Being Vulnerable in PR with Josh Elledge

Being vulnerable in public relations feels like inviting the sharks to circle. But what if vulnerability and transparency are the quickest ways to truly connect with your audience and create raving fans? Josh Elledge talks about his experience in the PR world and why he chooses to operate transparently.

Hello everyone! This is Tonya Dawn Recla. This is the In the Clear Podcast. And I am really excited to have with me today Josh Elledge, out of the PR sphere. So, this is particularly entertaining for me because we hear a lot about people getting snookered out of the PR and Marketing Sphere. And it’s such a necessary part for business, to get out there and to get well-known. What our bias is that you could do that in a transparent and authentic and integrity way. And so, I think we’re going to hear from Josh some ways to do that because he embodies that also. That, hey-let’s-put-it-all-out-there-and-be bold-and-courageous. And I’m really excited about the conversation that’s going to unfold between us.

So, if you all could help me welcome, Josh is Chief Executive Angel of SavingsAngel.com, which I’m excited to hear about. But the bigger pieces is just that knowledge around the PR industry. I’m really excited about sharing lessons learned with us today. So, welcome Josh to the show. We’re excited to have you.

Thank you so much Tonya. So, great to be here.

Yay! So, would you consider yourself in the PR industry? Is that your main sphere?

Yeah. So, I own two companies. So, the first one, Savings Angel, I’m very much a consumer expert and a consumer advocate. And we’ve done very well over the past 10 years in helping consumers cut their grocery bill in half and save money in all areas of their life. And it’s certainly where I have gained my own success in working with the media. So, a few years ago, I started teaching on how I was able to do this and how we were able to create millions of millions and millions of millions of dollars in sales with next to zero advertising. And I just started getting inundated with requests from other business owners who also wanted to learn this. So, I reluctantly started a PR firm. Yeah, we do things a lot different from what is currently exists out there in the marketplace. And so, we try to focus only on working with entrepreneurs and business owners and startups who are comfortable in telling their story, and they’re comfortable networking. And we just speed up the process of turning entrepreneurs into media superstars.

Wow. So, you stumbled into PR. I love that. I think those are the best stories of the accidental businesses that develop. So, were you pretty cool with that. Were you hesitant to get into that space or how did that feel for you?

So, I was in the United States Navy for five years, and I was a Navy journalist who did a lot of work in public relations then. Although I studied family science and family therapy in school, I found in fact that that was actually very helpful because to become very successful in communications or public relations or journalism, you have to respect and honor relationships. Relationships with other business owners, relationships with your audience. And if you’ll do that you’ll find that things like PR will come very natural for you.

I did also own a small-town newspaper for a couple of years and I’ve always been just fascinated in working with and around the media. So, when we launched Savings Angel 10 years ago, I had no money for advertising. I had a great idea. But instead of just paying to put up billboards and who knows what else, instead I just reached out to local newspapers, local radio stations, local ad magazines and other digital influencers and I just found ways to bring them value. And I brought enough value to other people because of so doing, I ended up gaining a lot of audiences who really wanted more. And we developed a membership based Website. And that became our success.

Awesome. First of all, thank you for your service, we appreciate that.

Thank you.

Beautiful. I love the story. You and I talked very briefly before the show about you just have to gear up for this thing. That idea of vulnerability and being transparent in front of other people is a little bit foreign in our world. My big promotion of my campaign these days is to make it more popular. But I think it’s picking up steam. We’re hearing a lot more about it. Especially in business. It’s something we’ll talk about in relationships and parenting and all kinds of stuff, but bringing that into the business arena is new. It used to be we wore our 9 to 5 mask when we were somebody else. And I see a lot of folks opting for what I call the holistic lifestyle anymore. It’s like you are who you are, who you are, and every scenario is that. Does that feel like what you’re seeing?

Oh, my gosh absolutely especially for digital influence I’m sorry for digital entrepreneurs. You look at your average person who has a decent social media following. And you’ll see that the one thing that they have in common is they’re generally very transparent. They’re generally very open about their lives. And it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to share things that would be too much in terms of it would put your family in harm’s way or that sort of thing, and you don’t have to share your personal mailing address, that sort of thing. But you definitely will find that the more vulnerable you can be with your own insecurities, with your own failures, with your own questions, and concerns, and fears, you’ll find that people will say, “Oh my gosh, this person is a real person and I identify with them because I feel those same things. And as a result, I want to find out how did they overcome it or what is their solution or maybe I can join them in that journey and I can experience the reward of growing together.”

