The official blog of Nancy Marshall Communications
offering tips, techniques, and thoughts from Maine's PR Maven, Nancy Marshall

 

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Think of Your Website as an Asset and Your Marketing as an Investment

I contend that in today’s business world, a website is one of the most important assets a business can own, second only to the customer list. In the eyes of many consumers today, if you do not have a website, it’s as if you do not exist. And without customers, you have no revenues, and therefore no viable business.

Think of Your Website as an Asset and Your Marketing as an Investment

Consumers are searching on their computers, and increasingly on their smartphones, for information of all kinds: a place nearby to get sushi for lunch, the best model economy car to buy, a good beach read, and which school is best for their child’s education. If your business doesn’t show up on the Web, or if it only shows up in the reviews left by other people, then you are missing a huge opportunity to present your business in a positive light and tout the benefits it offers to its targeted audience.

The time and effort you put into improving your website so it is easily findable and relevant to the needs of your targeted audience is one of the most important activities you can engage in as part of growing a business. A website that offers valuable information and educates visitors about the benefits of working with you or buying your products and services will improve your relationship with current customers and attract new prospects that are an ideal fit for your business.

The customer list is a business’s number one asset. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that making repeat sales to existing customers is the most cost-effective way to grow your bottom line. Maintaining a customer list will enable you to market directly to those who already have a proven interest in what you have to offer and make the relationships you already have with these people even stronger. So it’s important to tend to your customer list as you would tend to a garden. The idea is to grow your customer list over time in order to grow your business.

Enabling those who visit your site to sign up for an e-newsletter on your website Home page or offering them exclusive resources and information in exchange for their contact information are some of the ways you can use your website to help grow your customer list.

Other online tools, including social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, can help you engage your customers further so they feel they are part of your business and feel a sense of trust in what you say and do. Always remember, though, that the spirit of the Internet is to provide value to your followers, not to hard sell your company’s products or services. What you post on your social media pages should be educational, informative and engaging, not overly promotional.

Your website and your customer list are closely tied together. Your current and prospective customers will refer to your website for useful information that will enable them to learn more about your company and what you have to offer. Value-added resources you can provide for your customers on your website can include resource articles and how-to videos. The more useful background information you are able to provide to a member of your target audience, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Regularly posting new information and resources will give them a reason to return to your website again and again, helping to facilitate a long-term relationship with customers.

Accountants may argue with me about classifying a website as an asset. That said, if you own a bricks and mortar store, and you qualify that as an asset, I believe a website is as equally valuable to a business, particularly if customers can make purchases from that site.

Finally, just like the upgrades you make to your business’s physical location and the equipment you need to operate, the money you spend on marketing is an investment in the future of your business. All marketing initiatives should start with a strategic marketing plan, and a strategy to maximize your company’s Web presence and website should be at the center of your plan. Like any good investment, your marketing strategy should yield a measurable return calculated by clearly defined measurements of success determined before implementation.

At NMC, we offer our own version of a strategic marketing communications plan, and we call it The Marshall Plan®. One of the features that makes The Marshall Plan® unique is a time-tested development process that engages the leadership of an organization along with the best minds from our agency to collaboratively develop a road map to generate the return on investment your business or nonprofit needs to grow. Please call me if you want to talk more about how a Marshall Plan® can help you improve your bottom line and deliver measurable results that will get your entire organization energized about your growth potential.

How Facebook is Like a Photo Christmas Card Every Day of the Year

If you’re like me, at this time of year you are taking down the Christmas tree and putting away the decorations. You’re also looking at all the beautiful holiday cards you received from family and friends, and wondering what to do with them. I hate to throw them away! Some of them are so beautiful that I keep them for the following year and recycle them as gift tags. Isn’t that just so Martha Stewart-esque of me?

This was my family photo for our annual Christmas card photo, which always includes our yellow lab, Carrie. From left to right: my son Craig, me, my husband Jay, and my son Jamie.

This was my family photo for our annual Christmas card photo, which always includes our yellow lab, Carrie. From left to right: my son Craig, me, my husband Jay, and my son Jamie.

