Usually, we focus on business-to-business marketing here on the JMS blog. Even our posts about influencer marketing or working with an online influencer tend to be in the B2B space. This week, I want to go a little “Hollywood” and introduce you to 2 Single Moms, Michelle and Tammy.
Maybe you haven’t heard about Michelle and Tammy before now, but some other very influential people have. Tammy and Michelle, joined by Intern Ann (Michelle’s daughter), have interviewed Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead, Daniel Gillies from The Originals, and 21-time Grammy-winning artist Vince Gill, to name a few.
From “Average” to Online Influencer
Tammy and Michelle describe themselves as “‘average women’ sharing and capturing the experiences that everyone else dreams of.” How do two “average women” pull off booking interviews that entertainment reporters want? My thought is this: they are more than just average. They are smart, motivated, and authentic — essential qualities for anyone who wants to be a thought leader or online influencer in their respective industry or niche.
These 2 Single Moms do have location working in their favor: they live in the area now known as the “Hollywood of the South” where many movies and television shows film in Georgia. There are now five major studios within 30-45 minutes of 2 Single Moms. However, it’s more than just location and luck that helps these ladies snag interviews. It’s about turning their passion into a fun and rewarding endeavor.
Since I’m Facebook friends with Michelle, I’ve had the opportunity to follow her adventures as she and Tammy began transforming their shared interests and life-long friendship into an independent media outlet. I reached out to 2 Single Moms to learn what advice they have for reaching influencers, as well as becoming one yourself.
Interview with Michelle of 2 Single Moms
How did you two turn your interest in entertainment into 2 Single Moms? What sparked this from just being a shared love of certain shows and artists into something more?
2 Single Moms actually began as the “story” of Tammy & Michelle, two single mothers who had known each other since childhood and both happened to have 13 (now 14) year olds with high-functioning autism.
We moved away from our hometown to a location with a better school system to serve our children. It just so happens that we stumbled across the awesome schools in the area after taking a weekend trip to visit “The Walking Dead” filming locations, a TV show which we were both big fans of. During our journey of moving and setting up homestead in the area known as the “Hollywood of the South,” every time something kooky, exciting, funny, interesting or just plain weird happened we would sing the chant “2 Single Moms” and say, “Wow, if there were only a reality show to chart our escapades.”
After having a few back-to-back adventures (attending our first “Supernatural” [the TV show] convention, going on the inaugural Walker Stalker Cruise, sailing to Jamaica with Kid Rock and meeting Norman Reedus on the side of the road a few times), we figured no one was going to offer to document and share our cool experiences and that if we wanted it to happen we should just do it ourselves.
It all started with a Facebook page and a dream to meet as many celebrities as we could along the way. We honestly had no idea in the beginning that we would be conducting interviews. We just wanted to have access, meet them and get a picture or two. But then we had to figure out a way to make that happen and asking for interviews seemed like the logical place to start. And so we began, without having a clue of what we were doing. We just knew what we wanted the end result to be.
Each time we got a rejection, we looked at why and tried to fix whatever that obstacle was. We figured out that the key was to “be” what we said we were, an “independent media outlet focusing on fan/celeb interactions in organic environments.” So, we ended up branching out into other areas of social media, building a website, and securing a business license. The more “official looking” we became, the more results we got. I’m not sure that we will ever cease to be a work in progress.
What role has social media and the Internet played in developing opportunities to engage celebrities? Could this have happened without the access that the web provides?
Without the Internet and social media, there is NO conceivable way under the sun we would have been able to make 2 Single Moms happen! It takes a lot of time-sensitive research to stay on top of who is filming what or performing where within a reasonable distance from us. From there, we have to figure out who their contact team is (managers, publicists, etc.), which requires more research. There is only so much information you can obtain or share from cold calling or snail mail.
Once we have completed an interview project, we start with YouTube and then share it to all of our social media platforms. Without social media outlets, we would not have an audience. With web access, you can become an “independent media outlet” without being locked into a major television or radio network with an office and crew. We don’t even have to be “real” journalists! This would not have been the case pre-internet days.
