Blog


Leslie A.M. Smith shares her insights on marketing and public relations. Businesses from one person firms and nonprofit organizations to large corporations can glean valuable information from Ms. Smith’s expertise and observations.


Terms of Service: The 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix

Posted by on Sep 14, 2020 in marketing | 0 comments

Terms of Service: The 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix

  The 4 Ps comprise what’s known as the marketing mix. These components are the building blocks of marketing. They are PRODUCT, PRICE, PLACE, and PROMOTION. One of the easiest examples of how these work together is in real estate sales. When a real estate agent signs with someone who wants to sell a house, the agent naturally considers all of the Ps and how they work together.     4 Ps In Action If you watch any of the real estate sales reality shows you know there are some factors that affect the product right away. “Location, location, location!” is the old real estate adage but that’s really only the start. Let’s say the PRODUCT is a four bedroom, two bath house in a good neighborhood with good schools (PLACE). What condition is the house in? How old is it? How is the plumbing, heating and AC, electrical, roof? Is it owned by the first owner or was it recently flipped? All of those things and more come into assessing the PRICE. When a veteran Realtor® considers the PRICE they take into account what has sold in the neighborhood recently that compares to this new listing. In other words, they consider the PRODUCT and the PLACE. Once the price tag is established, the PROMOTION starts.   Location, Location, Location! If this is a supremely desirable neighborhood where sales happen very rarely, then a sign might be all that it takes. But let’s face it, those neighborhoods, or any PRODUCT set apart exclusively by PLACE are atypical. It is more likely that the agent needs to turn to PROMOTION and buy a few ads, coordinate a mailer focusing on this particular property, and hold an open house (virtual or live). Common these days are Video tours and even drone footage if it boasts a spectacular plot of land or scenic view.   Your Turn! What are your 4P’s? Here’s a downloadable chart to help you map them out. 4Ps_2020_McCormickLA   Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Sign-up on her website today to receive helpful insights like this one in your inbox.  See how easy your promotional efforts can be here....

read more

3 Words to Replace for Stronger Writing

Posted by on Sep 9, 2020 in marketing, public relations | 2 comments

3 Words to Replace for Stronger Writing

Just – Do – Get – Out of the Way for Better Writing This is not a weird rip-off of Nike’s affirmative tagline, Just Do It! These are the words that haunt my writing making it slag and drag with boring words. Do you have a bad habit in your writing? The same three might plague you as well. Extraneous words make boring copy. Admitting there’s a problem is the first step. Double check your writing by reading each word in reverse order. This way you will view each word individually instead of anticipating what word comes next. You’ll also be more likely to notice if there’s a repetitive word.     Just a Minute I’ve overused the word ‘just’ for years. I use it in front of a little, a tad, a bit. I also use it instead of only, solely, and all (as in “you just need to _______”). The worst is as a qualifier—just a PR consultant or just a work-at-home mom—it never belongs in front of a role or occupation! It’s belittling and disrespectful. Let me say that again:             NEVER PUT THE WORD “JUST” IN FRONT OF A ROLE OR OCCUPATION! If you find you’ve done that, ALWAYS change it to an aspirational descriptor like fabulous, valuable, qualified, sought after, or respected as a way to support what you and others are doing and the important roles you fill every day. The truth is, the word is rarely needed and is just in the way.   That Thing You Do ‘Do’ is a general word. It works for Nike (Just Do It!) and for Mountain Dew (Do the Dew!) because everyone can internalize the statement and believe the tagline is referring to what the they do best. When I find that I am using ‘do’ instead of a specific verb, I substitute something more interesting or active—maybe something punchy–that doesn’t leave any question about what I need to do. “I just need to do a report” becomes “I only need to write/create/compose/author a report.” If you give instruction to others on a regular basis as a parent, teacher, or manager, then you know that saying, “Don’t do that,” is not nearly as effective as saying, “Stop running,” or the more affirmative “please walk.”   I Get You While we get each other and try hard not to get COVID-19 and other viruses, it is not the most ideal word to elevate your writing—if you care to do that. It sounds sort of slangy and colloquial like what a farmer says to crows in his field, “Get! Go! Get off my corn!” Maybe that’s “git,” I’m not sure, but either of those can be improved and possibly abolished from formal writing. Jack, the leader at tofluency.com points out that there are 10 ways to use the word get. That must be a real beast for an English language learner. Maybe, just skip that lesson and learn other, more specific, less ambiguous words. “We’re getting married!” might seem hard to avoid, however you can say, “Jack (or Mary or Buford …) proposed and I said yes!” or quicker, “We’re engaged!” I don’t need to “get going,” I need to “leave.” The only tip from Strunk and White in The Elements of Style is not to use...

