Before you go any further…
Do you have an idea that you dream about turning into a business? Maybe you have a business already and waiting for its big break? Or do you simply love a feel good story about someone who made dramatic changes in their professional lives, took a big risk, and chased something really big?
Well check, check and check, that’s what I’ve got here for you today – on National Boss’s Day no less! For those of you currently trying to turn your big idea into the next big thing, let this interview with entrepreneur and inventor (and a regular student of my free PR trainings – way to learn #girlboss) Candi Obrentz of Resto Presto serve as a light within the creating, making, and marketing tunnel. And for those of you who are still developing your idea in your heart and in your head, let her story perhaps inspire you to take the next, right step!
Once Upon a Time, A Woman Left Her Day Job…
What was the a-ha moment that led to your business, and how many years ago did it happen?
My a-ha moment that led me to create RestoPresto was in May of 2013. I had just left a 16-year career at a global company and for the first time in decades, was totally unblocked and open to figuring out what my next career move would be.
I meandered to Central Park on a weekday morning (and if you are accustomed to working in an office, you know what a luxury it is to be outdoors on a “work day”) and used my jacket to sit down in Sheep Meadow to lounge and literally feel the grass between my toes. The next thing I knew, my jacket became damp and grass stained (i.e. wet tush) so it hit me that I needed to buy a water repellent blanket to carry around with me for future excursions.
To my surprise, I could not find a high quality and easily transportable item like that on the market so I created it myself. Designs, focus groups and15 prototypes over a year I had a viable product: a compact pouch that converts to a multi-functional soft extra layer to sit on, sit under & wear! I Iaunched RestoPresto to the market via a Kickstarter campaign.
How soon after you launched did you decide to begin trying to get your product on the Today Show?
I didn’t start pitching to TV, digital and print press for about 9 months after I opened my e-commerce store post-Kickstarter fulfillment. There was so much to learn, so much to do and so much to navigate after I brought the product to market that PR was placed on the backburner.
Once I got the PR ball rolling with courses Sabina taught, I pitched an influencer to feature RestoPresto in a Today.com gift guide segment and did not get a response or acknowledgement. In the back of my mind, the TODAY SHOW was a goal but honestly I spent more time responding to leads than proactively pitching. Since RestoPresto falls under many categories and has a vast demographic, it fits a lot of product requirements for content so there is a plethora of leads!
Can you tell us about how this Today Show debut went down – AND let us know if you made it happen by yourself.
Totally! I am proud to say that I made the feature on the Today Show happen on my own after discovering a “National Morning TV Talk Show” lead from Help A Reporter Out (HARO).
A fellow entrepreneur, Zaida Khaze (founder of Wiggletot), who I met at a fantastic brand building event for small businesses called AMPLIFY NYC [a live small biz event co-hosted by Sabina] shared a lead with me on Facebook several months ago and I had never heard of the group! When I realized that HARO provides opportunities for a product like mine to secure media coverage, I signed up immediately. HARO may have been obvious for many but somehow I missed the memo that it is a MUST for people who want to create buzz for their business. I receive various emails from HARO on a daily basis, which in itself is time consuming to manage.
While in Atlanta to shoot video footage for RestoPresto and visit my family, sleepy-eyed and exhausted, I was skimming through my HARO emails from the past 2 days and low and behold, there was a request for a Tailgating Gadget for a National Morning TV Talk Show and fortunately, I had not missed the deadline!
You have a product that is best explained by demonstrating its many uses, but you aren’t always there to explain it in person.
How do you prep on-air experts like Steve to use it with ease, and so the RestoPresto’s many uses are featured? How do you prevent any fumbles? (Yes, this was a football segment pun).
Love the football pun! So, four days after I submitted the pitch to Innovation Insider, I heard back from Steve Greenberg (its founder) that RestoPresto had been picked for his next segment on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda.
I had to read that sentence twice because I was so excited.
Steve provided a very detailed list of instructions on how to get info and products to the Today Show studio and to him. To ensure that Steve would be familiar with how RestoPresto works and how it is used, I sent him a sample (per his request), an instruction guide, fact sheet and a link to my YouTube channel.
