured in American Express OPEN, TODAY.com, Brit & Co, Huffington Post, The Sydney Telegraph, International Business Times, and Darling Magazine. She was a Forbes Under 30 Nominee for 2017 in Social Entrepreneurship.
She is the author of the #1 International Bestselling Book, Unknown To Unforgettable: How To Stop Playing Small, Land National Media Attention, And Position Yourself As A Power Player
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