The Unofficial Shopify Podcast: Entrepreneur Tales

Be Your Brand’s Best Publicist

Episode Summary

How to get yourself in the press

Episode Notes

Today's topic is PR...

PR or "earned media" is very attractive. Authentic content and engagement that you dont have to pay for. Its like SEO for press.

Sounds great? So why isn't everyone doing it? Because it's hard and expensive.

As the host of a moderately successful podcast, I get a lot of pitches from PR firms and they're mostly awful. Or we've had clients hire PR firms and feel like they flushed $10K/mo down the toilet.

So how do you do it right? Like many things, the answer might be Do It Yourself, at least at first.

The attraction is clear. Who wouldn't want to be featured in Wirecutter, GQ, Engadget, Techcrunch, Forbes, CNN, Wall Street Journal, or even huge YouTube channels like iJustine. Our guest today has, and he's going to tell us how to do it.

Our guest today has been doing PR for eight years as part of his role at NOMAD GOODS. We're joined by listener & recurring guest Chuck Melber. During his tenure at Nomad he has established a strong foundation in advertising, email marketing, affiliate marketing, PR, and influencer marketing.

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Episode Transcription

The Unofficial Shopify Podcast

Kurt Elster: Today, on The Unofficial Shopify Podcast, our topic is PR. Public relations. Earned media. Whatever you want to call it, it gets you impressions, engagements, and hopefully sales. This is The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. I’m your host, Kurt Elster.

Ezra Firestone Sound Board Clip: Tech Nasty!

Kurt Elster: And all right, PR, earned media, very attractive, because authentic content and engagement that you don’t have to page for, that sounds like SEO for the press to me. I like this idea. It sounds great. So, why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, because it’s hard and it could be expensive. So, all right, as the host of a moderately successful podcast… That’s the really nice bar to clear there, moderately successful. I get a lot of pitches for PR firms. They’re mostly awful. Or we’ve had clients hire PR firms and they feel like they flushed 10K a month down the toilet. These are the stories I’ve heard about this.

But then you have people who do PR and they do it right, so how do you do it right? And like many things, the answer might be do it yourself. DIY it. At least at first. So, why would you want to put in that effort? Well, who wouldn’t want to be featured in Wirecutter, GQ, Engadget, TechCrunch, Forbes, CNN, Wall Street Journal? I will take any one of those or even huge YouTube channels like iJustine. Our guest today has been featured in all of those and he’s gonna tell us how to do it. He’s been doing PR for eight years as part of his role at Nomad Goods. We’re joined by listener and now recurring guest, Chuck Melber. And during his tenure at Nomad, he’s established a strong foundation in advertising, email marketing, affiliate marketing, PR, and influencer marketing.

Well, PR is the thing we’re interested in, but I also might want to hear about affiliate and influencer marketing along the way. Okay, Chuck, welcome. You really got in all of those places. These big household names have featured your product?

Chuck Melber: Yeah. Yeah. First, it’s great to be here again. Love listening to the show, as always, so I’m excited to contribute a little bit.

Kurt Elster: Oh, thank you.

Chuck Melber: Yeah, I’ve gotten Nomad pretty much featured in all those guys over the years, some of them repeatedly, and it’s taken a lot of sweat equity to get there, but it’s a good place for us to be. That’s for sure.

Kurt Elster: All right, so you did get in all of those. Follow-up question. How?

Chuck Melber: It’s all about relationships. A lot of effort, a lot of communication, and a lot of just establishing good friendships with people all across the spectrum that are doing all types of content, be it YouTube, traditional media, influencer, or anything else.

Kurt Elster: So, establishing relationships. Let’s start with how do you not do it? What is the wrong way to go about this? Because I think I’m on the receiving end of mostly that.

Chuck Melber: The wrong way is if you’re a Shopify store, I’m sure you’ve gotten bad pitches from all different kinds of software companies, but the wrong way to do it is to do an impersonal, batch and blast message with the wrong first name in the title, the subject line, the wrong job, screw up their title, that type of stuff. Just impersonal, indirect communication is gonna get you in the trash pile and eventually on the crap list if you do it too many times.

Kurt Elster: You can always tell when it’s like the bad mail merge because often the fonts don’t match, like the font sizes will change and you’re like, “I don’t even know how you did this.”

Chuck Melber: Yeah. No, you-

Kurt Elster: Or if they managed to get that part right, then like the context makes zero sense, like I got one recently that’s like, “Hi, Kurt Paul, I love The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. We’d love to come on your show to discuss real estate investing.” For that one, that’s one of the few I actually replied to, because I said absolutely. You can come on the show just as soon as you tell me what that has to do with eCommerce. And of course, I didn’t even get a reply, but I also didn’t get any more pitches from them.

