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.


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 ti 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...

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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.  ...

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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...

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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...

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Terms of Service: Swag

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

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...

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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...

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Reset Your Vertical Clearance

Posted by on Jun 1, 2020 in business, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Reset Your Vertical Clearance

As we re-set and recalibrate, watch your vertical clearance. I’m all for a full plate—literally and metaphorically. The problem for many of us is that once the plate is full, we start loading it up vertically. As it gets taller and taller, it is harder to manage, like a tower of ice cream scoops on a cone, and as filling and rich as a tall stack of pancakes. Trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 gave us a forced intermission in our lives. Even if your job continued as you worked at home, and even if you were painfully reminded why you never wanted to home-school, your social calendar was lighter. For some of us, this has been a complete timeout. Business stopped. Volunteer engagements halted. Social activity banished to virtual sessions. People post regularly on social media their wishes for a re-set on 2020. As much as there has been disappointment in my household—one child home from her semester abroad in Grenoble, France, one child’s senior year obliterated—I think THIS is the re-set. This is what a re-set looks like.   We are forced to look at things differently. We are faced with deciding what matters most. As my 88-year-old mother shared, “Six feet apart is better than six feet under.” Grim but true. We’ve slowed down. We’ve re-evaluated. That’s a good thing. I would hope that all of us consider making changes as the world opens up again. For those of us in cities experiencing social unrest, newness will rise up like a phoenix and it could be painful. It’s a different place and our perspective has been altered radically and unexpectedly.   Mind your vertical clearance Above all, don’t go back to an irrationally stacked plate. Don’t return to dizzying multi-tasking that seemed normal. I say this to myself as much as I say this to anyone. I once blew a contact off my finger with my blow-dryer because I was unconsciously multi-tasking on overdrive. There was no rational thinking in that moment, no presence of mind. Wow! I was desperately over-scheduled.   The remedy is a calendar diet Instill some portion control strategies so you don’t consume too much of what you don’t need like gorging on empty calories. Say no to things you really don’t want to commit to doing. Damn ‘duty’ and ‘shoulds’! Get on the phone or a video-chat instead of traveling so much. Highways and airports are stressful and we really don’t need more stress. We need balance. Yes, we’ve been striving for balance for years, possibly all of our lives. It seems elusive, but it is not impossible to accomplish. Take advantage of this time when your plate has been scraped to make very intentional decisions about what goes back on the plate and mind the vertical clearance. You can always get a clean plate and return to the buffet. 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...

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Terms of Service: Reach

Posted by on May 26, 2020 in Terms of Service, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Terms of Service: Reach

  The term REACH refers to the number of people who possibly saw your story, placed ad, or social media post. There’s a bit of extrapolation here to come up with the number and it is based on potential so the number can seem quite large.   An ad in a publication’s reach is based on the circulation number. That can include subscribers as well as all copies that are sold in retail outlets. Reach can be larger than the circulation considering people share magazines and other periodicals. Outdoor advertising is based on the traffic that drives by that particular billboard and for broadcast advertising it is obviously based on viewership.   When it comes to social media, the reach can be enormous. For instance, your first circle of available viewers are your likes and followers. For every share, you add the likes and followers of those people. There could be multiple layers of sharing until it seems everyone is familiar with the story. At that point we say it is VIRAL.   As you calculate the reach of your website … … you want to examine the number of visitors. In the early days of the Internet people went by “hits.” This was misleading because clicking on photos registered as hits and photos did not all have the same number of hits.   Back in the 80s when I was in college we learned the concept of reach communicated as “AVAILS,” meaning the number of people available to see it. In terms of advertising like a commercial, you want the viewer to see it more than once to make a lasting impression. Not surprisingly, this is called IMPRESSIONS. I learned the magic number of impressions is between five and nine times. In an advertising media plan, you gauge your ad purchases by the number of people seeing the ad or watching shows that meet your demographic profile. Primetime shows having the highest viewership have the most expensive ads. With the current wide variety of viewing options an advertiser has myriad ways of reaching its intended audience. Keep in mind, you need to reach your target market or the numbers won’t matter. Consider that almost everyone in the United States watches the Super Bowl and you can easily understand how that saturation drives up the price of the advertising. Its reach is, well, super! 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 be here.   ...

