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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.


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, unless, your website is horribly dated and embarrassing. 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 goals 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 to have the best chance to be found. 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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Flag Collection & Retirement Friday, July 1

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Flag Collection & Retirement Friday, July 1

Sponsored by my favorite loan officer, Dennis C. Smith, who happens to be my husband, this Friday marks the sixth time he is coordinating a flag collection and formal flag retirement ceremony as party of Long Beach Bixby Knolls’s First Friday festivities. Remember, you aren’t supposed to just toss out an old or tattered flag into the trash. You might have learned that long ago in social studies (or if you’re more mature “civics class”). You are supposed to dispose of Old Glory properly which is by flame for a cloth flag, or by burial for a synthetic flag. So if you are a conscientious patriot who always waves a flag in front of your house and doesn’t just discard of them carelessly, then donate your old American flag(s) at the flag collection area in the parking lot at Georgie’s Place restaurant on Atlantic Ave. at Roosevelt (3850 Atlantic Ave.) between 6:30 and 8:30 pm. (While you are there, pop-in to Georgie’s for some amazing chili cheese fries or my favorite, their Greek Chicken salad–it’s so American!) At 7:30, Boy Scout Troop 29 will demonstrate the proper disposal of a natural fiber flag in flame. It’s a ceremony you won’t want to miss! The young men explain what they are doing and why and honor the flag by speaking of its meaning. Other flags collected that night will be donated to the Boy Scouts to use in similar ceremonies. Nylon or other synthetic flags are buried and not burned due to the noxious fumes that synthetic fibers emit. All those who stop by can enter a free drawing hosted by Smith for two flags—one for an adult, and one for a child. The drawing will be held immediately following the flag retirement ceremony. You can bring your old flag starting at 6:30 p.m. As I mentioned, husband Dennis is a mortgage broker with Stratis Financial Corporation. For more information visit http://www.DennisCSmith.com or https://www.facebook.com/LBflagcollectionretirement...

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Best Practices for Conference Call Success

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 in marketing, public relations | 0 comments

Best Practices for Conference Call Success

I’m pretty sure I can hear eye rolls on conference calls. The truth is that when we aren’t meeting in person, we get casual and maybe a little unprofessional. There’s usually at least one person who you know has muted the call so they can work on other things. You know this when suddenly he’s asked a question, it takes a minute for him to turn off mute, and then he has no idea what the group was talking about. Be present and respectful to your colleagues. Speaking of respecting your colleagues, don’t schedule a conference call for what could be an email. Wasting people’s time will not win you any favor. Have an agenda sent out prior to the meeting so people are clear about the point of the call. Treat conference calls as seriously and professionally as you would a face-to-face meeting. Above all, be gracious, regardless of your position in the company. Don’t use a conference call, or any meeting, to blindside someone. If you think the data they have submitted is incorrect or incomplete, communicate that with them before the meeting. Don’t use a meeting—in-person or call—to embarrass a peer, or even worse, a subordinate. Here are 10 tips—some obvious and some apparently more challenging: Don’t eat on the phone unless it is a lunch meeting and this has been established before the meeting. Don’t have music playing in the background. Don’t mute unless you have to be in a car or a busy location (airport, restaurant, etc.). Be prepared. Have an agenda and stick to it. Start and end on time. Ask to extend the meeting if it’s necessary to go longer. Identify yourself before you speak. If you have to leave the call early, inform the group. Be kind. McCormick L.A. has been helping organizations and individuals meet their public relations and branding goals for more than 20...

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Tradition

Posted by on Nov 26, 2015 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Tradition

Here’s some Thanksgiving tradition––a short story to make us all thankful for what we have.  ~LS “Do you think we passed it? It’s just a tiny street?” Sherrie asked, her chestnut hair swinging forward brushing her shoulders as she peered through the windows of the minivan from the passenger seat. “Street is an exaggeration. It’s a dirt road,” her husband Joel replied. “No, we haven’t passed it. It’s up here another few miles or so.” His plaid sleeves were rolled up, his burgundy sweater vest crumpled around his seatbelt. “Are you sure? I think we passed it,” Sherrie adjusted her reading glasses and looked around again, small orange and brown turkeys jingled from her earrings. “I’m sure. We haven’t even passed the restaurant yet,” Joel reassured and flicked his big, brown eyes at her, running his fingers through his short, red hair. There was one restaurant within 10 miles of Aunt Carol’s house. They didn’t visit her often, but every time they made the drive the restaurant had changed hands and had a new name. It had been everything from “The Buttercup Diner” to the “Goulash Hut.” “Why do we have to go to Aunt Carol’s for Thanksgiving?” Greg asked from the backseat. “She’s your great aunt, she’s my aunt. We’re going there because my mother died and we always had Thanksgiving with her. Carol wants to carry on the tradition and keep things the same,” Sherrie explained to her eldest son. He had just turned 15 and with his birthday came abhorrence for everything related to family. “Yeah, but Grandma Phyllis was a good cook. Great Aunt Carol always makes weird stuff that Grandma conveniently forgot in the warmer,” Greg pointed out. His dad smiled at him from the rearview mirror. “You caught onto that, huh?” his mom said with a guilty grin. “Well, it’s still nice of her to do this for us and keep things the same.” “It’s not the same! Bobby and Dotty aren’t going,” twelve-year-old Steven said about his cousins. “Don’t forget that Aunt Carol cooks like shit,” Greg reiterated. “Watch your language! She definitely finds the kitchen a challenge, but it’s hard to really botch a turkey. You just have to baste it and keep an eye on it. If it’s dry, you just add extra gravy. It’s fail-safe, really. I just hope she makes stuffing and not dressing that’s cooked separately. I like it in the turkey,” he smacked his lips and patted his slight gut. “I know your cousins aren’t going to be there. They have to go to their dad’s side of the family this year. It wasn’t Aunt Vicki’s choice. She wanted to be with us,” Sherrie explained. Joel chuckled, “You sure about that? I think she got lucky here.” “Shh,” Sherrie advised. “Here it is, the restaurant’s coming up,” Joel saw the sign in the distance on the right side. A large yellow sign with red neon read, Nell’s Fried Chicken, but some of the letters were burned out so it said, NELL’S FRIED ICK. “Ha! Fried Ick—I think it’s an omen!” Greg said, “There’s a banner in the front,” he said craning his neck as they passed by, “It says, OPEN ON THANKSGIVING. Do people eat out at fried chicken places on Thanksgiving? That seems weird.” “Hmm,...

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