Jeremy Weisz 5:53
I want to dig a little bit deeper in each one of those. So the team side and hiring talent, go back to when it was just you and talk about kind of the formation of the core values, when, you know, walk me back at a time of why you decided on certain core values.
Kellee Johnson 6:11
Yeah, I mean, when it was just me, so I had a bad boss syndrome, which every one of us has, at least once in our career, and it was the catalyst for me to start my company. And I’ve been working for at least 18 to 20 years at that point, and realize Life is too short. And I thought, Oh, my gosh, I’m traveling all across the world right now I have a three hour commute when I am home in Chicago. This is not what I want for the next 20 years. And the bad boss made it more imperative to look for values like people that supported what I was after. So I started brainstorming, like what would these values be? Now it didn’t come out till about five years after I started Dallas. But it’s the first and foremost in our field of PR, which is a creative field, blending art and science, you have to have curiosity, or you will go down very quickly. Because every project is different, every clients different even how you manage your team, you have to be creative, and be curious and always wonder. So that was the first value. And then I played sports my whole life. I do look when we hire to fill the team with people who have been a team player, because we always have to have each other’s backs. We, we know what we need to do on our projects. But there’s times when people need to step in or just offer ideas that are outside of their realm. So that teamwork is huge. I raise sailboats to hence the ballast term is an engineering term for the weight of a ship that can keep things moving steadying in the right direction. So sailing is probably one of the best teamwork sports ever. You’ve got Mother Nature, and a lot of crazy factors and variables that go into that. So having the, the, the teamwork is critical. And then accountability, and I have five but those to me drive us every single day and accountability is do what you say you’re going to do. And if you can’t, I’ll quickly pivot and tell the team and the why may not matter as much as let’s let’s move forward to look for the right solution. So curiosity, teamwork and accountability. And then you think the the last two would be obvious honesty and transparency. But they’re not always and I found in my career, as you probably have, Jeremy that people don’t always do what they say they’re going to do. And they’re not transparent, and they’re not honest. And I find if you have those values that just drives everything you do. And then you attract the right people for the team as well as the right type of clients that you want to work with.
Jeremy Weisz 8:26
What’s in your hiring process, Kellee that allows you to vet for these core values, because they know they’re really important to you. Yeah,
Kellee Johnson 8:36
well we ask, give us examples of teamwork, accountability, curiosity. And if it doesn’t come top of my head, they have to really dig deep for the answer I sort of go. Interesting, right. And it doesn’t really catch people off guard as much because those three things are in our everyday they’re woven into our fabric if you look for them. And so we ask the questions in the interviews, we look for it on a resume teamwork is pretty obvious. I don’t care if it was a debate team or a soccer team or some type of teamwork to say that you’ve got you understand what you need to do. But you also have your your teammates back to step in when something might be needed. And, and we test the waters. So because of our model, which is cloud based gig economy, we can say let’s do this statement of work let’s perform for our client. And if we like it, and we gel together, then there’ll be many, many more opportunities to put you on The Ballast Group team. And so as sort of this trial and error, they’re checking us out as much as we’re checking them out and checking out the right fit. It’s pretty seamless to our clients. And I think you’re gonna start to see more of the cloud based economy gig economy mindset in our workers and our teams.
Jeremy Weisz 9:48
Talking about team, talk about your collegiate experience as a viable but you have a bunch of really interesting fun facts about you. So you’re a twin and you College Viola and you both played together. So talk about how being a volleyball player in your collegiate experience influenced you. And I would love to hear your thoughts on also being a twin and going to the same college and being on the same team and how that affected you.