Looking at the photo cards is fun, but it’s a different experience for friends who are on Facebook and those who are not. For my friends who are on Facebook, I‘ve been seeing their family photos all year long. I’m staying up to date on their news and achievements, their wins and losses, their new babies and their retirement parties. Even if I’m not seeing them in person, I feel connected to them.

For the friends who are not on Facebook, seeing their annual holiday photo card is my once-a-year chance to catch up on their news, their kids and their pets. It’s a good thing and it makes me feel connected…but not quite as connected as I feel with my Facebook friends.

Facebook is just such a great way to stay connected all year long. It allows us to quickly and easily send a quick little message saying “Congratulations,” “Happy birthday,” “Way to go, “or just “Nice to hear from you!” Personally, it makes me feel good to know what my friends are up to, even if I’m not seeing them as often as I’d like to. Professionally, I am reminded of who’s out there doing interesting work, and who I might partner with on a project.

There are so many advantages to staying connected with personal and professional friends on Facebook. Of course, Facebook is no replacement for face-to-face networking and get-togethers. I always tell people that the ultimate goal of your social networking should be to get together with people, because that’s where the real magic happens in any relationship.

Melanie Randall: Inspiring Others to Live and Dance Strong

Founder of Live and Dance Strong, and Owner of Dancewear House, Melanie Randall.

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with a loss, and this week’s Monday Maine Maven, Melanie Randall, decided to take one of the most difficult times in her life, and turn it into something beautiful as a way to process her grief.

Five years ago, Melanie’s father, Richard J. Randall, passed away and she set out to start an event that would help in her healing process. The result was Live and Dance Strong, a fundraiser that serves as a wonderful opportunity for choreographers and dancers alike to come together and deliver a unique dance experience.

Randall says, “Each year the show is different, and we have begun to touch on other people’s pain and grieving process. Cancer has affected so many people. I never dreamed that by starting Live and Dance Strong I would bring hope and empowerment to so many other young women who have lost someone—it’s been very special.”

This year, the event brought their total donations to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care to more than $30,000 since its inception and for the first time, they paid a special tribute to cancer survivors.

Planning for Live and Dance Strong starts in early winter, and around March Melanie begins to send letters to local businesses, requesting sponsorships and donations for the show. In May, she sends out choreographer applications to studios in the area.

They recently added a concert element to the planning process, by hosting a concert at their home on the lake in an effort to raise awareness and funding within the community. Melanie adds that social media has also made the event easier to put together, saying, “Facebook has made it easy for us to have an online presence, enabling us to connect with choreographers and sponsors we may not have met any other way.”

Even after growing up dancing for Keltie Collins, Andrei Bossov and Genie O’Brien, she never imagined that she would have a career in dance. It wasn’t until she was getting ready to graduate with a degree in English that she considered buying Dancewear House in Hallowell, but after six and a half years, it was clearly the right choice. She says, “I wasn’t really sure that an English degree would prepare me for running a business, but my years in college certainly did.”

Melanie (center) with her Mom, Mary Elizabeth Randall (left), and her fiancé, Scott Lowery (right) following this year’s Live and Dance Strong event.

Most days, you will find Melanie helping young girls find their way on a similar career path. She says, “I spend most of my days with dancers’ feet in my face,” as the primary person that handles Pointe shoe fittings.

So what is her secret to happiness and success?

Randall says, “Follow your dreams—find something in life that you’re passionate about, and keep it close to you, especially when life gets hard. We all have the ability to take a negative situation and make it into a positive one, so don’t ever give up! One person has all of the potential in the world to touch someone’s life and change their own.”

To learn how you can get involved with Live and Dance Strong, please visit, liveanddancestrong.org, or like the Dancewear House on Facebook.

Summit Natural Gas of Maine to Debut Green Team at Old Hallowell Day Parade

This Saturday, July 20, Summit Natural Gas of Maine will be participating in the Old Hallowell Day parade. NMC staff has been prepping lots of candy and stickers for parade swag. The parade starts at 10 a.m. and runs along Water Street downtown, and features a variety of local businesses.

