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: 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...

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

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...

read more

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.   ...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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....

read more

Share This