Kevin Wilkerson is an award-winning journalist, blogger, writer, live video podcaster and public relations contractor. He publishes the lifestyle website PubClub.com, has been a reporter for the Associated Press and daily newspapers and has worked with Indy500 winners and celebrities and during his PR career. He was among the first publishers to use a website to post multiple photos and videos from events, locally and nationally, creating an instant demand for the content. Today, PubClub.com has articles on 24 countries worldwide and hundreds of destinations.
Originally from Knoxville, TN, Kevin now resides in San Diego, CA.
Where did the idea for PubClub.com come from?
That’s quite a story. I came up with the idea for a “boots on the ground” destination website and was going through all sorts of possible names. I knew it was important for websites to have something easy to type, around the home keys of a keyboard, be short and descriptive.
One night I was with a friend at our local cantina discussing the idea and she said “so what are you going to call it?” I responded, “oh, I don’t know, PubClub.com.” Whoa; it just came out, so I bolted out the door, went home (I only lived a couple blocks away), secured the domain name and was back in five minutes.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The first thing I do is go through my e-mails. I get 20 or more press releases a day from PR agencies wanting to be featured on the site so I determine which ones are a good fit for PubClub.com. I then go over a list of story ideas I have developed the past few days and start working on them. Finally, I check the question website Quora. People use that site to ask questions and it’s a good source for story ideas. I will sometimes I write a post on the topic and then respond by linking my site’s article. Some days I post a brief story on Medium and provide a link to a related PubClub article.
Being a creative writer, I also get sudden inspirations – shower ideas, I call them – and write those first. I may also have an event to cover such as a new restaurant/bar opening or a festival but that’s usually later in the day or at night.
How do you bring ideas to life?
This is where my journalist experience kicks in; I began my career working for daily newspapers and won an AP award for Investigative Journalism. I am fortunate that I inherited some writing skills from my father, a very gifted writer, so that part comes very natural to me.
I visualize things because I have experienced them. In the words of Jimmy Buffett, “you can’t describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it.” Writing is often about putting down things you see and experience and that’s why the site takes a “boots on the ground” approach to bringing those story ideas to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m not exactly sure it excites me but it’s necessary and that is social media, TikTok in particular. Instagram is on its way out and TikTok is now a necessary part of having a website from a branding standpoint. Until the next hot app comes along, of course. I do enjoy posting videos on travel, food & drinks and nightlife.
One trend that really gets me pumped is livestreaming. A couple years ago I created what is best described as a “live video podcast.” With a pair of co-hosts, we use the Facebook live platform to do a show with content related to the website. It’s visual so you can see us and we have on guests, musicians, comedians and magicians. This fall we interviewed rock star Sammy Hagar. The show is called PubClub LIVE!, and you can find it on Facebook and YouTube.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
This too, goes back to my newspaper days and it’s discipline. I have never missed a deadline because, well, you can’t in the newspaper business. It was never an option. I have been freelancing for several years, primarily as a public relations contractor, and am able to work remotely because at the newspapers I was always covering events and filing stories from many, many press boxes. One time I even filed from a police station! In order to be productive, and thus successful, you need to have discipline. This is very important for people who work remotely.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To listen to others who know more than you! Actually, I did that although not enough of it.
I was asked pretty much the same thing recently when I was giving a presentation to university communications students. I told them to take advantage of all the recourses available to them. I cited an example of how I wish I had spent time in the broadcasting department rather than focusing on print journalism by working on the student paper and being sports editor of the yearbook. I wish I had also gone to the campus radio and TV stations. I’m pretty good on the air because of all my PR experience but I regret not taking advantage of all the resources that were available to me. I think they took that to heart based on their responses to me.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Ending sentences with prepositions. My dad drilled that into us as kids – “beyond that preposition at,” for example – and it drives me nuts to see today’s reporters not following this basic rule of journalism. I even e-mailed a writer about it recently but never received a response. So I quit reading his articles.
I also strongly oppose the expansion of the college football playoff for the simple reason it will destroy the week-to-week drama of the regular season. Unfortunately, I’m pretty much out on an island on that one.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I look at what other people are doing and soak it up like a sponge. I’m not just scrolling social media posts for the heck of it; I’m observing what the successful ones are doing so I can do it myself. I am also looking at other websites’ content and how the articles are posted. How many photos do they use and do they incorporate videos, for example. And as a writer, I am constantly reading other people’s work. The best way to improve as a writer is to read other good writers.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I keep evolving. First, I expanded the content from nightlife to travel and began to get the attention (and press trips from) tourism boards. Part of evolving also means keeping up with what is trending, and I have done that with social media and PubClub LIVE!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It was a failure not of my own making. The website was humming along when overnight Google changed the algorithm in its search engine and small websites such as mine have suffered tremendously as a result. I am still working to overcome this challenge and one way has been to expand beyond the written words with TikTok and the live video podcast.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Do something you’ve always wanted to do while still keeping your day job in case it doesn’t work out financially. Such as owning a small winery.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I have invested in equipment for PubClub LIVE! Since we do the show live in a non-studio setting (a bar/restaurant or at an event or festival) the sound was an issue with the early shows. So I have bought several microphones to find one that works best, as well as a couple of tripods. These two pieces of equipment have bought a true level of professionalism to the show.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
PubClub.com is published on the WordPress platform. Most major companies use it for websites. Its biggest benefit is that Google and the search engines constantly crawl it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I frequently read The Jim Murray Collection, a series of articles by former LA Times sports columnist Jim Murray, regarded by many (myself included) as the greatest sportswriter who ever lived. It keeps me humble because he wrote in a way that I can never hope to reach. For example, he described a dominating running back as being “as unstoppable as a woman’s tears.”
What is your favorite quote?
“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit – you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high. But so are the rewards.”
– Hall of Fame football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant
- Keep evolving. If you don’t evolve and change with the times, you will not succeed.
- Listen to others. They can help you, give you look at things that it’s often hard to see yourself.
- Keep that Coach Bryant quote handy: “The price of victory is high. But so are the rewards.”
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.