read more

Membership Associations in the Time of COVID-19

Posted by on Aug 24, 2020 in business, business owners | 0 comments

Membership Associations in the Time of COVID-19

Before I started my business, I was the communications director for a local then for a statewide membership association. Both were invaluable experiences for me. I learned about board leadership, volunteer structure, the power and importance of bylaws and their companion standing rules or policies and procedures. And I learned about independent businesses in two different industries. All of these skills I have used in my business to help both nonprofits and businesses. When I started my consulting business, the first thing I did after getting my business license was join the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. There was a weekly networking breakfast that I attended religiously. Long after that was gone, I miss having a regular anchor appointment to anchor my week. Chambers of Commerce are the most basic business associations around. Anyone can be a member—global corporations who want to be good corporate citizens down to the independent direct sales associates. There is a Chamber serving just about every city in America. If you are considering joining an association, now is an excellent time to benefit from synergy created with other people in your geographic area or industry niche. Keep reading so you’ll know what to look for.   Align with positivity As COVID-19 stay-at-home options continue across the country, I’ve noticed two distinct paths for membership associations, including service organizations. They are either afraid to bill for dues as it seems insulting or insensitive when their members are struggling to operate or they are adding value with increased virtual opportunities for their members. Of course, adding value is the way to go! Instead of not asking for dues at all, create a payment plan so members can pay something that fits with their situation. Make that investment easy and obvious by ADDING VALUE! Hold some online networking meetings. I recently took part in the Greater San Fernando Valley’s Chamber of Commerce Thirsty Thursday event. They welcomed members from other chambers to this one-hour “speed-networking” Zoom extravaganza that they have been holding every week since the stay-at-home orders began. They were introducing new members. Wow! At a time when it’s easy to assume that businesses wouldn’t consider spending any money, the value they have been able to offer has helped them recruit members. It was such a great model Long Beach is now going to host Thirsty Thursdays as well, in addition to their Good Afternoon Long Beach monthly lunches online. Surely there are other ways to at least retain your membership. You might create a new category of membership to attract an otherwise un-represented group of members. Solopreneurs, restaurants, independent retail could all be special membership carveouts that build goodwill. Capitalize on current societal themes like equity and inclusion to offer your members resources and tools they need.   Business Improvement Districts Model a Local Approach In Long Beach, the business improvement districts go to great lengths to help their members. Living in the area of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, I have witnessed many of its regular activities continue in a new way, some initiatives increase like flash sales, and new ideas abound like Facebook posts featuring our Black-owned businesses in Bixby Knolls. I can’t forget the #BixbyStrong logo that brands all the activities of this local association. I hope all the area...

read more

Titles – CEO to Vizier

Posted by on Aug 10, 2020 in branding, marketing, public relations, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Titles – CEO to Vizier