Kellee Johnson 10:20
Well, it’s interesting. Being a twin, we’re identical. By the way, we’re not fraternal. So we look at talk everything, say my mother at 88 years old, still has a hard time with our voices. So I say when I say Hi, Mom, I go high, low she goes. Mom. So that was how she told tell us apart for the longest time I Jollee, Jollee works for the airline industry. And so she was always traveling. And then I started traveling as much as she did for work. So she couldn’t, you know, find out which twin it was by asking where we were, and which one was traveling or Which one was it. But when you’re identical at from birth, you know, you hear people say Jollee Kellee, same thing. That’s her name Jollee. And after about a decade, I thought, Well, yes, we look alike, but we’re different minds and hearts and, you know, experiences over time. So I didn’t like to be lumped into Jollee Kellee, same thing. So over time, when I started writing, and really loving the PR field after an internship at Rollins college where I went to undergrad and played that volleyball, I started thinking I could do this for other people. I love storytelling. And it always starts with Well, how are you different? What are you doing new and sexy or unique? Or what makes you stand out? And so I realized I had a life of doing this to myself and with Jollee. And I think, you know, we didn’t consciously determine to go to college together as twins. It’s so happened to be that Rollins is an amazing, small, private liberal arts school in Central Florida. And we kind of grew up on the campus because my mother worked there. And, you know,
Jeremy Weisz 11:50
what did you do?
Kellee Johnson 11:51
I have a humble upbringing. So my mom was in the alumni office, and she, she liked the job. But I think it was a job necessary a single mom of four kids, not making much money ever in her life annually, which taught me my work ethic and my curiosity and creativity go find what I wanted, and the importance of higher education. I mean, you can see from my background at DePaul, and serving on the Rollins board and getting my master’s degree that I really value higher education. So I think it separates the pack. And even with the crime across America, in Chicago, Jeremy where we live, you know, education separates people and, and, and changes lives. And so that’s, that’s what is important to me.
Jeremy Weisz 12:34
What were some of the lessons you learned from your mom, and it could have been, you know, something she said, or just be observing, because I can’t imagine, first of all, having four kids Second of all, being a single parent of four kids, the combination that is daunting, just thinking about it.
Kellee Johnson 12:51
My mother is pretty phenomenal. You know, she she’s a Syracuse grad, which is number two, number one program behind PR compared to DePaul, so later in life could spar about, you know, Syracuse football, what’s better for my field and laugh about it? She always told me, there’s nothing you can’t do, I’ll support you no matter what. And if we get into a couple personal, really personal topics that have shaped my life, in this podcast, I will tell you that there’s never been a time where she hasn’t said that, whatever you want, I’ll support you, I trust you. And so this was the mindset that we grew up in, and it’s nothing you can’t handle, maybe figure things out, like I want to learn, I’m going to be curious, I want to be a team player and figure all these things out because curiosity makes the world go round. But it also is so important in my field.
Jeremy Weisz 13:43
Was there a personal moment that stands out for you of advice?
Kellee Johnson 13:49
I always wanted to be a biological mom. And so I dated this gentleman in Chicago, and I thought it was a reason I moved to Chicago, and he already had his kids. And, and I said, Well, this is what I want. I want a family too. But I was in my late 30s at that point, and career had been very important to me, and I was traveling a lot. So it was 38 when I woke up to say, Oh my gosh, this is important to me, how do I make this happen? And then after three years of saying, hey, what are we doing? Are we going to get married and have kids? And he said yes, well, let’s spread it out. I’m like, Well, I’m 38 I did the math 41. Okay, that’s going to be a little challenging. So I ended up ending the relationship and it killed me like it was really the hardest thing I ever had to make a decision on because I love this man and but having family on my own was really important too. So my mother, I flew to Florida and we were in the car and I thought I’ll ask her now because we’re driving in the eyeballs are forward and not looking at each other. Hey, Mom, what would you think if I had a baby on my own? And she didn’t even hesitate? She goes, if that’s what you do want to do, Kellee, I will support you. And it was such a weight off my back like Okay, that was my first and most important hurdle to clear. And then I started doing research and what What happened next was going back to Julie, a Baby Einstein, which is coming, I really respect that in classical music does grow the brain at a very young age. She was a cancer assassin. So I started looking into having a baby on my own. And one of the doctors said, Hey, come back next week with a clear mammogram. And I said, Sure, see you then. So I had to have one in a year. And I’m 41 at this time, and I did not get a clear mammogram. So that led to a diagnosis of early stage breast cancer, which, you know, was so shocking to me, it’s I try to live my life pretty clean and healthy, to a fault sometimes, and it’s still happened to me. So the good news was, it was so early that we caught it. And the treatment wasn’t bad at all, a couple surgeries, but I was very, very lucky. And it’s one in eight women today. And so basically, it’s happening a lot. And I believe it’s stress and chemicals in our environment. But everybody has a different take on it. And so it really separated me. But if I hadn’t wanted to be bold to try to have a baby on my own to reach this dream that I’ve always had to be a biological mom, I would never have discovered that I had early stage I could have discovered at age two or three and then had to go through chemo and radiation on top of surgery. So I feel very blessed that being bold and curious did probably save my life.