Chuck Melber: No, exactly, and I… Having been on the receiving end of those kind of pitches too for software and stuff like that, it’s just… It’s brutal to get it, so you gotta put yourself in the writer’s shoes and imagine how you would like to be pitched on any given subject and try to connect with them on an actual personal level. Which is a good transition into like how you should actually go about establishing these relationships.

And I’m sure there’s… You know, the saying goes there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but for me, the way I’ve gone about it was predominantly through Twitter. People that are working in media are all over Twitter. It’s the one place you definitely can find folks that are writing about whatever subject matter that matters to you or your business. So, when I first started at Nomad, I established our branded Twitter account, and then used that as a method to reach out to press and engage with them not necessarily on the pitch I want to send them, not necessarily on our products, but just engage with them on a human level.

You know, they’re posting about what’s your favorite IPA. I respond to that with a witty comment. Someone complains about Mondays, you respond to that with a witty comment. And you take the opportunity to then establish your brand as a persona that the press can engage with in a non-pitchy, non-transactional way, or in a non-transactional way, which I think has been very important for me and Nomad.

But how do you find those press? How do you decide who you want to engage with? That’s another big question. For me, I basically just started putting together a list of all the publications I wanted to be in and then tried to track down the writers that are talking about iPhone or Apple Watch, since Nomad focuses predominantly on those two pieces of tech.

Kurt Elster: All right, so run us through what Nomad sells. You work for Nomad Goods. What do these guys sell?

Chuck Melber: Sorry. I should have established that at the beginning. Nomad, we sell iPhone and Apple Watch accessories for the most part, so straps for Apple Watch, cases for iPhone, wireless chargers, MagSafe chargers, AirPod cases. I know, Kurt, you have an AirPods Pro case from us.

Kurt Elster: I had a Nomad phone case, but upgraded my phone, so I don’t have it now, but I have my AirPods Pro case. It’s like glorious, honey brown leather. I love this thing. It feels good. It looks good. My case is readily identifiable to me. I don’t know. Every time I see it, I pick it up, I think about Chuck.

Chuck Melber: Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, so we sell all kinds of tech accessories, so for me, getting in Engadget or TechCrunch is really important, because that’s the place where people go to read about tech. So, I found those writers that are talking about our subject matter and then kind of just track them down on Twitter, start engaging with them there, and then eventually try to find an email address and eventually send a pitch. But initially, at least, just try to establish the brand as a persona for them to recognize.

Kurt Elster: And so, all right, you look for publications that would be interested in what you do, and the chances are by virtue of being in that industry, you already know them before I finish that sentence. And so, in your case it’s obvious, like all right, it’s iPhone accessories, so we want these gadget blogs.

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: Yeah, so like Engadget, TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Apple Insider, there’s just so many.

Chuck Melber: Yeah. Exactly.

Kurt Elster: And so, all right, you go through those, you know which ones those are, you go through those, and then you see… All right, who’s on the beat? Who’s writing about these topics? Follow them on Twitter and start engaging with them. I think what’s interesting is that you do it as Nomad Goods.

Chuck Melber: Yeah, I do that-

Kurt Elster: So, it’s not Chuck. It’s @Nomad is the one doing it.

Chuck Melber: Correct. And I do that purposefully. I could easily establish my own Twitter account and try to do the same thing, but having Nomad be the entity engaging with the writers kind of helps your pitch email that you eventually send rise to the top. So, just like you and I, we get a ton of pitches all day from software companies, writers are getting pitches all day long from people that want their items covered. But if they’re scrolling through their pitches and they see, “Oh, something from Nomad, that’s the company that was talking to me about beer the other day. Let’s see what they’re talking about here, what they’re emailing me for.” It’s a good way to ensure your emails get opened, basically.

Kurt Elster: And it’s because you have managed to stay top of mind and make yourself recognizable.

Chuck Melber: Very much so. And repeatedly. It’s not like I go out there, jump on Twitter, and engage with Kurt once and then never again. It’s no, I’m gonna engage with Kurt every week, maybe a couple times a week, and then when I do send that pitch a month later he’s like, “Oh, yeah. Nomad’s been chatting with me. Let’s see what Nomad’s got going on now.”

Kurt Elster: What’s that duration? Is there a duration or trigger where you know like, “All right, time to pitch?”

