I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian Salamunovic. Adrian is the co-author of FREE PR, a public speaker, investor, and strategic advisor. He’s the person that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs turn to when the need expert advice on earned media, PR and hyper growth tactics. He has generated millions of free media impressions for the companies he has started.
He has over two decades of experience launching technology and consumer brands, including DNA11 (DNA art company), which generated over 1M in sales in one year using only PR, CanvasPop, MyFax.com, which sold to J2 Communications for over 200M dollars. In 2012 he was awarded IABC Communicator of the Year. He has also served as a 500 Startups global mentor, and is a #1 rated advisor with a five-star rating on Clarity.fm, where he advises and mentors hundreds of entrepreneurs. He’s been featured dozens of times in Techcrunch, Mashable, CNN, The Verge, and WIRED, and his products have appeared on CSI:NY, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and in the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Adrian is passionate about working with and helping entrepreneurs amplify their companies, brands, and product launches using the power of PR. He shares the best information, provides actionable advice and needle-moving information, and creates systems to help clients reach millions of people and get their brands in front of the right audience, at the right time, with the right message.
Thank you so much for your time. I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I launched DNA 11 (www.dna11.com), I was forced to learn how to generate PR myself and I generated $1M in sales through free PR and earned media in the first year by doing the PR myself. After a bad experience with the first publicist we hired, I taught myself how to do it, with a lot of trial and error. Because I had no background in public relations, I did things differently. As it turns out, that helped me stand out. I used the same “DIY” PR techniques to launch and build CanvasPop (www.canvaspop.com) to eight figures in sales. Public relations is so powerful if done properly. I wanted to show other founders and marketers that PR is more effective when done in-house, and that it’s not really that complicated if you are shown how to do it, so I decided to co-author FREE PR with Cameron Herold. Today I’m an advisor to hundreds of companies where I teach them how, and now I’m an author.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I wrote a letter to Anthony Zuiker (executive producer of CSI:NY) and he ended up producing an entire episode around DNA11. That was pretty surreal. Seeing your idea featured on a hit TV series, with an audience of millions is quite a rush. It was also cool when I was invited to Google Headquarters for Xprize and got to meet the Google founders, Richard Branson, and Robin Williams. Another highlight was appearing on “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch” on CNBC. I’ve also had the opportunity to do meet and greets at the Golden Globes, and met a ton of celebrities. Working in public relations opens up a lot of doors to meet interesting people — there’s almost too many cool stories to count…
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think one of the funniest moments was when my former business partner and I were interviewed on the Discovery Channel. A lot of people don’t realize this, but you’re not supposed to wear white on camera because it throws off the broadcast camera’s light sensors or something. He made the mistake of wearing a pure white button up shirt that day, so they made him wear his leather jacket and zip it up all the way. He ended up looking like an extra on Star Trek for that interview.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
The best way to scale your business to profitability is by creating an awesome service or product. You create awesome products by listening to your customers. If you have an awesome product that is remarkable, people will talk about it. Getting media exposure and generating buzz comes easier. Landing partners is easier. Attracting amazing talent and employees is easier. It all starts with the product.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m very excited about the launch of FREE PR. We’ve been working on it for over a year along with my co-author Cameron Herold and I really feel like it’s the best book ever produced on the subject. I’m also developing a companion e-course that I think will bring a lot of value to a lot of founders and business people. I also get to work with dozens of companies that are very interesting as an advisor. Every day is different and every day is exciting for me.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
You learn the best lessons by doing. Think differently. Do things differently. Don’t be afraid to stand out.Read a lot. For less than $20, you can absorb someone’s ideas (and experience) over a weekend with a good book. That is very powerful. Find a mentor. I think having a mentor or coach can help accelerate your career exponentially.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Networking is about willing to connect with anyone and bringing value first. In his book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” Gary Vaynerchuk talks about this. Always deliver value to people. If you play the long game, in the end you will always have a network you can lean back on. I also think that LinkedIn, when used properly, is the best networking tool on earth. You just have to invest your time into it. I spend 1 hour a day, every day “networking” on LinkedIn. The one thing I don’t do anymore, or do very rarely, is meet for random coffees — those meetings are a 99% waste of time. Instead, when people reach out to me for random coffee meetings to “pick my brain,” I suggest they set up a time to meet on Clarity (www.clarity.fm/adrian-salamunovic) instead. There’s a fee for my time there, and not surprisingly, half of those meeting requests suddenly go away. It’s amazing to me that the minute you put some value on your time people aren’t as motivated to just “pick your brain.” Time is the most valuable thing I have so I try to protect it, and I place value on my time. Instead of doing a lot of 1:1 meetings, I try to book talks or webinars where I can reach a lot of people at once. Time is so valuable.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” was a very influential book for me. Basically any podcast or book by Seth. The man is so brilliant. Tom Bilyeu has an amazing YouTube channel called Impact Theory, with really inspirational content and it is very much worth checking out. Neil Patel and Eric Siu have “Growth School,” and both those dudes know how to bring value with great actionable tips and content.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to inspire and teach founders how to be their own publicist, their own promoter. To become true evangelists for whatever great ideas THEY have. So many brilliant entrepreneurs and amazing companies don’t know how to “toot their own horn.” Somehow self promotion is sometimes looked down upon.That’s why I wrote the book FREE PR. As entrepreneurs, we have to learn the art of promoting ourselves, because at the beginning no one is really going to do it for you.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- Read more books — especially the book E-myth, by Michael E. Gerber
- Find a mentor — you can use a service like Clarity.fm to connect with great mentors
- Start any company or product launch with the press release. That’s exactly what Jeff Bezos makes his product managers do. Here’s an article that tells you why
- Always think big — it doesn’t cost more to think big. When you set big goals you tend to have bigger results. Better to shoot for the stars and land on the moon.
- Invest in great product photography and headshots — journalist and people in general are very visual. A good photo is worth a thousand words.