Houston Golden is a founder & COO of BAMF Media. BAMF Media drives ROI for growing companies using cutting-edge marketing and growth hacking tactics. They’ve worked with companies like TED, Pioneer, Compass, Automobili Pininfarina, Mindvalley, Deputy, FCTRY, Coldwell Banker, and many more.
Golden is also the founder and CEO of Crowdist a growth hacking platform. Before that, he was the Director of Growth Strategy at Hawke Media and the Director of Lead Generation and Marketing at StartEngine. He’s been written about in numerous publications and is among Forbes’s Top 12 Innovative Founders To Watch.
You are listening to the Manos Accelerator podcast in partnership with Google Launchpad. We interview rockstar entrepreneurs who share their exact formulas for success in customer acquisition, growth hacking, fundraising or scaling. And I’m your host, Juan Felipe Campos. Okay, Manos Nation! Remember for every episode there’s a giveaway of digital goods or resources from our partners that other people would normally pay for it. To enter the giveaway, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes now and then message the word “Manos” to m.me/ManosAccelerator. Again, that’s Manos to the website, m.me/ManosAccelerator. To prove it.
Juan: 00:49 Today I am with, Houston Golden. And Houston what are you working on?
Houston: 00:54 So I’m the co-founder of BAMF Media. We are a growth hacking and marketing agency and our mission is to create high ROI across retraction channels through cutting edge growth hacking and marketing execution.
Juan: 01:08 That’s super cool. And Houston is one of the best people in the game. Houston, can you give us a little bit of context about things you’ve done in this space to give us some context about your career?
Houston: 01:17 Yeah man, so in just the last six months here at BAMF, we have grown from 3 to 30 employees. We published the top four marketing books ever on ProductHunt. We grew our community on Facebook, which you’re an awesome contributor of, thanks Juan, uh, but we grew our community from 8,000 to 20,000 people worldwide and we also secured our dream office here in Venice Beach. So those are just some of our, you know, top accomplishments, this, the last six months alone and we have pretty high ambitions for what we’re are going do the next year and the next five years and really try to change the world and empower founders everywhere.
Juan: 01:52 Super excited for you guys. And our missions totally align Houston. Our listeners are sitting in Latin America or they’re Latino founders here in the US and they’re trying to figure out how they can take their startup to the next level. And that’s exactly why you’re on the show, to share a very tactical piece of info that people can stop the show and then run with what they learned from you. So what would that be for you? Houston?
Houston: 02:12 Yeah, so today I wanted to come on and talk about PR Hacking and how to get massive press for your startup or your personal brand without paying a dime for PR or going through a traditional PR agency.
Juan: 02:27 Perfect. Perfect.
Houston: 02:31 Yeah, tell us about it. Yeah. Yeah. So basically a lot of people think that in order to get press, you have to have like major connections. You have to know people at the top publications and you have to pay a ton of money to a, some sort of PR agency to help send out a press release. Right. But what we found on getting press for both our books as well as all of our clients who go through our PR hacking service is that a traditional press release is really dead, um, and sorry, if you actually run a traditional PR agency, you’re going to probably not like to hear that, but really the press release is dead. You know, you’re going to get some valuable backlinks maybe, but you’re not going to drive any traffic. You’re not going to really be able to share your true, authentic story. You’re not going to create any organic, authentic buzz through a sort of press release through like PR Newswire or any other press release like that.
Houston: 03:25 So one of the things that we do to get press for, um, for ourselves and our clients is that we really focus on pitching stories, right? We’re not just pitching some sort of business announcement or some sort of new product or you know, really trying to, you know, create some sort of salesy pitch right? We actually try to relate to the person we’re connecting with and reaching out to and we try to pitch a real engaging and buzzworthy story. And that’s really the main difference from our strategy on a fundamental level is that we don’t send a generic press release out to I’m a PR Newswire type place. We actually reach out to individual people, relate to them on a personal level and we pitch an authentic story
Juan: 04:13 I can already see how that would connect better with people anyways. Because if you’re telling a story that people are actually going to opt into hearing out what you have to say where. Whereas if you’re just giving a news announcement about what you’re doing, you know, people are kind of selfish in that sense. They’re not going to want to know what’s going on in your life. They only want to know if it’s relevant to them and if you’re telling a story, you can at least get the attention buy in to listen more than just a news announcement of this is what I’m up to, who cares what you’re up to. They want to know if it’s relevant to them. And that’s kind of the angle that you’re taking with it, right?