Chuck Melber: I don’t have any hard fast rules there. I mean, you could engage a couple times and then pitch right the next day. For me, or for Nomad specifically, we have such a robust product lineup, so we’re always… Well, we’re basically launching a new product every two weeks, so I’ll start engaging with people and then as soon as I have my next product launch, I’ll start sending emails. But if you launch a product once a year, I’d say try to get out in front of them with a pitch sooner than that. Engage once or twice and then send your pitch their way.

But like we were saying earlier, it’s super important to make that pitch personal and direct to the person that’s receiving it, so get the name right, get their publication right. Don’t go on, and on, and on about some tirade about why your product’s amazing. Just give them the quick bullet points and offer to send them a sample and see where it goes.

Kurt Elster: When we talk about PR, and we call it earned media, why do we call it earned media?

Chuck Melber: Well, you can go all day long. You can spend money on Facebook. You can spend money on the Meta universe or any other location. You could buy posts on publications too if you wanted to. But at the end of the day, having that earned media, earning that media is… A, it’s more organic. It’s original. And then B, it’s repeatable. You don’t have to go spend that money again. If you want to go buy a spot in whatever, I don’t know, some random publication, you can do that. You can pay five grand for a spot. But then you want to do it again, you can’t just email that publication and get a free post. They’re gonna want you to pay again. You want to earn the media so that way you get it repeatedly.
Kurt Elster: Okay. Well, it’s authentic. It’s more authentic than paying for it. So, in theory, the one I didn’t pay for is the more valuable one.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. The one you didn’t pay for is more valuable. Publications have to be transparent about when you’re paying for something. It’ll say like guest post, or sponsored post, or whatever it may be. I think consumers can see through that. And then also, too, we’re kind of jumping ahead here, but the social… If you are advertising on Facebook, or Meta, or whatever, people see your brand, they’re gonna Google you to see if you’re legit or not. There’s so many fly by night dropship operations these days that they want to see what’s up. So, if you have that earned media out there, they see your ad, they then Google the brand and five articles come up about all your latest and greatest products, they know that there’s this trust built in. They can believe in your brand and what you’re selling versus, like I said, some random fly by night operation.

Kurt Elster: That’s a solid point. So, a lot of it is about establishing trust.

Chuck Melber: Trust. Exactly. With the consumer, but then also… We call it PR, like public relations, whatever. I consider it more personal relationships. So, you’re establishing that relationship with the writer to then garner more publications or easier publications down the road, so you’re not included in just one gift guide. You’re included in all the gift guides. Or one best of roundup. You’re included in many best of roundups. Having that one-to-one relationship is super important and that’s something you just can’t get with an agency.

Kurt Elster: And so, you like the DIY approach here. You think that’s necessary, it sounds like.

Chuck Melber: I love the DIY approach. That said, there are times when an agency is helpful. Like if you want to break into a new vertical, a new market with your brand, and you don’t have any of those relationships yet, and you don’t want to spend a year building them, you can go out and find a reputable agency who can help you do that. But ultimately, it’s one of those things that you want to try to bring back in house as soon as you can, at least in my opinion.

Kurt Elster: And if I’m doing this myself, where do I start? What’s step zero here?

Chuck Melber: Yeah, we kind of touched on it. Step zero, Twitter. Step two, build that list of who you want to engage with and start chatting with. Step three, get their email address. That’s kind of the hardest step, because writers don’t necessarily want their email address all over the internet. Some of them will have it listed in their Twitter profile, which is great. Some of them you can find it on their bio for whatever publication they write on. But then others, they just… It’s not there.

So, there’s a few ways to go about trying to find that email. One, you can of course, if you establish a relationship with them on Twitter, you can just DM them and ask. What I’ve done in the past, early on, is I hired a VA, said, “Here’s a list of publications and writers, go find me their email address.” And they couldn’t find all of them, but they definitely spent a little bit more time sleuthing around the internet, they were able to drum up some email addresses for me. And the pro way is you invest in like a PR tool. The one I use is called Cision, but there’s a few different ones out there, and those are great ways to search for writers and surface their contact information, how they want to be pitched, all that kind of stuff. It’s a little bit spendy but it’s been really helpful for me.

Kurt Elster: What does it do?

Chuck Melber: The main thing is I can jump in there, I can just search for iPhone and see who’s writing and talking about iPhone, add you on Twitter, and start sending you pitches. Or I can say, “Hey, I know Kurt is a great guy that covers iPhone. I can’t find his email address anywhere.” You can search in Cision and 70% of the time, 80% of the time it's there. And the nice thing, too, it comes up with their bio, how they like to be pitched, all that kind of stuff. Some writers want to be phone called. Some of them absolutely do not want to be phone called.

