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Bruce Merrin: Johnny Carson, PR & Celebrity Speakers

I'm here with an incredible guest who's worked with some of the world's most notable influencers in the world of PR and booking celebrity speakers. Our special guest and his firm rank among the most elite PR firms and speaker bureaus in existence.

Starting with his first clients of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie acclaim, Michael Landon and Johnny Carson. He has gone on to book every past US president of all the presidents starting with Ronald Reagan. He also has worked with sports legends such as Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and icons, Oprah, the late Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and so many others.

In addition, he has handled worldwide campaigns for superstar entertainers like Elvis, Teddy Ruxpin, the Talking Teddy bear, which at the time became the top-selling toy in the world two years in a row. Plus, he's worked with upscale retail clients including Versace, Gucci, Rolls Royce, Cartier and Remy Martin.

Welcome to the show, Mr. Bruce Merrin

Bruce
It is an honor.
Dustin
You’ve done an incredible work in your career. I want to start right at the beginning. The start of your journey, you’ve got what I would believe was the hottest ticket in town. You got a private invitation to Johnny Carson's house in Malibu. How do you get an invite to the number one talk show host’s house at the time?
Bruce
In my very first year of PR, I was blessed to represent Michael Landon. I loved that because when I was younger at UCLA, I watched Bonanza every week, the number one TV show year after year. Michael became my very first public relations client. I had him booked on the Johnny Carson show, The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson after the guesting, came backstage into the dressing room and Johnny said to me and to Michael Landon, “I would love to take you guys to dinner at my home in Malibu.” I'm telling you my heart was beating. I knew Johnny, but to be invited to his home in Malibu for dinner, it was amazing. We said yes. I drove with Michael Landon and we arrived and Johnny Carson had a wine glass and he says, “Let's do a toast.” We had a nice toast.
Johnny said to me, “Bruce, you've been bringing on famous people on The Tonight Show for about three years. That's great. You should start a Celebrity Speakers Bureau.” I said to Johnny, “Johnny, you know I have a public relations company, but I've never had a booking company for celebrities and sports stars.” He looked at me, he says, “Bruce, I'm going to make it easy. I'm going to be your first client.” Michael turns around to me and said, “Bruce, now I'm going to be your second client.” The next day Ed McMahon called me up on the phone, back then when we still had the rotary phones. He says, “I hear you're starting a Celebrity Speakers Bureau. I'll be your third client.” That is many years ago, but that's how it started. It's thanks to Michael Landon and Johnny Carson. I owe it all to them. That's how the bureau started.
Dustin
In that moment, do you feel compelled? If these 2 to 3 people are telling you should do it, you're going to do it. Did you have any reservations about this new business now?
Bruce
When we started out and Michael says he's going to be my client and Johnny Carson's going to be my client. I thought, “It's a great idea.” I had no reservations at all, but I thought this is a new journey because I already had been doing very successful public relations campaigns, but I never had the bureau. Here I am a brand-new guy in this world. In that very first year, going back many years now, I'm a big sports fan. I know you know that I'm a big sports fan. My very first two sports clients were the legendary Jackie Robinson, who I used to see in Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Mohammad Ali was my second. I was born in Louisville and Mohammad Ali was born in Louisville. The first time that I met Ali, he loved the fact that I was born in Louisville. They became my first two sports clients. I'm blessed beyond any words that you can say.
Dustin
I want to ask you about Carson. Was he a gracious guy? Did you felt like maybe he had an agenda? He's like, “I want to help monetize. I'm going to get Bruce to start an agency so he can book me.” What was it about this interaction?
Bruce
He has a big heart. He liked me because for several years I was bringing a lot of clients on his show. We were blessed talking about public relations to represent Simon & Schuster, the biggest publisher in the world. Every month, the biggest name, Simon & Schuster author, they were our client. Back in the day when Johnny had a 90-minute show, very often his last guest on the show was an author. I was at The Tonight Show all the time with the most famous Simon & Schuster authors. When we were having the wine, because he's such a nice guy, he saw a vision of something else that I could do besides the public relations and God bless him. The other thing I'll share, some of your people may know, the producer of the Johnny Carson show was a gentleman named Freddie De Cordova. Back in the day, Freddy was on the TV as part of the show all of the time. He was the fourth guy that became a client because he says, “I hear Ed McMahon called you. I want to be a client as well.” That's the other part of the story. Johnny had a big heart and he was thinking this would be another avenue for me to go that I had never done before.
