Good-ish things in 2016

This past week I have seen numerous posts and articles about how bad 2016 was. I agree that it would have been nice if the most controversial debate was whether females could be Ghostbusters, but 2016 just wasn’t that kind of year. Sure, the loss of so many very talented people was heart-wrenching and shocking. And the election season (all year) was tumultuous, but there were some good things, weren’t there? Good-like? Good-ish? For example, we had the Olympics in Brazil and we dodged the worldwide outbreak of the Zica virus that we feared. There also weren’t horrible cases of dysentery, or worse, from those participating in the beach water sports that weren’t quite meeting the standards of clean water. There was an incident involving American swimmers and a gas station, and stories that wavered between vandals and heroes, but it seems like that ended up okay. Let us not forget about the launch of Pokemon Go! It was a good thing … wasn’t it? Beyond causing people to walk off cliffs, interrupting funerals, and luring peeps into dangerous situations, it provided hours of enjoyment and encouraged kids to go outside and exercise. Yes, we will cling to those benefits. Yay 2016! We learned so much about our American history this year—at least about the forming of the treasury department. That’s thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course, and a little musical (originally a mix-tape) he wrote called “Hamilton,” which won 2016’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and multiple other awards. Maybe he can write another called “The Electoral College” since a large part of our voting population seemed to be absent when this was explained in their civics classes. Apparently, too many missed this title from the Schoolhouse Rock repertoire. Harry Potter came back in the form of a play, published as a book, called Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (Playwrights: J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany). I personally loved it! The play itself was performed on the stage in London with rave reviews. J.K. Rowling’s magical world was also expanded on the screen in 2016 with the screening of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is still on my list to see. The year ended with the popularity of a high-touch-tech toy called Hatchimals. Cute little creatures that hatch from an egg after being played with and then continue to need the tender loving care...
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Community Relations–An Important Part of Any Campaign

In the realm of public relations, my specialty is community relations. That is puzzling to some people because it sounds so generic, like a synonym of public relations. It’s not, of course, it’s actually very specific and is why I am often recruited to work on much larger campaigns where community relations is one portion. Typical Community Relations Activities Defined by being out in the community, falling in this category is participation in public expos, fairs, and other general events, but it also includes contests, drives and collections, appearances by a mascot, setting a world record, and more. You can invite other organizations to collaborate with these endeavors which helps spread your message even quicker. Different Than Cause Marketing Cause marketing fits under the umbrella of community relations. Cause marketing is when your company holds a community service event that raises money for, or awareness of, a cause beyond your own. A good example of this is shown by the many companies that take part in this kind of effort in October for breast cancer awareness (represented by pink ribbons)—even as far-reaching as high school football teams wearing pink socks emulating the NFL players. Companies might pair the awareness campaign by also making a donation to a charity that supports that cause. The cause you choose to support needs to align with your core values and be in line with your brand. Benefits of Community Relations Community relations is the most personal and sociable part of public relations. It is the aspect that puts a company closest to its customers and constituents. You can shake hands, answer questions (even ones that people don’t want to put in print), and smile. It creates goodwill and transparency. You can articulate complex concepts and engage in dialogue more so than in social media posts and explain things better than you can in website FAQs, interacting more personally than on a Skype call. In this digital world, it’s important for companies to incorporate a community relations component to show that the company is run by real people, not just a man behind a curtain. As one strategy of a larger plan, community relations activities are supported with social media and other traditional public relations activities to create robust and full campaigns. Community relations might be the component your marketing plan is missing.   Community Relations at a Glance … • Involves the greater community...
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Free! Marketing Assessment Tool