I love how you’re saying that. I think it’s spot on. I think that’s why we saw the rise in social media, like people wanted to get glimpses inside people’s lives. Of course, we have an entire business because of social media, because it’s easy for people to come into the business sector and look good and really have no oomph to their business or anything else. So, for us if you have to at both sides of that coin you have to have that willingness to be open and transparent and also be honest about what you can really. Accomplish and not accomplish. I love that you said you had a great idea, but you didn’t have the budget like you were it wasn’t it wasn’t a successful business yet so you had to go out there and bootstrap it a little bit to see what could happen. those are my favorite examples of like the brick by brick by brick building. And it’s OK to be transparent about that when I’m out the gate with our successful multi-million dollar businesses.

And it also does not need to be done overnight. And I know there’s so many people were like oh I want to get rich overnight. No, I don’t think you do. I really firmly believe that. And it can be disruptive, and it can be a bit uncomfortable. But enjoy the journey. Chances are, if you’re listening to the sound of my voice, you’re going to be around for a while. So, you may as well just enjoy this thing.

So, with this second company, which I launched a couple of years ago, I’m very intentionally controlling growth. So right now, we’re not taking on new clients because I wanted to do this right. But in January we look to scale and turn upendPR into a company unlike any other PR marketing company. We fully intend to have over a thousand clients. Now, our clients are a little bit different than what most PR firms try to get in that our clients they generally pay us about a thousand dollars a month. And most PR firms like really big clients. I don’t. I like to operate more as a Special Forces, a SEAL team approach, as opposed to calling out the entire inventory and just charging these ridiculous billable hours. We really just want to empower our influencers, our business owners to become very successful with or without us. And that means that we need to make them the stars and not just try and get in the way of everything.

I love everything you’re saying. I’m laughing because you’re absolutely spot on. We did identically the same thing we did. Initially, we didn’t. We came out the gate really naive and made some huge mistakes and reeled it all back in very fast. Like OK stop. What are we doing here? And I do, I like the journey. Moving into emerging growth and a couple of different businesses. You can’t beat startup. It’s like courting people. Startup is like a magical time. And not that the other stages of business are, but I tell people that a lot enjoy this. You don’t ever get that back in big business. So, it’s very much like relationship building.

I think you’re spot on. I think that people have no idea what they’re asking for when they talk about some ways these get-rich-quick schemes or moving into capital raises prematurely. If you don’t have the same confidence to be an exist at that next level which some people can only get through the experience of getting there more and more up to the night you’re going to fail anyway and so. So, you’re better are doing it methodically. There’s so much that occurs in that growth phase, much more than what the bottom line would reflect. I think that’s awesome.

And I like your approach to the PR thing. I’ve been on my own little personal rant here that I don’t see a ton of really awesome service providers in that sphere. We I would love to see more people service –the just-after-startup space. Tons of solutions in the higher-end big corporate spaces. I’m not a business person, so I’m not sure I’m saying the levels right or categories right. But I see a lot of folks serving the early-stage startups and the solopreneurs and the professionals coming out the gate, and a lot of folks serving the bigger companies. I don’t see a ton of really solid offerings in that middle sphere. Sounds to me, that’s your sweet spot.

Yeah it is. And I really just signed up and PR to be the service that I needed for so many years, but it just really didn’t exist. It seemed like if you wanted really great service, you’d have to pay a ridiculous sum of money. And if you just wanted to try and find a solution for a thousand dollars or under, good luck because of my experiences was generally not real great. And either you were just not treated as a very important client or again just the caliber of the PR expert that you would be working with, just not real experience or just not very successful, which is why they were charging so little. So instead, we just try and focus on well what do we absolutely need to do and what can we work together on with the client, empower them so that they can do some of this stuff, so they don’t have to pay us. So again, it’s just I think it’s just the perfect balance of identifying who needs to do what. And as a result, we can provide what other PR firms easily charge $5- 8000 a month for. And we only have to charge a thousand to get the same, or in many cases much better results.

