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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.


7 Deadly Sins of Media Relations

Posted by on Aug 30, 2018 in public relations | 0 comments

7 Deadly Sins of Media Relations

Media relations can be so fun and rewarding, and also daunting. To gain successful buzz, you have to avoid the pitfalls–the seven deadly sins of media relations. Have you ever sent out a press release promoting an exciting and important event with high hopes of extensive coverage? Did you imagine a pre-event story, a reporter committing to attend and cover it, broadcast coverage, and a feature on a blog or two? Of course it’s possible to garner all that coverage, but that doesn’t happen all the time. If that did not happen, were you horribly demoralized and ready to quit? Then you probably need to re-evaluate your habits and expectations and make sure the substance of your pitch is as meaty as you think it is. The Good Book lists the seven deadly sins as the unflattering, nasty qualities: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Rather than a new list, I have taken each sin and shown how it applies to media relations. Pride Maybe your press release had too much bragging. It’s great that you are proud of your organization or company and the upcoming event, but bragging is not a news story, it’s an advertisement. If you are truly and verifiably the first, only, largest, then state that with the facts that support that claim. If you are using descriptive words that are muddy and subjective (cutting edge, breakthrough, crowd-pleaser, favorite), you have some editing to do. Greed Of course you want all the stories and the buzz to be about you at all times—and so does your boss/client! Expecting a disproportionate amount of earned media to be about you and your business is greedy. These are news sources and if you are not announcing something that changes life on this planet, then it is extremely unrealistic to expect that much attention from media you don’t control yourself (your website, social media content). This attitude, which often leads to issuing useless, flat press releases too frequently, is a turn off to reporters and editors. Lust Lust is basically an intense desire for something. In media relations, lust leads you to measuring success by the number of news clippings instead of measuring by the objective of the event. Let me assure you, the coverage of your event is not as important as the outcomes of the event. Don’t worry that you don’t have a media entry in the next public relations awards. You probably have a great event or promotion regardless. If the whole point of your event is to earn a news story, that’s a media stuntand needs to be carefully assessed before launching. Envy Bummer! You and every other company in your niche was doing something on the same national holiday. Whether that was Veterans Day or Pi Day, today’s streamlined media had to choose what angle they wanted to cover and what had the best optics for their readers and/or viewers. If yours was not the chosen event for the day, that’s okay. Don’t hate your competitor. Instead, “like” their coverage and send a note of congratulations to your counterpart at that company. Tell the reporter how much you liked the story and maybe he can write about your effort next time. Then examine how your story/pitch could improve next time, or move your...

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6 Weeks To Create Your Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Posted by on Aug 9, 2018 in marketing plan | 0 comments

6 Weeks To Create Your Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Nonprofit Marketing is Largely Assigned to Novices Unlike for-profit businesses, nonprofit marketing is often an afterthought. Many nonprofit organizations assign marketing and promotion to the person who has one extra hour per week in their schedule. I wish I was kidding. Quite often the promotional duties fall to the fundraising personnel (development department). Their priority is raising money so that’s what the promotion talks about. This is fine for organizations whose mission is to raise money like a foundation, but even then there’s a story to tell. It’s practically epidemic! I have taught a six-week marketing certificate class with The Nonprofit Partnership five times and was amazed to learn that marketing was assigned to various positions in nonprofit organizations that were distantly or not at all related to promotions. From box office managers of performing arts organizations and administrative assistants to volunteers in charge of membership recruitment, and most peculiarly, therapists. Of course there was a healthy presence from executive directors (some founders of their respective organizations) and development directors. Occasionally, there was a marketing director. Your nonprofit organization needs a marketing plan I wish that every nonprofit could assign a decent salary to a marketing director or consultant, I really do. Unfortunately, nonprofits’ budgets typically don’t unfold that way. Program managers and practitioners take priority, as they should, but someone has to tell the story. If your nonprofit organization resembles what I have described above, fear not! The six-week class is back and starts September 6, 2018. I’m excited to teach this class again. We have not offered this class since 2014 and when it started in 2011-2012, one of the most common questions was, “Do we have to be on Facebook?” Things have changed quickly. Please plan to join me once a week for a three-hour session and DO YOUR HOMEWORK! If you are diligent, at the end of the six-weeks you will have a marketing plan for your organization to follow. Sign-up today to create your nonprofit marketing plan in six weeks Click here for more information and to reserve your spot....