Jeremy Weisz 16:21
Yeah, that decision could have just saved your life. That’s it’s pretty remarkable. Talk about your work with Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation.
Kellee Johnson 16:32
Yes. So there’s many cancer foundations out there. I think Lynn Sage does some unique things. And I wasn’t ready the first year of being a patient, I had to get through the patient mindset to say, Okay, I’m great, I’m coming out on the other side would be stronger than ever. I’ve learned so much. Now I want to give back and I want to be an advocate. And so Lynn Sage I had a friend who had a baby shower, and her mother in law came to the shower, and we started talking and I told her my story. And she said that this happened to my daughter too. And I had a friend named Lynn Sage. So she’s one of the four that are still best friends with that we’re best friends with blue are still driving this foundation 30 years later, and raise about a million or so a year through used to be Northwestern University School of Medicine. And now it’s, it’s it’s others. And we give about a million dollars a year for research. There’s partnerships in other countries. So it goes beyond just Chicago, even though there’s some grassroots programs in Chicago, and it’s an incredible team. So this is now my gosh, fifth year, I think as a board member, and it’s a great group of people.
Jeremy Weisz 17:37
Yeah, I want to point out there’s a previous episode I did with Jonny Imerman of Imerman Angels. And I don’t know, if it’s the largest, like peer to peer, they match you with cancer survivor of trying to match you with the same type of cancer, but it’s an amazing organization. So if anyone’s listening, check out Imerman Angels. And it’s completely free, actually. So you know, thanks for sharing that. Cuz it’s, it’s crazy, remarkable journey, how a decision can be life altering in so many ways. So we talk about team, we talk about pipeline. And when you talk about pipeline, what has been effective for you, as far as pipeline goes,
Kellee Johnson 18:21
that you can never rest on your laurels. So I stepped out about four years ago to work on the business instead of in it. And I have such a great team, I’ll give a shout out to Rebecca Summers, who’s my right hand person who’s just amazing. I found her through DePaul University years ago. And the pipeline though she and the team allow me to step out and work on that pipeline every day. So if I’m not used to be Fridays, right, when I first started my company, every the first five years it was every Friday, I’d save the afternoon, which was a happy time because the weekend was coming to work on bizdev. And so I would call people and say, Hey, how are you? What are you doing? What are you up to? What are you launching? What big problem do you have? You know, sometimes it would be companies that we’re launching, and I found this niche in healthcare and medical technology startups and it became 1871, Chicago, the world’s largest tech incubator and other universities where I would find leads of the startups and then I joined a group called Provisors, nationwide networking organization about now 6500 people that are lawyers, CPAs, real estate, financial services, marketing and PR people like me, we each have our lane. And the idea is you refer clients to each other because you’re a trusted adviser. So a lawyer might have a need for his or her client that he hears in conversations. Oh, yeah, we’re gonna go public or we want to acquire a company or we want to be acquired. Who can you help? Who knows that can help us. So it’s a it’s an amazing 30 year old group started by one lawyer and one CPA that said we can trade clients back and forth. And so a lot of my our leads come from there and As well as relationships, I can’t underscore enough never stopped networking. It’s a lifelong traits and characteristic that will propel, you know, the really extraordinary from the ordinary, and keeping relationships and nurturing them when you don’t need something it’s about giving and getting all the time. And the reason I love Provisors is because that is the business model is the given get. And so the pipeline became a focus of mine when I actually could step out and work on the business instead of in it,
Jeremy Weisz 20:30
you know? Yes, that’s how we met, actually through Provisors. And I also, you know, echo that with Provisors. And being in a group, any group that you’re looking to add value to people first is always a great group. And the next one so team pipeline client satisfaction and looking at someone can go to TheBallastGroup.com. They have a you can go to case dash studies, and I was looking through it, Kellee and, just a treasure trove of all these case studies. And in so I would love for you to walk through we talk about client satisfaction, because you track everything. And I love for you to talk through a few and maybe let’s start with the there was a medical simulation.