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Let’s Be Objective When We Increase Awareness

Posted by on May 11, 2020 in marketing, public relations | 0 comments

Let’s Be Objective When We Increase Awareness

If you think all you have to state as a marketing objective is to increase awareness, guess again! Back in the 1990s there was a sweet white-haired woman with cat-eye glasses and floral dresses who attended the weekly Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce networking meetings. Her introduction from the front table was, “I’m Marjorie Simms with the Stricklin Snively Mortuary, and it’s better to know us and not need us than to need us and not know us.” It was the perfect anecdote to kick-off a Wednesday morning. It speaks perfectly to the desire to increase awareness, however it’s not all there is to the story. Yes, everybody wants their business or nonprofit to be a household name, but do you really need that to be successful? When I ask a client or student why they want to promote their business and its mission, they often say, “To increase awareness,” or “We want people to know about us.” “Why?” I ask. “Why do people need to know about you?” Not surprising, I am often met with a stunned look that says, “Duh! That’s why we called you!” I need the client to delve deeper. As much as you want to believe that everybody ought to know about you, not everyone needs you the same way everyone will need a mortuary one day. “WHY do you want people to know about you?” I persist.   The answers are usually something along the lines of one of the following: So when they need our services they know who to call. If they know someone who needs us, they can share the information. Because we are constantly looking for more volunteers. When we launch our capital campaign people are familiar with what we do. Because we are celebrating a big milestone and we want the public to know that we’ve made a difference in the community. Because we know more about our topic than anyone else and we are rarely quoted. Aha! Now we are getting somewhere! These answers point to the real objectives, the meat of what they are after. They want more customers, some of them from referrals, more volunteers, more money, to be positioned as a respected contributor to the community, and as a thought leader. With this information we can create some measurable objectives, strategies and tactics that will increase awareness while addressing many other quantitative results that help the business or nonprofit thrive. I would turn their comments into the following objectives with the variables to be developed by them: Increase number of clients enrolled in our ABC program by X% by the end of fiscal year Y. Increase the number of referrals to our ABC program by X% by the end of fiscal year Y. Grow our volunteer program by X# of volunteers by the end of Y calendar year. Raise $X in our capital campaign by fiscal year end Y. Celebrate our centennial anniversary as a centerpiece for increased promotion in all areas of the organization.* Position the organization as a leading authority on XYZ topic/issue/treatment. *I would argue that 5 and 6 are more likely Strategies or Goals and the Objectives that support them will dictate the metrics via clients, funding/sales, reach, and other successes that will be a natural byproduct of “increased...

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Once Every Pandemic – Reviewing Your Editorial Calendar

Posted by on Apr 22, 2020 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Once Every Pandemic – Reviewing Your Editorial Calendar

If you’re like me, when COVID-19 first hit pandemic proportions and we were instructed to stay home and stay away, I started receiving emails from businesses whose cookies I had removed from my computer last century. Some of whom I had the vaguest memory of ordering a gift or some essential replacement part for a gizmo that has since made its way to the aisles of Goodwill. Who are these companies? Like ghosts of Christmas gift purchases past here they are telling me how much I mean to them and pledging their dedication to me to keep me safe during this time. Where have you been? If your editorial calendar indicates sending out a mass email only when pandemics hit, then fire your digital marketing officer, and your PR director too. What have they been doing all this time? Yeah, yeah, the corporate letter is important at these times, I know, but not to people with whom you have basically kicked to the curb. To you companies I patronized once in my life, you’ve essentially broken up with me by letting our relationship wither and die after just one date. You haven’t called, you never write, and now you want me to know how much you’ve been thinking about me? Ha! Call me Gloria Gaynor when I say, “I should have changed that stupid lock, I should have made you leave your key, if I’d known for just one second you’d be back to bother me.” (Yes, I did need to sing that aloud to get the words right.)   Take heed of these simple tips to avoid so much social distancing in your editorial calendar: Remove people from your list who aren’t clicking or opening your emails. This is a simple fix. They just aren’t that into you. They found you once and know how to find you again if they ever need you. If you are interested in taking the relationship to the next level, then do it right. Create a drip campaign that gives them value-added information, it doesn’t just sell, sell, sell. A monthly email might be all you need and use it to focus on your customers and their experiences. If they opt out, let them and don’t be a stalker about getting them back. If you want to subtly keep in touch with them, then occasionally drop them a line with a holiday greeting. Include an incentive for coming back. If they don’t open that, then stop before they shelve you like spam. Vary your communication style. Emails are great but if they also are able to Like you in their Facebook feeds or re-Pin your photos to their Pinterest boards, they will value you as a reliable friend who they bump into often. Be of service. Use your communication channels to share what you are doing in the community and for your customers. Letting them know you care all the time will naturally lead-up to your pandemic newsletter. It is as a congruent part of your editorial calendar. Don’t be conspicuously absent. On the other side, there have been some companies I frequent often—online and in real life—who haven’t published a peep. They had been sending at least a monthly email, plus special alerts. I’ve heard they’re open even though I haven’t...

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