  As the US Postal Service finds itself in the news quite often lately, I was pondering the title Postmaster General. What a weird title! Silly, really. When you Google it, the information assures the reader that the postmaster general is the CEO of the USPS. Why don’t we just call it that? The first postmaster general was Benjamin Franklin. I have to assume the witty Almanac writer was great at parties making him a Toastmaster Postmaster–now that’s quite a title! An even stranger (dumber) title is Grand Wizard. That’s what a certain white supremacist organization (which doesn’t deserve to be named) calls their leader. It’s stupid enough to suit that group just fine—good branding! I can think of some other suitable titles, but I digress.   The U.S. Government is Not a Great Model for Titles The United States government is full of titles that perhaps don’t mean what they once did and don’t seem to follow the terms of just one organizational chart. President, vice president–those are fine. The term ‘secretary’ was especially confusing to me when I was learning about the Cabinet (the what? Like a cupboard?) in elementary school. My mom was a secretary. She knew shorthand and typed. Is that what the Secretary of the Interior does? By Interior, we mean outside (what?)—national parks and such. She worked at a bank, does that make her a Treasury Secretary? Hmm. Then we have a whole tier of ‘deputies’ under the ‘chief of staff’ (a normal title). Deputies? Where are the sheriffs? Did they all get shot by Eric Clapton? Is the chief of staff the sheriff? In the interest of parallelism, if that person isn’t called the sheriff, shouldn’t those under him or her on the organization chart be called ‘assistant chiefs’? Or ‘sous chefs,’ like in a kitchen?   Russian Influence Sidelining sheik and vizier, the US Presidents somehow embraced the title of ‘czar’ as the title for those who are essentially task force managers, the term for Russian emperors before 1917. How did this Russian title make it into our government structure? Aren’t we opposed to Russian influence? What’s Russian for ‘task force manager’? That might have been better. Czar was largely used as a nickname for the person in charge of a department, however the title was given out by presidential appointment starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt who named 11 czars. Topping the list is President Obama with 38 czars, George W. Bush right behind him with 33, compared to President Trump’s one czar. Eisenhower and Reagan also only appointed one czar each. Trump has had other appointees, just not with that title. The list of US czars include people charged with overseeing issues like AIDS, bird flu, cyber-security (Trump), anti-drugs (Reagan), energy, environmental clean-up, missiles (Eisenhower), science, terrorism, and many, many more! See the entire list here.   Branding via Titles It’s tempting to change your titles to match your branding. In some rare cases I would recommend it—the Keebler Elves surely have some cute elfin titles, for instance. Head Fudge Striper should be at the top of the payroll, in my opinion. The story of the elves and their names is part of Kellogg’s branding for their E.L. Fudge cookies, but Kellogg’s actual leaders do their work from the C-suite and...

read more

Host a Fire Sale, COVID-19 Style

Posted by on Jul 27, 2020 in marketing, stay at home mom | 0 comments

Host a Fire Sale, COVID-19 Style

A fire sale is what retailers would offer after a literal fire damaged their inventory. They’d sell whatever they could deeply discounted and trash the rest. The term is also used during any sale that will help a business avoid complete destruction. Even though it’s a virus not a fire that is ravaging some businesses’ output these days, it’s important to stay in business to sell what you can and shelve the rest for now. Know your audience, read the room, connect the dots. Whatever you want to call it, it is time to examine your customers’ situation closely. Use your intuition to pivot in this ongoing season of COVID-19. Offer your customers something they want at a price they can afford, via a safe and hygienic delivery system.   What do your customers want? Anticipating needs is part of good customer service. Consider that everyone’s connection to their homes has increased. Home offices, home schools, staycations. What can you offer that your customers can use at home? Can you offer them something that their children can do at home, independent of their parents? Do you possess some wisdom you can offer in these times? Can your product be used differently by families in quarantine? Finally, dig deep in your inventory to see what you can rotate out and sell extremely discounted or give away with other sales. Be creative!   What can your customers afford? Many people have little money to spend, if any at all. Look at who your regular buyers are. Develop family packs of your products or solo-size for your single customers. Price your products within a reasonable range of affordability and adjust your costs accordingly. Think meatloaf, not prime rib. Add some little things that let people know you care. In March and April some deliveries came with a roll of toilet paper–brilliant, even if un-appetizing! Alcohol wipes, masks, or a few coloring sheets for the children lend a sentiment of caring and will be put to immediate use.   Make your delivery system as easy as possible. If you haven’t figured out a way to deliver your product, you better hurry up! Deliver services using one of many virtual platforms that you should already be using. Distribute tangible products through no-contact (or minimal contact) pick-up, delivery by car, bike, or a shipping service (USPS, UPS, FedEx, and others) remain exceedingly important and will be for a long time. If you can offer in-person service, ensure a clean and safe environment as much as you can. Team-up with others to deliver your product or service where or near where people can go. Ask grocery stores, banks, and other essential services if you can borrow a few parking stalls for a pop-up sale (following proper germ-free guidelines). A few weeks ago we discussed no-contact ways to promote your business and suggest using collaborators. Revisit those ideas here to spark some ideas. At Your Service You might be thinking that these ideas sound so easy for a restaurant or business that sells widgets. These same techniques will work quite well for a business that sells services. If you usually offer a $5,000 package with multiple deliverables, is there one component of that bundle you can offer at $250.00? Or $250.00 a month? If you focus on...