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3 Ways Hiring a Facilitator Makes Meetings More Effective

Posted by on Jun 26, 2018 in Facilitation | 0 comments

3 Ways Hiring a Facilitator Makes Meetings More Effective

Hiring a facilitator might be one of the best things you can do for your team of executives or volunteers. McCormick L.A. offers facilitation services to help you do something as basic as coordinating a brainstorming session to a project as advanced as creating your strategic plan. Here are three advantages you gain when you hire a facilitator: 1. Facilitation is inclusive When you hire a facilitator you are able to fully participate in the conversation. If you are the chair, the executive director, or the president, AND you plan to run the meeting, then you can’t partake at the same level as everyone else. The facilitator is truly neutral so everyone can share and develop a better product. 2. Facilitation provides a better process Sometimes stakeholders don’t feel equal. Facilitation creates an environment where everyone can share freely and openly. A facilitator values all participants for their contributions as she captures all expressed thoughts and records them for the collective group memory. Sometimes, the facilitator uncovers misunderstandings and is able to acknowledge and manage those issues. 3. Teams reach their goals Hiring a facilitator helps teams of volunteers, executives, planners–any team!–reach their goals. Even if there is conflict to resolve, a facilitator will identify those issues and help the group move forward. Progress is not always a straight line and a skilled facilitator will help build a foundation for future success. Hiring a facilitator starts with a call to McCormick L.A. Whether you need help with conflict resolution or a board training, McCormick L.A. can help.  Call today for a free assessment of your group’s needs. Leslie A.M. Smith has been a facilitator for almost 20 years working with various groups of stakeholders to help them achieve their goals. She is also a public relations and marketing consultant and seasoned workshop presenter. Visit her website today to see how she can help you....

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When Profiling Gets Out of Hand (I’m talking Twitter)

Posted by on Jan 19, 2017 in branding, Long Beach, marketing, public relations, social media | 0 comments

When Profiling Gets Out of Hand  (I’m talking Twitter)

  When I first created an account on Twitter most of my docket was freelance writing so I used my name, my byline, as my Twitter handle: @LeslieAMSmith. Using simply your name allows a lot of latitude as far as your brand is concerned. I could post about most any topic and it was fine. As my business ticked back toward marketing and public relations, I started posting more about those things. I could see followers increase when I posted about certain topics (#leadership, #entrepreneurship, #business, #consultant). I also attracted followers when I used hashtags with much different descriptors (#humor #comedy #creative #arts), but whenever I did, the followers of the other tweets went away. Juggling Personalities Recently, I separated the two and put the PR and marketing squarely with a new identity: @McCormickLA_PR (my company name). Feel free to follow me on one side or the other, or both. Of course, as soon as I created @McCormickLA_PR I noticed individual PR consultants going by their names alone and experienced some dissonance. I also have inadvertently shared things on the thread I didn’t mean to simply because I was logged in to the wrong one. It’s no big deal, really, but that is one of the reasons I had kept to just one place for Tweets—personal and business. I limited some of the snark, though, knowing that clients and potential clients might be following me and be surprised by my sarcasm or turned off. However, so far, it’s more good than bad by splitting my interests. I’ve also started to read more people’s profiles with a critical eye. Tips for your Twitter Profile If you are trying too hard to fit in everything that might make someone inclined to follow you, it might just be too much. I recently saw a person’s profile include his business interests, and “preemie issues.” I read it twice to know if he was calling premature start-up businesses “preemies” or if he meant babies. He meant babies. Sure, those are things that he’s interested in a 360º view of his personality. But I don’t want to follow him if that’s what he posts about. I can’t relate and therefore that one incongruent fact stands out more than anything. I love knitting and crocheting and therefore follow people who are experts in those crafts, but I don’t list that in my profile because I don’t post about those things. Some people put their religion in the profile. Like anything that could be a selling point or a deal breaker. Weigh your decisions carefully and align those decisions with your expectations. Think hard about the profile you are promoting and re-consider the catch-all Twitter brand. I did and it is for the better. Even if I occasionally will post something sarcastic about “The Bachelor” on my business page (e.g. A 24 yo w/ a nanny?! C’mon!). Happy Tweeting! Leslie A.M. Smith has been delivering no-nonsense marketing and public relations activities to nonprofits and businesses since...