Smarties everywhere! The NMC conference room is packed with parade supplies for Summit Natural Gas. Join us in downtown Hallowell on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Join Summit Natural Gas of Maine as they debut their Green Team this Saturday. The Green Team is a group of Augusta-based employees who will represent the company by serving as volunteers at community-based projects in the individual towns Summit serves in the Kennebec Valley.

 See you there!

Protecting Your Privacy and Embracing Facebook Graph Search

There is a lot of confusion surrounding Facebook’s Graph Search, particularly when it comes to privacy. Let us clear that up for you.

Facebook sure has come a long way from its inception almost 10 years ago. A universal theme throughout its existence has been how to maintain one’s privacy, while remaining social.

Many people were already worried about privacy settings and how to control access to their private information—enter Graph Search which makes it even easier for people to search your Facebook activity, and is steadily becoming available to all U.S. Facebook users.

How do you keep your privacy? Up in the right hand corner of your Facebook screen, you will find a padlock. When you click on it, you will be given some choices:

Who can see my stuff?

Who can contact me?

How do I stop someone from bothering me?

When you click on the arrows beside any of these, you will see a variety of options that will allow you to decide everything from who can see any of your future posts (public, friends, friends except acquaintances, or only me), to which messages end up in your inbox, and who can send you friend requests.

Hopefully you already have your profile on lock, but if not, now is the perfect time to explore these settings. Facebook makes it remarkably easy to filter who sees what, labeling people as close friends, friends, or acquaintances, or putting them into another custom list. You have complete control over each custom list’s unique privacy settings.

For example, if you have a vendor list, you can post things that pertain to inventory needs or supplies, and make it visible to only the people on your vendors list. Or, you can create a VIP list, and offer inside scoops to anyone on that custom list.

Facebook lists are a great way to decide the visibility of your posts. By putting people into lists you are able to still make the same Facebook posts, but they will only be visible by the people on the list you choose to share it with.

If you go into your friends and scroll over the bar next to their name, you will be given the option of customizing what you see from them, and labeling them so that you can limit what they see from you.

For example, only the people I label as close friends see every post I make, or every photo I upload to Facebook. Just about everyone else is labeled as an acquaintance, and they will only see posts that I label as visible to “all friends,” which mainly consist of shared articles or my professional posts.

So what does this mean for Graph Search?

Graph Search does not share everything with everyone—it will only share what you allow it to share. So, if you have a post or a photo’s visibility set to:

Only Me; no one else will find it

Friends; only friends (excluding anyone labeled as an acquaintance) will see it in their Graph Search results

Friends Except Acquaintances; only your few and closest friends will be able to find it via Graph Search

Public; it is visible to anyone and everyone on Facebook using Graph Search

If you’re worried about your privacy on Facebook, then you may want to explore these settings.

Graph Search may be scary for some personal profiles—just ask Tom Scott, who created a Tumblr for embarrassing finds via the search engine. However, for businesses that use it correctly, it levels the playing field between small, local businesses and corporate machines.

Business owners and marketers alike are already talking about the ways they plan to use the search to better identify their target audiences (searching what they like, where they go and who they know), recruit new employees, build stronger communities, and acquire new customers.

If you’re a local business, encourage people to check-in or share via Facebook that they love your french toast – encourage them to leave reviews, and post your special offers and discounts on your Facebook page. All of these things will increase the likelihood of your business showing up in Graph Search, leading to you being discovered by more people.

As for personal profiles, it may be time to reevaluate your privacy settings, clean house and limit your past posts.

Em Robertson Makes her Mark with Mprint

Owner and Designer of Mprint, Em Robertson
Modeling the Mprint Honolulu Transit Pendant

New York City, Boston, California, Canada and Presque Isle are some of the places this week’s Monday Maine Maven has called home. Em Robertson is the owner and designer of Mprint jewelry, a Maine-based accessories company.

Robertson says her love for the world of design and fashion was cultivated at a young age. She says, “My mother was a retail fashion buyer and would tell me about her buying trips in New York City. That really opened the doors to the business side of the fashion industry to me.”

