1937 – Crafting Compelling Brand Stories with Light Years Ahead PR’s Megan Bennett

Mastering the Art of Public Relations: Understanding the Essence of a Compelling Story

In a recent episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show, host Josh Elledge interviewed Megan Bennett, CEO of Light Years Ahead, to explore the nuances of public relations (PR) and the art of crafting and pitching compelling stories to the media. Megan shared invaluable insights from her extensive PR experience, offering actionable advice on elevating a brand's visibility and authenticity. This blog post distills the key takeaways from their conversation, providing a comprehensive guide for anyone looking to master PR.

One of the primary challenges in PR is transforming a seemingly mundane product into a newsworthy story. Megan emphasized the importance of finding a unique angle or hook that sets a brand apart. This involves deep diving into the founder’s background to uncover compelling narratives and highlighting unique selling points like innovative ingredients or social causes. Megan shared a success story of Kansas City Cattle Company, a Wagyu beef brand founded by a combat veteran, whose compelling narrative and superior product quality led to significant media coverage and increased sales.

Megan stressed that mass-distributed press releases are often ineffective. Instead, personalized pitches tailored to specific media outlets and journalists are far more impactful. Key elements of a successful pitch include compelling subject lines, engaging first paragraphs, and high-quality visuals. Persistence is crucial in PR, and Megan highlighted the importance of following up multiple times and being prepared to tweak the pitch if it’s not resonating. Authenticity over paid coverage and continuous engagement with media contacts are essential for building lasting relationships and achieving successful PR outcomes.

About Megan Bennett:

Megan has been on the LYA team for over 20 years. She started working at LYA just a year after college and fell so in love with public relations that she stayed on and helped build the company into what it is today. Her expertise focuses on managing clients, engaging with top national media daily, and securing meaningful media placements. She has spearheaded and implemented countless successful PR campaigns for numerous brands. She is proud of the positive, lasting relationships she cultivates with the media on an ongoing basis.

Megan's forté lies in her outgoing and engaging personality, which has solidified extremely strong relationships with top consumer print, online, and broadcast media contacts. She understands what the media wants and what tactics work to obtain the most high-profile placements. When it comes to placing a story or segment for a client, she is relentless with the media, and she doesn't stop until she makes it happen.

Megan lives outside of Kansas City. She is married and has two daughters. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications from Skidmore College.

About Light Years Ahead PR:

We are a cutting-edge public relations agency dedicated to propelling your brand beyond the competition and into the stratosphere of success. With a team of skilled strategists, creative visionaries, and media mavens, we craft personalized PR solutions that ignite your brand's brilliance. Proudly providing high-level PR services across the nation since 1995.

At Light Years Ahead PR, we understand that every client is unique, and that's why we tailor our services to align perfectly with your specific goals and aspirations. Whether you're a startup seeking to establish a powerful presence or an established brand aiming to reach new heights, we've got the expertise to make it happen.

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Speaker 1 (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Are you looking for introductions to partners, investors, influencers and clients? Well, I've had private conversations with over 2000 leaders asking them where their best business comes from. I've got a free video you can watch with no opt in required, where I'll share the exact steps necessary to be 100% inbound in your industry over the next 6 to 8 months, with no spam, no ads, and no sales. What I teach has worked for me for over 15 years, and has helped me create eight figures in revenue for my own companies. Just head to up my influence. Com and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for great guests. Go to up my influence. Com and click on podcast. I'd love to have you. With us right now it's Megan Bennett. Megan, you are the CEO of Light Years Ahead. You are found on the web at Light Years Megan, it's so great to have you.

Speaker 1 (00:01:18) - Thanks for joining us.

Speaker 2 (00:01:19) - Thank you so much for having me today. Josh. I'm really excited to be here.

Speaker 1 (00:01:23) - Yeah, we'll tell us. I'm obviously in the public relations space, but tell us about kind of your work and and the impact you have in the world.

Speaker 2 (00:01:31) - Yes. So I own a boutique, all women run public relations firm, and we're national. We cover everything from lifestyle brands to emerging beauty brands to technology to food, to wellness and health. we pretty much do any type of public relations as long as there's a good story and we can make a good hook out of it, then we can promote any brand. and that's what we do. We basically get the word out. We pitched the media and I am a certified PR stalker is what I call myself. And I reach out to the media over and over again until they cover your brand in, an earned story or segment. So earned means that we are sending samples and reaching out, and we're not paying for the coverage.