Houston: 04:44 Yeah, exactly. Our whole goal with PR hacking is to get ourselves in our client’s interviews to get featured stories shared on top publications and to even get those product reviews from relevant influencers and bloggers that have that domain authority. So it really depends and you know, you really need to start with, you know, a solid strategy strategy, figure out what are your goals and really set your KPIs before you do your outreach. So that’s the first thing we always ask our client is, you know, are you trying to get interviews on a podcast, are you trying to get interviews on blogs, are you trying to share a story about how you founded your company and why you’re doing it or are you actually trying to get product reviews? Are you trying to reach out to Youtubers who are going to do an unboxing video and you know, talk about the experience that they’re happy with your product. Right? So when it comes to a PR hacking strategy, you really need to figure out what your goals are and set your KPIs from the beginning. And then from there you can start to build your email list and I can talk about a few tools that will help you build a targeted PR email list. And then you also need to focus on how do you write a personalized PR outreach template so that you can achieve all of those KPIs and those goals, getting the interviews and those stories.
Juan: 06:08 That’s amazing.
Houston: 06:11 Yeah, thanks. So it’s, once you’ve established your KPIs, um, you want to go into building that email template and it always starts with a personalized intro. So you want to, you know, if I was reaching out to you one, I would say, Hey Juan, I saw your podcast on the Manos Accelerator and I love that interview that you did with Goldie Chan around Linkedin becoming a, Linkedin influencer, and I found it valuable because of the strategies that she shared around Linkedin video. I wanted to reach out because we just launched a book on how to become a Linkedin influencer and thought it would be relevant to you. Right? So I’m starting off by saying, you know, hey, I loved what you did and I love that content that you shared. So I’m immediately validating them, flattering them, and you know, starting off that relationship in a very personal and very positive positive way as opposed to starting off with something not personal, something potentially not relevant. And you know, maybe you know, when you’re doing a cold email, if you don’t start with that personalized intro, you’re not going to get the kind of results, you’re not going to get you those positive replies. That is one of our number one KPIs when we do these kinds of outreach, we always want to get that positive reply. So we always make that interest super personalized and relevant.
Houston: 07:34 Once you figured out how you’re going to do your personalized pitch for that intro, you want to, you want to basically get a one to two sentence, um, sentence or a pitch on who you are and what you do and why it matters. So you would say something like, you know, hey Juan saw episode about Goldie Chan, you know, x, y, z, uh, I’m Houston, co-founder of BAMF media. We just launched this book on how to become a Linkedin influencer. And we also run one of the largest communities for marketers and founders here are three to four relevant topics that I would be interested in sharing with your audience on your podcast. So I would actually pitch them the stories that I wanted to share with their audience so this actually makes it easier for them because they immediately know, oh, these are the things that he could provide value these, these are the things that they, um, have thought leadership on our domain expertise on and these are potentially some stories that my audience is going to find interesting. And so we usually do the personalized intro one or two sentence pitch and then you know, three to four value props or topics of interest for those things that we could talk about.
Juan: 08:50 Do you want those topics to be already kind of title ideas that they just approve yes or no? Or do you want it to be a little bit broader than that? Not the exact title as the, as they would copy paste it on the headline of the article, but more of just like, Hey, I can talk to you about this or I can talk to you about that. What are you leaning more towards?