read more

Evaluation – A Necessary Evil that I Make Easy

Posted by on Jul 25, 2020 in evaluation, marketing, public relations, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Evaluation – A Necessary Evil that I Make Easy

Evaluation is an important part of your marketing strategy and yet it is a low priority for most small businesses and nonprofits. I know ‘Eval’ is close to ‘Evil,’ but you have to do it before you move on to the next thing on the to-do list and it’s forgotten. Mostly, I find that evaluation is ignored not just because of time, but because people do not know where to start. I have made evaluation as easy as completing a form. If you keep it up you will have great data to rely on year after year. Below is my FREE downloadable Communications Assessment Tool that will help you take inventory of your promotional activities as you move forward. If you have taken my classes at The Nonprofit Partnership then you likely already have this tool working in action. “Oh yeah!” I heard you say that! I offered this way back in 2016 also. It’s simple to use and very important. If you don’t keep track, how else will you know what’s working? McCormickLA_Comm_Assessment_Tool_2020. Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Sign-up on her website today to receive helpful insights like this one in your inbox.  See how easy your promotional efforts can be here.  ...

read more

3 Ways to Promote Your Business During COVID-19

Posted by on Jul 15, 2020 in contest, marketing, public relations, Uncategorized | 0 comments

3 Ways to Promote Your Business During COVID-19

We were all ready to get back to normal! Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus is still active and dangerous. Back inside we go! But you still need to promote your business during COVID-19. What’s different now in July compared to March when we first shutdown is the increase in computer literacy. We’ve all created a new relationship with our computer, tablet, and/or smart phone. Virtual meetings are the norm for business and family interaction. Stodgy executives and elderly grandparents alike have increasing comfort with communicating like The Jetsons. We’ve all become pros in ordering online as well. Now that (almost) everyone has been trained, take advantage of that with these three tips to promote your business during COVID-19—and there are more where these came from. Amplify your promotion by including one or more partners for these endeavors. You’ll share your customers with one another and share the reach for a much richer campaign. I’ve listed the collaborators that come to my mind under each tip. Use the options that are best for your business. Here are three no-contact ways to reach out to your customers during the COVID-19 shutdown:   Create a Webinar. If you are used to meeting with people face-to-face to explain your product, now you have the opportunity to do it with several people at once. Invite your list of prospects to hear what you have to offer on a 30-minute free webinar. Make sure you invite them to take the next step with you. Offer a discount to people who sign-on to your program during the webinar. Collaborator: Offer this through your local chamber of commerce or other local business association. There are neighborhood business development associations searching for speakers and good content all the time.   Host a Contest. It’s summer and people can’t travel as they’d like, can’t go to amusement parks—or any parks for more than a walk, can’t see extended family, no movies, no parties, no camps … they are BORED! Making videos is easy these days and if several people are loading videos about your business, there’s a multiplier effect that is more valuable than what you can likely afford. Pick a theme related to your business and create a hashtag for people to use when they share their videos on Facebook and Twitter. Offer a $25 gift card for any video that earns more than 100 Likes. Example: if you run an insurance company, then ask your clients to post a video about their favorite item they have insured with you—their boat, their home, their prized stamp collection, their business. Ask for a quick 15-20 second message that includes three words to describe their chosen item, the name of your company and don’t forget they have to use “#YourCleverHashtag” when they post to be eligible for the gift card. Collaborator: The gift cards can be from a restaurant you insure. Maybe the restaurant will give you a discount. Take the competition a step further with a grand prize drawing for all the people who earned 100 Likes or more. It can be a gift card in a larger amount or perhaps a discount on their insurance premium. Who wouldn’t love that?   Mail Samples. These days we look forward to deliveries of all the items we order online like no other time...