Speaker 2 (00:02:26) - So we're reaching out and doing it authentically and getting samples and interviews from our clients to the media. And then we follow up with the media until they cover it in an authentic way that helps to build brand awareness.

Speaker 1 (00:02:39) - Yeah. so this is really interesting. So looking at your roster of clients. lot of beauty, a lot of health and wellness, some food and beverage, some lifestyle. so this is, you know, when you have a product that comes to you and they say, well, listen, you know, we're a beauty brand, that in and of itself is not newsworthy, that, you know, hey, we has a company. That's not enough. So how do you help them find that hook and that story?

Speaker 2 (00:03:08) - We help develop the story. So if we have a founder that's coming to us and saying, you know, I have this great new skincare brand. And I started it because I wanted to start a skincare brand. Yeah. We'll say, well, what's your background? How did you get into this? What created the buzz? Like, why did you want to start this story? And once in a while we'll get that founder.

Speaker 2 (00:03:29) - That's like, I just wanted to create a skincare brand. I have no background. I don't know what the ingredients are. I don't, you know, that's happened once in a while. When that happens, it's like, okay, we're going to help you try to build this story. We're going to find a hook to make it interesting, because there are a lot of brands out there that don't really have a story other than somebody wanted to create a CBD product, you know? So, but our job is, is to develop the story. And most of the time there is a founder's story. And we have like a call with the client when we first embark on a campaign and ask all the questions and do a full interview with the founder to find out what really makes the product and the brand stand out. And then we get together as a team, and we create a very compelling backgrounder and email pitch that we send to the media to get it into the right hands to help build the story.

Speaker 2 (00:04:24) - And if we start working on a brand and we're pitching a story and it's not resonating, and the media doesn't want to cover the founder, but the but the founder wants to be covered. Then we go back to the founder and we say, all right, we need more meat. We got to figure this out. We've got to build this story. And so that's what we're here for, is to spin stories and authentic ways to entice the media to cover you, in their own opinion on stories and segments.

Speaker 1 (00:04:50) - Yeah. What would be some examples or maybe clients you've worked with recently and, and kind of the unique story that you had to dig and, and kind of discover, you know. Kind of build. And now you brought that. And that did seem to catch some attention. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (00:05:05) - I mean, we've worked on and off for several years now with a brand. it's not in the beauty category, but it's called Kansas City Cattle Company. Casey Cattle Company, and it's a brand of Wagyu beef, that is based in outside of, Kansas City, Missouri.

Speaker 2 (00:05:21) - And, you know, that wasn't enough of the story to sell. But the big story is that it was also founded by a veteran, who was a combat veteran and who after, you know, serving in the military, came back and started this company in honor of his brother in law, who was killed in combat, to remember him and also to do something that he loved, which was to start this company of Wagyu steaks. And it's all employed by veterans, too. And so we took that angle of the veteran owned founder in conjunction with the amazing Wagyu beef. And that's how we got the story and got them and food and wine listed as the best hot dog, for all beef hot dog. And they made about a quarter of $1 million in sales.

Speaker 3 (00:06:08) - Wow. But I think.

Speaker 2 (00:06:10) - If it was just a beef hot dog that was Wagyu and it didn't have the veteran founder behind it. Yeah. It just it's like it's another brand that everybody's trying to be, you know. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (00:06:20) - So even though it was superior, everything tastes amazing. The way that everything is done is like pristine. It's just having that other story behind it is what really helped to sell it. so we work with many entrepreneurs like that where, you know, they have a story, or maybe they'll work with an entrepreneur that we worked with 20 years ago that sold this company to private equity firm, and now he's starting a new company, and we can use the story of his other company and how he sold and built this big brand. And now is an entrepreneur creating something completely different. So we just find different hooks and different ways that interest the media to want to cover the brand. And I would say that the way that we do that is through very, very compelling email pitches and subject lines that we send out and then just continuing to reach out over and over and over again until they remember us. It takes sometimes 4 to 6 times.

Speaker 1 (00:07:15) - Yeah. Well, and that's the thing too, in terms of like being realistic about like, let's say someone, you know, again, my background is in PR, so, you know, this idea that, you know, you can just, you know, launch a company, find some press release, distribution service, and, pay them to pump out a press release.

Speaker 1 (00:07:40) - what's your opinion about the effectiveness of that strategy?