Dustin
We have a lot of entrepreneurs in the audience. I can't imagine we have a lot of people that are starting a speakers’ bureau. Maybe some people that have a PR firm or something like that. From a business model perspective, PR firms seems to be more profitable. You have a retainer ongoing work, whereas a speakers’ agency or bureau, as I understand, you get a one-time cut of whatever that speaker is contracted for. What kept you at the Speaker's Bureau for so long?
Bruce
I started doing research on speakers’ bureaus because I had never had one before. What I found, because I contacted a few of the big speakers’ bureaus back East again, this is many years ago. All of them told me, “Bruce, it's great because you make 30% commission.” With typical agent back in the day would make 10% commission. In the speaker's bureau area, it was 30% and it has been 30% ever since. When I heard that, I thought, “That's interesting.” Let's say you book a $50,000 speaker. That's a lot of money at 30%. As far as a profit center, being an entrepreneur, even at a young age, I realized that was another area to monetize and create another income stream. We already had the PR, but we didn't have the speaker's bureau. That's a very good question. As an entrepreneur, I certainly made the right choice many years ago.
Dustin
You're not even the guy getting on the plane or the gal getting on the plane to deliver the product, the speech, you're booking. What a great business model to be in.
Bruce
You were so nice in the introduction. I must share because you mentioned about the past presidents. At a very young age, the first past President was President Reagan. My office was in Beverly Hills. He had an office on Wilshire Boulevard. He was the first past president that I ever booked. It was a big blessing to be able to work with these past presidents. These are legendary people with amazing stories. He always treated me like a wonderful human being. I love President Reagan. Since President Reagan, all of the other presidents I've gotten to work with and it was a thrill.
Dustin
Have they been pretty easy, stately to work with, these past presidents?
Bruce
In fact, I'll share a story with you because it popped into my head. President Ford, he's from Michigan. He was a good football player, a good athlete. We had a very big booking for him in the state of Nevada. It was part of a very big program all day that we booked him for. I'm going to tell you a story, but on that program was Bruce Jenner, which is interesting to think back on Bruce Jenner and also Rich Little. President Ford was on the stage. With all of the past presidents, they have the big security Secret Service staff that is with them and they follow him around. He gave his talk. It was great. He got a standing ovation and well deserved. All these Secret Service guys go running onto the stage and they're ready to whisk him off into the limousine. President Ford, I always remember this and I loved this so much, he says, “Wait a second, guys. The 5,000 people out there have some questions for me.” He stayed for 30 minutes answering questions. He didn't have to do it. He could have left and go into the limousine. It impressed me because he cared enough about the people in the audience to want to be able to answer questions. That was something that I liked.
Dustin
Bruce, it's ironic. It's fitting. It’s whatever you want to call it that we're sitting across from each other. My prior world being in the speaking business. I suspect they're going to be some people that are like, “I'd love Bruce and his agency to represent me.” What goes through your head when you're looking or evaluating talent, whether you're going to sign them or whether you're going to represent them, what do you do?
Bruce
The first thing that I want to look at is when they're out there doing their presentation, are they going to impact the lives of the people in the audience? I want somebody that's going to impact the lives. I also want somebody, when he's there speaking that he has the audience at hello. Remember the Tom Cruise movie. I want them to have them at hello. The other thing is I want them to be very interactive with the audience. We don't want them standing behind a podium trying to be didactic. We want them to be able to be interactive. I also want them at the beginning to make the audience laugh because it's been my experience booking speakers for many years when they start out and get the audience in the palm of their hands by making them laugh.