The Presque Isle native says that she is “extremely proud” that she grew up a country girl adding, “I think it is one of the main reasons I am so driven and hard-working. Yes, it is really far up north, freezing, and it isn’t filled with endless things to do, but it is a great community that is full of hard-working and supportive people.”

Em’s parents wanted their children to experience different cultures, so Em and her family would travel four to five times a year—trips that she credits for her development of “the travel itch” at a very young age.

However, when it came to making a career choice for herself, Em wasn’t quite sure that fashion was the perfect fit. She stayed local, attending the University of Maine at Orono to study business marketing. During her junior year, she interned in New York City with Macy’s corporate marketing division and she says, “It confirmed the idea that I wanted to continue my education in fashion.”

After graduating, Em spent her summer applying to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and moved to Los Angeles. She says, “I felt like it was a place I needed to conquer. Being involved in such a creative culture and community of talented people made the transition much easier.”

Robertson says, “I had a lot of learning experiences in Hollywood,” but ultimately, she decided to move back to Maine to launch her jewelry collection.

Just a sampling of the jewelry you can find at www.mprintjewelry.com

The launch of Mprint has been incredibly successful on local, national and international levels, with her jewelry being featured in online stores, magazines and various noteworthy fashion blogs. One of her necklaces even made an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America worn by correspondent Rachel Smith.

The success of the launch is credited to Em’s strong public relations background and the use of social media. She says, “I wrote everyone I knew to start spreading the word and tried to get as much information and product to top editors, stylists and boutique owners to build awareness of the brand.” She adds, “I think Facebook creates an unreal buzz for designers—people can express to their peers what they like, and it opens doors for other people to like the product. The accessibility to this kind of online marketing for a start-up company like Mprint is beyond beneficial.”

According to Em, social media, Instagram in particular, is a great tool for inspiration, too. Em says, “I definitely draw inspiration for my collection pieces by immersing myself in social media sites, but my go-to is Instagram. Maybe it’s because I’m a creative person, but I just feel like seeing an image speaks so much louder than words.” Other sources that inspire are local consignment shops, family heirlooms, street style and nature.

Em Robertson says that social media serves as a vital part of her branding strategy for Mprint.

What’s next for Mprint? Em says, “I’m constantly thinking about ways to expand Mprint, and to grow as a socially responsible brand.” This is why they will be introducing a new hair accessories collaboration in their Fall ’13 collection with a design-driven nonprofit social enterprise that supports women-owned businesses in Rwanda.

You will also find them at one of the world’s largest and most vibrant marketplace tradeshows, AccessoriesTheShow, in New York City next month.

To learn more about Em and Mprint you may check out her website, www.mprintjewelry.com, like them on Facebook, facebook.com/Mprintjewelry or follow @Mprintjewelry on Twitter.

The Lunder Collection: A Gift of Art to Colby College

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of previewing the Lunder Collection at the Colby Museum of Art. The space is awe inspiring. I am so proud of my alma mater for having a museum of this significance right on the campus, which is already a beautiful place. This museum makes it even more beautiful and appealing to students, families, visitors and Maine people.

The Lunder Collection makes its public debut Saturday, June 13, 2013 and will be on display through June 8, 2014.

The addition of this collection to the Colby College Museum of Art in July 2013, represents the largest selection of the Lunder Collection since the announcement of the promised gift in 2007. Widely acknowledged as one of the most important holdings of American art ever assembled by private collectors, the Lunder Collection comprises more than 500 objects including works by Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe, and James McNeill Whistler.

The debut of the collection will be open to the public on Sunday, July 14, 2013 from noon to 5 p.m.

 

Public Relations: It’s a Mindset, Not a One-Time Activity

Nancy Marshall, CEO of Nancy Marshall Communications

Three Tips to Generate PR on an Ongoing Basis

I frequently talk with clients who say that they want to do “a little bit of PR.” When I hear that, I sometimes have to bite my tongue so as not to say “there’s no such thing as a little bit of PR.”

Public relations is a mindset. It’s something you need to be thinking about all the time. Well, maybe you don’t need to think about it as much as I do, because I really do think about it all the time (just ask my husband).  But  if you are always thinking about your relationship with the public, and your targeted publics in particular, then you are more likely to experience success with building your brand.

