Watch the replay now!
Kevin Coulson – Waymaker
Thank you for joining us today on ‘My Marketing Fix.’ Today we have with us the
awesome Kevin Coulson, who is not only an exceptional marketer PR man, but he is
also a punk rock aficionado and craft beer maestro.
How you doing today, Kevin?
Enthusiast is the word I prefer to use for this, enthusiast. I don’t have, or tend to be an
aficionado of anything…but I sure am enthusiastic about it, yeah.
I hear ya!
I’m good, I’m good. I’m gonna apologize up front, I’ve got a lozenge I’m enjoying right
now. I’m battling a little throat tickle.
Hey, no problem. Is it organic?
It’s oh you know, a Riccola.
I got married, as you know, and was sent to the store yesterday to buy throat lozenges
for my wife…not throat drops [laughter]. For twenty minutes, I sat there and I looked
through all the different things, thinking I’m not reading this right. I went and asked the
pharmacist and he’s like, “Naw, dude. I’m sorry, they’re all the same thing,” [laughter].
Alright, great. I’m gonna tell her you said that.
You have it on good authority, yeah.
He’s got a degree in something pharmaceutical, so.
He’s gotta be right, for sure. Well, Kevin, so who are you and what do you do, buddy?
Let’s get through the intro real quick.
I’m Kevin Coulson, APR- it’s accredited in public relations. I work at Waymaker
Communications which is an agency in the city of Gainesville. We have been in
operation for 39, no 37 years. Formerly known as ProINK Inc. Communications. Been
here for just over a year now as the Director of Communications. We have outstanding
clients, we have awesome work that we produce, and it’s a great deal of fun as well.
Yeah, it looks like a great place to work- I pass you guys every time I drive down Main
It’s a lot of fun. Yeah, we work hard and we don’t take ourselves too, too seriously, so
we get to let loose a little bit and show our fun side. Our holiday cards are coming out
soon, so we’re really excited about those. Hopefully the internet will grab them and we’ll
be going viral in a second but…we’ll see what happens.
You’ll be more famous than you will after today, after today’s Blab.
[Laughter] Yeah, I’ll have to change my cell phone number.
Yeah probably, probably! [laughter]. And, you’re the husband and a father and I think
also the president of an organization around here?
I am, I am. I have a wonderful baby daughter (baby I guess is a relative term)…a four
year old. Beautiful, loving, amazing wife, and I’m the president of the Florida Public
Relations Association Gainesville Chapter, which is awesome because we have a great
chapter. Our board is outstanding, our members are outstanding. We have a lot of fun
doing what we do.
Yeah, good deal. It’s a great group of people. I think I’m one of your newest members
but I really enjoy it so far.
You are! You’re right at the top. Our membership services VP has been rocking and
rolling, so you’re amongst a large group of new members here, which is awesome. We
love having you, thanks for joining!
Proud to be a member. For sure! Now we had talked previously before, when Ken was
with us, about what you guys do there at Waymaker and primarily, I know you do a lot of
different things, but I know you do a lot of PR work, as far as messaging and that type of
thing. In the small business environment, not everybody probably, they may know what
PR is, and that’s part of marketing, and they’ve heard about it before, but they know
they’ve seen a press release [laughter]…they generate a press release…
I’ve heard of that!
We won’t really go into- if you want to know how to do that you can just Google it or
whatever, but I think for most small businesses, the biggest question is: how exactly do
you get that press release into the people’s hands that are gonna use it efficiently, so
that you’re gonna get a little press out of it, or it’s gonna get published. Do you have any
advice on how to cultivate those type of relationships or time frames?
Sure, well you hit the nail on the head, Jon. It’s relationship building. It’s impactful, more
and more. The media, especially in smaller markets, they’re stretched so thin. So, if you
can develop relationships, strong relationships with the reporters, if your outlets have
beats any longer…those are going away. In many cases just be available for journalists,
in any capacity. If you can help them out, that goes a long way.
I’ve always heard that it’s good that you want to try to position yourself as that expert in
the industry that they’re gonna call–
Absolutely. Yeah, that definitely helps.
When that happens, when you’re a small business guy you may not always… you may
be working in an industry where there’s not really a whole lot of need to call them, or to
have interactions with reporters or journalists. And so, if you’re not interacting with those
folks all the time, or have the opportunity to get in front of them at meetings or however
you do it, how would you suggest, time-frame wise, presenting your press release or
whatever it’s gonna be…like is there a time-frame that you use?
Early and often. That’s the best case scenario. If you can get your information out there
as early as possible, and we’re talking even up to a few months ahead of time. Just so
it’s on someone’s radar. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out, necessarily. If you can do
a media advisory or something so that it’s hit their desk at least once, depending on the
outlet… I know some folks they appreciate a follow-up phone call, some folks don’t. But,
again, that comes with building those relationships and chatting with the reporters and
finding out what they prefer.