It helps a lot. The other thing that I'll share, this is out of the top of my head having done this so long, is that if they're able to give a good message that'll stay with that audience long after they leave the auditorium or wherever they're at. In other words, some good golden nuggets that the audience can take and leave. Those are some of the key elements there. We want them to entertain, be informative and obviously give substance, but it's important that they are able to entertain the audience as well. There are some speakers that are brilliant and very knowledgeable, but they're dull. We don't want those kinds of speakers. We want the speakers that are fun, that the audience can interact with and go out the door with a lot of good information that will stay with them. That would be the quick answer.
Dustin
Bruce, like I want to speak directly to the audience. I typically don't do it during an interview, but this is good advice for life. You may be the world's leading expert at whatever, but if you can't have a great way with people, if you can't entertain them, it's going to be very tricky to influence and be very tricky to start your own business or be a successful member of your community, entertainment. Being engaging and interactive is such a life skill, not just a speaker skill.
Bruce
You can be at Von Supermarket and meet somebody, but if you're able to interact in a fun way, they're going to remember you. For me, it's a real gift to be able to book all different kinds of speakers, whether it's a sports star, politician, a best-selling author, an inspirational or a motivational speaker. I love when they can go out and speak to that audience. The next day, the certified meeting planner who booked the event with me, calls me or sends me a text and says, “That person impacted the lives of everybody in that audience.” That is a real high for me because I love that. We can also have an influence on the people in the audience at every event. That's what I love.
I would be remiss if I didn't ask you this. You've worked with some incredible names so I'm thinking of Muhammad Ali or let's say a past president that we've talked about or Steve jobs or Oprah or many of the people you work with. What does a pitch look like? Everyone in this show has to influence, they have to pitch some way, whether it's a spouse or make a sale or find a business partner. What does a Bruce Merrin pitch look like to represent or to work with someone of stature? How do you go into that conversation or that meeting?
There are times that we have reached out to different people in different areas. Here's an example. We've booked about every famous astronaut starting from the original seven on when Buzz Aldrin went to the moon, that gentleman impacted my life because I saw all the videos from the moon and I said, “That is a guy that I want to work with.” I did a little research and I found out he was living in Beverly Hills. I made contact with them. I wound up having a lunch with him in Beverly Hills. We were like this. I said, “Buzz, you are an amazing individual because we booked so many well-known, famous people. I would love to add you to our roster. I had seen him on a national TV show and they were showing video from the moon, some of the most spectacular video that I've ever seen. I said, “I know we could get some good bookings for you, Mr. Aldrin.” He said, “Yes.” That was an example of me going to somebody. Very often people are coming to us. In that case I admired and respected him so much that I wanted to be able to book him because I knew that once he became a client, he'd be able to go out there and light up the room and be an exciting presenter.
Dustin
One of the things that I hear, I mean you are fortunate because like that was going on and you probably couldn't tune into anything but that was on TV all the time. What I take away from what you shared is you found a commonality. You had done research by default, like it was going on. If you don't know somebody you're going and trying to find that personal connection. Maybe appealing to the ego a little bit and saying how much you admire and respect them. If you don't know their background or their past, it's hard to come and be authentic. It sounds like that's what you did and you weren't sharing that.
Bruce
I did. The advantage that I had is when I met Buzz Aldrin. We had already established our company. We were working with some pretty high levels. I had found out he was a big sports fan and sports star. One of the greatest running backs of all time from the Chicago Bears is a gentleman named Walter Peyton. His nickname was Sweets. I knew that he was a big fan of Walter Peyton. I couldn't help but show him a picture of me with Walter Peyton at an event that we had booked Walter Peyton so that certainly helped. Our reputation at that time was a selling point because we had established ourselves in a very competitive industry. Booking Buzz Aldrin was one of the highlights of many of the different areas that we've worked in because I admired the astronauts and the contributions that they've made.
Dustin
In most scenarios, a majority, your client essentially is a corporation or a big group. You've worked with Apple. We mentioned Mirage, Versace. People tuning into this show are intrigued by big sponsorships and the idea of working with a big company. What's your advice for them to establish that relationship? If you have no in there, what's your advice for people that want to get their foot in the door to pursue something similar going after a big company?
Bruce
Steve Jobs and Richard Branson are two of the maybe top five people that I admire so much.
