Taking A Simple Idea And Executing – PR Hedgecock Style

This is a guest post by my friend and elite retreat alum Chris Hedgecock.  Chris started a website a while back called Cars For A Grand which he says was inspired by my below-a-buck site.  The concept is it shows all cars currently on eBay for under 1k.  Pretty simple huh? Anyone could have done that?   Well Chris did!  AND unlike my below a buck site Chris has stayed on it and is now earning a high six figure a year income from it!.  He recently did a homegrown PR stunt which is an amazing case study for anyone looking to score free PR.  I asked him to write about it for shoemoney.com

As you may or may not know I run a used car website called CarsForaGrand.com. I thought it would be a great idea to buy a car for under $1,000 from the site and drive it coast to coast in an attempt to get some news coverage and visitors to the site. We were successful in appearing on a dozen news broadcasts and driving almost half a million visitors to the site in three weeks – all for free.

Here is an example of the coverage we got, this one is from San Diego:

The basic hope was that we could drum up some news coverage and backlinks with the unique story, especially amid the current economic climate and automaker bailouts. The initial idea was to get on a few local TV stations, you know the classic filler on a slow news day ‘Two guys are driving across country in a $900 car…’ stuff like that. It also sounded like a bunch of fun, never having been across country before. I thought about hiring a PR firm, or getting a consultant, but then I remembered that stuff costs money. So I talked to a few friends in the industry like PR guru Chris Winfield, whipped up a press release, and got to work. Here is the first release:

COAST TO COAST IN AN $899 CAR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SAN DIEGO, CALIF (April 2009)- Who says you can’t afford a reliable, safe, working car in this recession– for under $1,000 bucks! Early this month, two young entrepreneurs will set out from San Diego, Calif. to show the country that they do not need a bailout to get a decent car. Chris Hedgecock and Jorge Gonzalez, founders of the website CarsForaGrand.com, have purchased a car from the website for $899 and will drive from San Diego to Miami to prove you can buy a reliable car without the hassle and burden of financing one.

These two young guys will be cruising through your town and would like to stop by your station as they make their way across the country. You will find their story to be inspiring, interesting and humorous as they honk through towns just like yours.

The car is a 1974 Pontiac LeMans, purchased for $899.89 on February 26, 2009. To make sure the the car was safe and road-worthy, $200 was invested in parts like belts, spark plugs, and a much needed oil change. The car was purchased from CarsForaGrand.com, a website that only features used cars under $1,000.

Chris and Jorge’s journey can be followed at (http://www.carsforagrand.com/road-trip/) where daily updates will be posted including pictures and video. The entire trip is expected to last 14 days barring a major incident (fingers crossed!) The route and city list will be updated with dates daily as schedules might change, always find the newest information at (http://www.carsforagrand.com/road-trip/the-route/).

AVAILABLE IN SAN DIEGO APRIL 2, 2009

To schedule an interview or a drive-by please contact

I had the good fortune of having my friend Drew Schulte to help out with the PR legwork. Drew is not a PR professional, actually he’s my real estate agent but in this market he has a lot of free time ;) So I had Drew put together a spreadsheet with all the cities we were visiting, and all the TV news stations in each city. He then called all of them and got the email address of the ‘assignment editor’. We learned early on this term ‘assignment editor’ was really important as this person decided who did what on what days. The great thing about TV news stations is they are open 24/7 looking for newsworthy stuff to put on the air. So we would pull into a town as it was getting dark, and while we would be getting settled Drew would be calling the news stations, harassing the assignment editors, and emailing the release to their ‘breaking news’ address.

After a few cities we altered the release to include the specific city we were in, and links to the previous news coverage. This really helped because it showed them that other stations were covering us and the last thing a news station wants to do is miss covering a story other stations might be covering. So once we got the ball rolling it was pretty easy, pull into town, get a hotel, wake up early, do a news spot, and get back on the road.

After we hit New Orleans we noticed the coverage kind of snowballing. For example, the news story we shot in San Diego got picked up by their sister station in LA, the one we shot in El Paso aired in San Francisco, etc. By the time we were done in Miami, the story had gone national… on the largest day we did over 110,000 uniques – all for free.

Not to say it wasn’t a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. I got to see a lot of this great country and meet a bunch of cool people. I also learned a whole bunch, which is really my favorite thing. I really knew nothing about PR, and was usually pretty shy in front of the camera. Now my smiling mug and my ‘74 LeMans have been all over the national and local news across the country. I hadn’t touched a Mac since the Apple II GS, and now I am zipping all over iMovie on my new Macbook Pro.

The real driving force behind this trip was attitude. I had the idea for the site a few years ago, and had the idea for the road trip around December or January, but it really took going to Elite Retreat to motivate me to get off my ass and go. There are just so many smart capable people there and the attitude of “We Can Do It” was just so infectious, I started planning as soon as I got home.

So to recap, if you have an idea get off your ass and just go for it. The worst thing that can happen is you will learn something new, and you might just succeed beyond your wildest expectations in the process.

You can see all of our video blogs at http://www.carsforagrand.com/road-trip/ or check out our YouTube channel.

UPDATE:

Here is the official count from third party site NewsPowerOnline.com:

Total Story Count: 28

Total Nielsen Audience: 1,220,161

Total 30-Second Ad Equivalency: $13,164

Total Run Time: 49:50

Total Calculated Ad Equivalency: $30,885

Total Calculated Publicity Value: $92,652

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