Kellee Johnson 21:14
Yes. So basically, I worked with a company out of Denver, Colorado, great pioneering CEO from Baxter decided to start a startup. And it was to help doctors practice on simulated patients instead of real patients, because that’s where medical errors occur. And the company had, let’s see, 20 employees when I when I first started working with them, zero revenues, eight years of back and forth, you know, trying to do some r&d and get the technology right where it wanted to be. So this technology simulated not to get to medical geeky on you, but endovascular procedures of stenting. So everyone since came out, they could prop arteries open and clear debris and prevent heart attacks, or at least set or strokes you know, to try. So it was a pretty complicated procedure that these doctors did. So this gentleman got a team together that created software, they could emulate the procedure and a catheter lab in a hospital. And it was so real, it’s a field called haptics. So it’s the force field, when you’re a doctor and you’re threading a catheter through an artery, you can feel the plaque right, you can feel where that congestion
Jeremy Weisz 22:26
emoji is amazing. Like, amazing. Thank you even do that.
Kellee Johnson 22:30
Yeah. So it was one of the first in the world. And so as a PR person, right, I come in under marketing and PR wasn’t really no matter. Like, yeah, this is one of my secret weapons. Pr is amazing when it works well. And I’m still a PR purist at heart where I want to earn the media, I want to talk to a reporter, editor, producer or blogger and say, Hey, this story is worthwhile. And here’s why. And when you get that you didn’t have to pay to tell it right? You’re not you’re not on social media on the network is somebody that gate kept your story and said it was worthy to tell. So earned media is really important. So we had the world’s first simulation center up in Seattle, from Denver, we flew up there as a team and the doctor was phenomenal, very well known in the industry. And somehow, a CNN reporter was interested, right, but they didn’t have any people available that day, especially to go into a hospital cath lab and watch this technology being done as the world’s first simulation center. So they find a sports reporter. Oh, it’s so funny. Of course, reporter and that, you know, this is why I love journalists, because if they’re good storytellers, regardless of the beat they cover, so I’m like, this is gonna be really interesting. So he ended up producing such a great story that went viral, and the company was on the map overnight. So it was US News and World Report, CNN, headline news, Popular Science, all these major business journals across the country saying, hey, because the CEO had a vision, and we asked this with every client we have now he taught me a lot when we said, What’s your ideal headline, and he said, I want to be able to cover a fortune is the most feared man in medicine. And I said, that’s a good benchmark. So we got him on in the US News World Report, which is, you know, page and a quarter, which is about a $200,000 ad value at the time, that you know, he paid pennies for it compared to if you would have had to pay your way into you as neural News and World Report to advertise. So it was phenomenal because the company was on the map overnight. It got a lot of attention globally. But the CEO was a very smart CEO and said, yeah, we want to get it right, domestically, first, let’s launch and roll it out to hospitals, and build the company as a result. So it was one of my career highlights because I was 32 at the time and I thought wow, this is why I love what I do. Because not only in this in this case with a life saving technology and preventing 100,000 medical errors a year from happening. The number is still as high today. Just they just happened. So he said you know if CEOs of hospitals know this technology exists, and They don’t use it for their teams to train on first. Shame on them. Right. So it was a really great experience.