We do the exact same thing and. Bring the corporate counter-intelligence perspective into small and mid-sized businesses. The biggest issue is scalability. Can you systemize it, can you create it, and are you comfortable sharing like you’re talking about that education piece and really training plan to do what you do. And I think for once we had a huge year and he to be the running mantra of the speaking industry and training industries, you don’t want to give up all your information and like trust me when I say that you could throw it all out there. Anybody who spends any time on YouTube has access to all that information anyway. People are still going to hire you. They want to know who you are because as a business owner you can’t do it all anyway. And so, I’m much more apt to go with the company that has shared their information, is putting it out there, wants to educate their client base. Those are the ones I’m more likely to completely outsource to than the ones who are trying this trickledown effect, and going-to-give-him-a-hug-but-I’m-really-not-going-to-tell-you-anything. I’m an intelligent person, I will go and fight. I could become an expert in just about any arena, if I really wanted to, just with the Internet alone. So, those days are over in my opinion. So, yea, you have a raving fan in me with regard to that perspective. And it’s very refreshing to hear about.

What can people do? What can clients do if they’re looking for PR folks? What questions can they ask? How do you help people in that space?

So, if they’re looking to create their own PR or if they’re looking to hire a PR firm?

Yeah, I guess it wasn’t really clear that they’re looking to hire somebody if they’re looking for some assistants. How do who’s legit who knows what they’re talking about and that type of stuff.

Well, you clearly want to look at whoever they’re working with right now. And so, the more information you can get about the placements that they’re giving for their other clients, I think that’s going to be a great indicator. Are they comfortable letting you know who that is? What you want to look for are are they working with clients that are like you. Are they in your industry? Are they about the same size as your company? What kind of budget are they operating, is it a similar budget? Because again, look, PR is not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to be free. Now, you can do it yourself. And we do a lot of work in helping people, educating them and helping them do it themselves. But just know that it is going to take a little bit of time, if you want to do it yourself. If you want to hire someone to do it, just make sure that they’re not going to waste your time by just talking about theory and philosophy and all this garbage that you don’t need. Most of our clients didn’t really care about that. They just want to know can you get me a lot of visibility? Can you get me on different Websites? Can you get me on TV? Can you get me quoted in magazines? The answer to all that is, yes.

And for us, we show you here is all the media placements that we’ve done in the past couple of months. And you could see very directly. Now, if you can find a PR firm that’s willing to do that and they’re comfortable with that then I think that’s a good indicator. Are they willing to let you talk to their clients? And so, similarly, you can go and you can see exactly who we work with and go connect with them on social media and talk to them and say, “Hey Josh and upendPR, are those guys are legit?” And I think any of them will tell you, “Yeah, let me just do it.”

You could do a Google search for any of our clients and you could see exactly what media placement that they’re getting. So, that’s the thing that you would want to ask. You want to see. You don’t want to do whatever their lip service that’s one thing. You want to see their results. 

Also, are they invested in teaching and giving with or without you’re billing information and so that’s another thing that I really believe in is that you want to look for a firm that is a giver not a taker. And so, if they are forwarding thought for their industry for their clients then that’s another good sign. Is there are a lot of really great information that you can read that you can learn. Do they have a podcast?  Do they have a blog? Do they have great social media stuff. And look and see what they’re doing. And then finally, one thing and I think this is so funny, I see this all the time, is that you come across like a social media or a marketing or public relations firm a,nd you say, “OK well let’s check these guys out on social media,” and they’ve got like fifty-eight followers! That’s another thing, look at the amount of engagement they have on social media. And that should give you an indication of how conscientious they are about practicing what they preach.

And so, for us, you and I we’re talking and we’re very methodically growing slowly the first two years where. We turn away about as much business that we bring in just because we’re looking for great fits, we’re learning a lot ourselves in terms of all of our tips and tricks and secrets and stuff that nobody else in this industry is doing. And so, we want to perfect those systems before we go into hyper growth because you can always go into hypergrowth. That’s not hard on grow a business. You just need to find something that works and then just do a bunch more of it. People will do your advertising for you and have good success first. Otherwise it can all crumble on you.

And so, as a result we have focused on making sure that we’re practicing what we preach and so we’ve built a lot of. We’ve done a lot of work on authority building first before we go on and just sell the thing. One thing that I really dealt with in the beginning was this imposter syndrome. Like who am I? I didn’t go to school for public relations myself. I was in public relations for the Navy for five years and I owned a newspaper for a couple of years and I certainly had a lot of success, but going back 20 years ago, that’s not what I majored in. There’s, I think, a lot of people have that hang up. And I’ve never had a client ask me what’s your educational background. Never. They don’t care. They just want to know can you get me results. And we focus on getting our clients results. And as a result, we end up getting a lot of business.

