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.


And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in marketing, public relations | 0 comments

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor

I am asked at least once a year whether to allow a sponsor send out their own press release about their involvement with a nonprofit. The answer is YES! And, just to safeguard yourself, include parameters about promotion in the sponsorship agreement. First, the reasons to allow your sponsor to promote their support of your organization are practical. Your sponsors might have considerable media cache that you don’t have. I have worked on projects that would have been quite vanilla if it were not for the sponsorship of notable entities like the L.A. Kings. Not only are Kings players a huge draw for news sources at the event, they have relationships to Fox Sports, as well as other sponsors who are eager to tag along. Through their connections, the story ran to a much broader audience. Keep in mind that the media will not be able to tell the sponsor’s story without telling the nonprofit’s story. The Kings, for instance, had to state who they were helping and why. Once the media has confirmed their interest and attendance, it’s your job to ensure that your logo is front and center for every possible camera angle. Also, make sure that you have a spokesperson or two who are well prepared and available to be interviewed. Which leads us to how you stay in the driver’s seat. Make sure they respect other sponsors. If this isn’t the title sponsor, they don’t get to drop the title sponsor’s name from the title to insinuate they are the title sponsor. You can’t allow a lesser contributor to leverage more value than they paid for through a carefully crafted press release. If you have a title sponsor, then every sponsor needs to use that correct title in their promotional efforts. To protect your sponsors and your organization, require that they submit their press release(s) to you prior to distributing them to the media. You also want to know where they are pitching their side of the story so they don’t scoop you. Perhaps you have a reporter lined up to do a human interest story on someone who benefits from your services, but your sponsor pitches an equally compelling story about their employee who volunteers with your organization and is terminally ill but is determined to be at the event. Both are worthy stories, but the risk is that the story will go on a tangent that overlooks your organization. It could slant either personally about the volunteer’s family and struggle with whatever disease is winning the race, or more about the sponsor’s commitment to volunteerism and what other organizations they are involved with. You need to control the story as much as possible and ask to be included in the interview whenever possible. It is completely appropriate for you to be present and chime in when the message goes sideways. Reporters are typically respectful of your requests. It’s your job to gently keep them on your story. I mentioned above that the sponsor can’t tell the story without the nonprofit, but you don’t want to end up a side dish instead of the main entrée. If you are delivering on the benefits you promised your sponsors, then these simple procedures should not be a problem. If you have a promotional question or challenge...

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Beware the Committee

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in marketing | 0 comments

Beware the Committee

A camel is a horse that was built by a committee. I love that adage! Often in the committee experience there are allowances made to try to meet everyone’s needs and opinions. Sometimes it’s great because it turns out you really did need a camel, and sometimes it isn’t, because you really needed a Kentucky Derby champion. Consensus might mean the group has found a happy medium and reflect a great deal of compromise, but consensus might not lead to an ideal result. There’s an episode of “Parks and Recreation” with Amy Poehler that demonstrates this perfectly. Each City department of Pawnee, Indiana was to develop an idea for a new mural to be painted in City Hall. The Parks Department, with Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope as the most enthusiastic cheerleader, ended up submitting a horrible hodgepodge collage of disparate viewpoints–as did every other department. Great teambuilding, but horrible mural ideas. Granted, distilling the message, pleasing everyone, and developing something that ideally works is not easy. Possible, yes, but not easy, especially when it comes to something creative like a mural or a logo. I recently noticed an ad for a local news show that added eyes, arms and legs to its logo to create a mascot. It’s awful. Why does a news broadcast need a mascot anyway? It reminded me immediately of the 1996 Olympic mascot. Named “Whatizit” and shortened to Izzy, was the Atlanta Summer Olympics mascot. Big eyes circled by two Olympic rings, with the remaining rings surrounding the tail of a bright blue, comma-shaped body, lightning bolts for eyebrows, and some really ugly sneakers. Dreadful! Well, most Olympic mascots are exactly like that. They are built to meet the disparate viewpoints of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and aim to appeal to EVERYBODY, but most of all the least choosey population worldwide: CHILDREN. I found a great article on the “creepy factor” that all Olympic mascots tend to possess. If you want to see more on that visit it here and have a good laugh. Something to consider when assigning a committee is at what point is the input of everyone detrimental to moving forward? Who is going to keep the group from running off the road for the sake of group approval? What decisions are you willing to allow a committee to fully resolve? Do you have members who are experts on the topic at hand? Here are a few tips: Keep the mission as the guide. We can create objectives that are inline with our mission but then take a huge right turn when strategies lead to tactics that have not been measured back to the mission. Example: MISSION: Build a modern home inside and out. OBJECTIVE: By December of 2016, build and furnish a modern home with a $2 million budget. STRATEGY: Spend more on the building than on the furniture that can be replaced later. TACTIC: Buy furniture secondhand and on sale. RESULT: You buy a houseful of Early American furniture dirt cheap from an estate sale, to meet your tactic, your strategy, and likely your objective. But go a step further up. Does Early American furniture meet the criteria of modern furnishings? No, it does not. FAIL!  Create a veto power. It’s always a good idea to build-in checks and balances...

