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PR Success Story: L.L. Bean Celebrates 100 Years
Today’s Maine Maven is Mac McKeever, a senior public relations representative in the department of public affairs at L.L. Bean.
Mac currently works in the company’s outdoor gear and apparel division across the web, catalog and retail channels. His primary duties include media relations, media interface (interviews/spokesperson), brand and corporate reputation and management, media event/press conference development and implementation, non-profit organization interfacing, outdoor-celebrity interfacing and more.
Prior to this appointment, Mac managed the marketing, advertising and public relations activities for L.L.Bean’s experiential division, the Outdoor Discovery Schools. Before joining L.L.Bean, he was a copywriter and account executive for an advertising agency.
Mac is also the president of the Coastal Conservation Association of Maine, as well as a National Executive Board member with Coastal Conservation Association National. He is on the Atlantic States Fisheries Committee with the Coastal Conservation Association. Mac serves on the boards of the Maine Tourism Association and the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Portland, as well as being an Advisory Board member with the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.
Most recently, Mac was appointed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to serve on the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council. The Council advises the Secretary on nationally significant recreational fishing and boating, and aquatic resource conservation issues.
He is also a 25-Ton Master Licensed Captain with the United States Coast Guard.
As an avid outdoorsman, Mac enjoys fly-fishing and upland bird hunting. When not working, fishing or hunting, he loves to cook, play tennis and table tennis. He lives in Portland with his wife Jill, his son Jonathan and their four tropical fish.
1.) Mac, you worked at an advertising agency before going to L.L. Bean. What marketing techniques did you learn in the agency world that you apply today in your job at L.L. Bean?
The agency I worked for was a smaller one which gave me a wonderful opportunity to do and experience many things and learn a lot about the industry. Here, I wrote copy, art directed, managed accounts, bought media, developed proposals, conducted pitches as well as oversaw public relations activities.
My experiences there really helped to expand my professional horizons and in being able to do so many things while there, I was able to better understand my strengths and the things I really enjoyed, in addition to areas where I might be able to make some developmental improvements.
And amongst the diversity of the work, I was exceptionally drawn to public relations activities. Early on in my career, I was amazed at how a blend of timing, relevance, a good story and a bit of strategy could acquire such incredibly valuable coverage and this made an impression on me.
In short, working for a relatively small agency, I feel, made me a much more dynamic, well-rounded marketer and a more strategic thinker.
2.) How does L.L. Bean communicate its ‘old-fashioned’ values of honesty and integrity by using high-tech methods on the Web?
Our core beliefs and values are very compatible with our website, as well as email and social media. In our social media, Web and email activities, we focus on the customer’s needs and offer extremely responsive customer service. In fact, we were just acknowledged as being one of only two companies from a list of 25 of the top online retailers to respond to 100% of daily customer service questions posted to Twitter within 24-hours. Zappos.com was the other company and the study was done by STELLAService over a 45-day period.
No doubt, the ways that we engage customers have assuredly changed, but these vehicles are just an extension of our customer service ethos and our brand. As we have evolved over the years and have embraced technology and expanded the ways in which we interact with our customers, one thing that will always remain will be the dedication to the core values originally put forth by our founder: quality products and services, a commitment to our customers, employees, neighbors and the environment. Our values are very human ones and our founder personified these values—basic Maine values of trust, honesty and the outdoors.
I also think that our founder represents a great model for how companies can utilize ecommerce and social media. L.L. was a great listener—he listened carefully to his customer’s needs and wants and responded to them in a timely manner. We use social media and ecommerce in the same way. It’s a great tool for learning more about your customer and engaging with them in a meaningful, valuable way that really resonates and creates strong brand affinity.
I feel that the advent of social media has given public relations professionals a way to augment and strengthen existing relationships with the media by adding another method in which to connect with them—becoming friends on Facebook, following them on Twitter and so on.
By ‘following’ or ‘becoming friends’ with the media, I am able to learn more about them—their professional life, their overall interests as well as perhaps a bit about their personal life and vice-versa. I believe this helps us make a stronger connection and therefore, have a better overall relationship.
In addition, social media has given PR folks the ability to discover new contacts in the media through networking and friend suggestions and so forth. We have realized some great incremental exposure that we would have never received as a result of new contacts that we established relationships with through the various social media channels.
Social media has not replaced some of the more traditional forms of relationship building–we still conduct media events throughout the country and we still talk in person over the phone, but there’s no denying the fact that social media has given PR professionals a fantastic communications, networking and relationship building tool that they can add to their box of existing tools.
4.) What special initiatives are you doing this year for the 100 year anniversary of L.L. Bean?
It’s been an incredible year for us so far and the amount of national media coverage about our birthday has been staggering. It’s certainly kept us busy in public affairs! And it’s been a terrific learning experience. It’s rare to be taking part in the celebration of a company turning 100 years old—especially a company so well-liked as L.L.Bean.
For our centennial, we wanted to celebrate by looking back at our rich history and heritage, yes, but we were more interested in looking the way we always have—forward. One way to do this is to share our love of the outdoors with future generation and help to reignite America’s passion for the outdoors.
We kicked the celebration off in January with an announcement of a $1 million donation to the National Park Foundation called the “Million Moment Mission” and here’s how it works: for every outdoor moment folks share with us on our website or social media channels, we’ll donate $1 to the National Park Foundation, up to $1 million and this money will go directly toward getting more youth involved in the outdoors. So far, we’ve received nearly 310,000 “moments!”
In addition, we announced our “Get Out(Fitted) Gear Giveaway,” where we are giving away up to $500 worth of outdoor gear every day. All folks need to do, via our website, is tell us about an outdoor experience they’ve always wanted to go on and why, as well as what gear they might need. If their submission is selected, we’ll send them the gear.
Both of these initiatives garnered an incredible amount of great press coverage, but I would definitely say that the Bootmobile, a truck that was fabricated into a giant replica of our iconic Bean Boot, would be hailed as a huge PR success. As part of the launch in January, we toured the country in the Bootmobile and the amount of coverage far exceeded our expectations.
In fact, I was conducting a separate media event in Las Vegas getting ready for my day, when their local news affiliate ran a great story about it—there was the Bootmobile rolling through New York City on the television in Vegas! The Bootmobile will be continuing to tour the country, stopping off in various towns and at special events to conduct outdoor seminars and clinics. Everywhere it goes, it seems to draw the attention of the media!
And to help garner media exposure for a special line of outdoor-heritage inspired products we developed for our 100th, we conducted several media showcase events throughout the country, which were also remarkably successful. We also just recently announced our “Hometown Celebration” in Freeport, which will be four full days of family-fun, plenty of free hands-on activities, food, concerts all day, each day (including headliner Chris Isaak) one of the most spectacular fireworks displays ever seen in Maine and more. This recent announcement has also gotten us some great national coverage. Our partnership with Fenway Park, also turning 100 this year, and the Red Sox and the events surrounding that partnership have also caught the attention of the media many times.
I could go on—as I said, it’s been a pretty spectacular year with so many great stories and excellent coverage.