Here are three tips that will help you think like a PR professional:

1. Share helpful information with your targeted publics

Leverage social media—post on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on how to accomplish something in your field of work.

Give a speech to the local Rotary explaining the latest trends in your industry.

Host an informational workshop for your clients and friends at a local community center in your area of business.

2. Watch the news of the day to see how you might be able to offer expertise.

Recently there was a train crash and oil explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec, right over the border from Maine. Anyone with experience in how trains work, or the way oil is prone to burn uncontrollably, could speak with authority to the news about this tragedy. Or an expert in psychotherapy could talk about how you should talk to your children about tragic events.  Figuring out ways to adapt a national news story and leverage it for your own PR is called “newsjacking,” and it’s an amazingly effective public relations technique.

3. Look for opportunities to share the news of your business.

Have you hired a new employee?  Send out a press release with his or her head shot. Have you taken on a new client or customer? That’s a good reason for a press release, as well. How about an award or a published article? That’s newsworthy. A new invention, patent, or trademark? Yes, that’s also a reason to reach out to the news media. 

 

A little bit of PR will do just that:  get you a little bit of PR. But if you are always thinking about how to get your news out there to your targeted audiences and raise your profile with the public, then you are more likely to benefit from increased awareness in the marketplace.

Creating a Catalyst for Change

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Founder and Creative Director of Katalyst, Kyle Poissonnier

It is one of the most recognized quotes from Gandhi, and this week’s Monday Maine Maven, Kyle Poissonnier, brings the idea to fruition with the launch of his new Portland-based brand, Katalyst.

Poissonnier first garnered media attention five years ago when he took a thesis project from an entrepreneur class and made it a reality. The brand Elykssor (pronounced elixir) was formed. Essentially, Kyle says, “Someone asked me what I wanted to do. I said I liked clothes, started, and learned as I went.”

It wasn’t until his fourth year in business that the brand began to see any real traction, and so he went back to the drawing board to focus on the direction he wanted to take—enter Katalyst. Kyle says, “I’m taking all of my experiences—wins and losses—into Katalyst. With Elykssor, I found myself doing so many different things. Katalyst encompasses all of them.”

So what is Katalyst? Kyle says that it is based on the idea that “every person in the world affects us in some way,” and that this brand embodies that, by acting as a catalyst for change and enabling people to accomplish their goals as a symbol for confidence and positivity.

Katalyst is a brand that plans to pay-it-forward by developing ‘Katalyst Kollaborative’ communities. While the brand will be developing and selling a variety of clothing, ranging from fitness gear to everyday wear, they will also be providing custom-designed wear for fundraising opportunities.

Kyle says, “I remember when I was a kid the fundraiser stuff was all candy bars and magazine subscriptions—what we offer are custom shirts that are fun to wear, to sell and to bring a community together.”

For example, if a high school athletic boosters program needed to raise money, they would contact Kyle and his team, and they would design a Katalyst-branded shirt with the high school’s logo that could be sold to raise money. In return, that school is added to the Katalyst Kollaboration community.

Last year, the Skowhegan freshman class sold their custom shirts and raised more than $2,500. Kyle presented the shirts to the class, and spoke with the students about pursuing their dreams by sharing his own success story.

At 28, Kyle is the youngest inductee to his alma mater, Husson University, Hall of Fame for his professional success. He has also been featured on a TED Talk and MSNBC’s “Rediscover” for his accomplishment of launching soon to be two successful lifestyle clothing brands.

For all of his success, Poissonnier is humble stating, “I don’t feel like I have an impressive resume—I feel like I have impressive friends and people that have helped me get any type of positive recognition. All of this has happened because photographers, videographers and friends in general have wanted to help me out.”

The support from his friends and other Maine people that believe in the sense of community that encapsulates the state has been incredibly helpful in the creation of his official launch party for Katalyst: State of the State on Friday, July 12, 2013 at the State Theater in Portland.

The event will become an annual party to celebrate the “state” of Maine—the music scene, the businesses, and all that Maine has to offer.

