Tina Wilmott, a 20-year public relations veteran and avid athlete, wanted to find a way to publicize news about the sports she enjoyed — running, cycling and triathlons — in a less expensive way than mainstream news wires such as Business Wire and PR Newswire.
She also wanted something that wouldn’t interfere with her parenting; she adopted a son in 2009.
So she quit her job as director of corporate communications at Active Network and started her own PR agency, The Wilmott Group, to help companies communicate the news of the health, fitness and endurance sports industries.
Today, Wilmott operates two press release distribution services — Endurance Sportswire, created in 2011, and Outdoor Sportswire, launched in September of last year. She retired The Wilmott Group soon after starting the first wire service. Customers pay a monthly ($57) or annual ($499) fee to upload content to the websites and place it into a daily news report sent via email to 7,000 reporters and industry people.
Endurance Sportswire made six figures in 2014 and 2015, and grew 25 percent this past year, Wilmott said.
“I’m a huge believer that niche markets are the way to go for entrepreneurs because you can really establish yourself as a leader fairly quickly if you give the time to the industry,” she said.
Wilmott started her public relations career in Silicon Valley working with Hewlett-Packard, Qualcomm Inc., major brands and startups on international PR. She worked as vice president of communications or public relations at Interactive Inc., McQuerter and Porter Novelli. She also spent time at Creative Labs and the Terpin Group.
Some of the companies from her former experience came with her to Sportswire.
San Diego-based companies she works with include Competitor Group Inc., Active Network, 2XU, Challenged Athletes Foundation and LAVA Magazine. National clients include IRONMAN, PowerBar, Lifetime and dozens of PR agencies that represent major brands in sports. She contacted her former clients from The Wilmott Group, offering 60-day trials and a free membership to ensure that companies would start posting on Endurance Sportswire.
Competitor Group Inc. was one of Wilmott’s first customers. Dan Cruz, director of public relations for Competitor Group, said Endurance Sportswire covers an industry that gets brushed over in most media coverage or showcased as human interest when there’s other business-oriented news to share.
“As a communications tool, Endurance Sportswire has really filled what was an industry void for news and information,” he said.
Even more than that, Cruz said, Endurance Sportswire reaches executives and influencers in the industry that Competitor Group is trying to reach.
“She’s mastered the e-newsletter,” Cruz said. “I mean, it’s more than an e-newsletter because it’s not one brand promoting an event. It’s useful content that her audience wants to read. It reaches an audience that we want to get our news in front of.”
Wilmott works out of her Solana Beach home and the Sorrento Valley women’s co-working space, Hera Hub. She has one full-time employee and outsources work to a bookkeeper, website developer and marketing professionals.
“I always tell people: At the end of the day, I’m a publicist,” Wilmott said. “At the end of the day, you have to have a good story to tell. I cannot guarantee you coverage just by putting your press release in our news report, but I can say that I’ve gotten emails from reporters at Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers thanking us for creating this news report and letting us know that they’ve gotten story leads from it.”
From here, Wilmott hopes to create additional services and marketing possibilities, using podcasts featuring industry leaders and expanding its reach with a tool or app so that companies can stream news directly onto their sites.
Wilmott used to run triathlons, but now runs half marathons. She said finding her passion and enjoying the subject matter are unexpected perks of the job.
“It’s really weird,” she said. “You kind of fall into it because you see this need at work and you think, huh, that’d be a really good idea. And you don’t really know if anyone else believes it. And then to see the company grow as it has, it’s exceeded my expectations for sure.”