Kurt Elster: Oh, it’s got their preferred method of contact?

Chuck Melber: Oftentimes, yes. Not always. It’s kind of up to the writer I think to update that, but oftentimes it’ll be there.

Kurt Elster: That’s kind of cool.

Chuck Melber: It’s great. It’s really neat because that way all the information’s there. I got the email, I got the phone number, I got Twitter.

Kurt Elster: Yeah, because if one person prefers phone and another doesn’t, you call the wrong one and email the wrong one-

Chuck Melber: Oh, then you’re really on the crap list.

Kurt Elster: You’ve managed to offend both of them.

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: Or at the very least, you’ve annoyed them, which is not gonna help your case.

Chuck Melber: Yep. And then the other thing I like it for too is if I do want to break into a new vertical, I can do a search for iPhone but then limit it to only women’s interest publications, or only animal publications, pet publications for some reason. I don’t know. I don’t see why I’d be looking for pet writers that are talking about iPhones, but it's something you could do. And same for international, if I wanted to try and get a better foothold in Germany, and find writers in Germany, I can search there.

Kurt Elster: And in theory, I could do the same thing with just more time and effort in Google.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. You can definitely do all the exact same stuff in more time effort in Google, a VA, an intern, all that kind of stuff. But yeah, for the most part it’s been me just kind of hacking it together myself over the years.

Kurt Elster: All right, so our opportunity here is Twitter. Media people-

Chuck Melber: Are on Twitter.

Kurt Elster: … love to tell you how Twitter’s not real life and it doesn’t matter, and then also they’re the people who are absolutely the most active on it.

Chuck Melber: 100%. It’s crazy. Some of them have Instagram. Some are on TikTok. But everybody’s on Twitter, so that’s the channel to engage with people in a non-pitch basis.

Kurt Elster: And I think it’s interesting that you’re not doing the pitch in DMs, you wait till you get their email.

Chuck Melber: I wait till I get their email because that way I can give them a little bit more information. A lot of writers will have their DMs locked just because they do get blown up all the time and then-

Kurt Elster: That’s why I had to do it.

Chuck Melber: Yeah, exactly.

Kurt Elster: It was like nonstop. It’s like, “Hey, I’m affiliate manager from app for Shopify. It’s the newest app that sells web 4.0.” And I’m like-

Chuck Melber: I don’t care.

Kurt Elster: You should partner with us! And then, of course, partner means like you advertise for us and maybe we give you 2% of sales. Get out of here.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. So, yeah, use Twitter only for engaging on, like I said, a human basis, and then when it comes to pitching, use email for the most part.

Kurt Elster: All right, so Twitter, list, email. Twitter, build your list. Email them with the pitch.

Chuck Melber: With the pitch, free product.

Kurt Elster: After you built that rapport.

Chuck Melber: After you’ve built the rapport. And since you bring up the pitch, what goes into a good pitch? Zero requests. Don’t make any demands in the pitch. Don’t be like, “Hey, I want to send you this product, but I need you to do XY and Z.” That gets you nowhere. A good pitch is short and sweet. I’m sure a lot of you have seen really long, corporate, elaborate press releases. That’s just so verbose. No one’s gonna read through it. So, just get to the nuts and bolts of it real quick. You know, a couple sentences of the meat and potatoes of what you got, what you’re launching, some bullet points, a link to assets, and an offer for a sample. Being able to give a sample is very, very important, I think, and again, with no strings attached. Just, “Hey, check it out. We think it’s a great product. We think you’ll love it too.”

Kurt Elster: We heard in the past about this concept of product seeding, where you try, and no strings attached, you just offer the product for free, and that’s it. That is the sole thing. And you set a budget for it and you’re like, “This is how much free product I’m just gonna give away per month.” And you give that to influencers, which, we don’t traditionally think of journalists as influencers, but certainly they are.

Chuck Melber: Yeah, they have the same, a similar impact, and I think you talked about that on a recent podcast. I’m totally forgetting who the guest was, but that’s exactly how I treat my influencer marketing, is yeah, free product without any strings attached, and then with press, the same thing. It’s you want to get the product in their hands so they can write about it in a cohesive way and be excited about it, or hopefully as excited as you are.

Kurt Elster: Yeah. It’s hard and unrealistic to think they’re gonna agree to write about it before having experienced it.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. Unless you’re like… If you’re Apple, yes, they don’t need to have the latest iPhone in their hands before they write about it, but-

Kurt Elster: It turns out most of us are not Apple.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. I wish. As much as I wish I was, no, we’re not, so it’s important to be able to provide that product to people.

