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.


What Are You Wearing? A Fashion-Forward Approach to Safer-At-Home

Posted by on Mar 23, 2020 in Wardrobe, Wear You've Been | 1 comment

What Are You Wearing? A Fashion-Forward Approach to Safer-At-Home

We’ll be experiencing this new normal for a while it appears and if we aren’t careful, we will have a new kind of Great Depression on our hands. When I started my home-based business in 1994, I found that I had to get dressed–make that “dressed-up in business attire”– to take my work time seriously. Home-based was a new sector and there were adjustments to be made both from my personal work habits to the outsiders’ perspective of what it meant to not go into an office. If I chose to stay in the sweatpants and old t-shirt I wore to walk the dog, then I found myself reticent to run necessary errands for fear that another businessperson would see me. “Are you off today?” they’d ask. “Are you home sick?” they’d assume from my lack of make-up. If I was sporting a pencil skirt and a blouse and saw a fellow Chamber of Commerce member, they’d say, “Busy today?” even if I was in line at the grocery store buying food for dinner. Things have changed a great deal. I can fully complete my business tasks in yoga pants and a family reunion tee, but I won’t get on a video chat in that get-up for the most part. That is increasingly problematic in our current situation. In addition, I find that if I am sporting my Fabletics collection too many days in a row I can feel myself becoming increasingly turtle-like. A meeting to facilitate, a Zoom call, or even a lunch with my dad gets me out of my comfy shell.   Mentally Healthy is in Fashion Depression affects a person’s choice in clothing. They choose baggy, comfortable clothes as the emotion affects the behavior. Before you become depressed as your habits change to hibernating and consuming Netflix like the last Girl Scout cookies in the cupboard, turn it around and let your behavior aid your emotions. Set some rules for yourself. Sticking to habits and routines are good for your mental health, as explained here in this article from Dr. Danielle Forshee. She says, “Routine helps us cope with change, it helps to create healthy habits, and more importantly, it helps to reduce stress levels.” Here are my Wear You’ve Been® suggestions for some house arrest wardrobe rules that you can institute to keep your clothing in rotation and make yourself feel better as you do.   Lounging If you are lounging then put on “loungewear.” I think “loungewear” is a funny moniker for the pajama section in department stores, but these clothes are elevated. For starters, they match. They are the pajamas you’d wear on a group ski trip with people other than your family when you aren’t sure if everyone will see you in your nightclothes or not. The Old Navy sleep pants and husband’s t-shirt does not make the cut. Choose the clothes you wouldn’t want the baby to spit-up on. They are in the drawer somewhere, get them out! If nothing else wear one of those fancy bathrobes your mother gave you that you think you’ll take on vacation but never really have enough room in your carry-on.   Athleisure Do not allow yourself to become one with your yoga pants unless you plan to exercise or meditate. Cleaning is okay...

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What Chris Harrison Doesn’t Know About Facilitation

Posted by on Mar 11, 2020 in Facilitation | 2 comments

What Chris Harrison Doesn’t Know About Facilitation

If you watch “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” even as a guilty pleasure, and have any inkling of what a facilitator does, then you know that Chris Harrison is not a facilitator. “Ladies, Bachelor, this is the final rose, whenever you’re ready,” Harrison announces at every rose ceremony as if the evening-gown-clad harem isn’t painfully aware of that fact in this outrageous competition to vie for a partner. He’s just announcing what comes next.     What’s missing?   Safety A facilitator protects everyone. Being on the “The Bachelor” is about the most emotionally unsafe place a young woman can put herself. One tool to keep everyone shielded is to set communication guidelines. These rules set the protocol for how dialogue will flow and sets an expectation for using respectful language. Level Playing Field Though each contestant starts out as just that—one contestant in a pool of 30 gorgeous 20-somethings, they quickly start pecking away at each other to elevate their chances with the featured male suitor. As the group quickly moves into a storming stage, a facilitator would implement tools to mitigate conflict. A facilitator would keep the participants on a level playing field to ensure everyone was honoring the communication guidelines. A facilitator would gently advise anyone out-of-control to collect her thoughts and speak only after she felt she was ready to calmly express herself using “I” statements. Obviously, this would ruin the entertainment value that attracts its huge viewership. Empowerment Toward Solutions A facilitator values the group as a whole and helps the group members address and solve problems. Conversely, Chris Harrison’s job is merely to avoid the camera’s view when a girl has a meltdown. There’s not a lot of attention given to whether conflict is resolved so that the group can move forward on The Bachelor. It’s the opposite on the show, they want the group to shrink. Though elimination is the only way to reach to a single answer on the show, in a facilitation, the group goes through several exercises to arrive at the best answer based on all of the data available. Consensus reached!   It’s Hard Not to Watch Reality shows like this are un-scripted soap operas for prime-time viewership that can quickly lure even the most reluctant viewer. Chris Harrison is simply a master of ceremonies to let it all happen. He’s great at it, don’t get me wrong! He has patience, grace, and on a personal level will take extra steps for the participants. But it is only on the finale and tell-all episodes, when every jilted would-be spouse vents about her experience, does Chris act as more than an emcee. Then he acts as a very permissive moderator, like an irresponsible parent. The name-calling explodes and the language is harsh and provocative.   Thankfully, a group is typically not seeking a fan base, ratings, and advertisers for their facilitated meeting. It’s a safe environment where people are treated equally and are allowed to share their opinions and insights that help move the group forward toward their goal. If your next meeting needs a facilitator to help move the group along drama-free, Call Leslie Smith! Chris Harrison is NOT a facilitator! Leslie facilitates a variety of meetings for nonprofits and corporate clients including brainstorming sessions, vision and mission...

