Focus

Perfect vision is 20/20, right? Although no one would characterize this year as being perfect, there have been some bright spots including, for many of us, time to focus.  Any successful business coach will tell you to be really good at one thing and promote that as much as possible. Zero-in on that one thing and sell it, they’ll say. As a PR consultant I’ll tell you to distill the message until it can be communicated in a simple phrase. Sometimes that simple phrase is an umbrella statement for a common denominator that runs through everything you offer. An effective phrase ties it all together with a neatly tied bow. The focus then becomes a whole bouquet of flowers instead of a grower’s bunch.  Do people know how to refer you? Whether you offer a wide variety of services (a huge floral arrangement) or a singular skill (everything’s coming up roses), they won’t be able to effectively refer you if you are not extremely clear in your promotional effortsand in what you deliver. It’s okay to offer many items if there a clear through line. You’ve likely heard of the practice of identifying your perfect client so your network knows who to refer to you. This is a good exercise to help you attract who you want on your docket. Before you can do this, decide what you’re offering. What is your passion? Is there one thing you LOVE doing more than anything else? Do you dread any tasks? It will be a disservice to you to attract your ideal clients who want what you hate doing.  The Whole Enchilada I like everything in my field! My focus changes depending on the client, but there has always been a common denominator and that is community relations. I’m a generalist in terms of industries working with everything from restaurants to government agencies. I’ve been brought in as a subject matter expert for community relations, media relations, strategic planning, message development, and been hired to handle organizations’ promotions from nose to tail. Even if I am the facilitator for a group, I am most often helping to coalesce the thoughts from disparate community stakeholders.  Referrals come in the shape of how they met me or witnessed my expertise. I like variety and this ensures I have repeat and referral business from many different kinds of clients.  Pivot in 2021 Even so, this...
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Titles – CEO to Vizier

  As the US Postal Service finds itself in the news quite often lately, I was pondering the title Postmaster General. What a weird title! Silly, really. When you Google it, the information assures the reader that the postmaster general is the CEO of the USPS. Why don’t we just call it that? The first postmaster general was Benjamin Franklin. I have to assume the witty Almanac writer was great at parties making him a Toastmaster Postmaster–now that’s quite a title! An even stranger (dumber) title is Grand Wizard. That’s what a certain white supremacist organization (which doesn’t deserve to be named) calls their leader. It’s stupid enough to suit that group just fine—good branding! I can think of some other suitable titles, but I digress.   The U.S. Government is Not a Great Model for Titles The United States government is full of titles that perhaps don’t mean what they once did and don’t seem to follow the terms of just one organizational chart. President, vice president–those are fine. The term ‘secretary’ was especially confusing to me when I was learning about the Cabinet (the what? Like a cupboard?) in elementary school. My mom was a secretary. She knew shorthand and typed. Is that what the Secretary of the Interior does? By Interior, we mean outside (what?)—national parks and such. She worked at a bank, does that make her a Treasury Secretary? Hmm. Then we have a whole tier of ‘deputies’ under the ‘chief of staff’ (a normal title). Deputies? Where are the sheriffs? Did they all get shot by Eric Clapton? Is the chief of staff the sheriff? In the interest of parallelism, if that person isn’t called the sheriff, shouldn’t those under him or her on the organization chart be called ‘assistant chiefs’? Or ‘sous chefs,’ like in a kitchen?   Russian Influence Sidelining sheik and vizier, the US Presidents somehow embraced the title of ‘czar’ as the title for those who are essentially task force managers, the term for Russian emperors before 1917. How did this Russian title make it into our government structure? Aren’t we opposed to Russian influence? What’s Russian for ‘task force manager’? That might have been better. Czar was largely used as a nickname for the person in charge of a department, however the title was given out by presidential appointment starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt who named 11 czars. Topping...
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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...
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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...
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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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