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Networking is Not an Ask

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in 90s, marketing, Networking, public relations | 0 comments

Networking is Not an Ask

Networking. It was the hot term of the 90s and it remains a prime way to build your business. But these days, it seems that several new business groups that would be great for networking have become forced referral machines. You know the groups I’m talking about. The groups where there can only be one person in each profession on the roster. I’m not going to name any of them but there are a few that I know of that have been around for years and are thriving. Those are the ones that are truly a networking group and not a referral group. They function well as a group and business is shared naturally. The value of networking is that you meet people you like, you learn about what they do, you might even spend time with them outside of your organized networking meeting, but recognize that to truly network, you don’t have to go to a meeting. You can choose the people you want to know, in the fields that compliment your own business, and meet them for coffee or lunch or a glass of wine after work. There’s nothing that says the only way to build a great network of people is through a mass meeting. Those mass meetings are great for making an introduction to people who match your values and serve a mutual target audience and then it’s up to you to build a stronger connection with those people. You need to choose carefully by first getting to know the people before you ask them to refer you or commit to referring them. If there’s a match, then you will be able to refer each other business effortlessly and collaborate on a project when the opportunity arises. I am not suggesting that you neglect to talk shop. You definitely need to clearly communicate what work you do and what work you want, and express that you look forward to working with them at some point. You leave it open. Networking is not a series of closing meetings. Don’t add pressure or suggest a time frame by when you need a referral. Business, for the most part, does not work that way and a premature, high-pressured ask, comes across as greedy and presumptuous. Here’s a tip for choosing meetings. I have learned to evaluate meetings from a return on investment (ROI) perspective. If there is a luncheon for $35 or more, then there needs to be a speaker, and the speaker needs to be someone I want to hear. A luncheon does not allow a great deal of time for conversation. Rather, for $35 I can treat one member of that group to a nice lunch and get more out of a one-on-one conversation over a Chinese chicken salad than I can get to know nine other people at a table over a $35 plate of chewy chicken piccata. In stark contrast are referral groups that rely on forced agreements with people you might not even like, let alone want to endorse with a referral. I joined one of these a few years ago when a good friend of mine was spearheading a new group. I was looking at expanding my client docket and thought this might be a great way to do it. After a...

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Social Media Persona

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in branding, marketing, public relations, social media | 0 comments