Jeremy Weisz 25:07
You know, and we will talk about I heard you talk about your PESO model and we will all be walkthrough because it goes into what you had just said about, well, you know, earn this is such a good story and they’re putting it everywhere. And we’ll get to that in a second. But what made this person story so good you were you were impressed with this sports writer when they came out? What did you what was so good about it?
Kellee Johnson 25:33
You know, when we work with CEOs, we tell them journalism, earned media is difficult. And it’s one of the most difficult part of the PESO model Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned that he is the earned. And the reason why as journalists from day one at j school are taught to balance stories, and I know with the past administration and fake news, it got a very bad rap. But I I in my master’s program at Poynter Institute, part of the University of South Florida, I had a chance to spend a week with world class journalists at the age of 24, or five, I think I was Tropicana, I paid for my master’s. And as a part of that, I got to sit in with Martha Raddatz who’s a pentagon correspondent, and Chief, his last name escapes me right now. But he wrote the biography of Thurgood Marshall, like these are incredible reporters, and the conversation was around ethics in the field. And, and I thought, they care. They’re very serious. And then part of my master’s program, it was why isn’t this this field license. And you know, 30 years later, it’s still not a licensed field book, but they have a lot of power and to their words, every day influence a lot of different things. And so, I guess, working with journalists has taught me a lot about balance, about fairness, about accuracy. And so when I teach pr at DePaul I tell the students look, you know, you don’t want a positive story. Of course, that’s good. But it’s not about positive, it’s about fair, accurate and balanced. And if you can walk away with stories that do that, then you’re successful, and you should tell your boss or your clients or whoever you may be working for that it was successful, because it’s hard to get a story that about your clients, I think sometimes I tell my clients that you can be interviewed for an hour, and the story doesn’t even mention you, the editor at the last minute decided to change the angle. And so they cut your entire interview, or the story could be completely about you, which is what we strive to do is to get them in the news for increased attention investment customers, I’m good good employees. So it is a delicate balance. I’m not a journalist, I have a master’s in it. But I never wrote, I very much respect the minds and the tenacity. And like I said, the striving, a balance that journalists have to do every single day, the
Jeremy Weisz 27:47
part of the talent and the secret sauce, I feel that one makes, there’s many things that make you in the company different, but finding the story that you’ve always looked and found the differences. When you go into talking to a client, what are some of the methodologies you think about when you’re trying to find that, that gem of the story within everything they’re, they’re telling you?
Kellee Johnson 28:10
Yeah, sometimes it reveals itself pretty quickly. Other times, you have to dig deeper, but we use a methodology that we call the inverted pyramid. So if you take a pyramid, and you traditionally CEOs and organizations want to be at the top of it, and we say okay, that’s fine, I’m good. And you will be you will shine. But first two things have to happen. And that first one is, what’s your Why? Why do you exist? Why are people going to care about this story? And then secondly, who are the third parties that can help you tell it because it’s that much more credible in the marketplace, when you know, a peer can see their peer talking about you instead of the CEO? Talking because everyone knows that they drink their own Kool Aid, right. And I say that with kindness and respect, because that’s what they’re ingrained to do. But when you get others to tell your story for you, it’s very powerful.
Jeremy Weisz 28:53
I love it. I’d love for you to pull up the PESO model. And we can I know, we can walk through it a little bit.