Houston: 09:08 It really is kind of like a blog topic, headline type of strategy. You want to give them something that they can read and go, oh cool, I would love to publish an article with that title. You don’t necessarily need to write it in a title format. It could be simply, you know, for example, one of our best case studies was this client called GirlCrew and they’re a social networking app for girls and they’re essentially like Facebook, but no boys allowed. The co-founder had some pretty hilarious stories from the early days of trying to start this app. And one of the ways that we pitched topics that would be interesting to talk about was, um, you know, how he grew GirlCrew to 100,000 members across 46 global cities. Right. So that’s basically a headline in itself, how my co-founder switched her gender on Tinder to find friends, which led us to start GirlCrew that is a unique founder story that is very close to being ready to be a blog title or a podcast title.
”When you're doing a growth hack like this, it really is important to be cautious and follow every step along the way to make sure that you're not going to have any sort of negative side effects, Juan and myself, we've done a lot of these growth hacks many, many times and we sort of learned the hard way and learn on our own dime so that you don't have to.Houston GoldenFounder of BAMF Media
Houston: 10:23 So it basically pitched them those ideas that are ready to go. And you know, there are usually a combination of business achievements. Um, interesting sort of, ideally somewhat funny stories around the early days or something that sort of provides some insight into why they’re doing what they’re doing and you know, how they got there, right? So switching your gender on Tinder to find friends as a girl. Um, that is a headline that we’ve gotten placed in dozens of top publications from Refinery29 to the the Girlboss podcast to TechCrunch, even CNBC and you name it, we’ve gotten the story, published a ton of different places. And what we find is that these bloggers and podcasters, they don’t usually take the exact headline and then use that for their blog post, but it sort of gives them immediate idea of what they could potentially talk about. And the headlines that we’re getting placed live are about that, you know, general story, but they’re all different headlines like the, the actual placements that will come out of that would be like why 100,000 women love GirlCrew’s Tinder for female friendship app.
Houston: 11:40 Um, GirlCrew takes on loneliness among women. Right? So the variety of the titles, um, is, is very different. So you will get some that are very close, like meet the woman who hacked Tinder, that one’s almost directly from our email and got placed on Refinery29. So you get to see how it could really work to, you know, sort of be a clickbait or an engagement bait title strategy on your cold email outreach where you’re going to just increase the reply rate as opposed to increase the click through rate if it wasn’t long title.
Juan: 12:15 Got It, got it.
Houston: 12:17 Yeah. So that’s the general formula for how we to structure our PR outreach emails and I would say well crafted PR outreach email is one of the most important pieces of your PR strategy. And then you know, how do you actually figure out who you’re going to reach out with. That’s a whole nother more technical aspect. Writing the email template is definitely a more kind of what I like to say, it’s more fluffy, more soft emotional sort of, you know, crafting the message and the voice and coming up with the right topics. But then actually how you develop those targeted PR lists of bloggers, influencers, podcasters, that’s a lot more technical and you know, I want to share a couple of tools with you that you can utilize to actually build those lists. Yeah. So the first tool that we utilize to build our blogger and influencer list is called BuzzSumo.
Houston: 13:13 You can sign up for a free account or a paid account. It’s not that much, maybe 30 bucks or 50 bucks a month if you get the upgrade, but it’s totally worth it. You can use BuzzSumo for a range of different strategies, but most importantly, the way that we use it is to target bloggers and influencers. So when you go to BuzzSumo, there’s a tab that says content research, and then content research essentially analyzes the web to find the most relevant, most shared and most liked and engaged articles across the web. So it’ll search every website essentially the way that you would search Google, but instead of just searching for those keywords, it’ll actually search for how, how much shares is this article getting across social and how much engagement and traffic is this individual article driving and instead of like Google where you’re going to search for, you know, if for example, for GirlCrew, we would search, you know, women in tech and if we just started to women in tech on Google, we’re going to get a list of a ton of random backlinks.
