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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.


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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Creating Brand Ambassadors

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in branding, marketing, public relations, social media | 2 comments

Creating Brand Ambassadors

On my recent vacation to tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, I learned some surprising things about the business of distilling liquor that started with the regulations that determine legitimate bourbon from whiskey and ended with the steps that made me a brand ambassador. I was posting on Facebook constantly throughout our trip and when I did so, Facebook’s location capability would find the distillery on the map and suggest I like that fan page. Turns out, these places, Buffalo Trace in particular, have some really great Facebook feeds featuring some mouth-watering photos of their bourbon recipes that include many desserts. I LIKE the photos, I SHARE the posts and have inadvertently become a brand ambassador. Added to my digital promotion, I bought plenty of merchandise from the distilleries and other Kentucky and Tennessee hotspots. One tradition of ours is to buy a Christmas ornament every place we go on vacation. And you thought a bourbon Christmas ornament was just a fantasy! Fear not … or be fearful, they exist! Beyond the realm of being a Facebook Fan, there are other added incentives for the true bourbon aficionado, including having your name on a barrel that’s still aging at Maker’s Mark. My husband signed up to be a Maker’s Mark ambassador a few years ago. They send him a cute little gift every Christmas like a knitted cap for his bottle. It’s just cute, silly stuff that says, “We appreciate you!” If you are in charge of your business’s promotional efforts, including the social media, then you know that it is not always easy to entice people to LIKE and SHARE posts. Here are a few tips that Kentucky distillers taught me about recruiting brand ambassadors. They successfully recruited me and I barely realized what was happening. 1. You need an online presence. There’s no staying in the shadows these days and hoping to keep a viable following and loyal stream of customers. People use their smartphones more and more and if you can’t be found, that’s a problem. Make sure the information online is correct. If you have moved locations, make sure you change that on all platforms—Foursquare, Yelp, Google, etc. 2. When people do visit your business, make sure they have a great experience, even if they don’t buy anything. There were tours and tastings that were better than others, but all of the staff were hospitable and friendly. (It actually might be because they sniff the fumes all day, ahem.) 3. Use passive methods to keep your potential customers happy. I’m not really a bourbon drinker. My primary alcohol choices are beer, wine and vodka. But here I am sharing bourbon recipes alongside my wine-drinking-women cartoons. Call it crazy, but I’m doing it because it doesn’t take much time and I know several of my friends like bourbon—and desserts! These are also great ideas if I ever want to surprise my husband with something reminiscent of our trip. Like the biscuit pudding with bourbon sauce at Kurtz Restaurant in Bardstown, KY. (The dinner wasn’t that great, but that dessert should not have been allowed on Sunday when liquor sales are prohibited. So good!) 4. Give your ambassadors things they want. Who doesn’t like a recipe for a fantastic dessert? I recognize that not everyone wants a scarf...

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Reap What You Sow, and So and So …

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015 in marketing, public relations, social media | 0 comments

Reap What You Sow, and So and So …

This is a picture of the side of my house. The most neglected side of our property, for sure. That thing growing maniacally is a tomato plant. One that we did not plant. Upon spotting this unusual growth and learning that we really need to pay more attention to this side of the house, I realized a few other things that can be applied to business and life in general. Intention and Results First, it struck me as funny that my daughter had planted tomatoes from seeds in tiny cups in a window this spring. Once they sprouted and seemed like they could endure the great outdoors, she planted them in our garden on the other side of the house. It wasn’t long—maybe a week—before the birds or other critters had snatched away the sprouts leaving nothing behind. That the intention was to grow tomatoes and there are tomatoes growing on our property is what we wanted. That the tomatoes grew by means wholly unknown to us, is startling. Things like this happen all the time and it’s okay. Life just doesn’t always follow the path we expect or that we are trying to pave for the result. The key is to keep your eye on the result and not worry about who gets the credit or how the route changed. We have tomatoes and that’s what matters, right? Persistence We don’t know how long this rogue tomato plant had been trying to grow over there but it succeeded. The seeds that my daughter planted and nurtured inside for a few weeks were decimated quickly with no sign that anything was ever planted there before. Where did the seeds for this plant come from? Did they blow down the corridor between the house and the block fence? Did some mysterious gardener plant them as a gift? And does it matter? I don’t think it does, but it is mysterious. Conditions That this tomato plant did so well is certainly amazing considering there is no water source over there, the soil is little more than silt, and hardly any sun shines over there until the late afternoon, and then it is blazing. Evidently, the critters have yet to venture over there—at least critters who would be interested in tomato plants. Somehow the ideal conditions naturally converged and tomatoes emerged. Neglect or Freedom? That we had no idea this plant was growing on the side of the house can be looked at positively or negatively. We could say that when things are neglected or ignored they become out of control and go wild! We could also look at the other side of the coin and consider that things or people left to their own devices, can thrive and exceed expectations, if there even were any expectations. We reap what we sow, but this harvest is so far away from the plan, that it’s just a happy coincidence. One we...

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Insights of Your Success – How Do You Measure Up?

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 in marketing, public relations, social media | 0 comments

Insights of Your Success – How Do You Measure Up?

How do you know whether your promotional efforts are working? Of course, the answer is that you have to measure your success somehow. You have to ask your customers and potential customers. Most importantly, you have to be proactive and put those measurement techniques in place when you start. I asked my friend and colleague Laura Keene of Keene Insights a few questions to share with you. Laura is a self-proclaimed data geek, and an expert researcher–she’s definitely the right person to answer these questions and help your company or organization investigate your successes, not just in promotion. Just to make it simple to follow along, I’ve labeled my questions McLA and her answers KI, and the answers are in blue. McLA: One objective that almost all of my clients state is “to increase awareness.” I urge them to be more specific and develop an outcome that is easier measured (e.g. increase sales, donations, requests for a consultation). But some insist that this is all they want. How would you suggest a local nonprofit or entrepreneur measure this kind of nebulous objective? KI: Well, first and foremost, I have to say that I agree, it’s a good idea to take it a step further. Once a person knows more about the company or the cause, what do you want them to do with that information? That outcome may be more important and a better measure of success. That said, ‘increased awareness’ can be a first step toward action and may be helpful to measure. Assuming there is a web-based component to the work, some decent proxies (estimates) for awareness that can be easy to collect are: Website traffic (number of visits, time spent on the website, number of pages visited) Social media engagement (number of followers, number of shares, number reached) Blog subscriptions and visits Downloads of materials Mentions of the company/cause across platforms/websites (paper newsletter subscriptions) You can track these using built-in analytic features and see if they are increasing. Just be wary of focusing too much on ‘how do we get people to come to the website/facebook/twitter/other.’ Remember, these are just proxies or estimates for what you’re really looking to change, which is awareness. You may also want to consider asking people whether they’re aware of the company/cause directly. This requires getting access to a decent number of current and potential clients/supporters. You can partner with another organization that has access to this population and do an email survey. Or, you can find a place where many of them might be (e.g., an event, a store) and do the survey in person. Questions to ask might include: How familiar are you with [product/service/field/topic area]? When you think of [product/service/field/topic area], what organizations come to mind? Have you heard of [company/cause]? How familiar are you with [company/cause]? What words would you use to describe [company/cause]? McLA: Right now, I am working with more than a few clients who are new to business and are holding open houses and other business launch gatherings. Promotion for each event includes press releases, social media announcements, and written invitations. We definitely want to know which mechanism is working best so we can capitalize on that success. Do you have any tips to collect that information? KI: If there’s a registration form for the...

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