Kellee Johnson 29:04
Yes, let me share my screen and show you and I’ll try to put this into the mode was the inverted pyramid that I just mentioned. Where is my little? Okay, is that can you see this? Okay? Yep. Okay, so the PESO model stands for paid, earned, shared and owned, I think a lot in my field now use this model. And it simplifies the approach of when people say they want marketing or PR, you say what kind because I’ve got 100 100 different initiatives I can walk you through. So basically, it’s four different campaign types. And it helps leaders articulate their stories to their most important audiences in the channels that matter because your audiences lurk in all four buckets. And the story sits in the middle and the first one paid, you know, it’s anytime you have to exchange $1 to say what you want to say to attract the right audience. So on your website, search engine, marketing Search Engine Optimization, paid social media posts, digital strategies like Google searches, etc. I don’t have to tell you that cuz I know you’re an expert at it. But that’s the paid part. What sits in between the paid and earned is what we call thought leadership because sometimes you have to pay to tell your story. Other times you don’t. And that’s where the when I mentioned that being a pure prs, purest PR from from an earned media standpoint, I like to have to convince gatekeepers that your story’s important. And so the Earned side is there. It’s third parties, its influencers, it’s social listening, monitoring. So you have to earn that it’s not easy. And and
Jeremy Weisz 30:36
I love how you show these kind of intersections there. And that’s what I loved about that between the paid and the Earned is that thought leadership piece, but yeah, keep going.
Kellee Johnson 30:45
And there’s another one too. So influencer engagement, we did a great project for p five years ago, the world’s first online grocer happened to be in Chicago, and they wanted to beef up the Chicago market a little bit more. And we found 20 foodie Instagrammers that they didn’t know before. And the Instagrammers did not know p pod and brought on the same room with some really cool chefs to highlight their first chef inspired meal kits that you could order at home. So this is the power of influencer is again, you know, we did not pay them a dime today you can pay $5,000 a post to get a good influencer to tout one of your clients. So it was the beauty of a blend of earned media and get building the relationship with with people with them. So that’s the influencers and then you got your share, right? your social media, on many different types of platforms, and you have to know what audiences your clients are going after to know which platforms to use most. Is it b2b? Is it b2c? Is it a b2b b2c? Is it government, you know, what, what audience and that’s how you would determine what shared media channels to use. And in the in the shared part, Jeremy, it’s important to point out that a lot of people think social media is talking out the world, it is not as why they call it shared, it’s two way dialogue, you have to engage, we always say, let’s do 80% engagement, and 20% informing so you could talk about you and yourself and your products and organization. But it doesn’t really mean anything until you start engaging people. So that’s a big part of shared. And then finally, the owned is 100%. What you want to say to the world at any given time, and so there’s more control, it’s safer to a lot of CEOs, but it’s less believable, because it is going back to the Kool Aid comment that I made. It’s what you expect a company to be saying about itself. And its email, his blog and its website. So I feel like blending the four paid earned shared unknowns, and thought leadership and influencer engagement. advocacy is where the magic happens. So we do. We’re big proponents of integrating all four today. And I think, yeah, so that’s the PESO
Jeremy Weisz 32:42
I love it. Thanks for sharing that. We will talk a little bit about services wise people come to you and they go, we need your help. Kellee? Yes. What are some of the options and how people engage with you?
Kellee Johnson 32:54
So I first find out what problem they’re trying to solve? Are they launching? Do they have a big announcement? Do they want to hire? Do they want to be a good acquisition target? What is what is their goal, and then that’s what helps shape all of the choices that we have to determine and the budget to the budget and the timeline. So if they have a good budget, then we’re probably going to recommend integration of all all paid, earned shared it on campaigns right from the get go. But if not, we might have to walk before a crawl before we walk in and then run later. So we might start with earned media or social media, getting the attention putting the company on the map.
Jeremy Weisz 33:30
You know, when I was looking at, you have had some amazing turning points in your career in your life, one that sticks out is mistakes. And a mistake of there was one in case where you talked about setting, you didn’t set the proper expectations. And I don’t know if you know what I’m referring to, but there was a company where you got results, and then it didn’t equate to so I’ll let you talk about that.