Kurt Elster: All right, so the way that people get it wrong here is they go straight to just like the person on the receiving end of the pitch has never heard of you, has no idea what you’re talking about, and you just come out of nowhere with like, “Here is a press release and some demands,” and then you’re like, “Why didn’t anyone reply to that?”

Chuck Melber: Exactly. And that’s the blessing and curse of Cision, is the fact that you can go download a list of email addresses without doing any proper legwork, and then just here’s 100 people that I think kind of cover my beat or my subject matter, and blast out 100 emails.

Kurt Elster: The shotgun approach.

Chuck Melber: Exactly, which that never helps, so it’s important to be picky and choosy with how you’re reaching out to people and who you’re reaching out to.

Kurt Elster: All right, so I want… This is another instance of quality over quantity.

Chuck Melber: 100%. It’s nice to get a couple good articles rather than a bunch of really low quality articles. Why? Because the writers all read each other’s stuff. They all know what everybody else is up to in a certain beat. So, if you’re picking up an article in one publication, you know a few other writers have seen it, so then if you start engaging with them on Twitter they’re gonna be like, “Oh, I read about that in John Smith’s article. Let’s see what these people are about.” So, I think quality over quantity is important, at least in my opinion.

Kurt Elster: By virtue of them being active on Twitter, they are in an ongoing conversation with each other. They have a network. They have a community. And so, if you can get in front of one person who will write a decent article about you, that garners respect with the others.

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: They’re like, “Oh. Well, if John Smith wrote about it in Apple Mac Rumors, maybe these guys are legit after all, and I should give them the time of day.”

Chuck Melber: Everyone knows everybody when it comes to a certain niche audience or in a niche category. So, like if it was makeup, a lot of the writers covering makeup all know each other, I’m sure. Same for tech, same for dog products, same for whatever it may be.

Kurt Elster: As far as tools go, you mentioned Cision, which is like this database that I probably wouldn’t recommend for someone just starting out with this just because it sounds like it’s expensive and you could get yourself into trouble with the wealth of info and data it can give you. So, are there any other tools you use?

Chuck Melber: Honestly, the primary tool I use is Streak. It’s a CRM tool that plugs into Gmail. Kurt mentioned mail merges earlier and how dangerous they can be if you’re screwing up your formatting or screwing up names, but as long as you keep a clean, well-organized list, Streak’s been a really great tool for me, especially because I’m doing so many different product launches on a frequent basis. I’m able to kind of isolate each product launch in its own Streak pipeline and keep track of who got a sample, who didn’t get a sample, who’s interested, who’s not, et cetera. And then the other nice thing, too, is I’m able to go back and cross-reference it.

So, if I’m releasing an updated product on an updated wireless charger, I can go see who wrote about the first one. I got a nice little clean list there of who wrote about my earlier version. Let’s make sure they get the newest one.

Kurt Elster: All right, so looking at Streak, I have not used-

Chuck Melber: It’s definitely not meant for PR.

Kurt Elster: I probably tried Streak once like 10 years ago and I ended up using a different CRM tool. I use Pipedrive, which does not live in Gmail, but I’m also doing a different thing here. But looking at it, looking at Streak, it does very much look like a Pipedrive-esque CRM that lives inside Gmail. And a lot of that’s based on it’s automation, reminders, and workflow. It’s pipelines. And so, it can do mail merge, which is cool. It’s got snippets. It’s got some nice features. View tracking. If I’m setting this up for the first time, walk me through what my Streak pipeline should look like.

Chuck Melber: So, for me, my Streak pipeline is pretty simple, because I’m not… It’s not a long nurturing period. It’s I’m doing a product launch, okay, let’s move onto the next product launch, and the next one. But for me, I have my contacts is like step one, or people I’ve pitched. Step two is people that are interested, so maybe they say like, “Oh, that’s cool. Tell me more,” or, “Hey, I want a sample.” Step three is who I sent a sample to. After I send a sample I’ll give them about a week’s time for the sample to arrive and check it out. I’ll follow up, be like, “Hey, just making sure the sample arrived. Do you have any questions?” I’ll give them another week, follow up one more time. “Hey, do you have any questions? Any problems? Anything I can answer for you?” And then after that, everyone just basically drops off.