I gotcha. So, is it better to put your press release into an email form format, call them
after you sent it to them or before? Or both?
I would definitely, if you’re going to do a follow-up phone call, do it after. Having a
conversation saying, “hey I’m about to send you something really interesting,” is kind of
a tough conversation to have…especially with reporters. They tend to be very deadlinedriven.
A lot of us are, but they’re under the gun to have stories at print or ready to run
on TV. So, they don’t have a lot of time to talk about what might be coming down the
pipe. But, you can send them a release. Follow-up, give them a call, make yourself
available. Typically, if you can do a three month, a one month, a week out, and even a
day of- especially for events. In event planning, things change- weather change,
speaker changes, whatever it is, on site person who the reporter would need to get a
hold of. That type of information, that’s all pertinent information that gives you a chance
to circle back to the media, and chat with them, and help them out.
I gotcha. Events I’ve always found to be interesting because some outlets or folks
they’re really good if you get to them the day of–
But if you get to them too far in advance it kind of fall through the cracks. Early and
often is a great way to put that.
Yeah, you know sometimes you’ll luck out. It could be a slow news day, and you get the
right people at the right time. “Oh great, I’m free at lunch, I can go cover this event or
whatever it is.” You can have the opposite happen- you could be holding an event while
something major happens in your town that draws all the media attention, or at least the
outlets that you were trying to garner coverage from. So, your not in control of it,
unfortunately. That’s the biggest problem.
Yeah, it doesn’t seem like you’ve got a whole lot of control. Seems you have to be pretty
proactive to make sure that you’re getting your stuff out there. It also seems like that
today, with the shrinking staffs at newspapers, that the easier you can make it for these
folks when you have content, if you can make it easy for them and find them at the right
time, when they’ve got time… probably more if they’re in a time crunch and they need to
find something to put in the paper… is that how that works?
It kind of runs a couple different ways. They are, media outlets are looking for content,
they are absolutely. Guest columns, or speaking out type pieces, especially in
newspapers are typically appreciated especially if they’re relevant and timely…either
human interest or some sort or broad impact. But, you know the opposite of that would
be journalist writing a story- you can’t write it for them necessarily, but you can be there
and be available when they need it. The best thing you can do- if you get a call from a
reporter asking some questions, is: “what’s your deadline? How can I help you meet
your deadline?” They’ll appreciate that greatly.
Right. I mean they’re on the clock.
I don’t know if you’ve ever worked on a newspaper before, yourself?
I never have, no, I have not.
I worked for Knight Ridder for a while. On the advertising side of the house you’ve got
two very distinct sides of the house when working for a newspaper. I worked for a small
business journal project that they put together, sort of kinda like the bastard child
because they didn’t have an advertising side. But it’s really interesting to see how the
whole thing works. I mean, it’s amazing.
It’s a dance that- it’s amazing how it’s orchestrated. It’s amazing that there aren’t more
errors than there are.
It’s definitely a time thing. I understand that we’ve got some time issues today so we’ll
kinda move forward. That’s kinda like the good side of PR. I think from a small business
standpoint things that you want to get out there, things that you’re happy to get out
there… tell Joe Blow that works for me, “I’ve got a new certification,” or “I’ve got an
event coming out, if you want to blast that out,” hopefully get some free press out of
that. The other side of it that I would say that probably 9 out of 10 small business
probably know what were talking about, is having a disaster emergency plan as far as
PR goes. Could you talk a little bit about that- what it is and maybe how you develop
Absolutely. Before we leave the positive communication stuff, I wanted to just share a
little bit- you brought up something that sparked my memory. You’re developing content
as your business- you know what you’re doing, you know what’s going on… so you say
right- new hire, expansion, whatever it is that you want to share. There’s more outlets
than traditional media- newspaper, T.V., you’ve got many local chambers of commerce
will do member announcements, things of that sort. And you, yourself- make sure you
have a website, social media presence. All those places are great outlets for you to
share your own content, and then sort of create your own story. Also, if you’re pitching
out stories if you’re sending out news releases- if you can personalize them in any way,
that helps a lot. If you can send it to: “Dear Greg,” or “Hey Mike, it’s Kevin- I’ve got this
story that might be up your alley…” versus, “dear reporter,” or no salutation at all, just
sort of a blast out to every media outlet in the world.
Uh-huh, so no blind carbon copy to generally everybody that may know a reporter?
I mean you can, you can do that…but if you can follow up and make that personal
connection, that’s great. But crisis communications, you’re right, that’s a side that folks
don’t wanna talk about a lot. It’s tough.