Social Media Persona

As you are branding yourself through social media channels you have probably noticed that you are creating a persona for your brand. The words you use, the attitude you take, the kinds of things you retweet, favorite or like all help form your persona that is an extension of your brand. This can be a personal brand for you as an individual or it could be for your business of many people. It’s because social media is constant and quick that it is easy to create a persona almost immediately and fit into that role. Masters of Disguise When you are promoting more than one business because you are a n ambitious entrepreneur or because you are in the social media business promoting for others, you probably find yourself going in and out of roles like acting in a one-person play. You’re the perfect homemaker for one business, a fashionista for another, a caregiver for yet another, and then you let loose as the snarky person you are under another moniker that may or may not be your own. Image Matters Your image takes shape as you keep posting under that persona, but your literal image—the picture you use—matters. I think sometimes people forget that the photo says as much about their persona as their words. A member of the media who has a photo of herself wearing a slip dress with boudoir-red wallpaper in the background tells me not to take her seriously as a journalist. The image says romance, fashion, evening out, but her tweets are about local politics. It’s awkwardly incongruent. Choose an image that is consistent with the persona you are playing. Divide and Conquer We all have inner dichotomies that if we expressed fully it might seem as though we have multiple personalities. However, you might feel as though if you don’t express both, then you’ll explode. By all means, release the pressure! It’s easy by dividing those attitudes and creating another persona. Angels and Devils can both love your product after all. Imagine you have a mommy blog that is very successful with ads and product giveaways, and maybe even a book deal based on your posts—the whole kit and caboodle! Your reputation is based on being extremely gentle with new, nervous parents. However, you notice that there are some recurring really stupid questions (yes, there are stupid questions, I firmly believe that, but that’s another post for another day) to which your inner smart aleck has developed a long list of clever answers that are less than gentle. You could easily create another Twitter handle with the persona of a snarky mother-in-law who addresses these questions as if they came from her nervous Nellie of a daughter-in-law, also with links to your gentle blog. You don’t have to use your logo or your personal image. Use a photo of some cat-eye glasses or some other icon. She becomes your spokesperson even though the way she introduces the blog is much different than what you are ultimately creating. That persona follows different kinds of people than your gentle persona and therefore captures different followers and expands your market. Organically Grown Chances are you probably already do this to some degree, even as an individual there are things in your life that you make...

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The New Website is Up!

Posted by on Mar 4, 2015 in community relations, marketing, public relations, public relations consultant, website, website development | 1 comment

The New Website is Up!

  The new website is up! The New website is up! I must sound just like a giddy Steve Martin playing Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk excitedly announcing that “The new phonebooks are here! The new phonebooks are here!” Of course, I hope I don’t face results like Navin did by being in the phonebook for the first time. Just in case, I’ll stay away from the cans (you had to see the movie to appreciate this–sorry, if you haven’t; see it again, if you’ve forgotten). But I digress … With the new site, my blog is right here with it! WordPress is definitely a wonderful platform for blogs and websites. If you are contemplating creating or updating your website, or launching a blog, I highly recommend WordPress. So far it has been a dream to update, create tags and meta information for better SEO, and just look at it! It looks so great! I am so pleased and want to thank Omnibeat for their help with all things technical that confuse me, and Bonnie McCarthy for the fantastic images you see not he new site. Take a look around and give me your feedback. As a consultant, I do most things on my own, but from time to time I bring in extra professionals. In other words, I’m up for projects of any size and I hope my website clearly portrays that. I consult, I present, I facilitate, and I implement. With over 20 years of practice, I have a wealth of experience to draw on for every new assignment and new client. If you don’t see something offered that you are looking for, please inquire, and if it is outside of my area of expertise, I’d be happy to refer you. If you happen to represent another agency looking for a consultant to round out your team, I’d be willing to help. In fact, about one-third to one-half of my client list during any given year is as a subcontractor. I am most often brought in as a community relations specialist, but I have also been brought in to offer facilitation services or just to create a workshop that will galvanize efforts or address a skill or issue that has gone overlooked. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you on my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn...

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Message-Centric

Posted by on Feb 5, 2015 in assessment, channels, content development, earned media, marketing plan, message, message-centric, messaging, objectives, owned media, paid media, strategies | 0 comments

Message-Centric

Last week I mentioned that the message comes before the channels you choose to deliver that message. Here is a graphic that underscores that philosophy as McCormick L.A. puts it into action. The messaging, or content, accurately portrays and extends your brand—it’s essentially the sun of the marketing system. Rotating around the messaging are the basic strategies of a campaign include a combination of owned, paid and earned media. An appropriate balance of these channels will help you meet your objectives.  Sample Objectives Increase number of new clients by X in one year. Retaining 100% of existing clients by year’s end. The best marketing plans are Message-centric If you are not familiar with these categories, these definitions will help:   Owned Media •                Website •                Blog •                Email newsletter •                Collateral materials Earned Media •                SEO •                Online listings •                Social Media ◦                                  Facebook ◦                                  Google+ ◦                                  LinkedIn ◦                                  Twitter ◦                                  And more! •     News articles •     Reviews, editorials, and online contributions •     Guest blogging opportunities Paid Media •                Advertising—online, print, broadcast Content Development •                Core messages are developed to highlight how you relate best to your target audience. The messaging is the most important part of the entire campaign. Measure Success Equally important is the assessment. It is important to regularly monitor success so you know what is working and can adjust accordingly. The mechanism has to be decided ahead of time.    If you need help developing or implementing your marketing plan, I am just a phone call away. 562.989.4642 or email Leslie@McCormickLA.com   McCormick L.A. has been helping businesses and organizations in and around Long Beach with their public relations and marketing needs for over 20 years. ...