I don’t try to hammer things too many times about any one given product. I guess the last step in the pipeline is people that wrote about it. I keep track of who covered the product launch and who didn’t. But then a month later I’m launching my next product, I duplicate the pipeline, update it so everyone’s back in column one, and run the whole thing again. So, it’s pretty simple for me. I don’t utilize Streak at all to the capacity it’s designed, but the use case for product launches is pretty simple and straightforward, so it’s not… I don’t have to get too crazy with it.

Kurt Elster: Okay. How long have you been doing this?

Chuck Melber: It’s been eight years now, so I’ve been learning a lot on the fly. Honestly, learning a lot from writers, as well. People I’ve established relationships and able to pick their brain. Hey, what am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? What are other people doing wrong? That kind of stuff. Just asking honest questions. Once you establish a relationship with someone, it’s easy to have those direct conversations.

Kurt Elster: That’s kind of interesting. What were some of the early mistakes you did not realize you were making?

Chuck Melber: I mean, honestly, I did that shotgun approach. When I first got Cision, I got my hands on it, I was all excited. I’m like, “Oh, geez, I can download 100 email addresses, 200 email addresses? I’m gonna send everybody the same pitch right now. Let’s go.” And it just fell on deaf ears. No one responded. People were annoyed. So, it’s like, “Okay, cool. That’s not gonna work. Let’s not do that anymore.” But it took me a couple times to figure that one out.

The other thing too is if you are blasting out too many emails at one given time, this goes to email marketing now, you can end up on spam lists. So, you just gotta be diligent about not sending out 700 emails in one day. For me, I try not to do more than 100 at any given day.

Kurt Elster: Okay.

Chuck Melber: It’s funny, because you never think about your personal Gmail account ending up on a spam list, but if you’re sending out 500 pitches that are all exactly the same, you’re gonna end up on spam lists. Which is frustrating, but it happens.

Kurt Elster: What do you set your from name as? When this shows up in their inbox, is it like Chuck at Nomad? Nomad? Chuck Melber?

Chuck Melber: I think it’s Nomad Chuck, or Chuck Nomad, something like that. Nomad’s in the from line. And then subject line is like Nomad Pipe Whatever. Nomad New Product Release. Nomad Early Access. Nomad Embargo Request. That’s the other thing too, we can touch on if you want, is embargoes. But that’s kind of another side conversation.

Kurt Elster: Tell me about these subject lines. So, you always start with the brand name as a keyword and then like topic, and you keep it tight it sounds like.

Chuck Melber: Sometimes they get clickbaity if I need to. If it’s like I need to do a flash sale right now, let’s make a clickbaity subject line just to make sure it rises to the top. Yeah, generally it’s just Nomad pipe and then whatever the quick and easy subject is.

Kurt Elster: Okay. I like that. Now, you’ve been doing this for years, eight years. Is it still realistic to start with the same strategy today?

Chuck Melber: 100%. I’ve talked to friends that are in smaller businesses and given them this advice. They start doing it. Well, first they tend to roll their eyes at me like, “There’s no way I’m gonna spend time on Twitter with my brand account and trying to engage with writers.” But then they start doing it and they see it works.

Kurt Elster: But what are they doing instead with it?

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: Just yelling into the void?

Chuck Melber: Yelling into the void or trying to get to customers. But honestly, I don’t know if Twitter’s the greatest channel for customer acquisition, at least for eCommerce.

Kurt Elster: I agree. I’m just… I’ve never seen it. I’ve yet to see a brand, I’ve recorded over 400 episodes of this show. Not one person’s come on and been like, “You know where my number one acquisition is, where I sell everything? Twitter.”

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: Hasn’t happened once.

Chuck Melber: No. But it’s great for PR.

Kurt Elster: It’s good as… really is this B2B networking tool.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. So, I’ve advised friends to do it. They start doing it and they see a ton of success, and it’s been people with like… What’s the word? Experiential businesses, like going out and doing some sort of outdoor activity, and it’s been people with eCommerce businesses that have seen the same success trying this type of methodology.

Kurt Elster: On the Nomad account, do you have the Twitter shopping, the shelf setup, where it can show some products?

Chuck Melber: No, I don’t.

Kurt Elster: Have you considered it?

Chuck Melber: No. Is it good? Have you seen success with it?

Kurt Elster: I have not played with it. We’ve been messing with YouTube shopping and that’s nice, and the Twitter, it’s like the identical concept just in that as part of your profile there’s a shelf of like… You can put, “Here’s my five products. Check it out.”