Do you yawn when someone mentions marketing assessment? Too many people do. Before you start a re-branding process or revamping your marketing plan, you need to assess your promotional efforts. Print this Marketing Assessment Tool and fill it out. It will help you weigh your resources and see whether your promotional efforts are effective or failing. assessmenttool_mccormickla Do you have a call to action clearly stated at all events and in every message? It’s okay if the call to action is READ THIS. One of your objectives might be to increase awareness and measuring how many people actually read the information you are producing will help you evaluate if you are meeting that objective. Take it a step further and choose which item is most successful. How did you measure success? Bill and Ted might not measure things the same way. That’s okay as long as they are measuring against their objectives. Start now and let me know how it goes! Leslie A.M. Smith is a public relations consultant in Long Beach, CA. She founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 specializing in community...
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Your Receptionist and Message Management

  “May I help you?” – More than you know.  Following up on my last blog post about the importance that human resources plays in public relations, I’m going to pick on one role that is often staffed by a person who is not thoroughly trained––the receptionist. Your receptionist might be the weak link in your message management protocol. Last week I was doing a little research for a client. I wanted to find out which companies in a particular industry (I won’t divulge which one) subscribed to a certain program. If given the choice by an automated phone system, I chose to speak to the “operator.” The operators were 100% female and most frequently were in a work space with other people to whom they could, and often did, relay my questions and then recite the answers to me. I went to the operator/receptionist person because I wanted to know whether everyone in the organization was aware of this program if they did have it. The experience uncovered a few things I think would be helpful to all businesses. Below is a list of what I noticed, my opinion of why that is good or bad, and some tips to remedy the problem. The operators who knew the most, did in fact subscribe to the program I was calling about. They had the program implemented throughout. This is excellent! This is a program that everyone in the organization should be proud of and the companies that have the program had engaged the receptionist (a frontline employee) as an ambassador. TIP: Follow suit! Transform everyone in and around your organization/company into a brand ambassador. The janitor, the delivery person, and all of your periphery resources/consultants. I didn’t say who I was and 90% of the time they didn’t ask. Although there was nothing confidential about the questions I was asking, it is important to know to whom you are telling information. They seemed to presume I was already a client of theirs, but I am not. One asked if I was a client and I said that I was a consultant. True but vague. She did not press further. One person was on the ball, asked who I was, from what company, and transferred me to the executive she thought could answer my question best. I left a message for that person—no call back a week later. (Stick a pin...
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What’s HR got to do with PR?

If you’ve ever wondered if a company’s human resources programs have anything to do with their public relations, then let me tell you assuredly that the answer to that question is: Definitely! HR is just one component of your overall PR activities but it is really an important one. Do you have employees? Do they talk about work? What do they say? If you haven’t yet realized, those people you employ are the frontline brand ambassadors of your business or organization. What they are saying about their experience can help or hinder your business. Why would you jeopardize the power that employees have by not training them properly and not providing them with a positive message to take home every day? Positive public relations practices need to permeate everything you do. From the way the phone is answered, how visitors are greeted, and with the behavior throughout your offices. Your employees need to feel natural and pleased to carry out these tasks. When people feel good about their place of employment, their language and demeanor reflect that. Here are a few HR potholes that need to be repaired to foster brand loyalty and positive buzz marketing from the people closest to the product or service they deliver. Onboarding Step one to onboarding a new employee correctly is to coordinate a complete orientation to their new company. Explain the history of the company, the values the founders held when establishing the company, the good things it does in the community, the current mission and vision statements, and every policy an employee might be held responsible for or care about. This is a direct human resources department responsibility and needs to be supported fully by management. Handing over an employee handbook and calling it a welcome is like giving someone a cake mix and calling it a birthday party. There’s no satisfaction in that hollow gesture. Create an orientation that it is a fun experience with relevant information, delivered thoroughly and cheerfully. Ignoring Morale Issues If you ignore a problem, it festers. The bad feelings and complaints spread well beyond the cubicle walls like drug-resistant bacteria. It infects the lunch room, grows rampantly when alcohol is added at happy hour, and of course becomes deadly when shared on social media. Once the complaint is on one of the ever-growing social media platforms, you, the employer, have lost all control of the message. It...
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