It definitely is. If you’re a business owner, no matter what size it is, if 60 Minutes knocks
on your door, it’s gonna be a bad day.
That’s pretty accurate.
They’re not gonna talk to you about what a great guy you are, or what great business
you have…and most people know how to respond–
–Maybe, who knows! One day, Publishers Clearing House, who knows! [laughter].
You know, if it bleeds it leads- that’s why they’re there, on the most part, and hopefully
people can seek services like yourself…but if you don’t what’s going on and you’re
immediate first call is to your attorney, he’s gonna tell you something very different than
probably a professional communicator is going to tell you to do. You’re gonna probably
need to think about some of this stuff ahead of time because whatever happens is not
the time that you want to try and make the decision…do I want to go the conservative
route, or do I put this out in front of me and move on.
[Laugher] The time for planning is far behind you, unfortunately. And you’re right, I’ve
got several attorney friends, lawyer friends, and they’re all lovely…but they will give you
horrible communications advice, unfortunately.
Oh man, it’s too bad–
–Not a blanket statement, but…
It is a blanket statement. The way lawyers are trained, they’re trained to think differently
than the business people, or communicators.
Giving out the information in a courtroom is much different than it is in the court of public
[Laughter] It is, and unfortunately it seems to me like these type of things they typically
have about a week span. You have an opportunity to take something bad and maybe
put a positive light on it…or at least make yourself look better and say, “you know, we
did make a mistake, and this is what we did to correct it,” or “this isn’t really a mistake,
this is kinda how it works and this is your perception of it.” It did happen to somebody
that I have a working relationship with, I guess it was this summer. In our business,
we’re in the funeral business, and the hurst was left what seemed like unattended, when
in reality the guy he should have left someone in the car with him, but he was about 5
feet away and somebody took a video…of the casket sitting in front of Dunkin Donuts
and someone went on Facebook…
I remember that, yeah…
You remember seeing that? That guy right there is the leader in veterans funerals in the
country. You won’t find a funeral director who cares more about veterans, period…and it
just made him look like a horrible guy.
Wow, I didn’t know you knew him.
Yeah. I do, we’re a part of their– it’s called Veterans Funeral Care, it’s kinda like a group
or franchise or whatever. I’m not gonna talk exactly about how they handled it, but if you
looked at the comments there, I’d say it was split probably 60/40. 40% of the people
were just kinda outraged, but people get outraged on the internet because there’s
nobody there to actually talk to them about it. The other 60% of the people said, “well, if
I have to drive for hours, no matter what job I’m in, I may have to stop to use the
facilities at some point, or maybe grab a Coke or caffeine of your choice…or maybe a
delicious donut,”…I digress a little bit, [laughter].
Yeah, that was an interesting one. I remember seeing the “reveal footage” of what was
actually happening, and realizing how skewed our perception of things can become.
Yeah, especially with the Internet. It’s instantaneous “jump on the bandwagon” type of
deal. Especially forums or Facebook, that type of thing. What would be a good way for
somebody to put in writing, an outline or plan to say “hey if we have an issue, here’s
some of the steps we’ll go through before we talk to anyone…whether it’s the
Gainesville side, or Barbara Walters or whoever…”
Whoever it is, yeah. First of all have a plan. That’s key. Some sort of crisis is going to
happen. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when. So, just be ready for it. A great exercise
and a tough one to do is to go through and identify some of he most horrible things that
can happen to your business- a crisis type scenario. Do a table exercise on how you’d
respond to that. Clearly, If there’s safety concerns, those would be your utmost, but then
responding in a timely fashion to media inquiries and all that is critical. You’re gonna
want to be as proactive as you can… you don’t want to interfere. If you go down a path
of having law enforcement involvement… there are certain things that you can and can’t
That’s a real bad thing.. [laughter]
Yeah and healthcare, there’s HIPPA laws and things. There’s plenty of information that
you can share, without saying the dreaded words of, “no comment.” Never say that.
That’s an admission of guilt as far as the public is concerned.
That’s like going in front of congress and taking my lawyers advice and taking the 5th
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.
Instantly guilty. You can say anything but, “no comment.” If you’re in an interview,
somebody’s calling you and wants to talk to you about what happened, you can tell
them flat out- if they ask you a question that you can’t answer say, “you know, I can’t
talk to you about that but what I can tell you is x,y, and z.” Have some facts preparedwhat
you know and what you can share that is pertinent to the situation. The other thing
is, you want to ensure that you’ve communicated with all your stake-holders as well. Not
just to the media at first, but especially if there’s people within your circles that may be
impacted… board members, staff, or families of employees…whoever it is, you’re gonna
want to make sure that those people are included in whatever communications you’re
putting out at the forefront.