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Website Angst – What you don’t say, can hurt you

Posted by on Jan 29, 2015 in channels, digital marketing, Omnibeat, online, social media, under construction, website, website development | 0 comments

Website Angst – What you don’t say, can hurt you

I have finally turned over the files to my web developer for my new website. It’s taken me months—maybe it’s been a year. I’m not sure. What I do know is that I dragged my feet. It wasn’t that it was hard to get rid of the old one. It was dated and although better than the version before it, it was not helping me. In fact, I know that in one case it actually hurt me. I discovered this in a bizarre conversation I had with a potential client. We chatted about my previous experience with clients like the one she represented. She seemed to enjoy my telling her of my experiences, the challenges of previous clients and how I was able to help solve them. We talked about messaging, which I contend is the center of any good campaign. The channels you use to tell it are secondary although extremely important––print, broadcast, and online in its myriad forms.  Then the conversation was cut short when she told me she looked at my website and it didn’t say enough about social media so she didn’t think I was the right person. It was strange because she didn’t ask me about my experience with social media. That would have been a different conversation entirely. The next day I hung an “under construction” sign on my website. It’s still there now but will be coming down, I hope in the next four weeks. So why would I drag my feet? It seems that I would need a pretty urgent remedy. The reason is simple and one that makes me empathize with my clients. Simply put, it’s because I don’t want to get it wrong. I don’t want to leave out that nugget that resonates with potential clients and affirms what they believe they need. I don’t want to say too much so that it is verbose and boring. I want it to be straightforward but not pedantic. I want the right images that reflect the energy of my work. It takes time but now I’m ready. The layout, the copy, the images and colors are all brand spankin’ new and about to come together to create my new online presence. If you are in the same boat, I can help you too––with the patience or urgency that you need. I won’t do the coding (you should be glad), I will help you be strategic, distill your message to reach your target market and help you choose the look and attitude that will work for you. Then, we’ll take it to my friends and colleagues at Omnibeat to get it up and running. McCormick L.A. has been helping businesses and organizations in and around Long Beach with their public relations and marketing needs for over 20...

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What is Your Birth Order?

Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Birth order, book review, group development, Kevin Leman, team building, the birth order book | 0 comments

What is Your Birth Order?

The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are by Kevin Leman My rating: 5 of 5 stars What do you do with a new team that they haven’t already done? If you’ve exhausted the Myers-Briggs test and Birkman is a little more extensive than you need, then have the whole team read “The Birth Order Book.” It’s insightful and easy to read and will tell you more about a person and his/her natural roles than most other tests–and it’s easy to decipher. This book explains the likely successes and drawbacks of everyone you know simply based on the order they were born in the family. It might be more eye-opening than you want. You will see why you behave in certain situations and the role you have been groomed to play regardless of the setting or the level of the relationship. Every leader and manager will learn something when they read this book. View all my...

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Shop, Don’t Shop … Why So Much Shame?