Dustin
What do you admire about them the most?
Bruce
With Branson, I mean here he has over 200 different companies, yet he has such a heart of gold. He gives to so many nonprofits. He does so many things for mankind. Richard Branson, he'd be in my top five. I did reach out to him as well because I wanted to get to meet him and we wound up booking him a couple of times. The first time I met him, it was a wonderful experience. Our company is in Las Vegas. He had this beautiful suite at the Aria. He had the penthouse at the Aria and I got a chance to meet him.
I was so impressed with him because he's a wealthy billionaire. I follow him on Twitter. I love following him on Twitter. Many of the things that he does are for human beings and humankind. He cares. It's not about raking in money. That's something about him that I enjoyed with Steve Jobs. When we started our office, we had a rotary telephone. We had no faxes, no computers. To think from the time that I started my office many years ago, that I'd hold something in my hand and I could do FaceTime and reach anybody anywhere around the world. What Jobs did revolutionize our world.
We drive here in San Diego and everybody's got their head down. I admired him in terms of the contributions that he made. To me, he was a genius in taking that idea and what he's done with the iPhones. It goes a lot farther than iPhones. The iPhones to me was such a big mood because it was unlike anything any of us ever had. Back in the day, when I knew Johnny Carson, we'd call people up on the telephone. That was it. There was a restaurant in Beverly Hills called the Brown Derby. Their big thing was they'd bring a telephone to your table and you can make a call. Now with the iPhone, it's amazing what we can do. We have a new client in Africa, Mozambique, and we were doing FaceTime. He or she is ten-hour time difference on the iPhone. I admired Steve Jobs for what he did there. We can also say Wozniak if we want.
Dustin
I appreciate you taking that detour. I'm always fascinated to hear why people respect and do that. My original question back to you was how does someone get their foot in that door at a corporation to put together deals like you have done.
Bruce
One of the things is to try to be unique. If you're approaching somebody like Richard Branson or Steve Jobs, what can one do to make themselves unique and stand out? It's not all about me but in some way creating something. I'm all about messaging because my mom and dad graduated from the journalism school at Missouri, the most famous journalism school. I was brought up on journalism. I've always been a writer, thanks to my mom and dad. I'm going like this because I'm writing. In expressing oneself in writing is important. Now we have a lot of text messages. We have emails. When we're approaching somebody like a Steve Jobs or Richard Branson or you name it, the key thing is to try to create something that's individual and unique about yourself.
That makes you stand out from others, that may get their attention and that would be a way inside the door. What are the unique elements about Steve Jobs or Richard Branson that you could send to them? For example, Richard is so much into humanitarian different things. If you can contact him with some way that maybe you want to get involved with something that he's doing or with Steve Jobs to try to use an idea. Being innovative is so important in trying to reach people on a higher level. It's not contacting them about me, but it's that what is it about that person and then how can I contact them so that will strike a chord that may interest them.
Dustin
You've talked about the years in business. What's one of the more creative ways or strategies or campaigns that you've used to get someone's attention, whether it's a person, as you mentioned or the director of sponsorships or whatever at a business. What's one of the more creative ways that you've done in your many years to get your foot?
Bruce
One thing that comes out, I've always mentioned that Michael Landon ranks among one of my favorite clients because going back to when I was at UCLA, I would watch him on Bonanza. I owe so much of my life and my success to my mom. There's a Michael Landon story, but it ties into my mom. My mom was one of two women that had a Hollywood entertainment PR firm at General Service Studios, a big movie studio and in Hollywood. For three years, I worked with my mom. After graduating UCLA, she taught me the business. That movie lot, I had heard that Michael Landon was going to be shooting a movie and he was going to be on the lot that day.
Because our office was at General Service Studios, everybody on the lot knew me so I went to the studio. I still remember it was Studio 11 and I went up to the head. You couldn't walk into a studio. You had to be allowed to enter based on whoever was guarding the studio. I gave them my card. They knew me. I said, “Please, I want to meet Mr. Landon. Would you let me in? I'll be very quiet. Michael Landon shot the scene. It was a very good scene. It was a cowboy, Western film. At the end of it, everybody took a break on the set. I went up to Mr. Landon. I was very kind. I shook his hand.