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Terms of Service: SEO and ROI

Posted by on Jan 11, 2017 in Terms of Service | 0 comments

Terms of Service: SEO and ROI

  SEO: Search Engine Optimization. According to the Google definition, SEO is: the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. In plain English—it’s important to increase traffic to your site by helping you be at the top of the list when people search for your industry or company name. More traffic is good when your website is not horribly dated and embarrassing. If it is, then you want to hide it until you can put your best foot forward with an attractive and effective site. ROI: Return on Investment Google offers this definition for ROI: ROI is usually expressed as a percentage and is typically used for personal financial decisions, to compare a company’s profitability or to compare the efficiency of different investments. The return on investment formula is: ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100. Essentially, you want to make more money than you spend. For example, if you bought an ad for $50.00 and you made a sale from it for $250 (net profit is calculated by taking the money you made also called your revenue ($250), minus the $50 cost). Net profit is $200. Using the equation in the definition ($200/$50) X 100, then your ROI was 400%. Very good! The problem is that many times these two terms, SEO and ROI, get used together and insinuate a directly proportionate relationship. That’s not exactly true. There’s the potential for SEO to bring greater ROI, but more traffic does not automatically mean greater ROI. For instance, if your website is bad or has broken links or no way for people to contact you, then better SEO might even be detrimental to your bottom line. There might be something else in your marketing that makes it undesirable for the people you are attracting. Look at your four P’s (product, price, place, and promotion) and try to figure out why people are making a U-turn away from your site. If you can figure that out, then you might be able to convert the shoppers who are being driven to your site by your SEO into sales that increase your ROI. Why do it? As hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” It’s worth the effort to try to move up the search engine list. Since about 2014, more searches are done on mobile phones than on desktop computers. That means that people can see 2-4 search results at a time depending on the size of their phone screen. How long do you think people will scroll? Don’t you want to be on the top of the list? Be consistently active on the Internet and supply fresh content. Have clear expectations and develop a plan that supports those, then put the plan in motion! Leslie A.M. Smith is the owner of McCormick L.A. She has been offering no-nonsense marketing and public relations since 1994....

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Good-ish things in 2016

Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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 of its parent as it progresses. It’s not supposed to be as annoying as a Furby, but definitely requires some care. If your child can’t keep a plant alive, I wouldn’t recommend a Hatchimal. The ticket price is only $59.99 for a variety of technology packed into a shoebox-sized toy, but a 4” plant from the local garden center is less than $5. Cheers to 2017 and try to keep your eye on the marvels of life, and the good-ish things that...

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Community Relations–An Important Part of Any Campaign

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in community relations, marketing, public relations | 0 comments

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 • Creates greater awareness • Conversation piece for your customer/donor base • Longevity in the community • Discovers misconceptions • Doesn’t have to be expensive • Fun! Leslie A.M. Smith has been administering no-nonsense marketing and public relations campaigns as the owner of McCormick L.A. since 1994. Leslie@McCormickLA.com    ...

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Free! Marketing Assessment Tool

Posted by on Oct 18, 2016 in marketing, public relations | 0 comments

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

Posted by on Oct 5, 2016 in public relations | 0 comments

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 in this for a future post: the hand-off was great and then … fumble!) TIP: Train anyone who answers the phone to follow the same protocol. Finding out who’s calling could be the most important part. Some told me too much. This is bad. They didn’t know who I was, why I was asking, or any motives I might have. I assure you this was not information I could use against them in any way, but what if it was? What if I was asking information that could be very harmful to the company and the receptionist was giving me all kinds of back story? Even if I was just trying to sell them something, you don’t need to make it easier by discussing all of your vulnerabilities. TIP: Create a message management protocol so even a blabbermouth knows when to stifle the conversation. This is especially important in a...

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What’s HR got to do with PR?

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in public relations | 0 comments

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 is OUT there and might be infecting potential employees, customers, donors–whoever might care about your company. Address the problem as soon as it happens and swiftly resolve the issues for increased work satisfaction and a lot less drama. Bad Product Maybe the root of employees bad mouthing their employer is the truth—the product isn’t worthy of their approval. Perhaps it isn’t the merchandise itself but the policies of the company that taint the product or service. Bad terms or contracts, price gouging, lack of technical support, unethical selling practices–it could be anything. Have you ever been in a restaurant when the wait staff lets you in on a secret? I’m grateful, but it does make me wonder. Comments like, “It’s frozen from a bag,” or “The appetizer portion is the same size as the entrée and it’s $2 less.” I’ve heard similar revelations on helplines for tech products, “Daily pricing...

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