We went through the same thing. I’m the first person to admit that I was the slowest moving into this space because I didn’t see it. I didn’t see how espionage translated into a business. People kept coming to us and asking us to do these things for the. And I’m like, how can we do that? It just didn’t make any sense to me. And I think that that’s a real valuable thing. A personal attribute to have is you do question, you do look at yourself, you do observe and not from a disempowered place, but from a really like I-want-to-make-sure-I-know-I-can-do-this. I want to make sure my business can do this. Because you’re spot on. Growing it is not difficult. It’s sustaining that growth that is really super challenging.

But I do want to circle back because I think you made a number of really critical points. But one in particular. Folks, when you are looking to hire somebody in your business, you need to know that they’ve done that for a business very similar to yours. The business landscape is super complex right now. There’s a million and one different business models. It’s not like real estate, is real estate, is real estate, or marketing, is marketing, is marketing. When people come to us and they ask us to vet companies, what the first thing the investigators ask them is, what are they going to do for you? And you will believe how many people are like, “Oh, they’re going do my marketing.” OK, what marketing? Are they going to put an ad in the newspaper, are they going to do it on social media? What are we talking about here? And, most people aren’t asking those questions. And our very favorite is, “They’re going to help me take my business to the next level.” Well, what does that mean? Which level? And do you even want to be there?

And so, not to poke fun, because very educated business owners fall into that trap because it’s overwhelming. There’s many aspects to your business, but you are the one who is in control of it like you have to be and you have to be asking questions. Don’t get intimidated by folks who seem to know more about their area of expertise than you do. That’s why you’re talking to them. But anybody who’s confident in what they’re doing, wants you to ask questions and wants you to be ready to hire them and wants you to know what you’re getting into. There’s nothing worse than taking on a client and you really have no idea how you’re going to serve them. It’s a pain for all of us.

And so, don’t hesitate to ask. One of our favorite questions we advise people to ask is, what questions should I be asking of you? What should I need to know before I hire you? And anybody who is really wanting to work with you on the up and up will answer you, and they will answer honestly, and they will work with you to build that relationship. And so, Josh, I love everything that you’re doing with everything you stand for and it’s so needed particularly in the PR industry. So, for sure we’re going to want to stay close to you and as you grow 2017 and support you however we can because it because we have so many clients who need that. So, thank you. 

Terrific Absolutely.

Very cool. Well so, I know people are going to want to know more about you. Where can we send them?

Oh yeah. Well you’re welcome to. You could just Google me and you can find all kinds of stuff that I’ve done. Isn’t that a powerful statement by the way? I thought you would appreciate that, and I really mean that. And that’s another thing that you should do when considering bringing on a contractor is just Google them and see and if you don’t find a lot then chances are they may have been working very privately with clients, but maybe they haven’t done a whole lot in terms of making the space better for everyone.

So, if you search Google my name is, Josh Elledge. J O S H E L L and then edge, E D G E. And you’ll find a lot of stuff all about me. I work really hard to make sure that I have a great digital reputation. And the way that you get a great digital reputation is you just have to be a giver and you have to serve a lot of people. And as a result, Google will reward you for that. And if you like, you can just go to upendPR.com and you can see exactly how we work with other clients as well I’ve got some great blog articles, I certainly have a lot of great audio and video you can learn from, even if you never pay me a dime. That’s terrific. I hope I have made your life just amazingly better on how you increase your own exposure so that you can go out and become wildly successful.

I love that well. Very cool. We’ll just definitely keep us posted on your successes as you move forward. And let’s stay in touch around that. I appreciate everything that you’re doing and thank you for coming on the show and give us some advice for our listeners.

Thank you so much Tonya.

And to all of you out there, thank you so much for listening. We appreciate your loyalty. And until next time, make sure that your business is In the Clear. Take care.

2017-03-08T22:29:45+00:00

About the Author:

Tonya Dawn Recla has over 10 years of extensive military and government training in security and intelligence, weapons and tactical driving. Tonya holds a degree in intercultural communication and an advanced degree in education. As an agent Tonya served on an all-male surveillance team investigating espionage subjects and is one of the few agents to testify in an actual espionage case in federal court. As an instructor, she taught other agents about the intricacies of the communication process, awareness, and the power of mindset. She authored a book sharing her experiences from the trenches of a hyper-masculine world and the path of integration she used to traverse it: W.A.R. – Watch, Assess, React: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Power and Safety.