Taking A Simple Idea And Executing – PR Hedgecock Style

by Guest on May 4, 2009 · 77 comments

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

full disclosure

About the author...

– who has written 24 posts on ShoeMoney.com.


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{ 64 comments }

1 chris hedgecock

Thanks for the post Jeremy! Couldn’t have done it without the inspiration from Elite Retreat and your below a buck site

2 Robin Majumdar

I love stories like this and I think this is a great idea (and outcome)…

Depending on where the economy goes in the next few months, we may see opportunities for spinoff ventures such as “ahousefor100grand” and the like; who knows.

Kudos for the original idea and entrepreneurial spirit. :)

3 Ian Fernando

damn that is really good – wonder if he is using BANS! should have stuck with my BANS sites 2 years ago. ehh

4 LOLer Apps

This is great. I wonder if we should do a similar campaign for our iPhone app…lol. Cross country iPhone app campaign…sweet!

Great, inspiring story. Thanks.

5 Aman@BullsBattleBears

Congrats on the success Chris! This was a great post Shoe!

6 Greg Ellison

It looked like it was a fun road trip. Keep up the great work Chris. Thanks Greg Ellison

7 Micro Niche Marketing

Seemed like a fun road trip, and what a great marketing idea. Is there any better idea than one that involves a good time to could lead to serious profits?

8 brian ostrowiak

Nice job on the PR way to be a fucking cocksucker and steal our idea.. saw tons of these copy cat websites popping up all over basically just running our ebay top picks page.. oh well i guess competition is a good thing..

9 Jeremy Schoemaker

hmmm your website was registered over 1 year later then Chris’s….

Who is copying who?

10 brian ostrowiak

like i said competition is not a bad thing.. never even seen it till now and i was always on the search.. shows you dont need SEO to do well though.

11 Ricardo @ Nurture Your Wealth

Seems like he avoided the 1 year domain name question… Brian your site seems better organized anyways, no need to make yourself look “stupid” by cursing in comments. You will lose your credibility ;)

R

12 brian ostrowiak

yeah i was just a lil heated at the time i posted.. no edit comment button (or put foot in mouth button haha)

13 Novickarija

Thanks for posting this, but the youtube video kinda slow … or is it just me ?

14 SisyMoney

A great idea for publicity and it obviously worked but I’m just slightly curious how this whole publicity stunt happened to be free? You did not have to pay for gas, lodging, food? Was that all covered by sponsors? Your cost was really 0? I always thought there was no such thing as ‘a free lunch’ but if you pulled it off please explain. Otherwise, a great story.

15 chris hedgecock

I talk about that in the upper youtube video in this post, check it out

16 Ricky Peterson

First of all i would like give many congratulations to chris on his unmatched success. below a buck was really cool one shoe and that website must have inspired lots of people on internet to start something like that & chris is surely one of them.

17 Mogul

Wow, a lot of stations must have been rocking some seriously slow news days. But good for y’all, I guess.

18 brian ostrowiak

couldn’t ad my edit to my comment.. anyway i was prolly a lil harsh but hey i wasnt terribly happy to see it ha… chris i do like your blog though entertaining vids..

19 ROW

Thanks for the nice and inspirational story.

20 Paintball Tips

So how much money did you guys make from ebay commissions?

21 chris hedgecock

lots.

22 Free Directory Submission

Nice… Can’t believe so many news talked about you. :) Great work. I wonder how it converted revenue wise… :-P Did you make more in a week than for the whole year? :)

23 purposeinc

Chris! You are my hero!
I am so stoked, proud, and excited for you!
Shoe, you just rock. In your own shy, bragging, critical, supportive, fun way, you keep making one success after another! I am so thrilled to see Chris on the blog with a Shoe inspired success. You are a creating a Shoe army of entrepreneurs!

If you are a Shoe hater, you better hop on the bandwagon now and be part of the team, or you will see nothing but Shoemoney shoeprints!

Rock on Shoesters!

And good job Chris for being a success on a Shoestring!

24 Matt

Great job on the PR.

You said it was free – “driving almost half a million visitors to the site in three weeks – all for free”. You obviously had expenses involved, buying the car, repairs, gas, hotels, food, etc. What were your expenses?

I’m sure the ROI was awesome and you have continued residual (momentum), but it wasn’t exactly free.

25 chris hedgecock

I talk about that in the upper youtube video in the post, check it out

26 Best CSS Gallery

Well that’s an inspiring story indeed!

27 manish pandey

i like your nice and inspirational story.thanks for sharing this nice post.

28 Bonus for free

The story proves that there is no lack of ideas, but there is not enough persistence.

29 Adam Baird

This is certainly inspiring! Congrats Chris!

30 Apps for iPhone & BlackBerry

Awesomely inspirational!

I am over here right now plotting my next PR stunt (too bad I’m not that imaginative, lol).

31 ways to make money online

That’s funny…I saw this story on my local news a week or two ago and thought right away about BelowaBuck.com and knew someone was thinking about the Shoemeister while doing this site.

What I don’t like is that a bidding could be 600 bucks for a brand new car and it will be 15 Grand before the auction is over…

So it really doesn’t show you cars under a grand which is complete bullshit for the customers…

32 chris hedgecock

The part where you click to ebay is the part where we make money. While the scenario you describe is certainly possible, so is the scenario where we found the ’74 LeMans on the site and purchased it from eBay for $899.89.