Kellee Johnson 33:58
I do remember it and you know, making mistakes is normal. And I feel like that’s where we learn the most in life in general. We had a doctor in Houston had a new innovative procedure for surgery, and we were hired to help him and his business partner. We didn’t think to ask how do you define PR upfront? It didn’t come out until at the end. I was like yeah, Kellee, you should have asked that question from day one. So we ended up getting CBS had a couple segments. Leads started coming in. We didn’t ask them have they had the operations and the team in place to handle the increased attention they were going to get from the news media. And it backfired so you know it was a pretty expensive procedure $50,000 a pop. So one call more than pays for what we do right? But but it also is very important to not lose any of those leads that come in because sometimes it’s within a five minute window of news, a news story airing that people call and they they want to learn more. Well, they didn’t have the right team to answer the phones to follow up. So a lot fell through the cracks and the CEO came back and blamed it on us. And we thought, okay, let’s see, we can lead horses to water, but we can’t make them drink. And it was a very valid eye opener for us to say, hey, let’s check with our operations folks and make sure they have the right team in place to handle the increased attention that they’re going to get. And the irony, Jeremy was, he paid to play on one CBS clip. And so there was a money exchange to do like an advertorial on top of the earned media. And somehow, they sent a check for that they refund to that because they got the name wrong on air. So they refund of the pay to play Park. And they sent it to me instead of him. And he was withholding his last invoice. And so my bookkeeper column, it was such great karma. He said, they said, Hey, you know, you still owe us you’re not paying it. So we’ll just end up keeping the check that CBS accidentally sent to us as part of applying that to your outstanding payment. And he said, Okay, so it all ended up working out.
Jeremy Weisz 36:00
I came back to Yeah, the universe one to get you paid
Kellee Johnson 36:04
Jeremy Weisz 36:05
What did they expect? Where was it? Did they think you were going to help take the calls? Like, where was the their expectation? Yeah, I
Kellee Johnson 36:15
think that they thought we were part of their sales team. We’re not going to close deals. I can’t help you do that. But that’s what the lead generation of what PR people do is right? And and they’re the ones that have to actually take it to close
Jeremy Weisz 36:27
before you handle everything and then get on the funding, you have to kind of know well for setting to a certain number, and you are not answering your team is not answering that number that someone is I mean, wherever the call to action is, right? Yeah, I guess I guess we just did Never assume.
Kellee Johnson 36:45
Never assume. And that’s why I just asked all the time, what’s your definition of success? What is your ideal headline right before any project actually starts the kickoff call? You know, if they can answer those two things succinctly, then we’re probably going to have a really great relationship. And we can help them answer it. But I should have asked months ahead.
Jeremy Weisz 37:04
I love that question. That ideal headline because it allows people to kind of put them in the position of exactly what they want and be have clarity around it. What were some other interesting when you asked that question answers that you got, you said the most feared person in medicine was?
Kellee Johnson 37:23
Forbes as most fear man and medicine was what the medical simulation CEO as sometimes CEOs don’t know right away, they’ll say I get back to you. And I always find that quite interesting, because I love a CEO that’s decisive and clear. And so that does tell me something too, if it doesn’t come right off, or if they don’t try, like try to say if you could come up with that ideal headline right now, what would it be? And then they they kind of play with you. So if anything, it tells us how we’re going to be able to work with them, right? Like if they’re more cautious or less risk averse, or want to think things through quickly, instead of just off the top of your head this is it. Like that gentleman did
Jeremy Weisz 38:00
any others that stick out to you over the years of someone said, or maybe maybe they came back to you and they thought it through and they came up with something really interesting.
Kellee Johnson 38:12
I gotta think about that. I am looking back at a couple different case studies here, trying to remember sometimes our clients in the healthcare space, they work with the FDA, they have to be really careful about what they say from a safety and efficacy standpoint. So
Jeremy Weisz 38:29
I know it’s highly regulated. Yeah,
Kellee Johnson 38:31
it’s so highly regulated. Um, I think or maybe
Jeremy Weisz 38:34
talk about how they do this, what has been an actual headline that’s been out there since you know, in case they said something that would be regulated, they should not say, what is one that actually showed up on the, you know, after the work done.