Houston: 14:20 But if you search women in tech through the content research on BuzzSumo, you’re going to get a list of thousands of bloggers who are writing articles specifically about women in tech. You’re going to see the actual authors name. You’re gonna. Be able to export that into a CSV, into a spreadsheet like Google sheets, going to get the author’s name. You’re going to see, you know, how many retweets does this person get on average? How many shares on Facebook and Linkedin and Twitter has this article gotten? And so you can actually sort the engagements of the articles that you’re searching for, and then you can extract out the URLs for those blog post along with the usernames or the actual author names of those people. And that might sound a little bit complicated at first, but it’s actually really simple, BuzzSumo content research, search for women in tech, and then you just click export as a CSV and you’re going to get those author names and the URLs of those blog posts.
Houston: 15:24 Once you have that data in a spreadsheet or a CSV file, you’re well on your way to creating a highly targeted PR list. So the next goal is to actually enrich that data with emails. So you want to format that BuzzSumo list, you want to get rid of a lot of the extra columns, um, because BuzzSumo gives you a ton of valuable data, but you don’t necessarily need all of that in order to get the emails for these people. So you want to just kind of remove a lot of the extra data columns. So you’ve got, you know, the number of followers, the author name, the blog link.
Houston: 16:01 Cool. So once you have your blogger or influencer list, export it from BuzzSumo, you remove a lot of the additional columns that you don’t necessarily need in order to make your email outreach list. And then once you have it kind of narrowed down, you have the author name, you have the post URL, and you have a couple of columns that he might need for your targeting later. You want to actually use another tool called Hunter.io. So when you go to a Hunter.io, you want to sign up, get a paid account and you want to go into the bulk tasks section on Hunter.io when you’re in the bulk tasks section. You want to go into the email finder option, so that will let you find email addresses from a list of names and companies. That’s what it says. But it’ll also let you find a list of emails from names and like domains.
Houston: 16:52 So you can either use the name of the publication or the name of their blog, or you can actually just use the URL of that company or blog. So from BuzzSumo you’re going to have the list of names and domains. You upload it into the bulk email finder, and then it’s going to export a list of essentially email guesses on. You know, what that blogger’s email is. And it’s going to export it with a list of all the email guesses that it can find as well as like a confidence interval that it has sort of like good grades, poor. It’ll give you sort of what their confidence is on that that’s actually going to be a valid email because you can’t actually take the Hunter list. At least you could. I wouldn’t recommend taking a list directly from Hunter and then start an email those people, because a lot of them are going to be invalid and they’re going to bounce and they’re going to mess up your email reputation and it’s going to mess up the deliverability of the rest of your campaigns.
Juan: 17:48 You can even get blocked, right? If you do that too much?
Houston: 17:51 You can definitely get blocked.
Juan: 17:52 Like get blacklisted?
Houston: 17:53 You can definitely get blacklisted, you can only really negatively affect your email reputation. And then if you are to other marketing emails, it could really negatively affect your business, right? So if you do some sort of outreach and it’s, you know, you get ultimately, you know, you hurt your email reputation, you’re really important emails are going to start going into spam and it didn’t really affect other areas of your business. So when you’re doing a growth hack like this, it really is important to be cautious and follow every step along the way to make sure that you’re not going to have any sort of negative side effects that sort of like, you know, we’ve Juan and myself, I’ve done a lot of these growth hacks many, many times and we sort of learned the hard way and learn on our own dime so that you don’t have to.
Houston: 18:42 So really trust us and trust the experts on this. Don’t just start spamming a bunch of the invalid emails because everything with growth hacking is slightly more risky. Um, which you know, you like to take a very calculated, intelligent risk in order to achieve a really great result. That sort of like, comes with the nature of growth hacking. So what I like to do is take that list, um, that I got from Hunter and upload it into another tool like BriteVerify. You can use ZeroBounce, which I’ve actually found is the cheapest one to get the same result as like a KickBounce, BriteVerify, there’s a ton of other email validation softwares out there. Um, but definitely go with BriteVerify or ZeroBounce. And once you have validated all those emails, you want to split them up and segment your list to only emails that are valid.