With the vast diversity and possibility of things available on the internet, we were able to create our own niche of “average women” keeping it real: meeting the people that everyone else wants to meet and asking the questions that any fan might want to know. If we were trying to be true journalists or reporters, say, Barbara Walters level, we would have a big problem. That’s not us nor do we have that capability. But, 2 Single Moms are “by the fans for the fans” so one wouldn’t really expect the same high-caliber, extensive footage and polished composure and appearance that you would get from a “real journalist.” I guess, in short, we created our look around what we knew we were (or were not!) capable of producing. In the absence of the Internet, we cannot see how having an audience would even be possible.
This is not just a project between friends. Your daughter, Ann, has become a part of the team. In fact, she was the lucky one who conducted the interviews with Reedus and Gillies, right? What’s it like getting to share these experiences with your life-long friend and your child?
It has honestly been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my lifetime. One of the reasons I (Michelle) chose to move to this area was because of my daughter and the proximity of all of the movie studios and filming. Ann is truly a gifted artist, who has a special interest in special effects makeup as well as drawing/painting, guitar, and writing. Being in this area gives her career outlets that she can enjoy while still living in a small town that’s easy to navigate.
In the beginning, our children were meant to be secondary characters [in 2 Single Moms productions], so to speak. But Ann is a little more savvy with social media than we were and began coming to us with suggestions and offers to help. She began creating special memes, helping us to understand Twitter, and also provided us with edits. Her first interview was with Osric Chau, an actor on “Supernatural” for a couple of seasons. She LOVED his character, and we thought it was only fitting for her to do the interview since he was one of her favorites. From there she went to Daniel Gillies (The Originals, Saving Hope) and then on to Norman Reedus.
She also most recently assisted us with an interview with 21-time Grammy winner and country music legend Vince Gill. We both love working with her to research our subject to come up with the best questions to ask during the interview. It is also a good therapeutic experience for us to work on as well to enhance her social skills such as eye contact, speaking with inflection and rhythm in her voice as well as simply being able to speak to people with confidence. (These are all things that are common struggles for someone with autism.)
I love watching her “wing it” and go off the note cards (although I must admit it always scares me when I see her begin to do it) into a beautiful monolog that is relevant and touching to the person we are interviewing. Overall, I believe it gives her a good work experience and an introduction to the career field that she would love to pursue.
Our only wish is that all of our kids would be as interested in what we are doing as “Intern Ann” is. They all think that we have pretty much lost our minds and we are just too old and “uncool” to be doing something like this! Eventually, we hope to get them all on board with 2 Single Moms. They all have talents that would be an asset to work with.
As for working with my BFF, what more could a person ask for? It’s pretty awesome to share these experiences and memories with the people that you spend the most time with. 2SM could not exist if not for the amazing relationship and history that Tammy and I share. We are more like sisters than friends.
What advice would you give new/small businesses that want to reach influential people in their own industries or areas of interest? It may not be as difficult as reaching Norman Reedus, but maybe you have a formula for success that translates to the world beyond entertainment. If I’m a widget maker, how do I get the attention of target customers and dream clients?
First and foremost, we would say prepare to be flexible and willing to adjust along the way. I think for us it has been easier to figure out what DOES NOT work first in order to understand what does work. When we look back at our early requests for interviews (which was just last summer) they were basically like, “hey we see you are in town, would you be interested in giving us an interview?” sent from a Yahoo email. Needless to say, we got very little attention from those, and thus we began altering our approach.
After our first “yes,” we began to take a look at what we did differently that perhaps influenced us getting a different result. For us, it became all about crafting the perfect email with the perfect language that showcased exactly what we said we were, an independent media outlet.
I remember early on someone turning us down (I don’t recall off hand who it was, but they were not small change) for an “in-person interview” but offered a Skype interview instead. Regretfully we said, “no thank you!” Looking back, that was absolutely ridiculous on our part. Our rationale at the time was that a Skype interview was contradictory to the “fan-artist interaction in an organic environment” that we were trying to feature. However, our Norman Reedus interview was a phone interview, and it did well. That helped us to realize we did not have to stick to the boilerplate face-to-face interview. It’s up to us how we share the finished product. Our goal is to have a “product” to finish. Big or small, we take every opportunity that we are offered whether that translates to a written interview or a private meeting in a cafe. (We have done both.)