To learn more about Kyle and the Katalyst community, visit their Facebook page today at www.facebook.com/bethekatalyst, or follow Kyle on Facebook, www.facebook.com/kylepoissonnier and Twitter, www.twitter.com/bethekatalyst and www.twitter.com/Kyle_Katalyst.

“Hello Charlie” – 6 Tips for Public Speaking

Charlie’s Angels
Image courtesy of www.tv.yahoo.com

Years ago, when I was a recent performing arts graduate, I took part in a nationwide audition for the remake of Charlie’s Angels. Armed with the bravado and naiveté of youth, I made it to the callbacks, which consisted of an interview and screen test. The audition was also covered by a local reporter.

Facing the three-judge panel, I was able to make it through the basic questions of name, age, and height. And then I was blindsided by, “So why do you want to audition for Charlie’s Angels?” Looking back, this does seem like a pretty obvious question, but in the stress of the moment the wheels came off my interview as my eyes widened and a shocked snort of laughter escaped my lips. In the seconds it took for the panel to put a line through my name, my mind raced through several possible answers – all of which were quickly discounted. I then realized my fatal mistake – I wasn’t prepared.

#1 Prepare for questions

I spent all of my time learning the monologue and never considered the possibility of questions – even the obvious ones. I should have made a list of questions or asked a friend to interview me or a least considered that I may have to say something that wasn’t a part of the monologue.

As I gave myself an imaginary forehead slap, my inner dialogue went into hyper-drive. “You idiot, stop fumbling, just say something. NO, not that – say something intelligent!”

Leading to my next lesson in public speaking.

#2 Never give in to negative self-talk

Judging yourself while trying to present is not only distracting, it’s a sure way to ruin any conversation, interview or speech. Negativity causes your body and your mind to tighten, leading to an inability to speak or think clearly, and excessive displays of nervous habits.

When I’m nervous, I stutter and say “uh” a lot. My hands often take on a life of their own and tend to gesture wildly as if to leave my body or flag down a taxi. All of these habits are distracting and take away from any message I’m trying to deliver. Nervous habits are many times so unconscious that you may not even be aware of them. I wasn’t, that is until a director pointed them out, making this tip #3.

Jim Egerton and Juli Settlemire in ACAT’s Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane.

#3 Practice in front of people

You’re going to be presenting in front of people anyway, so gather a few friends together and review your presentation. It helps hone your message, and develop a comfort level with your material and being in front of people.

In the case of my audition, I had the three-judge panel to my right and a large camera with a blinking red light to my left. As the judges nodded for me to present my monologue I wasn’t exactly sure if I should be looking at them or the increasingly hypnotic lens of the camera. In the end, the camera won out and as I stared helplessly into its vortex of distraction, tatters of my monologue hiccuped their way out of my mouth. Leading to my #4, #5, and #6 tips.

#4 Film yourself

I recommend filming and reviewing your presentation. There’s something about having a record of your speech that adds an extra element of importance, stress and distraction, making it a great warm up for the actual presentation.

#5 Research and visit the venue whenever possible

Seeing the venue helps you to visualize where you and your audience will be. It gives you a context for your preparation and helps with the rehearsal process. Now, whenever I have a speech, I set up my kitchen in a mock-up of the room and practice.

#6 Don’t assume – prepare

I have a B.A. in performing arts, I’ve taken post-graduate improvisation classes, I’m used to being in front of people in very stressful situations. I assumed that I could handle whatever this audition threw at me – I was WRONG.

NMC Business Manager, Juli Settlemire

Now I work at Nancy Marshall Communications and can fully appreciate the importance of messaging and media training. If my epic audition failure taught me anything, it’s that drive and talent only get you so far – you need to properly prepare for opportunities. Keep polishing and adapting your speech for each audience and each situation. And never hesitate to call in expert advice. You’ll find a new confidence in presenting yourself and your ideas in professional and social situations.

As for Charlie’s Angels, you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t make it past callbacks. However, I was featured on the nightly news; apparently the reporter really liked my shocked guffaw.

Contributed by Juli Settlemire, NMC Business Manager