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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.


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 | 0 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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“Death By Meeting” – Book Review

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick Lencioni My rating: 4 of 5 stars I rounded out my vacation by reading a Lencioni parable by the pool, because that’s the kind of geek that I am! If you are in an environment where the first response to every issue is, “We need a meeting,” then this is the book for you! It demonstrates a great way to interpret the needs of a business and its employees by structuring appropriate meetings for each topic and function. Lencioni, as always, presented the material in a fun, analogous way to make it resonate with small and large business structures. As he points out, meetings can become monotonous and a huge waste of time. People would rather do anything than go to a meeting, when it really should be like playtime for executives. Matching structure to context, Lencioni devises ways for any business to change meetings from drudgery to enjoyable, productive time spent with your colleagues. This is not a book about training, or executing conferences or workshops. If you are looking for ways to keep people engaged in learning, then another choice would be better. If you find yourself scheduling meetings all day and qualify that time as different than hours when you “get real work done,” then you definitely need this book. Here’s a tip if you are not in charge of meetings and will upset the status quo if you speak out of turn about the meeting drain at your company: suggest everyone read it as a book club subject. In one fell swoop, you might just get everyone on board to restructure meetings so that they are the real work. View all my...

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The Public Eye is Opening Wider

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in marketing, social media | 0 comments

The Public Eye is Opening Wider

Wear You’ve Been® hangtags more helpful than ever These days we are increasingly working in silos as we rely on technology to make our jobs easier and our world smaller. According to the 2010 Census, the number of people who work from home increased by 35%, or four million people, since 1997. It would seem that as more people work from the privacy of home offices, and work hundreds of miles away from their colleagues that it would matter less and less what we wore “to the office.” For some, that might be true, but when a teleconference can take place on Skype or a Google Hangout with just a few taps on a keyboard, your appearance—at least from the waist up––takes on a new importance. Do you have monthly meetings with a group of colleagues? Online or face-to-face, you might not want to give the impression your wardrobe is a series of uniforms. In addition to being visibly accessible through your computer, it seems that someone is always snapping a photo and posting it somewhere. You might want to keep track and Wear You’ve Been® tags make it really easy. Of course, you might want to create an iconic look for yourself like Steve Jobs, but chances are you want a little more variety than that. I created Wear You’ve Been® hanger tags in 2009 to help women to keep track of their great outfits so they aren’t repeating their fantastic ensembles with the same groups of people. You don’t want to overhear your peers (or critics) say, “She just wore that to Sherri’s daughter’s wedding,” as you are accepting the Woman of the Year award. By keeping track of what you wore, you can actually maximize your wardrobe. You will realize that you haven’t worn something in a really long time, or you’ve worn something too many times to wear again. By keeping notes on how you accessorized an outfit, you’ll realize that you can transform an outfit by adding a statement necklace or a great scarf. I put the tags on sale last year some time and just kept them at that discounted price point. You can buy them in a pretty gift box ready to give in a 50 or 12-count or buy just the cards for a slightly better value. Visit the site here and stock-up!  ...

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Ready. Set. Vacation!

Posted by on Jun 18, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Ready. Set. Vacation!

Are you ready for a break? I mean a real break. A vacation away from home. I have to say that I am more than ready. It’s been a year since we took a family vacation which is unusual for us. We almost always take a week away during our children’s school breaks—both winter and spring breaks. My husband and I took a long weekend last August and it feels like it was eons ago. The nonstop juggling of family, work, and other obligations takes a toll on my physical and creative energy. I sort of feel like a computer with too many programs running; I need to unplug and re-boot. The family and I are headed to one of our favorite resorts in Scottsdale, AZ next week. Temperatures are already soaring over 100 degrees there, but it really won’t matter. Pool time is typically offset with miniature golf, seeing some movies, dining in our favorite restaurants, a Diamondbacks game, a little sightseeing, board and card games, and completing at least one jigsaw puzzle. I can’t wait! I expect to come back refreshed, reinvigorated, and motivated for all of life’s obligations. Here are some health benefits of vacation from a website Standard Life: Five reasons to go on vacation Relieve stress
 The very first benefit of leaving everything behind and relieving your brain of all your worries is reduced stress.

Several studies have shown a direct link between stress and health conditions such as headaches, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other types of infections acquired as a result of a weaker immune system. It has also been scientifically established that taking vacations reduces the incidence of burnout.

Relief from stress often gives us a new perspective on life, allows us to regain energy and often to find simple and sometimes obvious solutions to problems that had previously seemed impossible to solve. Improve your mental skills
 Some studies have found a positive relationship between vacations and intellectual function. A well-rested mind that is free of worry is often more effective. Improve your physical health
 Besides getting you away from daily stressors, a vacation often gives you the opportunity to catch up on sleep and exercise, two simple remedies for many aches and pains. Strengthen family ties
Too often, in our fast-paced daily routine, family relationships suffer. A vacation is a great opportunity to discover each other in a different setting and to build lasting memories. Enjoy life
 Taking time off can be a great opportunity to meet new people, laugh and do the things that you most enjoy! Source: https://www.standardlife.ca/wellness/en/lifestyle/vacation.html Have you booked your trip yet? What are you waiting...

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New Business Success – Three Tactics for Every New Business

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015 in branding, marketing, public relations | 0 comments

New Business Success – Three Tactics for Every New Business

  Have you recently started your own business? Whether you are transitioning from employee to owner or breaking away from a partnership, these three fundamentals of promotion will aid your business development swiftly. 1. Website You cannot be taken seriously these days without a website. Make sure all the tabs work and that the site is accessible on all platforms: desktop computers, tablets, and smart phones. As well, make sure it works with all browsers. No one wants to be told that their chosen browser is insufficient for your website. Being accessible means that you accommodate your clients, not the other way around. 2. Letter Write a letter with your announcement to everyone you know. You can snail mail it or email it. You might have two lists to accommodate anyone who does not check their email very often. Write to your family, your friends, colleagues, past clients if any, potential clients who you know, and potential referral sources. It’s important to explain your area of expertise and how the reader can help you build a successful business. 3. Press Release Distribute a press release to all relevant media for several angles. Send it to sections of newspapers that announce new businesses or career advancements. Don’t forget your alumni magazine! If you are selling a new product, then pitch your story to business sections and trade journals in your field. Even if you are not blessed with a feature story from the initial release, you have established a presence and even an authoritative voice on your subject with reporters. These three tactics are only the beginning and should not be done without first creating a business plan, a marketing plan, and deciding your key branding messages. However, these are easy steps to proclaim yourself open for business–virtually and literally–and establish a support system in the marketplace. Your prospects will have no choice but to respond. If you need help with any of these, please contact me for help. Leslie@McCormickLA.com...

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