Houston: 19:39 You don’t want to email people that have an accept all email address or anyone that is an unknown status or invalid or accept all, you want to actually split those off into another list. And I’m only send your initial outreach to emails that are found that are valid, which from our experience is going to be, you know, potentially around five percent of all the people that you export from BuzzSumo. So it’s just, it’s a pretty small percent.
Juan: 20:09 Wow.
Houston: 20:11 But you’re also going to be able to keep your bounce, rate it around one percent if you only send to valid. And what I like to do and know we have a lot of processes around this internally where we’re able to actually use other enrichment tools other than Hunter, so we have some tools internally that we’ve developed. We’ve also use tools like FindThatLead, um, so all the ones that we find that aren’t valid, um, the accept alls, unknown’s and invalid we’ll upload those and to find that lead we’ll usually get another, you know, 10 to 20 percent return on those emails and then we’ll revalidate the ones from vine that lead and then we’ll segment them again, will help build them into another tool to really try to maximize the amount of our emails that were going to get from every list we export from BuzzSumo.
Houston: 21:01 And then all the ones that we can’t find using these automated tools, we actually have a list of like reliable freelancers who will go and research and find the valid emails individually. We’ve gotten to a point where we can get like between 50 and 60 percent of the entire BuzzSumo list that we export. Wow. Yeah. So, you know, obviously it can get as complex or as simple as, as you want it to be. If you’re trying to get like really insane results, um, you can, you can try to follow all those steps or you can hire BAMF to do it. It’s definitely like very time consuming. It’s a lot of tedious work in order to get those lists, like fully optimized and to get the maximum amount of emails from those lists. So, um, yeah, if it’s not something that you have, you know, hours out of the day to focus on probably makes sense to hire a team like BAMF or even talk to Juan and see what he can help, hook you up with.
Houston: 22:03 Cool so once you have that list ready to go, you have your templates set up. You want to use a tool like Mailshake. That’s really our favorite tool. We’ve also use Mixmax. We’ve also used QuickMail which both work but Mailshake gives you the best control over the amount of emails that get sent each day. It makes sure that he never seen more than 250 emails a day. And it also breaks it out over the day, so if you send 250 emails in a day, but it’ll send them in batches of only five emails at a time, like every 15 minutes throughout the day, which, um, when gmail perceives those emails coming in and going out, it’s going to look a lot more natural. You’re going to get a much better open rate than you would if you used another tool. So as far as doing the actual outreach itself, definitely use a tool like Mailshake, Mixmax and QuickMail fine, but don’t use something like MailChimp. MailChimp is really for traditional email marketing for targeting your customers, emailing people who have opted into your newsletter and that sort of thing. It’s not really designed for this sort of cold email outreach. So make sure you’re using a tool that’s specifically designed for this cold email.
Houston: 23:20 And that’s really it man. So once you start doing that outreach, you really want to stay on top of your responses and your replies. The way we do it at BAMF is we actually have a team of VA’s that manage our inboxes for our clients. And they’ll go through and they’ll label things as a hot lead, a warm lead, cold lead, not interested, no thinks or question or bounce. We’ll come up with some. Those are pretty much our standard labels that will, um, our VA’s will go through the look at the response label them, filter out any emails that potentially bounced and that way we at BAMF or our client can really focus on who they’re going to reply to. Our VA’s will even go in and add notes. Um, so if they do have a question or they do have something sort of interesting in their response to our email, they’ll make a note of it so that we could go through and very efficiently respond to all of the people in the press that are interested in talking to us.
Houston: 24:21 And then we’ll, we’ll filter those out by, you know, the top priority opportunities. So, you know, obviously if someone like CNN or TechCrunch or Forbes or one of those really top publications gets back to us, we’re going to prioritize our PR leads, our PR opportunities based off of that. Um, so we’ve had really great results with this strategy so far. We’ve had a 100 percent success rate with getting our clients on top publications. I’m using our PR hacking strategy and a top publication is any publication, um, by our definition it’s any publication that gets more than 10 million monthly average visitors. So once you start going through podcasts and top podcast opportunities, any top 1000 podcast, we consider that a top opportunity or any Facebook page that has over a million likes. So we have a couple of criteria for how we filter out the top opportunities and we’ve had 100 percent success rate working with our PR clients on getting into those, those top placements.