read more

Stakeholder Meeting Versus Focus Group

Posted by on Jul 13, 2020 in community relations, marketing, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Stakeholder Meeting Versus Focus Group

Stakeholder meetings versus focus groups, which to choose? They are both helpful tools for bringing in other opinions, perspectives, and even a dose of creativity that your team was missing. Though people often use these terms interchangeably, they are not the same. They have different purposes and knowing which one to use will save some hurt feelings and help you achieve what you want. Below I have described when to use each one and who attends. Stakeholder Meeting Coordinate a stakeholder meeting with people directly involved and support the issue at hand. Invite people interested and invested in the ongoing success of the project. In other words, they have a stake in the outcome. Mostly nonprofits and government agencies will bring together community stakeholders to advise and co-create plans. In a business, usually the board of directors and shareholders comprise the stakeholder list. Stakeholders might meet regularly to gain a sense of how their investment of money, time, or in-kind contribution is doing. Stakeholders might also be invited for a specific initiative that needs their expertise. In this case, they would be involved actively throughout the length of the project, meeting regularly to develop and track progress and adjust activities or protocols so the goals can be met. The end user can definitely be included as a stakeholder and adds something that maybe a financial contributor never could.   Focus Group Hold focus groups with a group of people, often paid for their participation, to seek better understanding of an issue or need. Use them to test a hypothesis. For instance, facilitating a focus group might help a company understand how best to position a product in the marketplace. A focus group is usually a one-time event and is coordinated for various reasons by a wide range of entities interested gathering or testing information. It is not uncommon for the focus group members to not have any idea what the information will be used for. Focus groups run the gamut in complexity from something simple like finding out if people think granola is a cereal or a snack food to examining the community’s knowledge of public utilities or gathering evidence to create ways to change systemic biases. Formal focus groups are usually held in a neutral testing center with a section of two-way glass where executives sit hidden to witness the participants discussing a topic. “That is not a regular mirror. Quit fixing your hair participant #2!” (It’s okay if you say that, they can’t hear the observers.)   My Day in a Paid Focus Group When my children were little there was a local toy company that paid $60 and a really cool toy if you’d bring your child in to sit in a room with the toy so they could see what the child figured out about it. Well worth the hour! They might have been testing just one attribute of the toy to see if a child could find it without a parent’s help—I don’t know and I don’t care. We had an equitable arrangement with the company and my daughter and I walked away with what we agreed to “earn.” More than playing with toys, focus groups can test not only participants’ reactions to ideas, but also whether it will be a challenge to change...