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The Belief Factor – Believe In Your Business or Else

Posted by on Feb 21, 2020 in business | 0 comments

The Belief Factor – Believe In Your Business or Else

Do you believe in your business? I ask this because I think it is the most important element determining your success. Do you believe in your business? Do you believe it will succeed? That it will supply a needed product or service to the marketplace? Do you believe it will support you financially (even if it won’t at first)? When you believe in your business If you think this is a silly question, that it’s obvious that every business owner must believe in his or her business, then you are lucky! Steer clear of business owners who hold expectations that others owe them. When you believe in your business, you will nurture it and guide it like it’s your child. You will pay attention to its growth and get some help when it isn’t meeting the prescribed milestones. Think about a successful business that you know. Likely the owner is passionate about its success and cares very much that it survives and thrives. This applies to founders of nonprofit organizations too—the business model is beside the point. The owner who believes does not hesitate to invest their time, effort, and money to give buoyancy to their business. These owners take responsibility for their success or failure. They figure out why something isn’t working—where’s the disconnect? The misconception? The opportunity?—then they fix it. They are clear, intentional, and deliberate. Believers ask for help from experts and then they listen and follow the advice with an objective detachment. Successful businesspeople are open for business, literally.   Believe you can and you’re halfway there.     – Theodore Roosevelt   When you don’t believe in your business I’ve encountered and even worked with people who flat out don’t believe in their businesses. I didn’t realize this fact when I agreed to work with or for them, but after 25 years as a consultant I can identify the very clear red flags. Their attitude is “never enough,” and they treat everyone like that. They say things like, “If only you would have/could have [fill in the blank].” They complain about customers, they complain about the vendors, they complain about their foiled efforts. One bad review and they explode with reasons that the criticism is not warranted! It’s self-centered and it comes across as rigid and closed off. It’s not attractive and the customers repel them instead of coming to them. They search for a magic spell to cast on their business and make it all better. They’ll call on experts but then refute every suggestion. “I tried that,” they say. “Try it again with a better attitude,” I say.   Venting vs. Brainstorming Are there times when you just need to vent? Of course! Opening the pressure valve does not mean you don’t believe in your business. We all have bad days, bad meetings, disappointing setbacks, and surprise crises. If your venting is more like Mount Vesuvius erupting and you don’t take time to analyze what went wrong, then you likely have a belief problem. Successful businesses do not stay mired in the negativity, they rebound. Successful businesspeople release pessimism like an exhale, then they brainstorm to find a solution. They take a lesson from the Prayer of Serenity wisely accepting what they cannot change and courageously changing what they can for a better...

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Creating the Perfect Business Name for Your Market

Posted by on Feb 6, 2020 in advertising, marketing, public relations | 0 comments

Creating the Perfect Business Name for Your Market

When speaking casually with business people about creating the perfect business name, more than once I have heard people say,  “Your name should say what you do.” To which I say, “Really? Let me go Comet my bathtub before I Kleenex my nose and Oreo my mouth.” Market the Name The job of marketing is to make your product name a household name. It’s not to take a household word and brand it as a product. When someone says, “No one knows what that product is,” that means it needs more advertising and public relations, it doesn’t mean the product is a failure or that you need to dumb down the name. Before you comment with your favorite generic brand, I acknowledge that those can work too as a gimmick of its own. Wine Warehouse, The Container Store, Goo Gone are all straightforward and to the point, but they do not represent the only successful brands. It’s just not necessary! When I counter with examples like Apple that does not sell any Granny Smiths or Galas, or Target that doesn’t specialize in dartboards, or In-N-Out that doesn’t sell revolving doors, Amazon, GoDaddy, TaylorMade, Mike, Samsung, and so on … the response is usually, “Well they have a huge marketing budget.” That may be true at this point in the game but not always. Like your business, they started with an idea. The idea might have taken shape in a garage like Apple Computers and Amazon, or being sold out of the back of a truck as did Nike. Here’s more on big businesses with meager beginnings. The Perfect Business Name There are many companies who specialize in naming. If you have the budget for that, go for it! It may be worth someone researching and testing names that help you become as profitable as you can. In summary, you can be creative as long as you are consistent (and not offensive) when using your name. Don’t be afraid to use your own name either. Ralph, Carl Jr., and Ashley will all welcome you to the club. 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. Visit her website today to see how she can help you....

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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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