Juan: 25:30 That is amazing. And Houston, something that I really like about the way you guys do things is there’s always this tug of war between marketers or startup founders and people that want to do things in a growth hacky manner. I think there’s a lot of disrespect between people that really want to do things in a white hat manner and they like really romanticize the just putting in the hours and doing things the hard way and they kind of like villainize anyone that’s trying to do all these clever hacks and do very, very rapid growth and there’s kind of this tug of war between market are saying it is okay to be super smart and do like the technical things and then people saying no. The product lives or dies by its own merit. If it doesn’t get traction, doesn’t get traction and you guys are being really smart about it because you’re putting in the hours.
Juan: 26:13 You just broke down the way that you do things and it’s actually really hard. It’s really tedious. You are personalizing the emails and actually following up with every single person and you’re doing an entire CRM as if it was like a sales pipeline from a cold email to closed opportunity. Yeah. You’re putting in the hours and it’s super clever because you’re doing it at scale and it’s so cool to see and understand how much you’re, you’re collaborating with, with these two mindsets. It’s totally a hybrid of yes, it’s personalized and it’s also going to be smart and we’re going to reach out to thousands of people and it’s very clear to see that that’s why these things are working. You can’t just spray and pray and also you can’t just go, you know, to email 10 people in one day and expect results to come from that.
Houston: 26:58 Yeah. I think you touched on a few awesome points there. So like we talked to clients all the time who are, you know, a little bit apprehensive about the whole growth hacking process and the growth hacking mindset. It’s some sort of pushback that we get very often. Um, and specifically with the PR hacking service, there’s a ton of traditional PR agencies that have been around for, you know, 20 years or 10 years and they, they’re really able to like tell their clients or you know, who are our potential clients. We have all these existing relationships. We have, you know, 20 years of experience doing this and then when we’re trying to sell our PR hacking service we’re really like, look, we’ve been around for like six to eight months as a company. Here’s all of our case studies. We get amazing results. Maybe we haven’t been around for 20 years, but those companies that are trying to get your business to do press release aren’t going to get the results and I will often challenge them to say, hey man, or you know, hey girl, we talked to so many founders literally everyday that like, I’ll just be like, look, you guys hire that traditional PR agency bringing us on. We will give you a, like a discount just so that you can afford to bring us both on the same time and I guarantee you that.
Juan: 28:24 So we can race them?
Houston: 28:26 like I’m, I’m so competitive Juan. Like I refuse to lose. And any competitor, any prospect that works with us on PR hacking and has a traditional PR agency. We’ve had three clients like this in the past. They’ve all dropped their traditional PR firm after three months.
Juan: 28:44 That is amazing.
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Juan: 29:20 Houston. That’s so cool. What is the best way for people to stay in touch with you? Everything that you’re doing and watch your progress as you scale BAMF.
Houston: 29:28 First and foremost, we would love for you to join us in the Facebook group. Um, my co founder Josh shares valuable content there. Almost every day. Juan, you’re probably our number one contributor, so thanks for all you do for the group and if you want to follow Juan, you might as well join BAMF as well. Um, other than that, like, just feel free to check out our website. It’s bamf.media, or um, you know, on our website you can just click the like consultation link and you’ll be able to get in touch with us if you’re interested in working with us. That’s really the best way. You can also shoot me an email at Houston@bamf.media or connect with us on Linkedin. We’re all over Linkedin as well, so yeah, feel free to reach out. We’d really love to work with any startups or anyone trying to build their personal brand to help them create massive growth.
Juan: 30:20 Perfect. Houston, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all these things with us. Very valuable.
Houston: 30:25 Yeah. Anytime.