Speaker 2 (00:07:44) - it's not effective. I mean, it's going to help if if somebody. Once you know their product placed in a certain amount of business stories over a wire that mentions their brand and that they've acquired something, or that they're offering a product. But at the end of the day, no, it's not going to make the meter move. It's not going to build much brand awareness. It's going to maybe make the founder happy that his name is mentioned in, you know, Yahoo Finance. But it's not authentic and it's it's something that you pay for. And so therefore it is one sided. It is a story that is written by the brand, and it's not a story that's written by the media. And so people see it. But is it going to help? Probably not. I only recommend doing those for big companies that have like an announcement, like, you know, they've hired a new CEO that was at some big company, or they've sold their company or they're going public.

Speaker 2 (00:08:39) - Those are the times to pay for the wire services. But sending out a press release, the media actually gets mad if you just send a press release. They're like, why are you sending this to me? Yeah, it means you're not personalizing anything. You're sending this to hundreds of people. And why am I going to take the time to read a release? And really what we do is, is we customize pitches where the whole meet and the hook of the pitch is in the first paragraph. So you don't even usually have to read the rest of the thing to know what's going on.

Speaker 1 (00:09:06) - Yeah, that's really important. you know, kind of the old school inverted pyramid, right? Where, you know, we kind of try to cover the who, what, when, where, why, but, you know, just what's that most important? You know, it's like you're earning attention one sentence at a time. And, man, your first few sentences better be pretty compelling. so, so aside from, you know, making sure that we frontload, you know, what's the most important thing that that you need to know? are there any other elements of a successful pitch that that you'd recommend, to, to maybe those that, Megan may not be ready or be able to financially afford your services? you say? Well, listen, at the very least, you know, and what I'm particularly interested in is maybe the level of familiarity or formality in, you know, out reaching out.

Speaker 1 (00:10:01) - and, well, let's start with, like, what goes in that and then next we'll talk about how to find, folks.

Speaker 2 (00:10:09) - Yeah. And I would say that the main thing is, is, like I said, having a very compelling subject line. You know, if you're launching a brand of skincare that erases wrinkles in 24 hours, you want to put that in a subject line, you know, a new skincare line that erases wrinkles in 24 hours, you know, media samples. And then you reach out and you say, you know, I'm reaching out to you because I want to tell you about this amazing new client that we represent. And this is why it's incredible. But another thing I highly recommend is, is to put a very good picture in the photo, because sometimes they don't even want to read the pitch and they want to look at the photo. Yeah. And if they look at the photo of this beautiful jewelry product or this beautiful skincare line that's beautifully packaged, then they might immediately write back and say, I want to try this.

Speaker 2 (00:10:51) - the next thing is, is that if you send out a pitch and nobody responds, you've got to change number one, your subject line. And number two, the first sentence of your pitch, change it. If that doesn't work, do it again and again and again until you get responses. Something will work. It just takes time. And it takes practice, and it takes rejection in order to get to where you need to be with your pitching. I mean, it's taken me years, and when I first started, I was like smiling and dialing when the media wanted to talk on the phone before, we had very much email, and I would sit and print out a list of all the media contacts and call them for hours. Hi, this is Megan from light Years ahead. I'm calling about Rembrandt Oral care products. Are you doing any whitening stories? And half the time they would be like, I don't know why you're calling me. And they'd hang up, but like one out of ten, I get like Cosmopolitan or People magazine or InStyle saying, I'm so glad you called because we do have an oral care round up coming up, you know, next June.

Speaker 2 (00:11:52) - And that's it. We need the lead time. So for every know every ten no's, I would get a yes. And that's just that's how you build a thick skin and that's how you learn how to really pitch is by getting rejected. If everybody says yes, you're not going to learn the tricks of the trade, you know? But the nos are what really drive me to succeed.

Speaker 1 (00:12:14) - Yeah. You know, and I think about, you know, when it makes sense for someone to outsource to a public relations professional and what they're getting. So right there, you know, obviously the biggest thing is, you know, a public relations professional is going to know how to find a story. They know what's performed before. And oftentimes I think that, you know, we as business leaders, we're tuned in like we think everything is a break, is breaking news and just the greatest thing ever. Right? So we're we're too close to it. So we can't be objective about you know that. So that's kind of the first thing is like you know, again, a good PR professional will help you find something that's going to work really well and then know the rules of engagement on how to do that.