I said, “I'd been a big fan of yours going back to Bonanza. I'd like to give you my business card. If you would consider, Mr. Landon, I'd love to take you to lunch. I know we've never met. My office is right here. We work with a lot of entertainers. It would be so wonderful.” I mentioned to him, because this was interesting, one of my mom's clients was Joan Crawford. She was an Oscar-winning actress in the ‘40s, maybe the most famous actress in the ‘40s. My mom and I, thanks to my mom, we were handling her PR and I knew that he would be impressed and he was.
I said, “We're working with Joan Crawford now. Mr. Landon, can we meet?” Two months later, he called me. We had lunch and I'll never forget this because it was so amazing. He says, “Bruce, it's interesting timing. I'm working on this brand-new show, which is called Little House on the Prairie.” I knew nothing about it, but he says it's a family-oriented show. “This might be good timing for us to work together.” I took the extra step, I had the chutzpah to go in and meet a Michael Landon, give him my card and ask for the order so to speak.
You have to have enough guts to at least try that and it worked. He became my very first big name entertainer. That's an example where instead of wishing, I went directly to a big-name star. As a result of being honest and compassionate, he became a client. That's one story that I'm very proud of. There was another story like that with Elvis Presley. It’s a similar thing. I grew up as a kid. Elvis was my hero when I was in junior high school. He was shooting a number of films at Paramount Studios at the time.
My dad was the head of the Publicity Department at Paramount. I asked my dad, on a set, if I could get to meet Elvis and I did. He was one of the nicest guys I've ever met. That's how I got to start working with Elvis. You've got to take that first step because there's a difference between dreaming about something and want to make something happen. With Elvis, I knew that I wanted to have the opportunity. As a result, not only that I work with Elvis when he was alive, but it's funny in a way to think about it. Sadly, when he died at a young age, Colonel Parker was his main man. They came out with Elvis Presley wine and we did all the public relations on Elvis Presley wine on every bottle. It was a different beautiful shot of Elvis on the wines and they sold out quickly. I'll never forget my ability to work with Elvis because he was such a hero to me.
Dustin
There are a couple of things I want to break down because I can imagine, Bruce people are tuning in and some people are like, “These are incredible names.” Maybe they feel a little intimidated. They also might be thinking, “How does this apply to a little old me in my business?” There are a couple of things I want to break down. One, you talked about having a vision of I want to work with that person and thinking through that. Two, you had the chutzpah. It's going to fall into my lap because I thought about it or I want this to happen. You took action. Three, you developed relationships although you had some relationships and connections that got you through a certain door, it doesn't happen overnight.
People knew who you were, put the time in, you put the work in and you got that door open because of that work that you had done. Four, back to the thing that you appealed to a person's ego by being authentic and saying, “I'm a big fan,” which means you had done the research prior. It's not going to happen overnight, but you need to put your time in there. That's the big takeaway. No matter if they're going after a big name, sports star, actor or actress or even like a typical business deal. All these principles and things that you shared are incredibly powerful. The worst thing someone could do is say, “This doesn't apply to me.” I'm not talking to actors or sports star. I want to make it clear for people. There are keys in what you said that are applicable to anybody.
Bruce
You use the word that I love and that's authentic. No matter what you do, it's so important to be authentic. Let's take the business community, whether it's working in the computer area or IT. They want to work in business. One of the things that I always recommend to people that want to focus in laser beam to a certain industry, first research that industry. If they're living in Miami Beach, research what are the different companies in Miami that may be ones that would be a good fit for you. In other words, get laser beamed on companies that would be good for you, then find out who's the CEO, who's the VP of marketing, and start reaching out so that in other words, it's a plan that you can integrate and make it happen.