I offered to meet with him ahead of the live segment (I live very close to Rockefeller Center where the Today Show is broadcasted) as well but that didn’t happen. While I loved the coverage that RestoPresto got on the show: Steve was wearing one as a hood on the air leading up to the segment, Hoda was using one as a blanket and there were a few stuffed RPs displayed next to Kathie Lee in the opening segment, there were additional functions that were not mentioned due to time.
Steve did an excellent job, particularly since he doesn’t know the product well. In the perfect world, if I had led the segment I would have included more features that are applicable to sports games and shown that it can be worn vertically and horizontally however….my product was on the Today Show and I am very grateful that Steve has good taste!
What PR strategies did you have to apply while pitching this Today Show segment?
The request for info posted in HARO was very specific: submit three paragraphs and one 3×3. While the actual” National Morning TV Talk Show” was not named in the request, the source, “Innovation Insider” was named (many sources are anonymous) so I knew that it was legitimate even though I did not have time before the deadline to thoroughly research everything about it because it took a while to dramatically shorten my typical pitch and choose an excellent photo that could be edited to the required size while spending QT with members of my family who I do not see very often.
What advice does she have for you on your Today Show dreams?
What would you say overall have been your biggest PR lessons you’ve learned in terms of actual real-life application of the strategies you’ve learned?
Listen to the experts, be open, pay close attention to the requirements so all needs are met, do your best to tailor the pitch to the requestor so that it is professional, respectful (i.e. not a cut & paste job) and most importantly shows how valuable your product or service is.
What are you doing now that you never thought you’d be doing in terms of public relations and brand building (pitching, writing pitches, finding contacts)?
Ummmm, everything! I never thought that I would be involved with any kind of public relations let alone writing pitches for a product that I invented! I love to write however I never imagined that I would be using words like “patent”, “carabiner” or “sit on it” in correspondence.
What mindsets have you learned that have helped you accomplish this?
Don’t forget to think like a consumer! It’s easy to fall into “sales” mode because you want to increase exposure for your product or service so make sure that what you are offering is appealing to a buyer. As frustrated as I get when I do not get responses or acknowledgements to my submissions, I know that it’s not personal and that it’s either a timing issue or that my pitch didn’t do its job of conveying RestoPresto’s awesomeness. Do not put all of your eggs in one media basket either (this holds true for just about all things entreprenurship)!
Let’s be real: There are probably thousands of other small biz owners out there who are hoping for a spot on the Today Show as well – what advice would you give to them?
It takes a village. It took many iterations before I established my first formatted pitch that spoke, in my voice, to how unique the design of RestoPresto is and to describe how useful it is. I highly suggest creating a basic pitch by using a template and then share it with one expert and one peer to get feedback. You need at least one second set of eyes to look at something as important as a pitch for your beloved product or service. Once you have a basic version, you can customize it to fit various outlets and audiences.
On that note, make sure that the outlets that you seek are appropriate for your service or product. The Today Show is like totally rad to the max but if it isn’t right for your business, then find a medium that is. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole is a waste of your precious time.
Regarding time, timing is EVERYTHING with getting press because you must meet the exact requirement for content and make the journalists life easier at the same time so if you need help navigating the system, turn to a pro like Sabina Knows! Being featured on the TODAY SHOW was RestoPresto’s first national TV show and the second time it had been on TV. I still pinch myself about this….
What would you say to the entrepreneur or biz owner out there who is reading this right now and thisclose to giving up on their publicity dreams because it’s just taking oh so long?
Getting the press/attention/sales that you want is HARD so my suggestion to you during moments/days when you might be feeling exasperated is: get up, take a walk, breathe and remind yourself that you are ambitiously taking the road less taken and should be proud of yourself for doing so. You are not alone in your quest for success and at times it may seem like others are moving forward while you stay stagnant or even move a few steps backwards….so don’t forget that being overwhelmed is temporary and that feeling will fade (and be back again and then fade again).
Oh and definitely do NOT compare your journey to that of another because it’s an ineffective use of your time. The struggle is as real for almost all of your fellow entrepreneurs as it is for you! Stay gold, ask for help and keep moving and shaking!
Follow Candi, pick out a RestoPresto of your own, and stay up-to-date on her adventures in entrepreneurship with the links below:
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Have a PR success story of your own that came from strategic outreach and good, old-fashioned perseverance? Share it below!