Do you recommend that when you go to put together a plan like this that there’s gotta
be one person that all the communication is funneling through?
Ideally, absolutely- a point person that everything funnels to. They might be able to,
depending on what the questions are, be able to identify someone else to
comment…but if you can have everything running through one person… you’ve played
the game of telephone before. You start with a phrase- they whisper it to someone and
they whisper it to someone else and it goes through…and you’ve got “llama pajamas,”
which doesn’t make any sense at all…when you started with “Pop Tarts.” Who knows.
It’s night and day from what you started with. If you’re filtering your messages through a
bunch of people, that doesn’t work. If you can have almost like a communications
control center, rumor control numbers depending on what your situation is… fact sheets
for anyone who might be in need of information… it all comes depends on the level of
crisis too. There’s levels of how bad things are.
Oh yeah, there is. Hopefully no one has to go through something when there’s a lost life
or someone who’s severely injured or that type of thing.
You can have your plan in place to the highest level of emergency or crisis and decide
what level of implementation you need- who needs to be involved, who needs to be
contacted first, all of those details… whereas in the middle of situation, like you said, if
you’re trying to make those decisions, it’s not gonna go over very well.
Yeah, when you’re in an extremely stressful situation is not the time to try to do the
–Some people shine! [laughter]
Some people do shine–
–You don’t want to test yourself though.
Yeah the people that shine have probably thought about it before…were talking about
the doom and gloom, but it could be something as simple as, “hey what do we do when
we get a bad review on Yelp or on Facebook…how do we respond to that?” I’m sure
you’ve got a lot of clients now that deal with that type of thing. It’s so prevalent. It used
to be that word of mouth was how businesses were found or not found, but now that you
can go online and not actually have to deal with a manager or anything like that…just
put out to the world whatever your experience was….It’s much easier to have someone
put a negative experience than it is, unfortunately, to put a positive experience online,
so you have to figure out how to manage those things as well.
Yeah, and online rants are cold- they’re basically no win situations, unfortunately, in
many cases. You’re many times not going to appease anyone, or anything, but you can
show your true colors as a business and own up to mistakes if you made them, or have
your more loyal clientele have your back if that’s possible.
I think Ken may have some questions over here on the right side of the screen.
Do you plead the 5th to that? Did your council instruct you to plead the 5th? [laughter].
I gotcha. [laugher] You’ve gotta get out of here in a minute, don’t you buddy?
Pretty soon, yeah.
Ok, well before you take off, why don’t you tell us how we find you and your company,
and maybe a little more about how we would seek the services of Waymaker and what
all you guys provide?
Sure, yeah absolutely. Before we do all that- crisis communication and crisis planning, if
you run a business, do it. Make a plan, be ready for whatever might come at you. You’ll
be a lot better off if you do it. But, Waymaker Communications, we’re an agency here in
Gainesville, Florida. We do public relations, marketing, design, social, strategy, research
and all that awesome stuff that we are awesome at.
There’s a lot of awesome [laughter]
It’s hard to restrain sometimes!
But yeah- that’s us in a nutshell. We do it all from the research and planning side to the
implementation and evaluation…and all the execution in between. You can find us at
thinkwaymaker.com, on the facebook, all up on the Twitters.
You’re all on the blabs now!
Yeah! [laughter] This could be my new thing.
I think it is! You look good. [Laughter] You sound pretty good too- lozenge and all.
I did radio for a little bit, so I have that in my background.
Tell me about that. We got time! Let’s talk about that. What did you do in radio?
It was the most unglamorous thing radio has- community affairs programming…but it’s
really cool. Most stations have some sort of type of community affairs program,
highlighting things that are great happening in our communities.
Was it here in Gainesville or was it somewhere else?
It was, yeah. We were on Mark Radio Stations: the Buzz…shoot I’m drawing a blank
now on the others…and then on K country and WindFM for a couple years as well. It
was a blast. We got to spread the word about scores if not hundreds of community dogooders
over the years. It was really awesome to be part of that. [Laughter].
That’s hilarious. It was really awesome for you to come on My Marketing Fix with us
today. I know you’ve got to head off to a county commission meeting, so we won’t keep
No I appreciate you having me on. Hope I wasn’t too rambly there.
Oh no, not at all. Hopefully we can get you on again and we get do some more PR tips,
because it’s certainly one of those things that everybody needs…and in the grand
scheme of marketing not everyone thinks on a small business-side, until they’ve got a
little experience with it..an awesome person like yourself from Waymaker.
Thanks that’s really nice.
I appreciate it, buddy. I’ll talk to you soon.