I'm all about dreams. In fact, a lot of my clients, some of your audience may remember in the ‘70s, there was a song by Gary Weaver called Dreamweaver. A lot of my clients call me that because I love trying to make their dreams come true. For the person that might be in Miami Beach, they want to be a Dreamweaver and figure out what is the area of interest for them. It's a question of target marketing. That's an area or a word that I like, target marketing. How are you going to target market into the area that is your desire, what's in your wheelhouse, and you create an action plan. I'm all about action. It’s not dreaming but making it happen. Determining the target is important and it doesn't have to be at all dealing with celebrities.
Dustin
I want to continue on this thread because we've mentioned PR and we've mentioned a lot of big names. I want to make this tactical for people. Point blank, how does a typical business owner that maybe he's not chopping a movie or is not in the entertainment business, benefit from PR?
Bruce
Benefits from PR, I could write a book on it. First of all, if that person is interviewed in their local newspaper, if they're on the talk radio station in their city, if they guest on a morning or afternoon or an evening TV show. If there's a magazine in their area that they're featured in, the power of the media is so strong, especially national TV, if he can move to that level, but keeping it local in the city where that person is living. They certainly have some story that will be unique and can be of interest to the people in the media. What their goal to accomplish in the public relations here, what we look for are what we call news hooks. What is the news hook about that person that may intrigue a journalist to say, “I want to do an interview with that person or what's the angle?”
Dustin
Everybody has a different angle on something about themselves or something they're doing in the community. It could be that they're working with a nonprofit in their community. Because they're working with the nonprofit, the local TV station wants to come out and do an interview featuring them. There are many ways to go. The power of the electronic and the print media is so strong. Talking locally, newspapers in their area, talk radio or different people that host radio shows that have guests on their morning shows, the magazines. There are many magazines in every city, a lot of different magazines and some of them specialize in different areas. For example, if they're in real estate, there are definitely some real estate or business publications that might be interested in. They have the story that makes them stand out from the crowd. What do you say to the person that says, “Bruce, this sounds good. I get the value of PR. I marvel at businesses that are in there, but who wants to hear from little old me?”
Bruce
I truly believe if any of your people ever watch CBS Evening News. One of my favorite people is a guy named David Hartman. For years, he's been doing on the road with David Hartman. Every week he shares the story and these are not celebrities. These are people with amazing stories. What I'm saying to you is the person that's reading right now, I guarantee you they have a story. The question is from a professional like me, we have to sit down with them, hear their story, and we can develop a news release or a feature story that does make them stand out from the crowd. That's where a professional in the PR area can stand out. I can give you one example. Let's take the real estate area as an example.
A number of years ago there was this wonderful woman who asked me to have lunch with her. There's a place in Las Vegas called the Stirling Club. She says, “Bruce, I have this interesting idea for the real estate area. It's called designer home tending. What we're going to do is go into homes, especially homes that maybe are in an area that are not so nice and we're going to design and put in the right furniture, set their home up so it looks nice. When a potential buyer comes in, because of the way it was staged and designed, we're going to help sell the that home much quicker.” I said, “I love the idea. I've never heard of this before but I love the idea.” Fast forward, we put together a news release about what she was doing, home staging.
This is a new, very innovative, creative thing that people are doing. I was very fortunate because we wrote a good news release, Fox & Friends in New York City. This is the national show. Fox & Friends booked her and the next week, she sent me an email, “Bruce, as a result of going on Fox & Friends nationwide, we had over 52,000 hits to our website. As a result of that, I had a call.” This was back when Katie Couric was still on CBS. “The producer of Katie Couric calls me,” she said, “We saw your client on Fox & Friends, we'd like to feature her on Katie Couric.” They did do that. As a result, we did so many different interviews. She had a great idea that was different unlike anything that I had ever heard. We also had the angle that she was a single mom with a brand-new business and that we had some pictures of her and her daughter. We thought it would touch people's hearts. You see her with her daughter. As a result of some of those stories, you know we got amazing coverage.
Dustin
Let's say I'm sitting there and I'm like, “I'd love to work with Bruce. I'm getting my business.” Maybe I'm not ready to work with you yet. How do I find that hook? We are definitely sold on media and getting there. You said the next big thing is a hook short of working again with you or professional to get it out. How can I find my hook? What I do on a day-to-day, it's not special. It's what I do every day and I don't know what a hook looks like. What's your advice to those looking for that unique angle or hook?