Here is the original auction:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140302879977&viewitem=

And here is the bill of sale:
http://www.carsforagrand.com/road-trip/Pontiac_Bill_of_Sale.pdf

33 lawrenceq

Congratulations! Man, you turned a simple idea into some major paper. Watch all the copy-cats pop up.

34 Michael Zhao

Indeed! Too bad it you didn’t thought of that a few years ago! Sheeeeeet!

35 Rick Kats

Awesome, this is an inspirational story :D.

36 Hustle Strategy

I totally agree. This is honestly a great story.

37 Shawn Rubel

I think that your comment “Chris has stayed on it and is now earning a high six figure a year income from it” is a bunch of baloney.

38 fatman

thank you for nice articles, all need process

39 Jay @ work from home

That’s a pretty cool story man! Just stick with it and the sky is the limit so don’t take your time for granted. Thanks for sharing these videos….really inspirational.

40 Alan

This is one of the most inspiring guest posts I have seen on your website.

Chris had a great idea to think outside the box on marketing which has inspired me to think of more creative ways in driving traffic to my site.

More success stories from Elite Retreat participants would be great!

41 Brad Burnie

wow, I need to take more action! ~ I need more hours in the day :(

I have sooo many ideas and projects on the go…not enuff time.

42 Michael Zhao

I feel you man…I too have many ideas, but where to start…I guess the internet is one…Common man…Let’s get this!

43 Paul

I like hearing about people going out their and getting things done! You have to substitute money with hard work. Great job!

44 Mr. School Fundraising Ideas

Hmm idk if I would want a cheap car like that because I’m not a major car person, I know how to change my oil, tires, and some other minor maintenance so if something big went wrong with the car I would be sol.
It however sounds like a great idea, keep us informed about how Chris does when he goes cross country.

45 Chad Strittmatter

I can relate to the story about the cheap LeMans. I recently searched high and low for a great deal on a “new-to-me” car to get me to and from college and work. And wouldn’t ya know, I found an ’89, near mint condition Mercedes-Benz with 96k miles and leather interior on craigslist.com. The catch was the transmission was bad. But, the seller had the new transmission in the trunk. In the end, I swapped the tranny’s, and viola!, its like new again for only $1000. It’s even got a car phone….well it is temporarily disconnected, but it still gets a few laughs for first time passengers.

46 SeO

Why don’t people just go to ebay and find cars under $1000 ???

I don’t understand why people would see this as a new solution (as mentioned in the news stories)

47 chris

You ask the wrong questions. Instead of asking ‘Why don’t people just go to ebay and find cars under $1000?’

Try asking ‘How could I convince people to click my affiliate link before they buy a car on ebay for $1000?’

Let me know how it works out.

48 Chad Strittmatter

I don’t think its just clicking links to ebay that finds you a better “deal”. I think it’s more about defining your searches for the absolute “best deal” you can find yourself, and more about stretching the American dollar as far as possible. I don’t believe ebay, or affiliates, has anything to do with it. “Get your money in when the pot when you have the best odds”….an old poker adage. Investing 101, buddy.

49 Asswass

Living in small towns really helps to get some air time or a little exposure on the local newspaper. But what about when you live in a big city? Exposing your product ain’t that easy.

50 MarijuanaReviews.com

I love offline marketing. In the past couple weeks I have organized 3 events and spoke on 2 separate occasions.

The traffic I have received has been high quality traffic and it barely cost me anything.

–Chubbs

51 rates

Love that story! Both the marketing part and the road trip part.

52 Michael Zhao

Man…I wonder what percentage he gets every sales is made?…Must be really profitable…a site that will literally run itself…Haa…nicely done!

53 Michael Zhao

That’s a great service for broke college folks like me! And it’s not like you’ll be driving a lemon forever…that guy during the end of the report saying, “I would not buy it” is a clown…let’s see if he would say the same thing if he was strap for cash and really needed a ride…sheeeeeeet!

54 Michael Zhao

And also, one good thing about 1000 dollar cars is, that you can junk it to the state and the state give you 1000 bucks back! That’s only in California though…not sure how it works somewhere else…haha!

55 Michael Zhao

Common people! There is still boat loads of ideas out there waiting to be discovered…Let’s get this! ‘Cause really, you are your own handicap.

56 london photographers

I am truly inspired by this and will apply it to my business

57 Beginner Drum Set

Great guerilla marketing campaign!

58 ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

This one is sounding really interesting and exciting. I read it and I feel that you guys are really enjoying your time … just like a free bird.

59 Corvettes for Sale

What a great idea! Sounds like loads of fun not to mention the best publicity stunt. Great post.

60 Autopten

You have become in a homegrown PR expert! Nice job with CarsForsaGrand.

61 Real Nasty Tranny Fan

So gorgeous posts deserves a bookmark, thank you and thanks for this amazing posts again!

62 Cars Under 1000 Used For Cheap

So how much money did you see from ebay?

63 Clear Lake Homes

Great PR story and example for young entrepreneurs.

64 Michael Zhao

All I have to say ’bout that is, “Sheeeeeeeeeeet!”

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