read more

Terms of Service: Swag

Posted by on Jun 29, 2020 in marketing, public relations | 0 comments

Terms of Service: Swag

SWAG: Stuff We All Get Not to be confused with swagger, “swag” is a popular term for all those wonderful promotional items you can receive for free from a company, usually given at an event. It’s the STUFF WE ALL GET! Some look forward to the swag bag more than the event. The most coveted swag is the loot given to Academy Award nominees. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not distribute this, incidentally. A marketing firm called Distinctive Assets compiles and distributes the special gifts. Click to see the 2020 bag. The objective for merchandisers to give their products for free through a swag bag or celebrity gifting lounge is to have their products in the hands of Hollywood royalty. If they’re lucky a photo of a celeb and the product will make its way into a print publication or entertainment coverage TV show. An expected practice – like goody bags at a children’s party People appreciate and even expect swag at certain events. Swag commonly appears at running races (t-shirt is the bare minimum), fashion shows, some galas, and vendors offer it up like trick-or-treat candy at trade shows. Swag usually has the company’s name and/or emblem on it and can range from a small bag of candy  to a vacation on a yacht as was gifted at the 2020 Academy Awards.   Guess again As a second acronym, a dear friend enlightened me that S.W.A.G. also stands for Scientific Wild Ass Guess. I love this! AKA Guesstimate. It’s a contradiction in terms, of course, how scientific is a guess? A wild ass one at that! Consider giving swag as a nice gesture that compliments the experience and attaches a lasting memory to the event, organization, or product. What will people really love? You’ll have to make a S.W.A.G.! Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Sign-up on her website today to receive helpful insights like this one in your inbox.  See how easy your efforts can...

read more

Capitalizing on an Anniversary – Increase Awareness Part 2

Posted by on Jun 15, 2020 in marketing, public relations | 0 comments

Capitalizing on an Anniversary – Increase Awareness Part 2

Happy Anniversary! This might actually be the best way to enact a full-court press on your promotional activities with the goal to increase awareness. I would encourage you to capitalize on your longevity and create tangible objectives that will set your intended outcomes of your activities. If your organization is celebrating a year ending with a 5 or 0, then an anniversary theme is appropriate to anchor a year’s worth of promotions, maybe longer. Disney celebrated their 60th Diamond Celebration that lasted 18 months.   Anniversaries give the media a reason to talk about you. Don’t waste the opportunity by only talking about your promotional activities planned! This is a common mistake. For instance, instead of talking to a reporter about the menu planned at your gala, talk about the years of impact you have made in the community. Point out how your mission is being exercised year after year and leads to your ongoing success. Honor the many people who have led to the organization’s success. This is the same for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. People make things happen so celebrate them.   Low and No-Budget Tactics It does not have to cost a fortune to celebrate an anniversary. It can be as easy as adding the number to everything you are already doing. For example, if your nonprofit is celebrating a decade of success, your Annual Gala becomes the 10th Anniversary Gala. Top TEN (get it?) lists become a weekly topic on social media or a monthly topic in your e-newsletter. These little alterations don’t cost anything! Send a press release to your local media honoring one person from each year of your existence who was instrumental to your success. If the media is interested enough to write a story (or simply run the release that you submitted) you have expanded your reach to every reader of that publication only for the labor cost of writing and emailing the release. Relatively low-cost investments include sharing swag like t-shirts, bumper stickers, window decals, hats, commuter mugs, and so on that put your name out in the public. Finally, don’t forget to develop a good hashtag for social media posts and create reasons for your audience to also post using that branded hashtag.   Big Ticket Items If you have the funds allocated for an anniversary blitz or have sponsors to help with co-branded efforts, then you might invest in creating some commemorative pieces. A history book, a special section in a newspaper, a piece of jewelry (charm or pin), or a whole new program or product. Disney creates new parades, fireworks shows, and often launches a new area of a theme park, coupled with a TV broadcast special to mark the milestone. Your advertising budget might also increase to secure your exposure to your target market. Is a Super Bowl ad in your future? If it makes sense and you will experience a decent ROI, then make it work.   Call to Action Don’t forget to activate your market! What do you want them to do? Buy, donate, join, tell a friend, visit, … what? These should reflect the metrics you developed in your marketing objectives. Do not overlook the importance of the call to action. When people are excited about what you do, they want to...

read more

Share This