Speaker 1 (00:12:57) - All of these things, I think, are really easy for a novice or someone who's not trained in this to do this. Now, that said, I think there's, you know, still like if someone practices what we're talking about here, that's really good. the next step then would be, you know, well, who do I send this to? And, and knowing, who's relevant right. It rather than spraying and praying and just, you know, spamming, some email addresses that you find those may not be good people to send and they're just. Going to get annoyed at you. They're going to spam block you and AdWords, right? So yeah. what what would you recommend? I mean, I think there's some really good directories out there, but they can get pretty pricey. and so for someone that maybe still at that DIY level, Megan, and they want to find some great contacts, how would you recommend their search go?

Speaker 2 (00:13:50) - I mean, I would say at the DIY level it is expensive.

Speaker 2 (00:13:53) - We subscribe. We did work with Cision for years, which is, you know, one of the leaders in the PR, media list, and then realize that a lot of the contacts weren't updated. And so now for the past, I think three years, we've been doing Muck Rack and it is very expensive, but it is incredibly good. And what it is is it's a database. It gives us the name and contacts of all the top media from every outlet you could imagine, and their email addresses. As long as the media gives consent, their name and email addresses in there. if you don't have a big budget, I recommend reaching out to other brands that you know and asking them to split it so that you can do, you know, join the service together and split the costs. It's still pretty pricey, though. I mean, you know, you could also buy lists from people. But the problem about buying lists is that they they aren't updated all the time. Yeah. So really you either got a fork up the money to use a really good database where you're getting constant contacts, and you have to make sure that as a brand owner, you're committed to pitching.

Speaker 2 (00:14:58) - If you're going to pay for this service, you have to pitch every single day and come up with compelling and new things to reach out to the media. If you don't have that dedication but you have the funds to subscribe to a service, I recommend implementing a PR campaign and getting a publicist to do it because, yeah, I mean, another option is to go with a publicist that does not have an agency that just worked for themself as an independent, and they're much more affordable. But you're not going to get the kind of coverage that you would with an agency like ours, because there's not just one of us pitching, there's three of us, and we take turns on different brands so that the media doesn't get burned out by us to pitching the same brand every single week. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (00:15:41) - So oh, boy, here comes and here comes the fourth email. She is again a person today. Yeah. And you know, and I've been on both sides of that equation so I know what that's like.

Speaker 1 (00:15:52) - but Megan let's talk about light years ahead and who would be a really, like, someone listening to us right now who should be reaching out and, like, what would you recommend that next step from here be.

Speaker 2 (00:16:04) - Yeah. anybody that's an entrepreneur that has a budget to to pay a monthly retainer and we're not we don't charge nearly as much as the big agencies, but you have to have the budget to put in, I would say for at least three months, if not six months, because it takes at least three to start to build the momentum. But it's six, like you're going to see placements going over and over again. And the main thing I would recommend is if you're ready to implement a PR company, you have to have your website up and running and seamless, no bugs. And if there's a product that you are selling, make sure that it is available to purchase on your website and or on Amazon. Because. That's what the media wants to see. I mean, we've worked with brands before that have hired us and they're websites not done, and you can't buy the product and we have to pause the campaign.

Speaker 2 (00:16:55) - You have to be totally ready to get your products out there to people that want to buy it. Because if we get something like with the food and wine thing that we got, and you don't have the capacity to handle out sending out those samples, then it's like a waste for us to be getting you this great placement. So you have to make sure that you're ready, that you have products and that you don't have any glitches on your website. And that's what I recommend for any entrepreneur that is getting ready to start. We love to work with entrepreneurs, you know, angel investors. we work with a lot of private equity firms who where our client has sold to them. And then the private equity firm hires us to work on multiple brands. We do it all. so as long as there's a hook and you're buttoned up and ready to go, then we are ready to do it.

Speaker 1 (00:17:47) - Meghan Bennett. Your website light years When someone goes to your website, what would you recommend they do?

Speaker 2 (00:17:54) - Just check it out.

Speaker 2 (00:17:55) - Look what we've done, check out some of the placements and then you can go to the contact Us page and send me an email. Megan at light years ahead. Com I promise you I will write you back and we will set up a call to talk.

Speaker 1 (00:18:07) - Sounds great. Megan Bennett, CEO of Light Years Ahead. The website Light Years Megan, thank you for joining us. Sure.

Speaker 2 (00:18:16) - Thank you.

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