And so, it might be kind of cool in this instance since people will… When you’re replying to these people, there are times where they’re gonna click through on your profile, and now without having to go a step further they could see the product at a glance. I think it’s something worth considering here. Having just dunked on Twitter-

Chuck Melber: No, but that’s a good point. It could be a really interesting way to do that for PR. Because yeah, I’ve tried the social shopping, like I’m doing the Instagram, YouTube, and everything else, and I’m not super bullish on any of them, to be honest, but for this it could be cool.

Kurt Elster: Well, all right, we’re starting to talk about social here. How does this strategy coexist with traditional social, like Instagram, Facebook ads?

Chuck Melber: Honestly-

Kurt Elster: Do they have any bearing on each other at all?

Chuck Melber: I think they’re super complementary. One, you can easily reshare those posts or those writeups you get, which I think adds a little bit of clout to your brand and gives it a little bit of a social validation. But then two, like I was saying, you can… At least for me, if I see a brand that looks interesting, a product that seems cool, I don’t click the ad. I go and Google the brand or the product or the ad, or I Google the service or product to see A, are they legit, and then B, just get more information about it. Because I know if I click the ad I’m gonna go to a salesy landing page and it’s not really gonna help me very much.

But if I Google it and I see, okay, like for me, I’ve been shopping for fitness equipment. There’s a ton of random, sketchy fitness equipment brands on Twitter, or Instagram, at least. So, I’m going and Googling the ones that seem interesting to me and seeing if they have any articles, seeing if anyone’s talked about them, and try and just get a little bit validation on them before I make a purchase. So, for me at Nomad, I think it's extremely important to be working on this PR outreach, this PR engagement, while I’m also focusing my advertising dollars in Meta, because I assume a lot of shoppers are similar to myself and going and Googling Nomad to figure out what our deal is.

And when they Google us, what comes up? A bunch of YouTube videos from different creators talking about us, a bunch of news articles talking about our different product launches, which I think helps a lot with validating us as a brand and driving those conversions. It’s tough to track because people see the ad on Facebook or Instagram, and then they go and Google, and they go to the Forbes article, and then they click the link on Forbes, and it turns out that’s an affiliate link, so now affiliate’s getting credit for the sale when it maybe was originated by Facebook. That’s a whole nother conversation with attribution, but my gut feeling is they work hand in hand really nicely.

Kurt Elster: All right, so IG, Facebook, and these PR efforts work hand in hand because that’s content that I can then use in ads.

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: Quality content. It means way more for a respected, recognizable publication to sing my praises than for me to shout about it.

Chuck Melber: 100%.

Kurt Elster: You mentioned affiliate.

Chuck Melber: Yeah.

Kurt Elster: How does affiliate and earned media play together?

Chuck Melber: So, affiliate’s the icing on the cake when it comes to earned media efforts. More and more today, publishers are turning towards affiliate marketing as a way for them to earn revenue to drive their publication rather than pay-per-click ads or banner ads, or even those sponsored posts. Why? Because everyone has to write about the newest products out there. They might as well use an affiliate link to earn a little bit of money on that effort. So, I think it’s extremely important to at the very least have some products on Amazon so they can link to you on Amazon and take advantage of the Amazon affiliate program, but ideally you also set up your own affiliate program on any of the different affiliate platforms. There’s way too many. To give the publisher an opportunity to earn a little cash when they’re doing those listicles or writeups on your products and that kind of stuff.

Kurt Elster: So, if I just have… Increasingly, we see people listing their products on marketplaces, like I just talked to a guy who’s like… He had this huge catalog. He’s like, “Oh, I got 200 products on eBay and that’s a great acquisition channel.” And certainly, we see people with like, “Hey, my halo product, my best seller will be on Amazon.” And just by virtue of Amazon having that affiliate program that anyone else can opt into, that gives them that opportunity to earn affiliate income on sales of your product. Assuming you’re already on Amazon, you don’t have to do anything else here.

Chuck Melber: You don’t have to worry about it. And the kicker with Amazon too is they can at least… This is how it used to be. I don’t know if it’s changed. But if you click an Amazon affiliate link for a Nomad wireless charger, go to Amazon, and then buy a TV within 24 hours, the publisher gets credit for that TV sale, which is crazy. I mean, I don’t know how much the commission rate is these days, but it’s a pretty liberal deal.

Kurt Elster: During the pandemic they cut it.

Chuck Melber: They cut it? Okay.

Kurt Elster: It used to be it was like there were categories that had like 7, 8% affiliate payout, which was nuts. And then over time it has steadily come down from that. But it’s like the ease of use of it and the ubiquity of it I think is why you see, like when you’re just going through links and listicles and stuff, you’ll just see… As soon as you see, you know that’s the affiliate link domain.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. So, yeah, having your products on Amazon is important. But if you want to get next level, you set up your own affiliate program, and that way you can offer better incentives to publishers. If you really want to get some old stock listed or published about maybe something that you need to clear out, you can say, “Hey, I’ll give you an affiliate bonus if you help me sell 100 of these units,” or whatever.

