Meet the founder of Get Free Publicity Today
Hi Sharon, thank you so much for joining me. To kick things off, tell me a little bit about the founder of Get Free Publicity Today.
Thank you, it’s great to be here. I’m Sharon Bolt, the founder of Get Free Publicity Today. I've been a business owner and entrepreneur for over 16 years, my businesses have included complementary therapies, dog training and PR.
I love been a business owner and having the freedom that comes with it. I get excited about learning new marketing strategies and like to roll my sleeves up and get involved in the technical side of running a business, including creating automated systems and designing my websites (7 to date!).
I also love to travel and have lived in Australia and Germany as well as visiting numerous places in the US and other countries such as Canada, Malaysia and Singapore. I love dogs and love to have fun with my family and friends.
How did you get into PR, what was your first experience?
My first media appearance was on BBC Radio 2 with over 6 million listeners when I had no website… no subscriber list… and no dog training business, which was the topic I was being interviewed on! At the time I had a complementary therapy business but was passionate about dog training, after getting 2, 8-week-old parson terrier puppies, and was wanting to transition into a brand-new business. I had just returned home from a 3-week spiritual pilgrimage across India, I saw an opportunity and I went for it! I believed I could help the listeners and make a difference and had great fun being interviewed on the show.
What was amazing was that one interview positioned me as a dog training expert BEFORE I even launched my new business and created numerous opportunities for my start-up.
That’s quite a story! How important is it to have a good story when building your business?
Extremely important! It makes you, the person behind the business, human and relatable which allows people to connect with you with their heart as well as their head.
X Factor, The Voice and Britain's Got Talent are great examples of showcasing people's stories. Have you noticed that you often want someone to go through to the next round because you can relate to them? You want them to do well regardless if they're a good singer or entertainer, you just want them to be good and get through because of their story.
Most people love a good story, particularly journalists! In fact, journalists are professional storytellers. When you give the media a good story, whether it be about your business story or something else, you'll be ticking their boxes which means major exposure for you time and time again.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are trying to come up with a good business story?
Your aim is to take the relatable and inspirational parts of why you launched your business, including what’s happened along the way, and share it with others. What did you do against all odds, what did you overcome? Or was it that you wanted to pick up your children from school every day so you gave up your 9-5 job and followed your dream?
If you go to a business event what questions do other business owners ask and what stories are they most interested in hearing? What about your customers, what parts of your story do they find inspiring, relatable or heart-warming?
For example, ‘How I became a financial expert by feeding a family of five on £400 a month.’
Or, what things did you learn? For example, ‘Five things I learned about becoming a relationship expert by having three failed marriages.’
Or did something happen that changed your life and your way of thinking? For example, ‘How my blind son changed the trajectory of my life, livelihood and career.’
Your business story doesn’t have to be jaw dropping such as, how you were once homeless and now you’re a millionaire, or how you overcame a major illness (unless that’s true). It could simply be about following your passion, the hurdles you’ve overcome and what you’ve learned that others would relate to and benefit from.
You mentioned that journalists love a good story and gave us some tips on how to come up with a good business story, how does PR benefit entrepreneurs in a way that advertising doesn't?
Paid advertising is viewed very differently to publicity, when people see an ad they are hesitant and often suspicious because they know they're being 'sold to'. When you’re featured it positions you, your business and brand as an authority in your field regardless of how long you’ve been in business. Getting publicity also offers amazing SEO benefits, makes you stand out from your competitors and can even make you ‘celebrity’ in your niche. The good news is that publicity is available for start-ups, business owners and entrepreneurs alike and one of the biggest benefits of all is that it’s free or very low cost, which is a great strategy particularly if you’ve got a tight budget.
What do you consider to be your best achievements so far as an entrepreneur?
I’ve been very blessed and have had a wonderful journey so far. During the last 11 years I’ve contributed to more than 40 different local and national newspapers, magazines, TV and radio shows and have received over £1.5 million in free publicity and free advertising.
I had great fun being featured in a BBC Documentary and I love my regular BBC Radio slot which I’ve had since 2008, where I answer the listeners’ questions. I’ve also co-authored 2 books called 'Successful Women in Business' and 'Every Entrepreneurs Guide: Running Your Own Business' which I was honoured to be a part of. I’m delighted that I’ve just been accepted as a regular contributor to entrepreneur.com and have written an article for the HuffPost.
For me, it’s all about having a positive mindset, the famous quote by Henry Ford sums it up nicely;
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right.”
Or in the perhaps even more famous words of Del Trotter;
“He who dares wins!”
My advice is, when something feels right, when you ‘know’ don’t look for approval or validation elsewhere or even second guess yourself, go for it!
Who is your target audience?
My target audience is start-ups, business owners and entrepreneurs who are enthusiastic, passionate and ready to grow their business, regardless of how long they’ve been in business or whether they’ve had any previous media experience. I love teaching people how to build a brand, increase visibility and generate sales by cleverly using publicity and do so through online courses.
What is the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when trying to get publicity?
The biggest mistake business owners make when trying to get publicity is thinking that the media is interested in THEM. They’re not! They often don’t care how long you’ve been in business, what you’ve done in your life (unless it’s a bit quirky) or about your college degrees (unless it’s relevant to the story they’re covering). They want you to inform, educate and entertain their audience. Entrepreneurs are passionate, enthusiastic and excited – all qualities that journalists love.
The key thing to remember when trying to get publicity is that it's not about blatantly advertising your product or service but providing great content, interesting information and entertaining the media’s audience.
What would be your number one tip for entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting a business or those trying to get publicity ?
The number one tip I would give is to be selective of who you tell. That may sound a bit strange so I’ll give you an example of what I mean.
When I heard I was going to be interviewed on BBC Radio 2, I only told a few people in advance.
Because people reflect back to you what it would feel like for THEM if they were in YOUR situation. I didn't want other people's fears, doubts and 'what if it goes dreadfully wrong' scenarios projected at me. I didn't wantto be influenced by others. I believed it was going to be fun, people were going to be lovely to me and it would have a really good outcome and THAT was my experience.
I suggest that when you have an unusual idea, feel inspired to do something a bit different or would like to make a big change in your life, such as starting a new business, to be initially selective ofwho you share the information with. This is oftena 'fragile' stage where you could easily be influenced or swayed by other people's fears and doubts, so my suggestion is to 'handle it with care' and be choosy of who you tell.
What’s first in the mornings, phone, book, laptop or me time?
First in the mornings is me time. I start with a 20-minute meditation to clear my mind and set my intentions for the day followed by a nice long walk with my dog.
What are you most excited about in your business at the moment?
I’ve recently launched 3 online publicity courses, 1 focuses on how to get featured in newspapers, magazines and on top blog sites, another focuses on how to become a guest on radio and top podcast shows and another one focuses on how to get interviewed on TV. I’m SO excited about them, they’ve taken 3 years to create and come with templates, cheat sheets and step-by-step video tutorials.
I hold regular free webinars where I teach entrepreneurs how to get publicity for their business and I’ve also created a free cheat sheet called ‘7 Proven Steps That Get You Featured in the Media & Turn Newspaper, Radio & TV Interviews into Sales’. To get a copy go to Get Free Publicity Today