I think our biggest lesson has been to recognize the formula that gets us the desired result, and not box ourselves into any particular mold. While we think it’s important to take lessons from those who know a little, OK, a LOT more about the entertainment industry than we do, we think it’s just as important to work within the parameters of our own skills. We believe that there is more opportunity for success when you work to perfect your own unique skill set vs. trying to emulate someone else’s road to success.
If we were to attempt to translate that formula to the world of widgets, we would suggest first being able to understand your own success. What made someone purchase that very first widget? How did you present it? What was your sales pitch? What made it personally relevant to that client or industry? You should also recognize and understand all of your prospective opportunities and have the willingness to be flexible.
If the CEO of Widgets Inc. despises the color blue but loves rainbow shades, make sure you consider designing a rainbow shade widget. If your traditional route to sell your widgets is to contact the purchasing department, and you are not receiving much feedback, perhaps try to find an alternate route. Change the language of how you are trying to engage. Make certain you are speaking to the decision makers. Even if you only offer one widget in one style or color or size, be willing to adapt to what your prospective customer may desire.
It may be your goal to sell Widgets Inc. a case full of widgets. But as a new and unheard business, Widgets Inc. may be a little nervous to invest in an entire case. Offer a demo or sample of your product. While you may create amazing rainbow widgets, you may not be so great at manufacturing widgets that are voice activated. This is where it can become tricky. Make sure that you can be realistic and stay within your skill set so you can achieve the expectation that you promise your client.
Most importantly, we have also discovered that old-school customer service tends to go a long way, even after you have sold your widget (or completed your interview, in our case). We ALWAYS follow up after an interview and thank the many people that are involved in making our project happen. One of the MOST important things you can do is from the onset immediately begin to create and foster a working relationship with anyone who may become a prospective client. I think they call that networking.
You and Tammy don’t just engage with influential people: you’re becoming influencers in your own right. Based on your experience, what are the most important things someone can do to build their brand?
Great question, as that is something we are still working on building ourselves. We were not business-minded people in the beginning. We didn’t even know what a “brand” was until we heard the “Kardashian” brand being discussed on their show. As much as we hate to admit, that is probably where we got the most understanding as to what a “brand” is and how it should work for us.
We did not have anything to emulate as far as the brand we wanted to be. From the start, we simply had a lot of discussion about what we wanted 2SM to represent and the types of things we wanted to share (or not share) on 2SM. We made decisions on how we wanted to appear to others and how we did NOT want to appear and from there began to conduct ourselves accordingly.
For example, in the early 2SM days, we wanted to share our adventures for what is known in these parts as “stalking.” (Basically waiting at film sites for actors to come out and say hello and grab a picture.) When we decided we wanted to become a legitimate media outlet, anything and everything related to “stalking” was eliminated from our model. We knew we were never going to be taken seriously if we were the people who hang out on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere for hours on end hoping for a picture. We do not want to portray that “stalking” is necessarily a bad thing; it is something we still enjoy on occasion. But that was not the method that would lead us to a legitimate interview. So, we reeled all of that in and began setting smaller goals that were more in line with what we were trying to become: an independent media outlet.
If we were to offer any advice to others, it would be to narrow your focus to match your end goal first and then plot your path doing all things in a cohesive manner that takes you there. Establish from the beginning what you want to represent in addition to what you ultimately want from your venture. After all, if you are even the slightest bit unsure of where you want to be, how can you ever expect to find the path that leads to your destination?
I want to thank Michelle for sharing her insights with our readers. Here’s what stands out the most to me from the success that 2 Single Moms has started to see. Try these when establishing your online influencer programs:
- Get focused — clearly identify what you want to accomplish by working with influencers in your industry or niche.
- Define expectations for the influencers you want to work with — simply reaching out to an influencer without clearly defined expectations wastes their time and yours (and maybe even some of your marketing budget). Let them know what they will get from partnering with you and what you expect in return.
- Don’t let early rejections from influencers deter you — these are lessons to help you build success. Analyze the rejections and see what you could change in your approach. For every yes, identify what you did differently so you can try that tactic again.
- Remember your manners — always thank the people who help you. Those people may be administrative assistants, other executives, colleagues, and the influencers themselves. Good manners go a long way in starting great working relationships.