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in American Express, Back Friday, cash, Downtown, Forbes, Goldman Sachs, have no shame, Long Beach, Pine Ave., Shop small, Shop Small Saturday, shopping, small business | 0 comments

‘Tis the season for shopping and however frivolous that activity is, lately it has attracted advocates on all sides and has drawn a lot of energy. The big question on the Internet is: should we shop on Thanksgiving just because some stores will be open? It makes no difference to me. I actually think it could save a few families. Debates about potatoes and gravy styles can escalate pretty quickly to deeper issues. If someone can get out of the house and take their frustrations out at Walmart, I think that’s just dandy! Avoidance might not be a recommended therapy, however, Thanksgiving is not the day to deal with every old hurt you can muster. The shopping festivities continue on Friday with the traditional Black Friday sales, which now last weeks and even the whole month. Even so, I have friends who live for door-buster deals and it is as much a part of their family traditions as marshmallows on their sweet potatoes.  This Saturday is American Express’ Shop Small Day! I laugh—no, I guffaw––that American Express is the big beast behind Shopping Small. Think about that. American Express is anything but small and whether they are promoting you to use your AmEx on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or Shop Small Saturday, they still benefit with their merchant fees, annual membership fees, and any interest on balances not paid. Yes, American Express offers $10 back on $10 purchases up to three times on Shop Small Saturday at participating merchants. I wonder how many new cards they issue for this event with an annual fee of $55. It’s easy to recognize it’s worth their while, as they are still $25 ahead just in the membership fee. I think that if you are vowing to Shop Small, then do the merchant a real favor and use cash. This Shop Small movement is one more way the pendulum has swung. I remember the debates here in Long Beach in the 1990s when Downtown was being redeveloped. The outcry was for flagship merchants that would transform Pine Ave. into a destination shopping row. Specifically, they wanted a Nordstrom. Well, we got a Nordstrom Rack and a Walmart—demographics matter and a “build it and they will come” mentality did not win out. The developer did get a Z Gallerie and a Pottery Barn Outlet, but where are those now? If today’s trend is boutique, that’s great, but don’t argue that big retailers contribute less to the community’s bottom line than small businesses. I’m certain you can come up with an argument with an example of a small business that you love. Let’s be clear, I’m not speaking of ALL SMALL BUSINESSES; I’m talking about RETAILERS. A job at Target is as valuable as a job at Bonnie’s Boutique—they both are going to pay minimum wage or close to it. The difference is that the employee of a large retailer likely receives a discount––a non-taxable benefit that can really aid an employee’s buying power.   There’s an array of articles online––many from business magazines––that say that small business is where it’s at. Even Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program wants to help small businesses get a leg-up for growth. They focus on existing small businesses, not start-ups, and the key words are for growth. The truth is...

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More Than One Way to …

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Long Beach, marketing, McCormick L.A., new uses, public relations, public relations consultant, Q-tips, tip jar | 0 comments

More Than One Way to …

… Increase Your Bottom Line You’ve seen it done before: cereal as a snack food, baking soda as an air freshener, and so on. Products get marketed for other uses. It’s a great way to go! You increase your sales, your reach, expand your target market, everybody wins! I saw this packaging at Target one day and was impressed with the length that Q-tips would take to show men it’s okay if they want to buy a box. I’m certain these cotton swabs were used in car detailing long before the swabs created this packaging. That is often key in marketing your product for a new use—the users blaze the trail. How do you know whether people are using your product in some new way? Well, you have to ask them and then you have to listen to them. You have to really listen and see if what they’re saying is viable and if there is a large enough market for it to warrant unique packaging and other promotional attention. On Q-tips website, they have a tab called TIP JAR where they share tips for using their product in all areas of your life including using them with your pets. FYI, the automotive tips are under the HOME category. Incidentally, I did not see these specially packaged Q-tips in the auto care section of the store, they were solely in health and beauty. I suspect that’s an inventory issue that would require a separate stock-keeping unit, but that’s a whole other story. However, Q-tips also has baby packaging that is displayed in the infant care department. This repackaging idea is also a viable route if you offer a service. Ask people why they called you, hired you, keep you, refer you. You might be surprised at what they are getting out of your services. For instance, maybe what you offer people is tax prep service, but the packet you give to your new clients helps them learn bookkeeping so well, that they refer you to all of their entrepreneurial colleagues. You could capitalize on your ability to teach start-ups how to create a proper chart of accounts and stay on track to meet their financial goals and obligations. It’s worth a shot! Be open to new uses and opportunities. Just like these cotton swabs, it’s a good tip. McCormick L.A. has been helping businesses and organizations in and around Long Beach with their public relations and marketing needs for 20...

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