Bruce
If they were to sit down either with a friend or a colleague or parents and say, “I'm thinking about developing some publicity angles for me and have a good talk for maybe an hour. I guarantee you that out of that whole thing, there will be some good hooks that will develop. Just an example, we lived in Calabasas for many years. It's funny to think about it now because now everybody hears that and they think about Justin Bieber and the Kardashians. I was a Little League baseball manager. I loved doing that with my kids. We had championship teams. When it came to soccer, I never even played soccer. The coach of the soccer team that our kids were on, happened to be a very well-known dentist locally.
We all knew him. The public didn’t know him, but we knew he was a good dentist. I went to him one day and this wasn't even for money or whatever. I said, “You're such a good coach.” He also was from England. He had this charming English accent. We got so much news coverage from him that here is a dentist using his private time to work with young kids, AYSO Soccer. The people loved the story. Here's the thing, he's a dentist and some people might think, “That's dull,” but yet we took somebody that was a dentist and created a very interesting story about him and the media was interested. There's always some way to create an angle. It takes innovation and creativity. There always is a story because when I mentioned Hartman before, he features these people that nobody ever knew them or heard about them yet. Their stories are so unique.
Dustin
You've been at this for quite some time. How has PR changed? You talked about the rotary phone from when you got started to now where we're in this age of social media and digital and all this stuff. What's your summation of the evolution?
Bruce
I'm glad you mentioned social media because I'm certainly going to say something about social media and it's amazing. It's phenomenal. Back in our day, in the early ‘70s, ‘80s, we could pick up a phone and call a newsroom, for example, and we'd get an assignment editor and news director on the phone. Now you try calling those same people as voicemail. If you send an email, the problem is they probably have 50 emails there that day. This is where the social media side comes in and part of all of the public relations campaigns that we do and people on their own, the same thing applies.
First of all, Instagram is amazing because so much good video is shared on Instagram. I would recommend anybody within whatever area they are, whatever their area of expertise. Instagram loves video. First of all, create some video that can be on Instagram. Twitter is an amazing factor and there are all kinds of great promotions, publicity and all different kinds of visual posts that can be done on Instagram. LinkedIn is more on the serious business side, but LinkedIn is an amazing thing in our public relations area. There are business groups in almost every category you can mention.
For the audience, they can join different groups on LinkedIn, post messages and get amazing results. I've been on Facebook for several years. When my brother told me about Facebook several years ago, I thought it was like a dating site. Facebook for our company, for example, for our Speakers Bureau and Public Relations, it's been a gold mine for us. These are all tools. When you mentioned social media, the audience can use that and make it very effective for them. It always comes down to, how can you stand out from the crowd if you're a real estate agent? What is it about you that's different if you're a CPA? What is it about you that makes you a little bit different than all the others?
I was on the plane coming here to meet you and there was a wonderful woman with her husband. They were going to Cabo San Lucas, which is nice, but she's with State Farm. I happen to be with State Farm as well. We were talking about how she can promote herself. I met her for the first time and I was giving her some ideas on how social media is good. Everybody knows State Farm, but what were some of the things about her that might make her stand out from the crowd. There are always different things that you can do for promotions. One quick idea, when it's Halloween and somebody has their company in Miami, what if a week prior to Halloween, they give out free pumpkins and have people come to their office and they're giving out free pumpkins? That's something that's different, but yet that person gets to meet people they never would have met before. That's one idea.
Dustin
I know you're full of them. I’ve got to ask you, I had a Teddy Ruxpin and I’ve got to give some context because we've got some young ones tuning into the show. The Teddy Ruxpin was this bear. You got a cassette tape and you put it in its belly or the back, I don't remember. You press play and the mouth would move and it would talk. It was all the rage. It was the best-selling toy for two years in a row. When I saw that as part of your history, I had to ask you about it. How did this deal come to be and what did you do to help you to make this the best-selling toy?
