Banished to the Digital Basement:
Kent Lewis Recounts His Exile from PR

Since I seem to be on a digital PR “jag” after presenting on “PR Your Way to the Top of Google” at Engage with my firm also handling the PR for the digital marketing conference in Portland, I thought I’d interview Kent Lewis, President & Founder of Anvil Media, Inc., a measurable search and social marketing agency. You’ll see Kent quoted in publications, speaking at conferences, teaching at Portland State University and hosting webinars as the founder of career enhancement group, pdxMindShare.

But that’s not why I wanted to interview him. Kent is that rarified PR guy turned into something else. Starting his PR career before media databases were online, he spins a story about his first years out of college when he printed media “books” — back before Cision and HARO were saving our asses.

After a short time playing nice with traditional PR people, his attitude got him moved “downstairs” to the stepsister company focusing on interactive. His boss literally opened Kent’s first-ever professional review by asking “what’s your problem?” He was banished to the basement of websites before the internet was recognized as a real entity. Working to maximize online coverage for clients, PR people didn’t respect this as “real PR” and even the interactive people had “no use” for Kent because he wasn’t a developer or programmer.

Left to his own devices, Kent launched into unchartered territories as only a true entrepreneur would. Grabbing the attention of forward-thinking colleagues, Kent was asked to take part in launching new firms — Wave Rock Communications and Young & Roehr Group — where he ran the digital side of things.

But that’s old history. Kent has served at the helm of Anvil for almost 18 years. Today the firm steers clear of PR, only working in “pixels” that can bring “measurable” results to clients. While this may cause many of us to scratch our heads, thinking we might want to ditch PR’s ambiguity for this results-oriented approach, Kent’s daily actions point to how much he respects our industry.

5 Ways a Marketing Firm Owner Uses PR to Grow

Today he utilizes his PR skills to grow Anvil. Here’s how:

1. HARO (Help A Reporter) — Kent is always looking to serve as an expert resource on marketing topics for press. He does this by mining and responding to HARO, a free resource delivering press requests to in-boxes three times per day.

He doesn’t really care if the coverage ends up on an obscure website, he’s after links back to his website. “The single best way to get good quality links to your website is PR coverage,” he reiterates. He also views PR results as a reason to reach out to prospects and essentially “markets the crap out of it.”

2. Speaking — Sharing his knowledge at industry and business conferences about 30 times a year has been Anvil’s best lead generator.

3. Awards — Submitting for relevant industry and local business awards has helped Anvil. They do not pay for award recognition, but are truly gaining authentic pats-on-the-back from awards that aren’t fee-based.

4. Syndicated articles — Kent often writes for 3rd party publications like iMedia and Online Marketing Institute. He’s disciplined about creating efficiency out of each article by maximizing them multiple ways (he calls this SWING).

5. Press releases — Kent’s quarterly press releases aren’t about getting media pick up. Instead, he views them as sales tools and a nonaggressive way of saying “here’s our latest news.” Kent reminds us that many decision makers still don’t understand the difference between a press release that’s posted on the wire versus one that’s picked up by media.

The difference between Kent and a true PR professional, besides the fact that he’s run a successful search and social company for nearly two decades, is that he’s not proactively pitching reporters nor playing the media relations game. He did that once when a midlife business brought him to what he calls his Jerry Maguire moment in 2013. Faced with surmounting business challenges, Kent manically wrote a 40-page company manifesto, resulting in the removal of half his team. What was toned down into a 10-point credo was picked up by the Portland Business Journal from Kent’s media pitching efforts. The article still pulls powerful search rank today. Let this be an inspiration to all PR people to find their own Jerry Maguire moments—on behalf of our clients, our employers, or the companies we own and are trying to elevate.

About the guest: Kent Lewis

President and Founder of Anvil Media, Inc., Founder of pdxMindShare, Adjunct Professor at Portland State University, Co-Founder, Past President and Advisory Board Member of SEMpdx, Board Member and Membership Chair of Entrepreneurial Organization (EO) and Executive Committee, Board Member and Marketing Chair for SMART. Kent does a lot!

Connect and follow Kent on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

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Amy Rosenberg
President at Veracity
Writer. Podcaster. Press Friend. Hand Holder.