Kellee Johnson 38:49
This is an interesting one. So we have an ortho biologics cell therapy client in Colorado, and we worked with this reporter during COVID. During vaccinations, it was really hard to get any other type of health care story covered, but we got an interview with her. And of course, then the COVID breakout happened the next week. So the story sat in her inbox for three months, we followed back up with her, because the company did get cleared to do a very small COVID trial with the cell therapy, even though it was for knee pain, is what the real trials were about. And so the headline read that new cell therapy could eliminate total knee replacements. This is a really big lesson for us. We were ecstatic. The team was ecstatic. And then we stepped back and said, Whoa, we won’t be able to promote this like part of PR is you get a story and it’s amazing. And then you want to amplify and all these other PESO channels. And in this case, the CEO was excited at first then step back and say, yeah, we can’t promote this because the FDA is going to come back and say, you’re saying you’re going to eliminate something’s being done for decades, right? With orthopedic surgeons who, that’s what they do, right? They don’t use cells and syringes. They use hammers and chisels and they take your out. So you don’t have any pain left anything after each situation, but they’re very different ways of getting there. So we had to take down that story. And what I will tell you that was a bummer. Thank God before it did one of their biggest potential acquisition partners called and said, we saw the story we want to talk, we do some diligence on your procedures and your research and your trials. So it was a blessing in disguise. But everything else had to be taken down after that point.
Jeremy Weisz 40:32
Can they ever put a disclaimer on that? I mean, because it’s not you writing it? Yeah.
Kellee Johnson 40:37
And that’s where the trickiness of the FDA comes in. Because even if you have a disclaimer, you’re still promoting something that really shouldn’t be said until the products approved, which could be another 18 to 24 months. So it was sort of that yes. And then that
Jeremy Weisz 40:50
looks like a perfect outcome, but then not. Yeah, it’s delayed gratification. Yes. Um, first of all, Kellee, thank you. I have one last question. And I just want to thank you, I want to point people to her to TheBallastGroup.com it’s Ballastgroup.com. Are there any other places online we should point people towards? You know,
Kellee Johnson 41:13
I think just storytelling in general is, I would say, put online, so partner partners or academia, books, good books, I think, Hmm, I got to think about that. Sorry. What did
Jeremy Weisz 41:27
you What did you teach
Kellee Johnson 41:29
intervals on PR? Is everything from crisis to you know, earn via to paid? Okay,
Jeremy Weisz 41:36
awesome. The so my last question is, I want you to talk about the rapid antigen COVID tests, because it’s especially top of mine and what you did around that.
Kellee Johnson 41:48
It was one of our most recent projects, love this team. So it’s a scientist who’s about seven years old. I raised sailboats with him in Park City, Utah. And he told me this summer that he was coming up with the diagnostic test. So I thought, okay, that’s what a lot of people are saying right now. We’ll see. So October November comes around and said, We were narrowed from 700 entries and 38 countries down to the top 20. Let’s stay in touch. So we did January calls and said, we’re top five we want a million dollar XPrize. I want you to help us announce this. So we had a week’s notice. I said what do you have? He said, we have a logo. And we have this announcement. So over a period of 24 hours, five news stories showed up. He got calls from distributors, manufacturers, employers who needed the testing, rapid rapid testing very different from molecular testing where you might take days to figure out instead of minutes, and so his test is super important and there’s not many that the end the FDA was calling for them. So employers called wanted to test her employees enter Turkey and Italy officials called so if this was a reminder of the power of PR and how when you know what you’re doing you can put a company on the map overnight. I don’t know what what so I’m so excited for him because he’s done some amazing things in his career and I think he’s got a lot more or less to do
Jeremy Weisz 43:02
put fuel on the fire everyone check out BallastGroup.com, Kellee. I want to be the first one to thank you. Thanks so much.
Kellee Johnson 43:09
Yeah. Thanks, Jeremy. Have a good day.