Bruce
I'm glad you are asking about Teddy Ruxpin. It was one of the most fun public relations campaigns we ever did. There was a gentleman, a longtime friend of mine, and his name was Neil Simmons. I was living in Calabasas while he was living in Sherman Oaks. He calls me up and says, “Bruce, I don't want to tell you what it is. I want you to come to my garage. I've got something I want you to see.” It was a mockup of Teddy Ruxpin. It was rough, but it was a mock-up. He says, “What do you think? Do you think we have a chance in public relations with that?” I said, “Are you kidding? That could be a gold mine.” Anyway, they signed a deal with a big company called Worlds of Wonder. That was the toy company that released Teddy Ruxpin.
What we did was we methodically planned out for the very first year since it was a toy that would be in about every retail store. We set up an exciting media tour. It was in about 40 cities around the United States. They were all in very big shopping malls, very big shopping centers. We contacted all the TV, radio, newspaper and magazine people. They were enchanted. As you remember, Teddy Ruxpin was so cute. It was something that was more of an easy sell to the media. It was a question of planning it. When we had that first meeting, that was my suggestion that we go to the shopping malls because we're bringing the people. It was the most incredible experience. While we were working with them, Teddy became so popular there then were some spinoff shows with Teddy Ruxpin and we got to work on those things as well. It was fun. I enjoyed it so much.
Dustin
Back to the social media, you sound very positive about it. I can see how people that have been doing something successfully for a long time might not be as positive about social media. Is that the case for you? Do you feel like this world of PR that's evolving? There are so many ways to now connect with people. Do you feel that's a positive versus a negative, noise and distraction and all of that?
Bruce
It's positive. I'm glad that you brought up social media because when we started our company, who would've ever thought there would be a Twitter or Instagram, but it's another avenue. I highly recommend electronic and print media as far as TV, radio, newspaper, magazine. That's a wonderful medium to use. The great thing with the social media, it's another platform. It's another way of reaching people that before you didn't have that opportunity. For us in the area of public relations to have those platforms besides the traditional media, and when I say traditional media, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, that's great. I will share this one other thing I want to share for your wonderful audience. Talk radio is an amazing vehicle for them because we've done this so long, we have lists of all the talk radio shows all over the United States.
The great thing about it is if you have some company that's more than local, let's say you're in Miami, we can get you on a show in Dallas or Seattle or Boston. Talk radio is amazing and the person can do the interview while they're wearing a robe and seated. Talk radio has been a valuable tool for us because you have the undivided attention when the people are listening to a talk radio show. It's only that. It's a wonderful way because back in the day, if we were doing a media tour, you'd have to fly to each city and get a hotel and go to another city with talk radio. You can reach millions and millions of people, yet you're right where you're living. Now more than ever, for example, there are a lot of shows on Sirius XM, which is very big. It has the ability to reach so many people. I'm a big fan of talk radio. It's a wonderful way.
Dustin
Bruce, I am grateful that you've come in and shared your stories. I don't know where else in the world I would have found stories like that. I'm grateful you shared them with our tribe, with me personally. What are you excited for? What are you working on this year and beyond? What does the future look like for you?
Bruce
You and I both have passion. Passion is great. I will say on the Celebrity Speakers side, there are always different and unique people that come into your life. I love that and I welcome that. There's one example I know you're aware. There's a gentleman called Apa Sherpa. He is the world record holder. He's called the Michael Jackson of mountain climbing. He's scaled Everest 21 times and four times, he went up Everest without even any oxygen. The reason I'm mentioning that is in this business, we're always meeting new people that we've never met before. I'm fortunate that I'm always every month or every year going to meet new people that I haven't met before. The great thing is between public relations, which I love and have passion for it, and the speaking area, there are always different new adventures that are going to happen because people are always interested in coming to us for expertise. Knowledge is power.
Dustin
What about the PR? Is that the hub of everything? Where else can people find you?
Bruce
If they go to that website, you're mentioning everything about our PR company and the speakers are all there. I'm very proud of the clients that we represent. We've got great videos on everybody. That’s probably the easiest way to reach us. We're on the social media platforms as well, but that's the easiest and best way, Dustin.
Dustin
Thank you, big time, for being on the show. Thank you for what you're doing in the world and helping people get their message out.

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