So, having your own affiliate program gives you more.

Kurt Elster: Is this attractive or offensive to them?

Chuck Melber: You gotta tread lightly. Because a lot of times the editorial side of things is a little bit separate from commerce, so ideally as you’re setting up your affiliate program you figure out who the commerce editor at the publication is, and that’s the person that handles all the affiliate deals. So, you don’t have to go to the writer friend and say, “Hey, help me sell this.” You go, “Hey, who’s the commerce editor? Oh, it’s John Smith? Can I talk to him?” And then you pitch John on the more salesy affiliate stuff.

Kurt Elster: Okay.

Chuck Melber: Generally.

Kurt Elster: Because you don’t want it… They could be turned off by payola but then at the same time, if you go-

Chuck Melber: If you go through the proper channels.

Kurt Elster: If you watch any morning show now, like NBC is like, “All right, we’re gonna do three sessions of Jill’s Steals and Deals back to back.”

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: And that’s all affiliate stuff.

Chuck Melber: Exactly. I mean, it’s a changing media landscape and publishers need to earn money somehow, so affiliate seems to be the preferred methodology right now, and I think that’s fine. I don’t see any problem with that.

Kurt Elster: For Nomad, what affiliate tool do you use?

Chuck Melber: So, I was on Pepperjam for years, and then recently changed over to CJ.

Kurt Elster: Okay. Commission Junction. It’s not a complex thing to fulfill and there’s a lot of options.

Chuck Melber: At the end of the day, there’s 10 or so really reputable affiliate platforms out there you can dig into. You just gotta find the one that’s right for you and right for your audience.

Kurt Elster: I was gonna say it’s the one that works for you, but also the one the audience… If there’s one they’re already familiar with-

Chuck Melber: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: … I think they’re more likely to use it. Because they’re like, “Oh, I already use this for X.”

Chuck Melber: Exactly. And you’ll find that different industries operate on different platforms, like I forget which one it is, but there’s one that a lot of the outdoor brands and outdoor publishers are all using, versus CJ has kind of everybody on there, Pepperjam has everybody on there. There’s one that’s got a lot of makeup type publishers. I forget what that one is too. But just do your research. You’ll find one that’s right for you. They all operate about the same way as far as revenue, how they make their money.

Kurt Elster: Anything cool at Nomad Goods? I mean, still, I love my AirPods Pro case, so what else you got for me?

Chuck Melber: We’re going big on MagSafe right now. We kind of see that as the future of wireless charging, at least when it comes to Apple products. We’re gonna have a busy Q3 and Q4 starting next month. Really excited to launch… We have a really neat product lineup as far as charging stuff goes for the rest of the year. I’m excited about what we have in store. I’ll kind of leave it at that.

But yeah, MagSafe is big stuff. Our leather is always huge. And then we’re doing a ton of new more sporty synthetic Apple Watch bands now that are looking amazing.

Kurt Elster: As a fairly big player in aftermarket Apple accessories, do you get a heads up from them on like, “Well, here’s gonna be the dimensions of the new product?”

Chuck Melber: No, we don’t get anything.

Kurt Elster: Oh, really?

Chuck Melber: No.

Kurt Elster: You’re on your own?

Chuck Melber: We’re on our own. Figure it out. It works.

Kurt Elster: Okay. Where can we go to learn more about you, sir?

Chuck Melber: You can find me on LinkedIn, I’m Chuck Melber on LinkedIn. Twitter, @NomadGoods. Hit me up there if you want. And Instagram, Chuckthisout.

Kurt Elster: Chuckthisout. I love that.

Chuck Melber: Yeah.

Kurt Elster: And I do follow you on Instagram, not that I’m too active on Instagram anymore, but-

Chuck Melber: My Instagram has zero to do with marketing or Shopify or anything else, so don’t go there if you want to talk about that.

Kurt Elster: I know. The most interesting stuff has been like… I’m like, “Oh, Chuck’s replacing his gutters. Sweet.”

Chuck Melber: Yeah. Exactly. No, it’s fishing, it’s cooking, it’s that kind of stuff. But it’s good times.

Kurt Elster: Chuck Melber, Nomad Goods, how to be your own best PR person. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Chuck Melber: Kurt, it’s been real. I really appreciate you, as well.

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